My friend Jean-Philippe had an encounter with the coyote in Central Park late one night last week. It was just like the scene in The Fantastic Mr. Fox when he spotted the coyote, like a vision out of a dream. Jean-Philippe made this beautiful painting afterwards and wrote a memorably funny blog post about it. I particularly love the painting, the lonesome figure of the coyote against the glittering skyline–the improbable compression of a wild New York (think Mannahatta) and everything that has been done to that landscape in the last 400 years.
Screen shots of Jay-Z's video for Empire State of Mind
I am not a big Jay-Z fan, but this video, directed by Hype Williams, just captures the timelessly seductiveness of New York, with its intricate layers of architecture and life in myriad configurations. The history of celluloid is filled with intoxicating footage of this concrete jungle, and I never seem to tire of looking at it. I am reminded of what LeCorbusier once wrote upon seeing the New York skyline at night:
"The night was dark, the air dry and cold. The whole city was lighted up. If you have not seen it, you cannot imagine what it is like. You must have it sweep over you... The sky is decked out. It is a Milky Way come down to earth; you are in it. Each window, each person, is a light in the sky. At the same time a perspective is established by the arrangement of the thousand lights of each skyscraper; it forms itself more in your mind than in the darkness perforated by illimitable fires. The stars are part of it also–the real stars–but sparkling quietly in the distance. Splendor, scintillation, promise, proof, act of faith, etc. Feeling comes into play; legs strengthened, chests expanded, eager for action, we are filled with confidence."
The Fairy Catastrophe, 1936
I heart New York, in all of its complicated, mythical, and endlessly photogenic iterations.
Adolphe Braun, Apple Blossoms
Anna Watkins, Sargassum plumosum
Charles Renne Mackintosh, 1915
Charles Renne Mackintosh, 1909
A gorgeous sunlit day. I just wanted to look at some of my favorite botanical photographs and illustrations in anticipation of all the blossoms to come.
Vincent van Gogh, Branch of an Almond Tree in Blossom, February 1890
Van Gogh painted this beautiful canvas, just months before his death in July 1890, as a present to celebrate the birth of his brother Theo's son. It's an extraordinary image bursting with life, borne out of turmoil and pain.
Spring is here. Soon the trees around the city will be exploding with blossoms too.
David Maisel, Library of Dust 387, 2005
The Infrared Small Magellanic Cloud, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
"From 1913 to 1971 five thousand one hundred and twenty one mentally ill patients were cremated on the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital. Their remains were sealed in copper canisters. The canisters were stored in the hospital's basement until the 1970s when they were moved to a memorial vault underground. The vault was subjected to periodic floods. In 2000 they were removed from their institutional crypt, placed on plain pine shelves in a storeroom, and were left virtually forgotten until David Maisel heard of their existence and photographed them."
The second image shows the main body of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a nearby satellite galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy. It is "comprised of a 'bar' on the left and a 'wing' extending to the right. The bar contains both old stars (in blue) and young stars lighting up their natal dust (green/red). The wing mainly contains young stars. In addition, the image contains a galactic globular cluster in the lower left (blue cluster of stars) and emission from dust in our own galaxy (green in the upper right and lower right corners)."
In a beautiful essay, Adam Harrison Levy reflects on the wondrous chemical and alchemical efflorescence of the canisters whose content, ashes of the long forgotten dead, seems to assert itself in bursts of colors, not unlike the colors of the stars and dust in the cosmic universe. As he wrote, "If all this seems grim, take a look at the canisters again. Their swirl and surge of color reminds me of nothing less than the spectacular images taken through NASA's Spitzer telescope: the visual identity of the canisters miraculously mirrors that of the universe itself. And yet each rivulet and blossom of color are as distinctive and as personal as the human remains held within. It's as if the mysterious something that leaves the body at the moment of death, often called the soul, is trying to escape. What's left is evidence of extraordinary beauty."
Hiroshi Sugimoto, from the Seascapes series
With what stoic delicacy does
Virginia creeper let go:
the feeblest tug brings down
a sheaf of leaves kite-high,
as if to say, To live is good
but not to live–to be pulled down
with scarce a ripping sound,
still flourishing, still
stretching toward the sun–
is good also, all photosynthesis
abandoned, quite quits. Next spring
the hairy rootlets left unpulled
snake out a leafy afterlife
up that same smooth-barked oak.
Lily's grandfather died yesterday, with the same stoic delicacy described in this poem. And I still see him breathing life into her–the same love of music, the same quiet strength. I wish they could have had more time together, to do all the things they loved to do together–baking bread, playing the piano, harvesting vegetables in the garden. He was a good person, and I have lost my second father. For me, from now on spring will always be tinged with a sense of desolation and sorrow of loss. Something has gone out of the landscape forever.