Friday, April 11, 2008

The Great Reach

PHOTOGRAPHER'S DIARY: If there is a god it is to be found in planetary consciousness, the earth as a giant organism always reaching out, always experimenting to propagate that consciousness more efficiently over an ever-wider territory.

As soon as I retired I expanded my walking regimen, but it was only gradually that photography began to compete. My weekly goal was to walk 20 to 25 miles while the weather was decent; I had to keep moving. A mile from my house I could drop into forest trails and walk all day before remembering that every plot of forest is today encircled by roads and civilization. However, to take pictures I needed to stop and contemplate, and I began to realize that the best pictures were to be found in the open of meadows, pastures, and wetlands where the pulse of life beats even more ferociously.

By the time I discovered North Meadow I had changed my 4 megapixel, pocket, point & shoot 4300 for a digital, D70 SLR, and I was now lugging a backpack of gear, a tripod, and two lenses on every hike, and my hikes were frequently truncated into shoots. The week before I discovered North Meadow I had been shoulder deep in a meadow of milkweed. I was humming along with the bees and photographing butterflies with my long lens. I felt energized by the intensity of that life buzzing all around me and followed the feeding of the butterflies under the hot sun until I had filled my memory cards and grown quite thirsty.

Then I found North Meadow where those dead, dry, blackened corn stalks from the previous season served as the scaffolding for a new summer of reaching and blossoming. They were quite striking, death markers standing in rows and slowly being overtaken by new life. In the absence of a new cultivated crop, a riot of flowering vegetation was thriving. Buds of all shapes and colors opened into flowers, eyes that looked upward and followed the progress of the sun through the day. Vines climbed the brittle corn stalks, then surmounted the top and cast out new shoots reaching for any support to get yet higher and claim a greater advantage in their quest for the sun's energy. And dragon flies, bees, butterflies, moths, humming birds, sparrows all fed on those high-energy nectars and then flew off to sow their own seeds and sometimes also seeds they had digested.

There, in the middle of the meadow I was surrounded by vegetable consciousness. My own consciousness is merely extension of that consciousness, made possible by and nourished on the fruits and seeds of the meadow and the things that feed on the meadow. It is all the result of evolutionary consciousness rising up out of the earth, seeking better ways to scatter the seeds of life beyond the oceans and across the land. The consciousness that flows through me has reached out and evolved over millions of years and is reaching still. There in North Meadow where one season was so visibly rising on the bones of another I found a vivid image of my deepest beliefs about life. It was a discovery and a visual delight that led me back day after day to the end of the season. It was the first of many such sites I would consciously visit, study, and photograph repeatedly.