Los Colores de Jorge Luís Borges
Saturday, June 14, 2014
|Delphinium x cultivar 'Finsteraarehorn|
decurso de mis muchas, de mis demasiadas conferencias, he observado que se
prefiere lo personal a lo general, lo concreto a lo abstracto. Por
consiguiente, empezaré refiriéndome a mi modesta ceguera personal. Modesta, en
primer término, porque es ceguera total de un ojo, parcial del otro. Todavía
puedo descifrar algunos colores, todavía puedo descifrar el verde y el azul. Hay
un color que no me ha sido infiel, el color amarillo. Recuerdo que de chico (si
mi hermana está aquí lo recordará también) me demoraba ante unas jaulas del
jardín zoológico de Palermo y eran precisamente la jaula del tigre y la del
leopardo. Me demoraba ante el oro y el negro del tigre; aún ahora, el amarillo
sigue acompañándome. He escrito un poema que se titula "El oro de los
tigres" en que me refiero a esa amistad.
pasar a un hecho que suele ignorarse y que no sé si es de aplicación general. La
gente se imagina al ciego encerrado en un mundo negro. Hay un verso de
Shakespeare que justificaría esa opinión: "Looking on darkness, which the
blind do see"; "mirando la oscuridad que ven los ciegos". Si
entendemos negrura por oscuridad, el verso de Shakespeare es falso.
Uno de los
colores que los ciegos (o en todo caso este ciego) extrañan es el negro; otro,
el rojo. "Le rouge et le noir" son los colores que nos faltan. A mí,
que tenía la costumbre de dormir en plena oscuridad, me molestó durante mucho
tiempo tener que dormir en este mundo de neblina, de neblina verdosa o azulada
y vagamente luminosa que es el mundo del ciego. Hubiera querido reclinarme en
la oscuridad, apoyarme en la oscuridad. Al rojo lo veo como un vago marrón. El
mundo del ciego no es la noche que la gente supone. En todo caso estoy hablando
en mi nombre y en nombre de mi padre y de mi abuela, que murieron ciegos;
ciegos, sonrientes y valerosos, como yo también espero morir. Se heredan muchas
cosas (la ceguera, por ejemplo), pero no se hereda el valor. Sé que fueron
vive en un mundo bastante incómodo, un mundo indefinido, del cual emerge algún
color: para mí, todavía el amarillo, todavía el azul (salvo que el azul puede
ser verde), todavía el verde (salvo que el verde puede ser azul). El blanco ha
desaparecido o se confunde con el gris. En cuanto al rojo, ha desaparecido del
todo, pero espero alguna vez (estoy siguiendo un tratamiento) mejorar y poder
ver ese gran color, ese color que resplandece en la poesía y que tiene tan
lindos nombres en muchos idiomas. Pensemos en scharlach, en alemán, en scarlet,
en inglés, escarlata en español, écarlate, en francés. Palabras que parecen
dignas de ese gran color. En cambio, "amarillo" suena débil en
español; yellow en inglés, que se parece tanto a amarillo; creo que en español
antiguo era amariello.
Yo vivo en
ese mundo de colores y quiero contar, ante todo, que si he hablado de mi
modesta ceguera personal, lo hice porque no es esa ceguera perfecta en que
piensa la gente; y en segundo lugar porque se trata de mí. Mi caso no es
especialmente dramático. Es dramático el caso de aquellos que pierden bruscamente
la vista: se trata de una fulminación, de un eclipse; pero en el caso mío, ese
lento crepúsculo empezó (esa lenta pérdida de la vista) cuando empecé a ver. Se
ha extendido desde 1899 sin momentos dramáticos, un lento crepúsculo que duró
más de medio siglo.
"La ceguera" , Jorge Luis Borges
I Will Make Thee Beds Of Roses
Friday, June 13, 2014
|Rosa 'Christopher Marlowe' |
live with me, and be my love;
we will all the pleasures prove
hills and valleys, dales and fields,
or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy-buds,
With coral clasps and amber-studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
A Passionate Shepherd to His Love –
Develops Pearl And Weed
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I am married to a snob. This is not something abnormal in my life as
my mother and my grandmother were both snobs as is my first cousin and
godmother Inesita. Polygonums are notorious weeds. It seems that even
their leaves look like the leaves of weed. In our garden, over the
objections of the Chief Snob I have some tal, over 6 feet, polygonums
with creamy white flowers. They grow in deep shade where few other
plants manage. I decided to cut the flowers of one and scan. I believe
that this "weed" is beautiful and even if it might look like one it
keeps to itself and rarely marches forward as some of Rosemary's non
SHE rose to his requirement, dropped
The playthings of her life
To take the honorable work
Of woman and of wife.
