Monday, August 25, 2014

Wildflowers or billboards?

After a day trip to Hackensack, MN on Saturday, today I'm in Duluth, and will be for a couple of days. Although I don't have photos to back up my impressions, there seem to be many more highway billboards along I-35 than I remember from years past. It makes me wish for the return of Ladybird and her highway beautification efforts. The lack of design standards for much of our highway (and other) commercial development is obvious. Requirements for "adequate" parking and corporate branding seem to be the controlling factors. That's not the way New England Villages were built, nor is it dominant in downtown Marine-on-St.-Croix.

"downtown" Marine-on-St.-Croix
Photo by J. Harrington

Fortunately for those of us who don't see everything as a commodity to be bought at the lowest possible price, Minnesota has a number of scenic byways. Along some, perhaps all, of them, you can find curly dock. There was a lot of it visible on the drive north this morning. The Better Half has collected a lot locally for potential use as table decorations in an upcoming wedding. The family has slowly been getting into the get it local,  live sustainably pattern. We haven't gone as far as I'd like (wrote the recovering perfectionist) but we're actually going further than I expected. I was looking at the home-made table candles in small, glass preserve jars, and bouquets, and runners that combine lace and burlap, and thought "that's pretty cool!" Photos will be forthcoming some day soon. In the meantime, I'm realizing that some things turn out even better than I had hoped. That's a nice feeling.

Do you prefer the old (left) or the new (right)?
Either looks better than a "big box."
Photo by J. Harrington

When I take a look at the natural world, including some of Hubble's photos of deep space, I see a lot more beauty than would appear to be absolutely required. Since I'm becoming more and more interested in the relationship between beauty and sustainability, I find that situation very encouraging, almost as encouraging as:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

By Wallace Stevens 

I
Among twenty snowy mountains,   
The only moving thing   
Was the eye of the blackbird.   

II
I was of three minds,   
Like a tree   
In which there are three blackbirds.   

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   
It was a small part of the pantomime.   

IV
A man and a woman   
Are one.   
A man and a woman and a blackbird   
Are one.   

V
I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after.   

VI
Icicles filled the long window   
With barbaric glass.   
The shadow of the blackbird   
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in the shadow   
An indecipherable cause.   

VII
O thin men of Haddam,   
Why do you imagine golden birds?   
Do you not see how the blackbird   
Walks around the feet   
Of the women about you?   

VIII
I know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.   

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,   
It marked the edge   
Of one of many circles.   

X
At the sight of blackbirds   
Flying in a green light,   
Even the bawds of euphony   
Would cry out sharply.   

XI
He rode over Connecticut   
In a glass coach.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook   
The shadow of his equipage   
For blackbirds.   

XII
The river is moving.   
The blackbird must be flying.   

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.


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