Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Joys of Clarity

The controls on my camera look like those for a map: a center button and a ring of four more, set at the cardinal points. I must find my photographic direction with them. The knob up top reads M for Manual. No automatic controls save me now; I am clicking with a tripod but without a net....

I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I darken the sky around the moon, when in reality it is merely a medium-deep blue minutes after sundown. But to reflect reality would mean letting the moon's brightness fill my view, washing out its craters and mare. A blanched bauble in a placid, featureless sea. This shot is the clearest one I've taken since I had used flash to quicken my shutter speed in the absence of a tripod, faced with a swelling crescent.

I can't see Mars, but that could be because it isn't high enough to clear the neighborhood trees. The red planet had risen at 5:06 PM; I photographed the moon at 5:45. The sun set at 5:37.

Venus, though, is up and gleaming. It is an "evening star" now, setting at 8:32. Still clearing the trees but dipping West.

Earlier today I'd taught one-on-one. My student and I had sat at her back yard table while her young, very affectionate cream-colored Lab played in the grass. Beforehand I had been scribbling notes toward my own fiction, building on the visions that bless me while I lie in bed between sleep and wakefulness. They have increased in frequency again, much to my joy. Earlier tonight I added to a draft that had lain idle for too long.

It is a tough draft, this one, sequel to the trilogy I am trying to sell because the characters aren't through with me. Tough in terms of structure. So many stories, so many voices. Two major dramatic threads but so much that interweaves. It tells me I must ignore linearity and simply write the puzzle pieces as they come, fit them all together later. Practice what I preach.

"A first draft is supposed to be sloppy," I tell my students. "That's its job."

In the meantime I fill my journal notebook with questions, answers, suppositions, guesses, outlines.

Photo credit: Mary C. Russell

Yesterday, Mary had been trying to identify a small moth; earlier she had seen a portion of a wing beneath foliage. Neither of us had realized at first that it was the Syngamia florella, which I had photographed here. Mary had spotted it on our window while watering plants and leapt for the camera, catching a great reflection in the bargain.

During our walk we'd swung by the "post office pond" and found a Great Egret patrolling it. According to our Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds, this species ranges U.S. to southern South America and warmer parts of the Old World -- a "large, stately, slender white heron" measuring 38 inches.

"When feeding," says the Peterson, "the bird assumes an eager, forward-leaning pose, neck extended, quite unlike the Snowy."

Before then, we'd enjoyed a late lunch at the strip mall across the street from the post office. Part of the mall is being remodeled amidst much dust and Caution tape, so we took a different walkway than usual out behind it -- and were startled to spot records on the ground amidst the foliage.

These are photographed as we'd found them. Some have chunks broken off. We have no idea how long they'd been there.

The top record reads, "Lael and Cab Calloway sing Little Child." Other performers in the pile include Guy Lombardo, Kay Kyser, Eddie Fisher, Kitty Carlisle and Wilbur Evans, Doris Day, and others -- 18 records in all, 78 rpm.

The label on a Mercury Childcraft Records recording of "America" and "The Star Spangled Banner" (Hugo Peretti and his Orchestra) reads, "Non-Breakable Under Normal Use." Although we are well beyond that here, Mary wants to try to play at least some of these before they likely become part of an art project some time in the future.

I'd grown up with 45s and 33s, but these are the first 78s I've ever had. My parents had possessed a monstrously heavy cherry-wood Victrola that they relegated to the attic when they'd gotten a new stereo in 1969. The attic had been my sanctuary, home to my manual typewriter and chemistry set, and a bedroom whose walls and ceiling I'd plastered with every poster I could lay my hands on -- mostly freebies my mother had gotten from the Scholastic Book Club when she submitted orders for her high school students. The Victrola had settings for both 78 and 16 rpm, which had made for some very spacey sounds when I experimented with my LPs.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the moon is my muse...

10:07 AM  

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