If aught she missed in her new day
Of amplitude, or awe,
Or first prospective, or the gold
In using wore away,
It lay unmentioned, as the sea
But only to himself is known
The fathoms they abide.
Roses, Iced Tea, Cookies & Cucumber Sandwiches
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
On June 7th Rosemary and I
opened our garden to the Vancouver Rose Society from 11am to 5pm. In open
garden protocols visitors must never ask to use the facilities but it is
expected that those opening the garden will offer some kind of refreshment. I
made a very large batch of my special iced tea. The day before I prepared some
homemade mayonnaise which is the most important (and good Cayenne pepper, too)
ingredient in cucumber sandwiches. Hilary made cookies with apricot jam
centres. Best of all Lauren, 11, made some colourful signs so that our garden
visitors would know in what direction to circulate.
Originally we were supposed to open the
garden on Sunday the 15th but our roses looked so good a week before
June 7th that advanced the date. Since I am writing this on June 16 I now know
it was best we did this as it has poured for quite a few days and not only would
visitors have been wet but our roses would have drooped.
Herewith are panoramics of the garden which
I took late afternoon after our visitors left. I used my Fuji X-E1 digital
| An unknown rose deemed blousy by a visitor|
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
|Rosa 'Mary Magdalene'|
When my mother sent me to St. Edward’s High
School in 1956 I was a mother’s boy. We lived in a mining town in northern Mexico and my father was in Buenos Aires. I had not seen him for 5 years.
With my pimples beginning to act up I was
in a full-blown repressed teenager who had little idea about the birds and the
Fortunately my mother had fomented in me a
love of reading and we seemed to read the same books like the historical novels
of Samuel Shellarbarger (The Spider King), Frank Yerby (The Saracen King) and
the more literate Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. I introduced to my
mother Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart and Taylor Caldwell’s novel about
St. Luke, Dear and Glorious Physician. I was keen on my mother’s favourite
author of medical fiction, Frank G. Slaughter (Sword and Scalpel). The reason I
was keen on Slaughter and Edison Marshall’s The Viking is that they had good sex
scenes. In an age, particularly Austin,
Texas, racy stuff was not to be
found anywhere except, I soon found out in the bookstores that sold pulp
To this day I try to forget my foray into
Slaughter and Yerby and I can assert that the best sex scenes I ever read where
the very subtle, between-the-lines novels of Dorothy Dunning.
I have read all of José Saramago’s novels (mostly in translations
from the Portuguese into Spanish. The one that is the most difficult to read
(and I read it in English and then in Spanish) is The Gospel According to Jesus
Christ. In it Christ, as a young man (suffering from stigmatas) is taken care
of and introduced into carnal endeavours by Mary of Magdala. The sex scene in
the book makes me blush. And I don’t even have to read it as I remember most of
it. For his efforts Saramago was pilloried in Portugal
so he left in exile to the Canary island
of Lanzarote. When
Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature a few years later his county
beckoned him to return. He did not.
I cannot speak for
others but I do believe that from the first time that a little American girl,
age 8, came to my house in Buenos Aires (I was 8 or 9) and she asked me, “Do
you want to see my…?” I answered, “Yes,” I have thought about women and sex a
In fact when I was in
kindergarten I had the uncommon pleasure of sharing the classroom with the
Argentine quintuplets, the Diligentis. They were two boys and three girls. I
remember lifting the skirts of my fave, María Fernanda. You could say that my
depravity began early in my life.
How else can I explain
the fact that I have 85 roses (old roses and David Austin English Roses) and
that at least 25 of them are pink and multipetalled? The queen of them all is my
(just off white to be pink) multi named Maiden’s Blush. It is also called
Cuisse de Nymphe, Incarnata, La Virginale and (yes!) La Séduisante.
I have hinted about
this here. But few, as far as I can tell made the connection. The connection is
that every time I look at my flesh coloured old roses I think about women and
in particular about that which they have that I don’t.
My suspicion, after
having lived with my plants since 1986 is that they are far less repressed than
The idea to write this
blog came about when I discovered that 19th century plant hunter William
Lobb had discovered an azure blue Clitoria ternata in Panama.
