Friday, August 06, 2021

Jim likes sunsets

Mount Chocorua from Page Hill, 20:07 4 Aug '21

Here in the great northern wilderness of New Hampshire, we have had several nights of spectacular sunsets. This is one of the images. It is unadjusted, apart from lens corrections!

Camera equipment
Canon Mark III EOS 5d
Canon EF28mm f/1.8 USM
Photo details
1/60", 28mm, f/4.0, ISO 100

I call this image "Wild nights", after the poem by Emily Dickinson. 

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

This poem has great significance to me, in large part because of its musical context.  In 1991 we moved from a small town in Maine to a small town in Oregon. The previous two years had not been kind to us both personally and professionally. We had moved rather suddenly from one coast to the other, hearts breaking in all four of us as we said goodbye to friends and drove ourselves and all of our belongings to a new home thousands of miles away. Everything precious to Maureen and me was on that truck.

I was in the second year of an appointment as an associate professor of theoretical chemistry in a small college in Oregon, in wine country, southwest of Portland. My research was off to a good start. I enjoyed my classes, and my new colleagues encouraged me to pursue my interests outside of the sciences. Maureen had just found a position as a dietician at Oregon Health Sciences University. as it was then known. We were emerging from the darkness into new schools and friendships.

I was quite fortunate to join the Portland Symphonic Choir in its 1992-1993 season; Maureen joined the following year. The choir performed regularly with the Oregon Symphony, at the time conducted by James DePreist, nephew of the contralto Marion Anderson. In the usual inexplicable resonance of the cosmos, the maestro and Maureen shared birthdays. Singing with the symphony added a level of richness, achievement,  and personal satisfaction that was a welcome balm on the rough edges of our souls, and the prospect of happiness that had seemed distant only two short years earlier.

The maestro always pointed Marion Anderson out to us. "Aunt Marion" was a presence dressed in white, high in the upper balcony where the sound was best. Jimmie, as he was known to all, relayed her criticisms after each rehearsal.

The first work performed by the choir that season was Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy", with Garrick Ohlsson at the keyboard, the season opener and gala concert. Garrick was a huge man, towering over all of us, kind to all and a delight on stage. The Beethoven is an early musical sketch of what became the fourth movement of the 9th symphony, with its choral setting of Schiller's "Ode to Joy".

The second major work as John Adams' setting of three poems by John Donne and Emily Dickinson, "Harmonium"
"Negative Love" (by Donne)
"Because I could not stop for Death" (by Dickinson)
"Wild Nights" (by Dickinson)

On 15 April 1981, the work was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Chorus, Edo de Waart at the baton. The work requires large forces. This 1992 production was the first performance of the work on the West Coast after the premiere. The composer would be in attendance. Maestro James DePreist would be conducting the orchestra, and only three rehearsals with the orchestra.

There was no segue between the two Dickinson poems; the music leaped from one to another, with several intense orchestral passages. The tempi were fast, the tessitura were very high and fortissimo, and the orchestra was blasting away. And the music itself was challenging. The maestro had a strategy to help keep the chorus anchored to the music: he would raise his left hand and hold it for a full measure; there were three points in the last movement where he did this. 

Each choral rehearsal - there were many - I left work, inhaled dinner, drove to Portland, rehearsed for two and a half hours or more, then drove home, then finished grading and class preparation for the following day, working sometimes till dawn. I was sustained by the beauty of the music and the poetry.

The performances were thrilling. Audiences thundered their approval. The maestro beamed and praised the entire ensemble. The composer was pleased. The maestro said Aunt Marion was satisfied but our diction could be better. Maureen and Greg and Kate came to one performance. 

I would hear again and again in my mind the closing lines,  followed by the soft weeping voice of the brass and the French horns:

Rowing in Eden - | Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight - | In thee!

Here is a link to an excerpt from the San Francisco Symphony's recording of the last movement, with commentary by the British conductor Sir Simon Rattle.

Ah - the Sea!

Climate shite hitting the climate fan

 The Guardian reports

Here's the story:

Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse

A shutdown would have devastating global impacts and must not be allowed to happen, researchers say

"Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points.

The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.

Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level off eastern North America. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets."

Read on, Macduff.*

*The actual quote from the Scottish play is "Lay on, Macduff", Act 5, Scene 7.

Macbeth I will not yield To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet, And to be baited with the rabble's curse. Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane, And thou, opposed, being of no woman born, Yet I will try the last. Before my body I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, And damned be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough.'

