Yesterday was just about as lovely as you can imagine. It had rained the day before, so the air was fresh and clean...there wasn't a cloud in the sky...not too hot, not too cold...just perfect. Rob and I decided to take advantage of the weather and went for a nice afternoon stroll in Stewart park which lies on the southern edge of Cayuga Lake.
One of the parks biggest assets (in my humble opinion) is its swing set. You don't find giants like these very often anymore. They've all been replaced with dinky little kiddie swings that I assume are supposed to be safer or something, but really just make swinging boring for those small enough to use the sets, and all but impossible for the rest of us grown-up kids who like to indulge in a little healthy childish behavior from time to time.
While I lived in Manhattan one of my favorite destinations was a giant swing set in Central Park. At the end of a stressful day or to enhance a spectacular morning, I could walk over to the park and soar back and forth...pumping higher and higher till I either chickened out or chaffed my hands on the chains. When Rob and I visited Manhattan for the first time a few years ago that swing set was one of the main destinations I wanted to show off. I eagerly led him into the park (at that point we weren't "official" and hadn't even held hands yet...otherwise I'd have dragged him in!) and marched over to where I remember the swings being, but...(sniff)...THEY WERE GONE!!! My beloved adult friendly play area had been replaced by a miniature, fenced in, plastic and rubber kiddie play place. Not only that, a sign at its entrance read "NO adults unless accompanied by a child." Ok, now I understand how reassuring that sign might be for parents taking their kids to a park in the heart of the big city--for all I know maybe there had even been a kidnapping or some injuries that had prompted the park to make the change--but at the time it broke my heart. In any case, it was supremely enjoyable to take advantage of the live-dangerously mentality of Ithaca-ites and play for a while on their BIG-kid proportioned playground equipment.
After swinging our hands raw we ambled back into the present day and wandered through more of the park. There are rivers and ponds to gaze into, bridges to cross, and LOTS of goose guano to avoid. A huge flock of Canada geese was molting on the park grounds: during the summer months they lose all their flight feathers and are grounded till the new ones grow in 6-8 weeks later. In the meantime the birds hang out near the water and diddle their time away eating and pooping and eating and pooping. I didn't take any photos, but I'll let you use your imagination about how much crap can build up in a small area over even a short period of time.
As we were crossing one of the bridges I noticed some tangled up fishing line hanging from the middle of an electric wire that spanned the water. It was bright red and gleamed metallically in the sun--glints of light running up and down its coiled length as the breeze blew it from side to side. Something about it caught my eye. I took several pictures and later cropped and edited them at home till I came up with this (click on each photo for an up-close and more nuanced view)...
Or seen another way...
In the original photo (and its various supped up permutations) I enjoy the flow of line, the tension created by imposing a horizontal perspective on the wire's gravitationally-influenced hanging loops, and the grades of color and shadow in the sky. I enjoy taking photos of mundane items and turning them into something aesthetically interesting: drawing attention to typically overlooked features and disguising them within their own inherent beauty. If I hadn't told you from the outset that the above photo is a tangle of fishing line, I think you might have assumed it was something I'd painted.
I feel similarly toward these next two photos that I took the other day on the Buttermilk Falls hike...
Before I took them, I found that at each location I could blur my eyes or cock my head "just so" and lose sight of the reality behind each natural feature while instead perceiving a sort of formal and textural abstraction. In both cases I feel that the pure aesthetics of these natural structures come to the fore while what they are in real life (a shale river bottom, and rivulets in a stream) almost seems to disappear.
If you ever want to have a long debate with someone ask the question: "what is art?" I guarantee you'll be duking it out for hours. I don't have a good definite answer myself, and you might look at the photos I've posted above and (after rolling your eyes at the somewhat cliche photo effects I applied to the first one) say that I'm full of it, but I'm still willing to bet that overall I've presented a unique view of some reg'lar kind of objects and places--and that by framing them thus you may even see them as beautiful yourself.