Darkness and Light

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Nino Haratischwili’s book The Cat and the General is a difficult book. It talks about guilt, and the unhealthy death wish that can come with it. It’s also a long book, and might not satisfy the reader expecting satisfying exterior context. This books is about minds.

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The novel often appears to be talkative, giving too many irrelevant details, but these are just part of an undercurrent of themes that connect victims with perpetrators. One such pattern is that of Darkness and Light.

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After Sonja’s Death, Ada had begun to be afraid of the dark. She only wanted to sleep in bright light, holding a pillow in front of her eyes.

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“Why is there Darkness and Light”, he heard his daughter ask, then just five years old.

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— Because we couldn’t see the light without darkness, and the darkness not without light, he answered, and felt doubtful.

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— But why do I have to see darkness at all?

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Darkness is nothing but a disguise for the light!

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This dialogue between the general and his young daughter replicates a dialogue between Nura and her father, and is one of many parallels that live in the subtext of the book.

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The pictures here were taken during a recent visit to Turkey Run State Park. 

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Besides Light and Darkness, there is also the theme of wood and rock in these images, of growth and strength.

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Mushrooms

 

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Now that all the pretty spring wildflowers are gone, it’s time to pay attention to some of the other vegetation that prospers in the humid Midwest. As you can see, they still have to learn about social distancing. 

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I know next to nothing about mushrooms. The beauty above is probably a coral fungus. But don’t trust me, and in particular don’t eat one just because you have seen it here.

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They grow with an astonishing speed, and take on shapes that range from gracile to monstrous. And they are usually gone after a few days.

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Some look so strange that I don’t even know whether they are mushrooms.

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The ones above were photographed with a macro lens. For the one below I didn’t have one, but I also didn’t need one.

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Tradescantia (Spiderwort)

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The spiderwort is a late spring wild flower. The local kind has blossoms that close a night and dangle down, suggesting spider legs.

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But maybe it’s the long leaves that are often bent like spider legs. In either case, each individual plant is an architectural master piece.

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The flowers have three petals. Unlike trilliums, I have never seen a four leaf variation . Another explanation for the spider name are the hairs around the anthers.

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Maybe we should consult an expert. They seem to like these flowers, too.

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Black and White Are Not Colors

For over two months now, I have been walking Pete Hollows Trail almost daily.

I have made a few friends, I hope, saying hi while cautiously getting around each other on the narrow trail. Nobody meant any harm. Thank you.

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I have met the trail maker. He told me that this trail is his masterpiece. I think I start to understand what he meant by this. Thank you.

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I also met the Hermit. A friendly looking shy guy wearing an NRA cap, and camping out in all kinds of weather away from the rest of us. He took care of the trail by cutting down fallen logs, too. Thank you.

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When I started this, it was still winter, and every little drizzle would soak you. Now, the tree leaves provide shelter enough. Thank you.

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There are secret spots, too, that provide inspiration, where you have to step off the trail a bit. Thank you.

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Then there are seven streams to cross. They help keeping track of time. Thank you.

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Oh, there is light and dark, separate and together since the beginning.  

All this makes a place, and forms its character, and builds it a home, slowly, for some.

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And then there is Cassiopeia. This is her home.

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She taught me that it is not us who own a place. It is not a question of ownership, but of belonging. Thank you.

We have no right to remove her, or anybody, from where they belong.

 

In Memoriam George Floyd, May 25, 2020.

More Moss (Mosses II)

After using Laowa’s 2.5-5X Ultra Macro lens for extreme moss images, I couldn’t resist to try out the new Lensbaby Velvet 28mm lens on the same subject. 

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People on forums discussing photography fight bitter wars about lenses as if it was about their salvation. It is certainly true that Lensbaby is making lenses on the other side of the spectrum of what many photographers expect.

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These lenses are good at not being sharp.  Even closed down they are a bit blurry, and show strong chromatic aberration. The idea is to shoot them wide open, of course, and enjoy how almost everything gets blurred into oblivion. The sporophytes of the moss above are impossible to get sharp with any lens, so why not make them extra blurry?

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The Velvet is a 2:1 macro lens (2cm in reality become 1cm on the 35mm sensor), but the working distance is so small that it will often cast a shadow on the subject. So these pictures where taken in the morning when the sun was low. 

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An advantage of shooting wide open is that you can do everything handheld — just magnify what you want to shoot in the electronic viewfinder and push the button when it’s (relatively) sharp.

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Moss

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When it’s cold and cloudy outside, it’s time for a little introspection.The pictures here were taken with Laowa’s 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens, at or near the maximal magnification. DSC 5757

Focussing gets hairy, literally. What you see here are mosses, with some morning dew. Below is another variety.

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All this is in reality just a few millimeters across. This makes it hard to look for motives, because when you are standing up, you can’t tell what is at your feet.

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Below is an algae. The fine hairy threads are quite something up close. 

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The problem with this perspective is: If you have seen that much, you want to see more. 

Corona Walk

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When you combine a pandemic with spring break with bad weather, you get this view from the top of the Atwater parking garage. Below is Lindley Hall. That the lights are on is unusual, but what isn’t?

 

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I continue my campus walk past the tiny Beck chapel to get to the IU cinema. 

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In front of it someone has adorned the pianist in a timely manner.

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The cinema itself is closed, like almost everything else.

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The way back takes me to Goodbody hall. Its terrace is eerily vacated.

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The only people I saw were construction workers and gardeners. Life has been reduced here to maintenance.

Coal and Gold (Columbia Mine Preserve III)

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After two slightly misleading posts about a facility (inside and outside) near the Columbia Mine Preserve, the time has come to visit the actual place.

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Large open spaces (either prairies or lakes) allow to look far into the distance in all directions.

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It conveys an almost paradoxical state of mind: Being small and unimportant in this vast landscape, but also (subjectively) being at the center of it.

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Being there in the late afternoon gives the opportunity to experience another contrast. Just before the wintry gray turns into the black of the night, the sun makes one last effort, just before it hits the horizon.

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Then, for a short moment, the black and the gold coexist, and the limiting horizons become an illusion.

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The Dark Tower (Columbia Mine Preserve II)

After looking at the mining facility near the Columbia Mine Preserve from the outside last week, now it’s time to step inside.

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This is already the second floor, from a total of six. Thanks to the broken windows, the wind has done a decent job cleaning the place.

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Moving up. This feels like one of these dungeon computer games where you have to deal with cute monsters on the way up (or down). I am pretty sure I know where the undead from the three (!) cemeteries I passed on the way spend their free nights.

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Further up. It also reminds me of Snakes and Ladders. One misstep, and you have to start climbing all over again, if you can.

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The eeriest part of the place is the sound. Birds have conquered it, and the sounds they make are surprisingly close to human chatter. Maybe this place is some sort of temple for them.

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It also feels like I am an exploring some alien space ship. I have absolutely no clue what these enormous machines were used for. 

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Not only birds have left their stains. Monsters, undead, animals, aliens — what do we fear most?

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Down again, unharmed. Two decades ago, this place was busy with people who worked there. Where are they now, what are their stories?