my favorite interruption

It’s an interruption of light. That’s all it is. But it fascinates me — visually, conceptually, artistically, emotionally. Most photographers look for good light; I look for good shadow.

A tree in this small alley-turned-courtyard obstructed the sunlight falling directly on the burnt sienna wall, resulting in a dark, self-similar shape of that tree. We’re able to see that tree because light within a certain spectrum falls on it; we see its shadow because light is prevented from falling on the wall. A shadow is the only thing we see because of the absence of light.

The term ‘shadow’ comes from Old English, the language spoken by Anglo-Saxons between the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. It shares the same linguistic root as ‘shade’: sceadu, which referred to a place protected from glare and heat. ‘Shadow’ itself, however, comes from a somewhat later and more narrowly defined derivation of the term: sceadwian, which referred to the act of creating a small bit of shade (most beautifully defined by one etymologist as ‘to protect as with a covering wing’).

Though shade and shadow are essentially the same phenomenon, we experience them as very different beasts. We tend to treat shade as a form of shelter; we generally see shadow as only the reverse projection of an object. And that’s a shame, because when you raise an awning to shelter you from the sun, you’re using a shadow to create shade. You are, in effect, mimicking a bird tucking its head under its wing. If you can’t see the delicate loveliness in that, there’s no hope for you at all, at all.

I entered this alleyway/courtyard seeking shade. In it, I found a shadow. And I was content.

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this guy…

Here’s a question: why do we bother to have a House Committee on Science and Technology if we’re going to assign people like Paul Broun, Jr. to sit on it? This is a committee that helps establish and oversee policy decisions dealing with (surprise) science and technology. And this guy…

Representative Paul Broun, Jr. – Republican, Georgia

…this guy thinks the Earth is “about 9,000 years old.” Seriously. This guy believes evolution is a lie “straight from the pit of Hell.” He believes climate change is a “hoax” and is part of a conspiracy “perpetrated out of the scientific community” in order to…well, it’s not quite clear exactly what this conspiracy is attempting to do. Something sciencey. But whatever it is, the scientific community’s purpose is evil and wicked, and this guy doesn’t like it..

This isn’t Broun’s only controversial position. He claimed President Obama’s call for a civilian national service corps was “exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did.” He believes the president is a Marxist. When the Centers for Disease Control instituted a campaign to promote a healthy diet, Broun told his constituents the government  was going “to force you to eat more fruits and vegetables. They gonna be calling you to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, every day.” He attempted to defund the enforcement provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Broun believes Social Security is “unconstitutional,” as is the entire 16th Amendment to the Constitution (that’s the one that allows Congress to levy an income tax). He doesn’t appear to understand that when you amend the Constitution, that amendment is, by definition, constitutional — and yet Broun himself wanted to amend the Constitution to permit castration of people convicted of raping a child under age 16. And at a town meeting, when one of his constituents asked “Who is going to shoot Obama” (and the people attending laughed), Broun’s only response was “I know people are frustrated.”

Oh, and he’s a born-again Baptist married to his fourth wife.

He’s been re-elected twice. And the Republicans have put this guy on the House Committee on Science and Technology.

unasked questions

I love a mystery. I love a mystery so much, I’ll often go out of my way NOT to solve them. Once a mystery is solved, then it’s obviously no longer a mystery.

Yesterday my companion and I stood for a moment on a bridge and watched a young man repeatedly throwing stuff into the river. I assumed it was something like bits of dried bread, maybe to feed the fish. She thought it might be corn or some sort of grain. It wasn’t at all clear. Not a huge mystery, but enough to make me want a closer look.

We followed the stairs down to the river and I asked the young man what he was throwing into the river. He said, “Candy.” He showed me his knapsack, which contained a plastic shopping bag full of small individual-sized packets of M&Ms. He also had a box filled with packets of some other candy.

“Is this for the fish?” I asked. He spoke in a half-whisper, saying something that included the word fish, but I couldn’t quite understand him. He seemed mildly reluctant to look at me, but was certainly polite and patient and quite willing to answer questions. Rather than pester him, though, I simply said “Enjoy yourself,” and we continued down the walkway along the river.

Looking back at one point, I noticed him standing and watching us. I held up the camera in what I hoped was a universal ‘Can I take your photograph?’ gesture and waved to him. He waved back, which I chose to interpret as ‘Sure, go ahead.’

The whole thing seemed a wee bit odd, but I figured the guy was possibly developmentally disabled or maybe stoned. Either way, it was no big deal and we continued to walk along the river.

On the walk back, the young man was still there. As we approached he pulled on a bright blue jacket and I decided I was going to ask if I could shoot his photo. Before we got to him, he stepped onto the small sand bar that had formed along the walkway and began burying some things. Digging small holes with his hands, dropping in whatever he was burying, filling the holes, then patting them down tidily.

He’d just finished burying the final thing when we arrived. “Would you mind if I took your photograph?” I asked. I was going to give him my name and hand him my card and explain why I wanted to take his photo — but he just stood up, returned to the walkway, turned and stood there. Like Gort awaiting orders from Klaatu.

Sakim

I just took the one shot. “Can I ask your name?” I said. He spoke very softly. “Sakim.” I showed him the photograph and he smiled. “That’s good,” he said.

I wanted to ask him about the candy again. I wanted to ask him why he was throwing candy to the fish. I wanted to ask him what he was burying in the sand and why he was burying it. But if you ask questions, you get answers and I’m not convinced the answers would have been nearly as intriguing as the questions.