Grounds

27Jun13

Grounds 062613

Here it is, 5:22 AM. This time of year the early daylight and seriously loud bird chirping makes early morning sleep difficult. And after a few days of oddly unseasonal rain the clouds have dissipated and the warm weather has returned. That means it gets hot inside the house, and so our old, thickly-furred dog (even with her summer haircut her under fur is so dense that it traps heat) taps around the upstairs on her toenails panting. She wants to be outside on the cool deck. So, I’m up, coffee in hand, drafting these words.

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I wish I knew all of the birds that cause the morning racket. They do the same thing at dusk. Even though it’s noisy I still enjoy their music. Our house is surrounded park-like by a number of trees of all types and heights. They are home to a range of birds. Last night I discovered that there is a Robin’s nest in a Japanese Maple tree just off our deck. I happened to see a mommy bird feeding a couple of chicks. The nest is well protected and hard to see. My son, naturally curious and excited, had grabbed his kid rake so that he could move a branch out of the way to get a better look. Of course, he nearly knocked the nest out, so I just picked him up to look. The Robins have their own bird song (don’t they all!) that has always intrigued me. Each one seems to have its own version, but they all have this punctuation at the end, like a period, that seems to say “I’m done.” A singsongy tune followed by a quick chirp. There is another bird that sings at night and I’never been able to see it. In my mind that sound is concretely associated with dusk, particularly in early evening walks in Tilden Park.

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That dog I mentioned is getting old and her days are coming to an end. The decline over the past year or two is obvious and persistent. Gradual, but determined. Nonetheless, she still has spirit and still tries to boss us around. There is no one thing, it’s an amalgamation of many things that’s causing her deterioration. Age, of course, but also probably the wear and tear of her years of strong medication use, her decrepit hip joints, arthritis in her back, almost gone hearing, failing eyesight, one large tumor in her belly (we won’t put her through any more major surgeries)… but what may do her in is a small but rapidly growing tumor on the front of her left leg. She had a cancerous tumor removed there some years ago. I suppose it’s coming back. At some point it will impair her ability to get around. And over the past couple of days I’ve noticed a different stance to her back legs, and she seems to have trouble navigating them when she chases tennis balls. I think she’s lost finite control over them, and they fall out from under her as she tries to slow down for the ball. To make sure she does not injure herself we’ll avoid throwing the ball so she has to chase it. I’m afraid her tennis ball chasing days are over. And end to an era.

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I don’t take many pictures these days, but I have been continuing to explore different ways to process them in order to find what appeals to me most, and try to build projects around various series. I tend to prefer B&W pictures, but sometimes color seems to fit the material best. In these Ground pictures I like the combination of dry summer grasses with green foliage and dirt. A few years ago I had a small series of what I call Ground pictures, pictures of the ground right in front of me, usually taken at the 50mm focal length. I used a particular camera and lens that gave them a certain look. That camera is long gone (big, heavy DSLR and large lens) and since then either the cameras did not adequately capture what I saw or, for various other reasons, the pictures just did not speak to me. But I’ve always missed these kinds of pictures, and I’ve recently returned to them. I like this set. I know that for some people simple pictures of the ground may seem silly, but we all have our own way of seeing things, don’t we?

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