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Moonset over Tamworth - Guest post by Jim

[O.G.: Here's another guest post by Jim, in Tamworth NH]

I got up in the middle of the night to photograph the full buck moon setting over Tamworth. The weather prediction had been for clear skies, but when I looked out the window at 4 AM, the house was in fog. I went back to bed wondering.

Half an hour later, the bright moonlight woke me up. I was ready in ten minutes. I had planned to take only my camera, but since I would be stomping through uncertain terrain, I took my tripod as well. I drove a mile down Page Hill to the new clearing made by Deb and Chris Franchi, with its spectacular views to the west and north along the entire Sandwich range.

Bringing the tripod was a good decision, because I spent nearly an hour at the site. Holding up a long lens for an hour would not have been fun. I made my way to a point where I could see the white steeple of the Congo church in town.

The moon was bright and clear high above the horizon, but the fog at ground level swirled through the town, and the moon had taken on a dark red hue, probably from the fires in Canada and out West that have made our skies more polluted than usual.

I always enjoy these solitary hours, because I am never truly alone. We are long-time members of the Church of the Great Outdoors - it is a demanding religion that requires daily participation in its rites.  So I was attending today's religious service, in the company of diverse flora and fauna. The flowers were just waking up, still covered with dew. The bird life around me was its usual early morning racket, the avian matins filled with cries from the chickadees, the thrushes, the vireos, the crows, the doves, and the occasional owl. And the light breezes through the trees added a delicate percussion to the birds' symphony. One solitary car passed above me on the road in that entire hour.

Photo: Tamworth, Bunker Hill, Red Hill,  and moonset, 5 AM 24 July 2021

This image is of the moonset over Tamworth, with Red Hill and its fire tower 13 miles away visible in the distance, with the ridge line of Bunker Hill in between. The white tower of the Congregational Church pokes through the fog in the foreground.

Equipment:is title
Canon 5d Mark III EOS
Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary 015 + 1.4x
photo detailsis second
1/200", f/6.0, ISO 2000

I have a poem in mind for this morning, one by ee cummings: "who knows if the moon's ...", a poem from his second volume of poetry, &, self-published in 1925 and set to music by Dominic Argento thirty years later. There is a back-story to the title of that poetry volume. His first book of poetry, Tulips and Chimneys, had been published by Thomas Setlzer in 1923. The poet was unhappy that his title, Tulips & Chimneys, had been tossed aside, so in 1925 he put together his own printing of works deleted from his first volume, and called his second volume &. Take that, Mr. Thomas Seltzer!

who knows if the moon's
by ee cummings, from &, 1925

who knows if the moon's
a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky--filled with pretty people?
( and if you and I should

get into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we'd go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen
city which nobody's ever visited,where

Spring)and everyone's
in love and flowers pick themselves

[O.G.: Thanks, Jim]

Tamworth, Bunker Hill, Red Hill,  and moonset, 5 AM 24 July 2021

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Full moon over Tamworth

 Jim sends a couple more of photos from 24 June, as the full moon rose.

He writes:

These were taken from the Great Hill Firetower looking to the village of Tamworth and the rising moon. Low-lying clouds obscured moonrise until the moon rose a few degrees above Ossipee Lake in the distance, above the summit of Welch Top (422m).

I was inspired by John Updike’s poem.

John Updike

The sun is rich
And gladly pays
In golden hours,
Silver days,

And long green weeks
That never end.
School’s out.
The time Is ours to spend.

There’s Little League,
Hopscotch, the creek,
And, after supper,

The live-long light
Is like a dream,
and freckles come
Like flies to cream.


Canon Mark III EOS 5d

Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM|Contemporary 015+1.4x

(A)1/250", 210mm, f/71, ISO 10000 

(B)1/250", 840mm, f/9.0, ISO 10000

The small white dot at 8:00 and about 1 lunar radius is the double star HD 171595, 151 ly away in Sagittarius, enhanced with a small radial filter increasing the exposure around the star by +4.00.

Mini Review: Our Biggest Experiment: An Epic History of the Climate Crisis

 The Guardian recently ran a long-read,

Sixty years of climate change warnings: the signs that were missed (and ignored)

The effects of ‘weird weather’ were already being felt in the 1960s, but scientists linking fossil fuels with climate change were dismissed as prophets of doom

Here is a blurb of the book from which that was extracted:

 ‘Our Biggest Experiment recounts how the world became addicted to fossil fuels, how we discovered that electricity could be a savior, and how renewable energy is far from a twentieth-century discovery. Bell cuts through complicated jargon and jumbles of numbers to show how we're getting to grips with what is now the defining issue of our time. The message she relays is ultimately hopeful; harnessing the ingenuity and intelligence that has driven the history of climate change research can result in a more sustainable and bearable future for humanity.’

