From GENE LOGSDON
The comments on the last post were so interesting that I can’t let the subject go. As Troy said, and many others echoed, who’s to say what is art and what is not. Maybe we should distinguish between human-made art and natural art. The everyday farm is full of examples of the latter, of wholly accidental art. Last fall, I found a golden maple leaf impaled on the branch of an ash tree. It surely took the wind a trillion tries to make that happen. I doubt whether any ash tree was ever so adorned before. When I break through ice freezing on the creek, I sometimes uncover on the bottom side the most marvelous crystal convolutions where the cold temperature is still freezing the running water into totally “unearthly” and “unnatural” formations against the under-surface ice. Spider webs, dripping morning dew and glinting in the rising sun, surely are art. On some evenings in winter, the setting sun paints the white oak tree trunks on the west-facing slope in our neighbor’s woods a most striking and “unnatural” orange color.
Everyone in our neighborhood was talking about some especially beautiful sunsets this winter. To live in a community where sunsets are still noticed and discussed is a great joy. Here at least, people still look up from their cell phones long enough to notice that there is a sky up there. I can imagine a great cartoon showing someone staring at an electronic screen that is showing a beautiful photo-shopped sunset while outside an even more spectacular real one is lighting up the sky. Or better, a bunch of children walking home from school thumbing away at games on their smart phones and unaware of a wondrous sunset over their shoulders.
The sunsets have been exceptionally beautiful lately in our neck of the woods. (I am waiting to see if this will be attributed to climate change too.) One evening there was a red ribbon lying right on the horizon, stretching from the south behind the barn all the way around the west into the northwest. It looked about an inch in width to my gaze. Above it was a solid black ribbon of about the same width and then a huge arching red dome up over my head. It was not only awesome but different from any sunset I had ever seen before.
Clouds are certainly accidental art if anything is. Folklore has names for various formations. A mackerel sky (not long wet, not long dry) resembles a pattern of fish scales as the name suggests. Horsetail clouds are long, wispy things. Sun dogs look like little suns, but not as bright. They appear about mid-morning or late in the afternoon on one or both sides of the sun, and almost always rain or snow will fall within twenty four hours. Thunderclouds remind me of giant morel mushrooms pushing up from the horizon. Science has given names to the various cloud formations but the fascinating thing is that whenever they re-appear, they vary a little from the precise patterns they formed the last time.
The lover of art never lacks for beautiful or awesome examples of art even if he never leaves his farm. You can travel to the ends of the earth and not see anything more breath-taking than that sunset I tried to describe above. But you must be quick since the show is usually fleeting. I was up at the barn when I saw that sky and hurried to the house to tell Carol to look out the window. But by the time I got there— in hardly five minutes— the red and black ribbons had disappeared and the red dome faded to just an ordinary pretty sunset.
Farm children, before smart phones, learned all about abstract art by lying on their backs on sunny days, turning those big mounds of fluffy cumulous clouds into all sorts of fanciful dragons, wild horses and giant loads of hay. In that kind of art school, I was completely fulfilled. The whole universe was my smart phone.