Thursday, February 4, 2010

SUBTLE SUNSET

When I went outside yesterday evening, I was hoping to see a sunset in the making. I'd spent the entire day bunkered in my writing room, working first on finishing a couple of deadlined pieces, then taking up a longer project I have going. From my deskside window, I have a good view of the river below the cottage, several bird feeders, and much of the side yard. But I can't really see the main area of the hill to the west, beyond the house and across the river, where the sun finally disappears. And because of the roof's overhanging eaves, I can't see much of the much of the sky in that direction, either. Unless it's a real show-stopper of a sunset—one of those which encompass practically the entire sky—I may not realize anything is going on.
I didn't really expect much, however. The day had been mostly cloudy, though not one of those with such a thick sky cover that it produces a sort of gloomy perpetual twilight. Just a medium-to-light overcast, though when I stepped onto the deck and took a look, still solid and unbroken, which in my experience, isn't what you want for good sunsets. I waited anyway, however, because I've been wrong before when it comes to making the call on potential sunsets.
Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times. Over to the west the brighter area of the gray sky began to sink below the horizon. The light dimmed noticeably. Sundown, sunset, or whatever you want to term this non-show had apparently taken place. No dramatic sky shots this time around. Still, I had an itchy shutter-finger—so I looked around for something to photograph, hoping a string of geese, a few ducks, or even a lone heron would come flying along, as they often do this time of day, and give me a possible silhouette shot. Nada.
That's when I noticed the channel across from the cottage which, for much of the year unless the river gets really low, divides the single long island into two. The waning light—such as it was—seemed to catch on the surface, reflecting a sort of warm golden. sheen. Leaning sycamores stood pale, ghostly. There was both mystery and a bit of magic to the scene. I braced the camera against the deck rail and took a few photos. Then I zoomed in and made several shots of just the river's surface, hoping to capture some of the green-gold mix of water and light.
Sometimes—too often, I suspect—we go out looking for the spectacular, and end up missing the subtle. We seek the brightest and most colorful, that which is dazzling or gaudy…and in so doing, overlook the quite beauty all around. More and more, we as a culture—as individual people—seem to prefer flash over substance, perhaps because the first is easier to assimilate. We'd rather be wowed than moved…see a striking sunset rather than a soft afterglow.
The shame of it is, both can take your breath away…

18 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Beautiful photograph of that water, Scribe. How strange that in a funny sort of way my blog today echoes the same kind of feeling - i.e. how uch the subtleties excite our senses more than the blantant.
I so enjoy every photo you publish of your beloved river.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

"......... some of the green-gold mix of water and light."

the picture of the river's surface DID take my breath away. You really captured the hues and movement so well. Wow! And I am quite comfortable with mediocre - I find it secure, calming and natural.

Have a wonderful day.

Love Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I think beauty in the subtleties, while harder to notice and maybe appreciate, can be more satisfying and lasting, because they make us slow down and think. It isn't only about what you get from the experience, it's what you bring to it that makes it special—the understanding of nuances.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

I hope the photos (you need to double-click and enlarge, maybe, for them to look their best) do, in a small way, communicate something of the moment.

I'm glad you liked them.

Hope the new pup is having a good time. And you, too.

Rowan said...

There is a great deal of quiet beauty in the natural world, the spectacular is right there and obvious but the other you have to actually look for - little hidden corners and nooks and crannies, a quality of light or something tiny but stunningly beautiful like some of the jewel coloured beetles and other insects. I had no camera with me yesterday morning but I was struck by beauty of trees hung with frozen raindrops sparkling in the sunshine.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

You are so right, there is beauty all around, but you have to look and learn to really see. One of the things that's helped me so much has been photography—looking for subjects to shoot, framing them to their best, evaluating and "working" a subject over time and season and in different light, and through various lenses. Good photography is good visualization, it teaches you to use your eyes and brain at the same time—to look and think.

Bernie said...