Here is our friend Jim's view:
That message of hope is surely a hope in vain, given our current politics. But climate books with a message of despair don’t sell very well, although they do seem to drive up consumption of ethanol and other forms of self-medication.
Here is my prediction: we will do little to avoid climate crises until a heat wave kills a few million, as in the opening scenario in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry of the Future”. After that one nation or two will act to protect itself by adding SO2 to the stratosphere. This initially covert act will be sanctioned by the UN, reluctantly at first, and eventually enthusiastically encouraged by the corporations still invested in fossil fuels in 2040.
By 2060, two decades of this kind of climate modification will have killed most fish in the oceans and reduced crop yields, so the clamor will grow to end climate modification and focus on direct atmospheric capture of greenhouse gases.
That is as far on a limb as I care to go, but I do think that is a very likely outcome of our current lack of policy. Does that sound like a message of hope? Not to me.

We are of the same mind. However, the long-read and presumably the book are more factual, and sufficiently detailed for a retrospective assessment sixty years later. I am looking forward to the publication in the fall.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Another photo from Jim

Jim in Tamworth posted this photo for the solstice. 
He wrote: 

Ciao, amici Here is a photo for tonight's summer solstice at 23:31; I've included an excerpt from Seamus Heaney's solstice poem, "A dream of Solstice". 

It refers to the winter solstice, but the sun stands still at both. 

I love Heaney's use of the quote from Dante too. I do remember most of my dreams but there are times when I only remember the feeling, as does Dante's dreamer. 

About the photo This was the scene that greeted us as we returned from our first post-pandemic trip to visit our grandson and family in Wisconsin. The mountains, the clouds, the drama in the sky really said to us 'welcome home.' The photo reflects not just the physical beauty of the landscape, but also our turbulent feelings after not seeing our daughter and her family for so long, like all of us separated from family by the pandemic. 

Photo details: 
"Overboiling clouds", 15 June '21, 19:13 
Canon Mark III EOS 5d, Canon EF28mm f/1.8 USM 
1/80", f/4.5, ISO 100 
Mount Chocorua under a dark sky, looking north from Page Hill 

 Excerpt The Irish Times, 21 Dec 1999 A Dream of Solstice by Seamus Heaney
Qual è colüi che sognando vede, 
che dopo 'l sogno la passione impressa rimane, 
e l'altro a la mente non riede, 
cotal son io... 

 Dante, Paradiso, Canto xxxiii 

 [Just as the dreamer, after he awakens, 
still stirred by feelings that the dream evoked, 
cannot bring the rest of it to mind, 
such am I…] 

And as in illo tempore [in that time] people marked 
The king's gold dagger when he plunged it in 

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work 
Of the world again, to speed the plough 
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk 
And overboiling cloud for the milted glow 

Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle 
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow 
 Steadily deeper, farther available, 
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave 

To backstone and capstone, to hold its candle Inside the cosmic hill…

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Jim had another interesting photo

We heard from Jim in Tamworth:
I was successful, after several frustrating nights, doing some night photography last night. 
Here's my favorite image. This is not the setting sun. This was taken at nearly midnight. The setting moon to the west lighting up the cloud, the star field - those are stars, not specks of dust - faint through the clouds, and a FIREFLY
flying through the scene with the shutter open, 7 flashes in 8 seconds, glowing for about 1/10 sec! 
It was difficult shooting in the dark, with the moon moving in and out of the clouds, and not knowing the terrain. I said to Maureen that the real problems with night photography are that you have to do it at night. 
Enjoy. Jim 
Photo details, Canon Mark III EOS 5d, 8 secs, Canon 24-105 mm zoom at 105mm, f/4.0,exposure increased in production to f/2.50, ISO 10000, shot at 23:55, 26 June 2020 from White Gates Farm, Tamworth NH
Thanks, Jim. Nice photo!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Jim has a new neighbor

From our friend in Tamworth NH:
“ Here's a dad we hope is starting a family here.
Photo details: Canon Mark III EOS 5d, Vivitar 600 mm,1/40”, f/8, ISO 160, tripod mounted, cropped

Friday, May 22, 2020

Venus on the half-shell

Our friend Jim has a picture from Tamworth, NH.

He wrote “I call this photo "Venus on the half-shell". Apologies to Kurt Vonnegut. Here is Venus as it sets over the Sandwich range between Mount Passaconaway and Mount Paugus,at about 21:10 last night, mirrored below in Chocorua Lake, as seen from the Narrows Bridge. Completely unedited.”

Nice photo, Jim.