May is here. We are starting to see this years foliage. The early green is so vibrant compared to the darker greens of summer. These particular trees are in Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area in Phippsburg, Maine. Click on the image for a larger view.
I have recently been around conversations in art, and in particular, photography. One conclusion I keep taking away about our art world seems to be a boredom with the world and its beauty. Photography seems to echoing our narcissistic times by making statements about itself; declaring itself a fiction and fetishizing this revelation. And when it does look at the world, it is to exploit it as a freak show or to confuse banality with profundity.
Or is our wider culture simply bored with the world? Like adrenaline junkies, we seek out novelty, something weird or strange. If there is nothing that gets our immediate attention, do we move on? Has the norms of advertising conditioned us into wanting instant recognition, instant gratification?
Sand is the detritus of the land. Having been reduced to such a fine state, the wind and water control its destiny. Yet, plants have evolved to exploit this unlikely environment. Invading it. Holding the shifting ground in place. And when dormant in winter, this organic colony continues its grip. Even when it trades its summer green for brown, it is beautiful.
Wildlife looks cute, like this harbor seal pup, but they will not think of you as cute. Marine mammals are found along the coast of Maine. If you think an animal is injured or abandoned, call Maine Marine Animal Reporting Hotline at 1-800-532-9551. Do not approach the animal or try to handle it—not only is it illegal to handle marine mammals, but also they will bite. Appearances can be deceiving; mothers can leave their pups on a beach for up to 24 hours. Click on the image for a larger view.
Locard’s exchange principle, named after the French forensic scientist, can be summed up simply—every contact leaves a trace. No matter how small nor how transitory, our journeys leave something of us behind and carry away something with us. Every track, no matter if taken by a solitary traveler, is woven with those that came before and will come after. Click on the image for a larger view.
How do we see the natural world? How do we read the landscape? Every season has its illusions. The low sun of winter gives the land a warm, inviting character—known as the golden hour. This pond on a salt marsh in Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area is not liquid, but frozen over with a thick layer of ice. Click on the image for a larger view.
For all of Maine’s lengthy coastline, what is rare is sand. Seawall Beach comes between the salt march of Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area and the Atlantic Ocean. Many threatened seabirds need the dunes behind these beaches to reproduce, which makes these areas along the coast extremely important. However, what are not rare on the Maine coast are mist and fog. Click on the image for a larger view.
Usnea is a generic name for a rather broad group of lichen in the parmeliaceae family. Hanging from dying or sick trees like green cotton, it is mostly called by the common names of Old Man’s Beard or Beard Lichen. Although usnea indicates the symptoms, it is not the cause of the tree’s condition. Usnea is very sensitive to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide, which can severely impede its growth.
Usnea is believed to have antibiotic properties and was used like a sterile gauze for wounds. It is recommended to only use this plant externally. The lichen can also be used to create dyes for textiles, giving yellow, orange, green, blue, or purple hues. Click on the image for a larger view.
Winter eventually gives way to spring. The snow thaws, signaling the start of what is fondly referred to in Maine as mud season. The salt marsh at Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area is a tangle of flattened grass. There is not a burst of growth—the plants don’t seem to trust the threat of snow and frosts have gone, and they are right not to. But the air is scented with the season’s potential. Click on the image for a larger view.
The salt marshes and dunes at Bates Morse Mountain Conservation Area are always in flux. While we like to think of the season as four monolithic blocks clearly delineating their character to the landscape, the year passes over the land with infinitely variability. No two moments are the same. Click on the image for a larger view.
This pond in the salt marshes of Bates Morse Mountain Conservation Area is just opening up. In a month or two, fish fry will populate the water. This pool is isolated from the rivers and streams that cut through the marsh, yet the fish population is stable. Amazingly, the salinity of the water is higher than the ocean that feeds the marsh.
Salt marshes are amazing places. Some of the toughest environments exist right between the land and the sea. Places where extreme changes in salinity, temperatures, and water level can be a daily event. This marsh is on the eastern edge of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area along the Morse River. Click on the image for a larger view.