Love is a temporary madness

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”

Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

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On Elizabeth Gadd and Iceland

Elizabeth Gadd‘s series on Iceland is breathtaking, and for the entire selection of photos coupled with stories of her travels, go here. Here are some of her best shots to satisfy the wanderer in you. All photos below belong to Elizabeth Gadd!

The Trio of Photographers

On Arches National Park and Edward Abbey

I love Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. Documenting his three seasons as a park ranger in Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah, it is a passionate and oftentimes angry love letter to Nature and the desert. The NYT described it as such: “A passionately felt, deeply poetic book. It has philosophy. It has humor. It has its share of nerve-tingling adventures…set down in a lean, racing prose, in a close-knit style of power and beauty.”

I own a physical copy and flipping through it now, I find lovely passages:

Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.

Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the pinnacles and minarets and balanced rocks, on the canyon walls and through the windows in the sandstone fins. We greet each other, sun and I, across the black void of ninety-three million miles. The snow glitters between us, acres of diamonds almost painful to look at.

I read Desert Solitaire, Abbey’s thesis on the desert and freedom, after my visit to Arches National Park. How I wish I could have had his book on hand while travelling amongst the cliffrose and juniper, the burnished rocks and soft sands. Here are a couple of photos from that trip (I will upload more in future). I believe the bottom is Landscape Arch.

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On Noctilucent, or Night-Shining Clouds

Living in Singapore, a highly urbanized island-state situated almost right smack on the Equator means that I don’t get to witness much astronomical or meteorological phenomena. It’s lucky for us to spot more than a dozen stars on a clear night, factoring in the light pollution and some of those might just be satellites masquerading as stars.

In the high latitudes however, there is a strange phenomena known as noctilucent clouds. These are “glowing silver-blue clouds that sometimes light up summer night skies at high latitudes, after sunset and before sunrise. […] They form in the highest reaches of the atmosphere – the mesosphere – as much as 50 miles (80 km) above the Earth’s surface. They’re seen during summer in polar regions. They’re typically seen between about 45° and 60° latitude, from May through August in the Northern Hemisphere or November through February in the Southern Hemisphere.” NASA’s AIM satellite, which is in a polar orbit, monitors such mysterious clouds. More info here. The photos below  are by NASA unless credited otherwise.

Photo By: Martin Koitmäe

Watch this video below for a view from outer space.

On Rabindranath Tagore

Just a brief post on the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, who received the Nobel Prize for literature a century ago. I shall let his words speak for themselves. Interspersed with vibrant pictures of Holi powder by Marcus Palmqvist.

Unending Love

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

From The Gardener: 

My heart, the bird of the wilderness,
has found its sky in your eyes.
They are the cradle of the morning,
they are the kingdom of the stars.
My songs are lost in their depths.
Let me but soar in that sky,
in its lonely immensity.
Let me but cleave its clouds
and spread wings in its sunshine.

And my personal favourite from The Gardener:

My soul is alight with your infinitude of stars. Your world has broken upon me like a flood. The flowers of your garden blossom in my body. The joy of life that is everywhere burns like an incense in my heart. And the breath of all things plays on my life as on a pipe of reeds.

Vincent Brady: Of Fireflies and Planetary Waltzes

Vincent Brady is in love with the night sky and fireflies; and so are we all. There is a particular phrase that comes to mind, Stanley Kubrick in his interview with Playboy magazine who uttered this truth:

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

And Brady has done it. If our age is one of disillusionment, terrorism and the degradation of morality, then Brady’s work must be one of the millions of flickering lights out there, to provide respite from the darkness. He captures the stately waltz of planets, stars, galaxies, dark matter in his series ‘Planetary Panoramas’. From the heavens to the earth, where the dazzling displays of fireflies are suspended in time, forever, in his timelapse series on fireflies in the wild. And the message is clear: there is still beauty left in the world. We are part of something extraordinary, all six billion of us. There is something worth treasuring. We have to look no further than the skies above us.

If I may be permitted to share some of his wonderful fine art photography:

Vincent Brady: Fireflies &emdash;

Vincent Brady: Fireflies &emdash; Fireflies of Fitzgerald

Vincent Brady: Fireflies &emdash; Fireflies and Lake of the Ozarks

And from his Planetary Panoramas: 

Vincent Brady: Planetary Panorama Project &emdash; Milky Way Rising at Delicate Arch

Vincent Brady: Planetary Panorama Project &emdash; Landscape Arch and the Milky Way

Give his magical time lapse videos a watch:

Visit his website here.

Gregory Crewdson and Edward Hopper

As a segue from my post on Psycho where I mentioned Edward Hopper, who is, to me, one of the best American Realist artists to date, I’d like to talk about Gregory Crewdson, a photographer who is strongly influenced by Hopper, as many others were.

I first encountered Crewdson’s photographs at an exhibition in the Public Art Gallery in Dunedin, which is a very fine establishment (with free entry! and choral performances too! ). It was his Brief Encounters exhibition. You can clearly see Hopper’s influence in the scenes staged in Crewdson’s works. Again, small town America is the subject, with surreal shots of American suburbs, the pavements lit by lonely streetlights, creepy family dinners, the silence that looms over it all. And these photographs, like Hopper, make you wonder, they incite imaginations of the stories behind these unnamed characters. The technique that Crewdson uses makes the photographs seem like paintings, but not quite, which adds to the surrealism of the scenes. There is a disquieting element to his works, again, much like Hopper, detailing the dark side of the “American Dream” and the imperfections of idyllic suburban life. Silent despair, anxiety, insecurity, isolation are undercurrents running through both Hopper’s and Crewdson’s works. We can only thank them for peeling away the facade and showing us the dark heart beneath normalcy. The following are absolutely masterful, sweeping, dramatically lighted, painstakingly crafted works from some of Crewdson’s sets. It’s no wonder he’s attracted big names to play his characters, such as Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow to name a few.

Why is this girl barefooted, what is she holding, and is she has she just exited the cab behind her, or is she running away. From what? If she is returning, what is she returning to?

Is this a happy scene? A mother observes her newborn. But what runs through her mind?

Man. Close encounters of the third kind?

If you are interested in learning more, this blog does a better commentary that I could ever aspire to. And here is the trailer for Crewdson’s Brief Encounters documentary, providing fascinating insight into his work.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Trailer from Benjamin Shapiro on Vimeo.

Nugget Point

Nugget Point

One of my favourite places on the South Island. It’s a long dreary drive out, but I promise you that it’s worth it. We were lucky enough to be the only ones at the lookout, with the wind, the ocean and rugged cliffs for company.