My Grizz you do live in a beautiful spot and you share it so elegantly with us.
It doesn't look like you get a lot of snow during the winters, am I wrong?
Have a great day....:-) Hugs

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Hi Scribe: How true! It is so easy to miss the simple beauty that can be found in the ordinary. It takes doing what you did - waiting, being present, being patient, and our then our eyes/brain realize the wonder in the subtle.

Love your shot of the water. I recall some photos you previously posted of water shots that were inspiring too.

Everything you say about appreciating the subtleties of nature are also true about people. When one is truly present to someone who is not flashy, does not dazzle according to the cultural norm, it is amazing the beauty that is there waiting to be found in an arresting smile, or a kind eye ...

How much beauty, truth, joy and goodness do we miss in the everyday while looking for the exceptional?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

We certainly don't get much snow by your standards. And not as much as we used to several decades ago, though the trend seems to be swinging back toward an increase.

Snowfall this year has been well below the average for my corner (southwest) of the state. We saw lots more snow last year. We do have some snow on the way—upwards of 8 inches between tomorrow and Saturday.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

I love water shots. And you remember correctly, I did run several in previous posts. Might even have run an all water shot post. There will certainly be more to come—I do live by the water, and I just get a kick out of finding those little pockets of reflected light in the most magical colors.

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said about beauty in regards to it so often being found in the simple, subtle, and ordinary…except I disagree with that final line about how much we miss while searching for the exceptional—and in that I only disagree in the fact that while we might claim to be searching for the exceptional, what we're really looking for is the wow factor, the razzle-dazzle, the blockbuster stupendous extravaganza!

So often I've found, when you really look at those simple, subtle, and ordinary things, you come to see that while they may not exhibit the wow factor, they're unquestionably exceptional. And the rule applies to people, as I'm sure you know—those simple, subtle, and ordinary folks can turn out to be extraordinarily exceptional; not "wow factor" people, but exceptional. The late Charles Kuralt made his mark in journalism history seeking them out and chronicling their stories.

It's that exceptional in the simple, subtle, and ordinary that's I so enjoy in people, why I love meeting and getting to know them—especially the quiet ones who sit in a room watching, listening. I always want to reach that moment with such folks when they look you in the eye, make some decision they don't make very often, and then say "come here, I want to show you something, tell you a story, take you to this place…"

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Funny, I thought about Charles Kuralt a few days ago - maybe it was last Sunday morning flipping around between the major morning network shows and landing on CBS. I miss his enchanting profiles of 'ordinary' people and places. And his voice, a deep purr that added gravitas to the simplest of reports. Gone too soon.

Hildred and Charles said...

The water shots are amazing, but the trees have a lovely mysterious quality too. It is good to go through life being mindful of the small and simple beauties.....

Elisabeth said...

The water here, reflecting those deep oily blues, greens and flecks of light gold are brilliant. I agree it's time we stopped looking for the dramatic.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

Kuralt was a people person, for sure—and his best work always revolved around finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. His looks and voice—pure North Carolina, warm and Southern with a note of the whimsical—were perfect for the task.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hildred and Charles…

So many people seem to go through life almost completely unaware of the world—and all it's beautiful marvels—around them. You have to wonder if they ever really enjoy anything.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Elisabeth…

One of the things I've learned about subtle beauty and the unexpected extraordinary is that to find and recognize either, we must bring something to the effort. We must look close, pay attention, be informed and willing and patient. Our heart must be open to what we see. But the rewards are tremendous.

Tramp said...

Nature has something to show us if we want to see it. Recently out with my dog (Lady) I caught a magnificent sunset as the sun dropped from behind the clouds into the forest and gave us a stunnung display of colours including an afterglow on the opposite side of the sky. While it seemed that the animal and bird kingdom was reacting to this wonder, there was no sign that humankind was aware of what was being enacted for us.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

I've come to believe that most people nowadays are oblivious to nature, even something so blatant and beautiful as a sunset. They certainly miss the more subtle stuff. How tragic.

I noticed you caught the afterglow on the opposite side of the sky from the sunset, which is something even a lot of experienced outdoor folks miss or forget to check. Often, that turns out to be prettier than the actual sunset.