It was some 10 or 12
years ago that I used to frequent with Rosemary, the Mother’s Day plant sale at
the UBC Botanical Garden. We always managed to
get a plant list a few days before. On that list was Clitoria ternata.
When a rare plant was
offered the technique, besides the one of going early to be ahead of the line,
was not to think of the plant you wanted to get. And of course you would never
discuss this with anybody near you. The fact is that one of Rosemary’s friends,
just two people in front of me, got to Clitoria ternata and that was that.
Since then I have had
the consolation prize of what I call the Male Member Plant (it is a lurid
purple). It is a non hardy vine called Rhodochiton atrosanguineus. I particularly
like to show the plant to the many little old ladies that come to visit our
Now I cannot get a
clitoria to scan but this one from Google Images will have to do.
Mary Madgalen (e)
Rosa 'Chapeau de Napoléon' - The Obverse Side
Monday, June 09, 2014
|Rosa 'Chapeau de Napoléon' |
Every evening I ask Rosemary, “Do we have
to do anything tomorrow?” If she answers, “No,” I relax. Going to the theatre
(fun); going to a concert (fun); going to the Superstore to shop for groceries
but also to look for $3.00 movie DVD gems (fun) is all stressful. I cannot put
a finger on the why.
When I worked as a free lance photographer
I would not sleep well the night before a job. In bed I would make a mental
list (sort of like a pilots check before takeoff) of the equipment I needed,
made sure I had the necessary film and lights and those almost forgettable but
most necessary items like my Minolta flash meter and an extra flash chord in
case the first one failed on the job.
This stress that I experience on the day
before Rosemary and I are going to a play worries me. I know that if I simply
let go and stay home, we will sell our home, move to White Rock and never drive
to Vancouver to
go to the dance, or the theatre, to a new music presentation by the Turning
Point Ensemble or an Early Music Vancouver concert. In white rock we might end
up remembering how to play bridge again and discuss with people our age how we
or they “did” Machu Picchu, Palm
Springs or Venice.
In the end we would be waiting to die (WTD).
In spite of the stress of having to go
places I make it a point to go. But I must also point out the pleasures, at
this time of the year, to visit our garden, see which roses are open for the
first time and smell my many myrrh-scented roses or the wonderful fruit smell
of my Gallicas. Deadheading the spent blooms of my remontant roses is relaxing.
I reflect. I daydream. It beats crossing the street in downtown Vancouver
while checking the iPhone to see if I have any messages.
It is also pleasant to pick a few roses or
other flowers and bring them inside to scan. Scanning reveals aspects of my
roses that in some cases I was ignorant of.
That was the case today when I cut a just
opened and an older Rosa ‘Cristata’ also called Rosa
‘Chapeau de Napoléon’ and ‘Crested Moss’.
Rosa ‘Chapeau de Napoléon’ is a chance discovery
in 1826 by Jean Pierre Vibert (he fought in Napoleon’s army and was present at Waterloo).
Peter Beales writes of this rose:
Fully double, highly scented, cabbage-like,
silvery deep pink flowers enhanced by a fascinating moss formation on the calyx
[and if you rub it, you get the scent of a pine’s resin] This is shaped like a
cocked-hat, hence the name. Apart from that it is a useful shrub of medium size,
well dressed with foliage. Probably better with support.
And yes I support most this rose and many
of my tall roses with bamboo sticks I purchase at Coolite Bamboo on 917 East Hastings.
It was only today that I chose to look at
the underside of these fragrant blooms. What a surprise!
White Rock does not beckon.
The Colour Of Skin - Part 2
Sunday, June 08, 2014
|Caitlin Legault, Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD Fuji Reala (the best scan I was able to get after many efforts)|
It may be simply an apocryphal story and it
never happened. But one of the employees of an erstwhile photographic lab, G.
King once told me that a wedding photographer had left his colour negative
rolls of wedding for processing. But let me digress a tad.
One of the advantages of shooting film in
that rosy past is that a lab would process your film, produce proofs with
pretty good colour and then at more or less reasonable rates provide the
photographer with very good custom prints. Today photographers have to sift
through hundreds of pictures and somehow must now (because of stiff
competition) provide their clients with reasonably fixed proofs. Some
photographers send their raw files to fixer-uppers in India who laboriously colour
correct and fix bags and wrinkles.
|An accidental exposure, Fuji X-E1 at 5500 degrees Kelvin white balance|
This present situation was mostly the realm
of the then ubiquitous photo lab.
