It is quieter in the early morning these days with fewer cars starting up to drive to work. In my Arlington neighborhood in Massachusetts, dog walkers rule the dawn. These dog walkers provide a welcome sense of normalcy despite the masks we all wear.
The yards I pass are unusually colorful this October with the dry weather. The view of a soft pink sunrise over Cambridge and Boston from Robbins Farm Park is framed by a deep red tree. Dogs romp here as their owners call out to one another. Robbins Farm has flattened playing fields, and a playground. It also has a community garden which is appropriate for a park that was once a farm.
Continuing down the sidewalk by Robbins Farm, I come to Menotomy Rocks. This altogether wilder park has glacier-carved granite outcrops rising here and there on either side of a wide needle-strewn path leading to a pond. While all the trails are carefully maintained, fallen branches and logs are left to rot. Dog walkers abound as do families with young children getting out of the house.
The natural beauty all around fills my soul. But for me, the walkers and their dogs carry a most important message – Sustaining joy and contentment are still vitally alive and available in this increasingly troubled world.
I find Morrisonite to be particularly rich in details. Both the jasper and the beautiful location where it is found stimulate the imagination. I can count on delightful surprises when I attempt to capture its endless patterns and colors in closeup photos.
The slabs shown below include an entire cross section of a jasper seam. The second photo shows a small section of a slab. Several examples exhibit the overlapping egg pattern that also occurs in several other types of jasper.
Lapidary artists find a great deal to select from. While the finished cabs can be set in jewelry, the best are often acquired by collectors who prefer to keep these little works of natural and lapidary art just as they are.
As soon as I started the photo series, I was totally entranced. There were worlds of dazzling design in the abalone shells’ spiraling concave interiors. I might discover an area of delicate veiled dreams or bold drama. Taking closeups and seeing what the camera had captured became an addiction.
I began to sense how the shimmering designs carried the rhythm of the tides that the abalone depended upon for all their needs. There were encoded hints of whale song yearning and how our planet breathes as it dances with its companion moon.
Turn a piece of Labradorite and you can sometimes see flashes of bright color. The crystal structure selectively reflects these colors to the eye in an effect called “labradorescence”. A valuable variety from Finland known as “Spectrolite” has colors that stand out against a darker background.
While this stone has been compared to the Northern Lights and some prescribe to it protective or visionary qualities, Labradorite’s colors alone are enough for me to want to spend time with it.
Like jade, tourmaline comes in many colors. Individual crystals can grow quite large at times – a two-inch green example is shown below. They are also found in handsome clusters and penetrating quartz. When many narrow crystals (or hollow ones) are aligned, a cat’s eye effect may be achieved with a bright band that intensifies, fades and moves with the light. Gems are cut in a rainbow of single colors and multi-colored slabs are also used in rings and pendants. “Watermelon” tourmaline is famous. Blue is relatively rare with the intense blue-green Paraiba highly prized.
My brother, who gave me this facetted rabbit asked me to take a photo of it creating rainbows. Though tiny, you can see them there on the bottle behind it.
I was surprised by the interest in this photo. Perhaps I should not have been. Rainbows capture our attention. Whether arching out in nature or resulting from light dispersing through objects, we are delighted by their ephemeral beauty.
Our ability to perceive rainbows can also be thought provoking. Color vision is a mysterious part of our highly sensitive but limited apparatus to sense what is out there. Other animals’ vision can be quite different.
At a fundamental level the colors we can see are a function of how our human eyes and brains work. In most humans, three types of cone cells are triggered by different wave lengths of light and the results are combined by our brains so we can distinguish at least a million colors.
Color blindness results from having two normal and one mutant cone cell. The daughters of color-blind men may be born with a fourth type of cone cell and in theory, these tetrachromat daughters can perceive many millions of additional colors. However, it may take practice for them to activate this ability, and the natural world may not provide many opportunities for such practice.
The study of color vision involves many disciplines and the elusive nature of personal subjective experience adds to the challenge. Associations matter, and color preferences can differ by culture. That, however, takes nothing away from the wonder we feel when seeing a spectrum array of colors, however we perceive them, laid before us in a rainbow.
On September 7, 2014, a unique event took place to celebrate a local landmark (below) that was turning 90 years old. The notice I saw spoke of images of local places by both youth and adults. Each art work would be briefly projected on the substantial Arlington, MA Reservoir structure before another took its place. Curious, I took my camera and portable canvas sling bench to the classical revival water tower.
The images can only hint at what it was like to walk up the road to the top of the hill as the glowing tower came into view. I joined the crowd that had gathered there as darkness descended and the Luminarium Dance Company interpreted the images to music issuing from two large loudspeakers.
While it is known for its shades of green, jade can be found in many remarkable colors, some softer and some more brilliant. It is also carved in a wide variety of styles and forms. The pendants and bangles in the photos below show just some of its possibilities. They were carved in the United States, New Zealand, China, and Guatemala, some a while ago and some only recently. Each has a story to tell, and since jade is such a tough stone, it is a refuge that will last.
When the abalone shell arrived, it had a crack in it. I decided to take a photo anyway. What I saw in the image was much more than I expected. We are like this, I thought. We forget the extraordinary beauty that comes right up to our cracks.
I could not stop taking close-ups as abalone arrived at my door from all over the world. The slightest shift brought dramatic color changes. In this conversation with light and mystery I sensed a deeper connection. There were so many lessons here, a spiraling out to a universe of being. Joy and grief blended with so much at risk for the abalone and for us.