May 1, 2016 Linen, Lichen
A cool gray morning, with rain in the forecast. I go out early to avoid the rain. For the first time it occurs to me to experiment with taking black and white photographs in the tree, so I figure out how to take them with the Canon, throw on a fleece over my pajamas, and head outside. My first thought, up among the branches, is that this is why I am climbing the tree: every single day I spend time outside in a way that is significant, however brief. Every day I am out here, attending to the weather and the change of seasons and the feel of the natural world.
Taking pictures in black and white effects a sudden change in how I see the world. The visual aspect of my surround that suddenly pops into saliency is texture, in a way that is not the case for color photographs. Pointing the camera around, the woods are a bland striped field of gray. The tree trunk and branches are gray against gray, also not striking. I do get some interesting shots looking upwards, at the starkness of the trunk and branches in all their gothically irregular formations against the sky. But the real interest comes when I start to point the camera at where prayer flag meets bark. The fine soft weave of threads against the lichen roughness. Faintly inked symbols next to the smoothness of the bark on a young branch. Older craggy bark next to a sweeping twist of fabric.
And when I put the camera down I see everything differently for a little while. It as though my eye is now half-way between the look of things and the feel of things. I see not the extension of shapes through space or their outlines, their unexpected contrasts or convergences, or their protruding and receding three-dimensionality; nor brilliancies and shadings of color, in all their richness and variety. It is the feel of things to the eye’s hand. Soft, rough, smooth, textured, fine, coarse. The difference between linen and lichen, which has nothing to do with their shapes or their colors.
I think back and recall that in some prior entry, six months or a year ago, I talk about the hand’s eye: feeling one’s way in the dark, seeing and moving by touch. Now I find myself ruminating on the eye’s hand: the way things feel to our seeing of them. The textures they present to our looking.
Any day in which being in the tree makes me see things differently is a good day. And this is one of them. From this gray day, this unexpected insight. This splash of color.