The Texas Hill Country, Nature Photography, and Hillingdon Ranch

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On my kitchen table sits the book Hillingdon Ranch: Four Seasons, Six Generations by David K. Langford & Lorie Woodward Cantu.  It’s a book featuring astounding photography that deals with one family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country, but also with the larger themes of nature and conservation.  At some point I want to write a comprehensive piece on this book, but I’ve been slow to, as the visual arts, and photography especially, are not ones that I am as intellectually prepared to comment on.  Although I have some understanding of the machinations of film and television, with the other visual arts I often know what I like, but I don’t know as often how to describe it.  I am not as well versed in the technical language and the processes that go into painting or photography.

I do know that the photography in this book is absolutely stunning in the way that it hits you on an emotional level.  Langford has captured the Hill Country and the different seasons in all of their natural glory.  Anyone that has spent time in the Hill Country knows its allure.  There are many places in nature that are beautiful.  However, many places are filled with a lonesome kind of beauty, whereas the Texas Hill Country has a warm and friendly beauty to it.  There is something often comforting about it.  If you are interested in this region or photographs of Texas in particular, then I think this book is definitely one you should check out.

I think even if you are not familiar with the Texas Hill Country there are things that this book has to offer.  If you like nature photography in particular, there are many photos that look painterly in their composition.  The Hill Country has a wide ranging color palate from season to season.

I also think the book’s message of conservation and stewardship of the land are important ones to understand.  Not only is this aspect something that needs to be part of the larger environmental picture, but it is also a way to possibly reach people that might otherwise not be as inclined to act.

This book makes you see how nature is worth preserving, if for nothing else than the aesthetic beauty that would be hard to imagine living without.

Writing Exercises and Trees

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Writing is a constant work in process.  Last night my girlfriend insisted that I try some writing exercises.  I don’t intend to share all or even most of them, but I wanted to share one, as I think doing exercises like this are helpful in pushing oneself to be a better writer, even if the actual thing you write is not that great.  The following was written stream of conscious.  That is kind of the point, to push the mind in different places and to write about things you normally might not write about.  The question for the writing exercise asked me to describe the trees of my childhood.  I’m not claiming that the following is anything to be proud of, but I hope that some of you that like to write, and the world needs good writers, will push yourself to try new ways to approach writing.

I used to climb trees on a regular basis.  I had a giant maple tree in my front yard.  I would swing from the branches like a monkey while my friends and I discussed the things that young boys discussed.  The tree was a friend and a place of comfort.  Sometimes I would go out to the tree alone and feel as if I was in the company of another.  

In the summer the trees leaves were a deep beautiful green. In the Fall they became almost psychedelic as they turned vibrant shades of red and orange.  In the winter the tree empty of foliage, but the it still looked alive, like a patient in an induced coma that was going to be woken up once their malady had been cured.  
Later on the tree actually did get a malady and had to have some of its branches reduced.  My family thought the tree might have to be completely cut down, but it was stronger than we knew.  It was great to see this friend overcome it’s hardship.  
It did lose the branch that allowed one to access the higher ones.  By this time I was no longer light enough for the branches to support my weight anyway.  Life changes all.  The tree and I were different, but we still had a secret code where I knew we understood each other.  In our struggles we had grown strong together.  I loved the tree with not just the innocent love of a child, but also with the cold hard respect of an adult.  
When people cut down old growth forests I wonder how they can do this.  They have no respect for nature.  They are cutting down something wiser and stronger than them.  They are proving themselves to be nothing but fools.  What they do not know is that sooner or later nature will cut them down, and seeds will sprout up in place of the old trees, long after civilization has been dusted off the planet.  

Tour Poetry Day 5: Imperfect Cities

In La Rochelle, France
I once walked the crooked streets
In awe of its civilized beauty
Before long I noticed
There were no advertisements
Except the painted store signs
Crafted with careful elegance
By local artisans
Today, as I drove through the mountains
Of western Colorado
Where every bend in the road
Left you awestruck with wonder
It felt good to be free
Of the oppressive billboards
And the garish lighted signs
That fill so many of our cities
If only we had more self respect
We would tear down these aesthetic horrors
This blight upon our culture
And then maybe, even our imperfect cities
Built by the fallen hands of man
Might also stand a chance
Of wonder

Steamboat,  Colorado 8/3/14

In the Shade of Those Trees

If I want to possibly catch a glimpse of God
I’ll go out into Hill Country
Where the majestic oaks are more beautiful
Than any art made by man
How many people died raising the pyramids?
How many died building the cathedrals in Europe?
Not one died creating those trees
I’ll tell you where I won’t go
To church on Sunday
Where a person the same as me
No matter what kind of funny outfit they have on
Claims that they have some kind of
Supernatural information
Even though it was probably
Passed down to them
By some ancestor
That slew another
In the shade of those trees

Austin 7/28/14

Random Thoughts

I have been knocked out the last few days with allergies.  I love nature but sometimes it hates my shit! 

Tomorrow I am heading out on tour with Shinyribs.  You can check the dates at http://www.shinyribs.org. ; I have two pretty brutal travel days coming up as we need to drive from Austin to Chicago.  After that I hope to resume my normal posting schedule. 

I have been laughing my ass off at the show An Idiot Abroad.   Check it out if a comedy travel show seems like something you would enjoy. 

I have also found that, for someone that has certain introvert tendencies,  that I really enjoy canvassing.   Who would have thought?  I hope to share why at some point. 

The right wing still seems batshit insane.  I can only hope that reason will prevail and that they will doom themselves in the long run.  I was in Tyler, Texas the other day right before a gun rally at a bar.   The first guy there was wearing what else but tight cowboy jeans,  a Texas flag t – shirt,  and a camo hat.  I have shot skeet and enjoyed it, I have plenty of friends with guns, I don’t spend much time thinking about guns, but this kind of public display makes me wish every gun in America would be melted down.  If you are someone that likes to hunt and believes in 2nd Ammendment rights, I hope you realize this kind of behavior is counter productive.  To me it is ignorant behavior that reeks of bullying and intimidation.  I am against the militarization of our police and our citizens. 

Sorry for my absence for those of you that come here regularly.  I will return soon. 

In the future when all is well…

Jeff

Under the Skin: A Second Look

Although I can say with all certainty that the new movie Under the Skin is not for everyone, I can’t stop thinking about it.  If you want to know what it is about read my review from a few days ago.  It is cinema at its best, where imagery is painterly and infused with multiple layers of meeting.  One can’t help but look at the world in a new light, at least if you are open to this kind of film.  It is a slow movie, but this pace is rewarding as it causes you to contemplate the images being shown. 

Scarlett Johansson is an alien, but as this character she forces us to see the world in a way that we might not otherwise.  The world, stripped of its context and meaning that we impart on it, is a strange and mysterious place. 

One of the interesting things in the movie is the men that she seduces.  They have thick Scottish accents.  The accents are so thick that at times I had trouble discerning what they were saying.  Here they were speaking the same language as me, but they appeared foreign, as if inhabiting some familiar but parallel universe. 
Also, the natural world is presented as I believe it really is, as a world we rarely seen in nature documentaries that want to explain and categorize it.  Nature is beautiful and enchanting, but it is also dangerous beyond human comprehension on many levels.

Again, this movie is not for everyone.  It requires work out of the viewer.  In some ways it is more like going to an art museum than the traditional Hollywood fair.  However, if you are up to the challenge, you will see something unique.  It is if the director, Jonathan Glazer, opened up a small glimpse to the mysterious heart of the universe.