Cox Reservation, Essex Massachusetts
From my journal of July 20, 2008, Sunday, Cambridge
On a warm, muggy, still morning, full moon set, no birds singing, eerie: storm coming?
Dreaming but barely: I was preparing for a long trip, to fly over one of the stans, like Uzbekistan, but not able to land for some reason; JVB had agreed to do something for me, I was doubtful he’d be reliable. Not a rich dream crop last night.
The 3rd session of Summer Light brought us to Cranes Beach and a small reservation in the Essex Greenbelt chain called Cox. It adjoined a river, perhaps the Little, perhaps the Essex (I’ll check later-map?), contained large dry recently mowed fields, shrubs, trees, an old farm house, and skirted much private land on which dwellings such as cottages stood. Fighting off the greenhead flies (several bit me within minutes, drawing blood, impervious to my Deet lotion) I offered the following 2 exercises: one spot, many shots (i.e., one location, many photos) and dark on light, light on dark, the latter to aim folks toward HDR, high dynamic range.
The evening before during review Tom had suggested that the term HDR is more than a fancy way of saying high contrast because it subsumes high contrast which could be merely 2 zones, white and black, without intermediate stages, whereas HDR might include intermediate stages.
Along the way we met a group of about 15 men, somewhat stern looking, Middle Eastern appearing, some speaking Arabic. I queried our group: who might they be? And then, when the group returned after a short stroll, I asked the visitors who they were, trying to not appear intrusive.
Military officers from Egypt, some generals, here to meet with police. They didn’t say which police, or why the meeting, but I suspected the worst. As did some of the rest of us when I announced the answer. The generals’ day off, perhaps the saunter down the lane to the water softened them and helped them witness the humanity of all people.
Our 1st activity together was awareness—1st the blind faith walk (in a line, me leading with eyes open, each of the others with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front, eyes closed, listen, smell, feel), down the path to the water, a short distance, then walking backwards, feeling-seeing with our feet. People noticed sounds more, and the difference between sun and shade.
I tried my light on dark exercise on the upturned by wind bright leaves against their darker friends, suggested by Tom. Also the cloud formations, myriad dark-light combinations. And for my one location I chose the boat landing, privately owned, not for the landing itself but for the sky. By then sky was changing rapidly, offering much contrast and odd shapes. Later, at Cranes, I was to repeat this theme with a waning sun.
3 students were absent: M who was lost, D and C who decided not to join us, perhaps the arduousness of being outside in such hot weather, perhaps family matters, perhaps the flies, I may never know.
All day, all our day which ran from 4 pm to 8, the sky changed, never completely clear, usually hazy and with low cloud definition. We could see the haze, virtually light fog, on the ground. Until later, just as we arrived at Cranes, when rain clouds suddenly appeared, the air gusted cold, and eventually, minutes after we’d packed into vehicles, heavy rain fell.
Cranes Beach, Essex Massachusetts
Cranes was not as jammed as had been Wingaersheek the week before, as expected. Partly the hour, 6:30 pm (low tide), partly the place, very wide and with much colder water. Not the frenetic activity of Wingaersheek, nor the hundreds of boats and their crews drinking, cooking meat, and lounging. At Cranes I suggested we turn to meta photography, introducing symbol and metaphor, and reviewing synecdoche, the part standing for the whole.
I discoursed on this topic, as we stood in the fresh chill air on Cranes, lightning about to strike off the ocean: synecdoche is the starting point, a visible for a visible, part for the whole, as cop stands for police officer and sail for sail boat; symbol, like the American flag, is by common consent a sign for something else, an idea, as is the green flag at the life guard station representing safety (later they put up the red flag when the lightning began, signaling ambiguously for all to leave the water: is a long object resembling a prick a symbol, the phallic symbol?); while metaphor is a visible standing for an invisible. Examples are tree of life, water of purity, lush green of new birth, etc.
Later, when I’d finished my snack of apple and peanut butter while sitting on a slight sand hill in the back dunes, after struggling valiantly to walk thru the soft sands, scraping off the greenheads greedy for my blood, I noticed the sky glowing deep red around the sun. Thunderheads were emerging, the cloud cover over the sun was just thin-thick enough to allow its roundness to show, but not so intense to ruin the photo. With my telephoto lens I aimed directly into the sun, enraptured by the swiftly changing patterns. Muses led me to this spot. I’d not chosen it for the sun view. I’d chosen it for the ocean view, which rendered no photos. Sitting quietly, parking my heavy load of equipment (including the tripod which I never used), I only meant to rest and linger, not prepare myself for what may have been the most effecting photo of my entire series.
Will it be synecdoche, symbol, or metaphor? Or all, or none?
Sky played a major role for me at Cranes, perhaps in part because of my history here (which I outlined to Tom as we headed down coast)—my mother Pearl and the moon, discovered on a wintry beach walk in 1980 while I was editing the film about her. Was sun-father calling to me? I’d discovered sun-father while in the sweat ceremony a few years after my moon-mom epiphany. Were my ancestors present at Cranes, tapping me on the shoulder-eyes to notice them and heed them? What were their messages?
Tom had a slight problem: lost in the sand dunes, late, exhausted, rain approaching. We’d closed, missing Tom and Mary; some had left; Mary, Brianna, I, all riding with Wilson, were about to depart when Wilson suggested we might wish to check on Tom. I suggested phoning since Tom was the main contact person. We reached him, he puffed, labored, said he thought he’d found the way out, would soon emerge, thanked us for waiting. His shirt was soaked with sweat. He looked distraught. I alerted rangers to not lock the gates until we’d all left. The ranger, an earnest helpful young tanned red faced man, offered to look for him when we saw Tom slowly enter the parking lot from the dunes trail.
I went to him, took his pack, weighing as much as mine at least, maybe 30 pounds, as he told me his story. He’d run for the first part of the trip, thru the sand, hoping to reach the point overlooking the river for photos. He’d succeeded but maybe depleted himself dangerously. Losing the way several times, unable to decipher the number signs—I saw none, I also was lost—he survived. He admitted to being a diabetic, thought low sugar might be an exacerbating factor.
Did you lose a portable reflector?
I might have.
I think I have it.
I’d picked up a collapsible reflecting circle used to fill in shadows, couldn’t find it in my packs when Tom said it might be his, offered to return it at our next review session. Lost a treasure, returned it to its owner. Tom made it out safely.