A Tumbler of Island Water

The Nobel poet Derek Walcott died last month. He wrote about the Caribbean, its harsh legacy of colonialism. In particular, they considered his island of St. Lucia, its opulent vegetation, the white beaches and its tangled multicultural heritages.

His 1962 collection “In a Green Night” included the poem “Islands”:

I seek,
As climate seeks its style, to write
Verse crisp as sand, clear as sunlight,
Cold as the curled wave, ordinary
As a tumbler of island water.

In 1990, he told The Economist: “The sea is always present. It’s always visible. All the roads lead to it. I consider the sound of the sea to be part of my body. And if you say in patois, ‘The boats are coming back,’ the beat of that line, its metrical space, has to do with the sound and rhythm of the sea itself.”

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Walcott was also an accomplished watercolorist and illustrated many of his books:.

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His 2004 work, “The Prodigal”, had a distinctly elegiac undercurrent and offered a glimpse of the author’s restless travels to Italy, Colombia, France and Mexico.

“Prodigal, what were your wanderings about?”

“The smoke of homecoming, the smoke of departure.”

“There can be virtues in deprivation.”

“For every poet, it is always morning in the world. History is a forgotten, insomniac night. History and elemental awe are always our early beginning, because the fate of poetry is to fall in love with the world, in spite of History.”

End of the World

Spiral Jetty is Robert Smithton’s Monument to Catastrophe, in Utah, and was featured in the New York Times on July 7th by H. Julavits.09spiral1-superJumbo-v3.jpg

(For scale, above, in the middle you see two people standing.)

It comprises more than 6,000 tons of black basalt rocks extending 1,500 feet into the Great Salt Lake. It is in the shape of a counterclockwise vortex, designed by Robert Smithson in the 1970s.

It is called the ‘Spiral Jetty’ though some prefer ‘The End of the World’ and gives a feeling of aloneness, in a place that is unsafe and somehow devilish.

During some winters the rock is covered by water. To reach the Monument you have to drive along 16 miles of unpaved road that is often flooded.09mag-09spiral.t_CA1-superJumbo.jpg

If you must visit, it’s best to go at this time of the year.

Hokusai’s volcano

At the British Museum, there is an exhibition of the popular paintings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). There are several images of the Fuji volcano.hokusai_highlight_fuji_1000.jpg

They are symbols of natural power and human vulnerability.  Hokusai’s infatuation with Mount Fuji was much more than an admiration of its beauty. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter told that a goddess placed an elixir of life at the top of the peak, and thus the mountain was a secret source of immortality, as well as a secret reason for Hokusai’ obsession with the mountain.

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This gave him a chance to explore and experiment with its beauty. hokusai_highlight_snowy_1000.jpg

A section through a present-day volcano shows its hidden structure:

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Cross-section through a stratovolcano (vertical scale is exaggerated):

  1. Large magma chamber
  2. Bedrock
  3. Conduit (pipe)
  4. Base
  5. Sill
  6. Dike
  7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano
  8. Flank
  9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano
  10. Throat
  11. Parasitic cone
  12. Lava flow
  13. Vent
  14. Crater
  15. Ash cloud

Ice

USM Modular Furniture presents an exhibition by Swiss photographer Daniel Schwartz. The black and white photographs can be viewed from May 4-26, 2017 in the USM, New York Soho Showroom. ds.jpg.1280x680_q90_crop.jpgThe images feature glaciers in Switzerland, Pakistan, Peru and Uganda.

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Glaciers form a dynamic system. Due to man-made climate change, they are rapidly losing surface area and mass with far-reaching consequences. Glaciers serve as reservoirs of water as well as serving as an archive of climate history.

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Daniel Schwartz presents the glacier as a place of remembrance – confronting loss by exposing the past – and as a stage that reveals the future as it recedes.

Book of Miracles

The recently discovered Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs reveals a 16th Century society gripped by anxieties that we can relate to today, The illustrated manuscript is now available, edited by T. Borchert and J.P. Waterman.

Danger! White Light

Between the River Crouch and the River Thames in Essex a footpath leaves the land at a place called Wakering Stairs and heads due east, straight out to sea.

p04p1fl9.jpgSeveral hundred metres offshore it curls northeast and runs in this direction for around 5kms, still offshore, before cutting back to make landfall at Fisherman’s Head, the uppermost tip of a large, low-lying and little-known marshy island called Foulness.

p04p1g0t.jpgThis is the Broomway, allegedly “the deadliest” path in Britain,

p04p1dr7.jpgand certainly the unearthliest path. It gets covered by the tide twice a day and usually these rise and fall more quickly than most human explorers. The Broomway is thought to have killed more than 100 people over the centuries; it seems likely that there were other victims whose fates went unrecorded. Sixty-six of its dead are buried in the little Foulness churchyard; the other bodies were not recovered.

p04p1cj8.jpgEdwardian newspapers, alert to the path’s reputation, rechristened it “The Doomway”.

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The Broomway is known as the most perilous path in Britain – and is a favourite walk of writer Robert Macfarlane, who describes it in his book The Old Ways.

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The path leads towards a white light.

Clouds Over Islands

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What really happens in this picture is this: land heats up faster than water. When the sun comes out, the land heats quickly, forming an area of low pressure directly on the island. This results in an area of higher pressure offshore.

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Since air moves from high to low pressure, the marine moisture as well as moisture from the island gets drawn into the low pressure over the island. Low pressure creates upward vertical movement, causing the warm moist air to rise, cool and condense into a cloud directly over each island.

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