A Subtlety Of ColourSunday, October 14, 2012
I thought I’d never miss: -
The wide expanse of pasture of the pampas,
The lead gray skies & stratus clouds
The whistling, whining, violent “pamperos”,
The wet moist cold,
The hot damp heat,
The monotonous landscape
Bare of trees & bushes 7 human beings
Populated by lazy, cattle.
But I do,
The balmy breezes of early spring,
The mauve of jacarandá trees in early fall,
The crisp, white frost of midwinter,
The golden yellow of the aroma in late spring
The pungent, acrid odor of the figs in midsummer.
I thought I’d never miss:
The untidy almacén at my corner
Overflowing with cellophane bags of capeletti & ravioli
And mounds of sacks of new potatoes,
Reeking of onions & “tipo Roquefort cheese”,
Of smoked ham & bacon hanging from hooks
The heated discussion of the Italian neighbours,
The chattering, singing & crying of their children,
The clatter of their plates & knives - they ate
In the patio & almost lived there,
Their plaintive singing of their summer land
And the merry quartets from Barbero & Rigoletto.
The austere grays & browns & blacks
That Porteños think proper to wear,
Their sober silence and quiet in public vehicles
The busy little sidewalk cafes under striped awnings,
The interminable wait for tram 35,
The long and never ending route it took,
But I do,
The exquisite taste and stark simplicity
That Porteños think proper for wear,
Their polite “permiso” as they sidled by you on colectivos
The gracious old-fashioned cadence of the
“Cuando” danced in a café.
The beautiful church on Juramento and Cabildo
I always watched out for out of the window of Tram 35
The expectation of getting to Mother’s flat,
At the end of the line,
And the warmth I’d get there!
Filomena de Irureta Goyena de Hayward
Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico
Dec 5, 1956
In the flora of the Southern Hemisphere at the latitude of Buenos Aires, similar to that of South Africa, many of the plants that grow so well there do rather nicely up here in my Vancouver.
This is especially the case with my hydrangeas. I have at least 35 different kinds and several species of this trustworthy plant that has no insect enemies or blights that I know of. They are faithful and only require pruning at the right time and watering in the very dry months of September/October. They don’t die when they need water. Their leaves drop like an angry cat and you know. A good watering and overnight my hydrangeas perk up like Rosemary’s cat, Casi-Casi. These hydrangeas unlike other plants have flowers that when they are past their prime their bright colours shift to quiet pastels and by winter they turn brown, very beautiful still. Some gardeners say that the brown flowers protect next spring’s buds from frost damage.
While most hydrangea manuals never mention it I have found that the paniculata species and subspecies as well as Hydrangea quercifolia all have an intense honey scent when their flowers set pollen.
In our garden, which is a shady garden becoming more so because of our maturing trees, the hydrangeas seem to do just fine in deepest shade.
When I look at them about now they always remind me of my mother’s poem about her nostalgia for Buenos Aires. If there is one theme in her poem it has to do do with sober and proper colours.
If she were to return to Buenos Aires now she would be shocked by how globalization has brought the lurid, the bright, the snappy and the saturated colours that the age of the computer monitor has ushered in.
The CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor on which I am typing this is balanced for a gray that is neither warm nor cold. I have made it as neutral as possible for my subjective eyes, different eyes to those who are reading this. Because I shoot Ektachrome 100G (and will switch to Fuji Provia as Ektachrome has gone to the world of discontinuance, a Kodak-coined expression) the colours of my portraits are restrained and not supersaturated as those from the enhanced CMOS sensors of the contemporary digital cameras.
I believe that the sound of my living room speakers that reproduce my records and CDs is likewise accurate to my ears in the same way that I may assert that the colours of my photographs are.
If I would pick the one word that defines the present age I would say it is the almost disappearance of subtlety. This lack of it of course affects how we perceive colour. We may be slowly loosing our perception of pastels in the same way we may be losing our perception of taste unless it is heavily salted.
Today in the rain, I walked around the garden and with the low contrast light of the rainy afternoon I perceived that my hydrangeas (and my spent roses) were crying for my attention.
They were doing so with great subtlety.