The story, the apocryphal one, was that the
folks that processed the wedding photographer’s pictures worked all night
without being able to give both the groom and the bride a pleasant skin colour.
The problem with wedding photographs is
that grooms usually dress in black and the brides in white. This combination is
terrible because of the extreme contrast.
When our wedding photographer returned to
pick up his wedding proofs he was met by the somber staff. The photographer
looked at the pictures and simply said, “The wedding dress was pink, not
In order to make the pink dress white the
colour printer had to subtract yellow and cyan (to cool the pink). By doing so
the printer made the bride’s face green/blue/cyan. Had the lab known the dress
Because we humans see the colours on the
red side of the spectrum better that those on the blue towards the UV (of which
we are blind, unlike dogs) we like the “warm” colours and more or less dislike
the “cold” colours. We dislike the cold/cool colours if they are cast on a
portrait. If we take a portrait of a doctor in a hospital in a narrow hospital
corridor with green walls, our brain will tell us that his skin is just the way
it is, but our cameras, even digital cameras (not properly used) will show a
face with a green cast.
you take a portrait of Prime Minister Harper and tweak his face to have
a green/cyan cast you will look at it and say to yourself, “What a nasty man.”
You are being affected not only by your perception of the man on his actions
but also the colour of his skin (without you really being all that aware of) is
contributing to your negative take on the man.
In the 80s film, colour film, was made to
produce healthy skin tones. Healthy skin tones in the 80s had to be sun tanned.
These films were sold as warm films. I wrote about that here.
I have always been attracted to accuracy in
colour. I know that when I photograph my blue hostas in the garden they will
look bluer than they really are. The reason is that blue hostas have a UV
coating that protects them from harsh sunlight. The UV coating bounces off UV
and the ancillary blue light. Plus since my blue hostas are in the shade, you
will suspect that the light in the shade will be bluer, too.
If you think about this you might suspect
that since humans are such a jumble of combinations that human skin is a
rainbow spectrum all in itself. Besides a person wearing sun block, and his or
her brother not, will photograph differently.
To make this very long story short, I am
obsessed with the accuracy of human skin colour. The Holy Grail is to be able
to photograph a real red head and get skin and hair colour just right. A red
head’s skin has blue in it. If you want to make the red of the hair red you
must add yellow and red when you attempt to balance your picture. When you do
this you warm up the bluish skin and make it pink. And that is not accurate.
For years my Kodak Ektachrome made my
neutral gray studio background (particularly when I used a studio flash) have a
blue/green cast. If I tried to make that gray remain gray it would affect the
skin colour of my subjects.
The reason is that film is stupid and it is
principally balanced for 5500 degrees Kelvin which is the colour of sunlight at
noon in Washington, D.C. midsummer. If you read the blog linked
above you will note that the colour of light varies with latitude. The light in
Whistler is bluer. The light at the equator is whiter.
Digital cameras, even the cheaper ones,
have something called automatic white balance. Digital cameras are a lot
smarter than film (but I must note here, that some photographers might be
smarter than their digital cameras) so they handle most situations better than
film. But they have their limits.
Not a few weeks ago I photographed a lovely
blonde lawyer standing inside one of the top floors of the Hong Kong Bank, by a
large window facing north. It was a dismal and overcast afternoon. I
photographed her with my digital Fuji X-E1 and flash. Had I used a film camera
with either transparency or colour negative (both films balanced to more or
less accurately reproduce that noon sunlight (or a good studio flash) the
pictures would have been just fine.
But my pictures were not just fine. The lawyer’s
white skin was transformed to skin of someone who likes her claret. This idiot
(a photographer not as smart as his digital camera) had set the Fuji for Automatic White
Balance. The camera saw the dismal blue background and decided to warm it up
with disastrous results.
The next time around I circumvented Auto
White Balance and set my camera at 5500 degrees Kelvin. My subject was Caitlin.
I photographed her with a new (for me) Fuji
colour negative film called Reala. The results were odd and I had to put a lot
of effort to get a skin tone that looked right. The Fuji X-E1 pictures were a
tad warmish. Next time I photograph Caitlin (soon, I hope) I will see what
upping the white balance to 5800 does to render her skin less warm.
But the biggest of all problems is that I do
all my balancing on my computer. My monitor is adequately colour corrected, but
then who really knows? And there seems to be no universal standard for monitor brightness.
The proof of the pudding, and there is not much
of that is to look at a hard copy print. Only then will you and I both be able to
assert, what is accurate skin colour.
The Colour of Skin by Ilse T. Hable