|Large leaf Cenesio 'Angel Wings', centre Cenesio cineraria with two small leaves, top right Crambe maritima, 3 large leaves Centaurea ragusina 'Snowy Owl - 25 June 2023|
This blog is a long one and it is about the tradition that grey is not a happy colour. But to illustrate this blog I am using a scan of some of Rosemary’s grey plants. She loved them. In her memory I have kept as many as I can and take care of them knowing that most grey plants do not like to be over watered.
Until Rosemary began to like warm reds, oranges and yellows in the garden and she had a preference for blue and white I would like to bring in a lovely Spanish word sobrio which may translate as sober but it is used to denote good taste in things. Her taste was sobrio.
Grey has always been a colour I have noticed. As a little boy I remember those long, cold, rainy and grey Buenos Aires winters. My father wore grey suits.
As a photographer, grey is singularly important. Before the advent of digital photography I used what is called an incident light exposure meter. It measures the light falling on your subject (I am a portrait photographer). But in a landscape you could point the light meter to yourself and it would measure the light falling on the landscape.
Photographic grey is called middle grey. Kodak use to sell grey cards that reflect 18% of the light falling on them.
In all my studios I have always had a slightly darker grey wall. With my subjects far away when I used lights close to them the wall would go black. And if I had my subject by the wall it would go light gray.
I calibrate my CRT monitor by going to my web page which has a grey background. By removing off colours of (usually)cyan, green or blue when scan my flowers of photographs the colour is accurate.
But gray seems to have a pessimistic and sad side in poetry. With the wonders of Google search I did not find one happy grey poem. I like the one by Jorge Luís Borges, Límites (here in English, too), and one W. H. Auden:
Grey Opal – W.H.Auden
Looking at this opal makes me think
of those grey eyes that I once loved:
eyes I looked into deeply for a month
before he took a job and moved away.
Where did he go to? I forget.
It must be all of twenty years and yet
It seems like yesterday. Eyes of opal. Opal eyes.
Those eyes have lost their lustre
and that lovely face has aged –
but, memory, if you can bring them back
bring back a memory of that love.
Make it come alive again tonight.
Límites – Jorge Luís Borges
De estas calles que ahondan el poniente,
una habrá (no sé cuál) que he recorrido
ya por última vez, indiferente
y sin adivinarlo, sometido
a quien prefija omnipotentes normas
y una secreta y rígida medida
a las sombras, los sueños y las formas
que destejen y tejen esta vida.
Si para todo hay término y hay tasa
y última vez y nunca más y olvido
¿Quién nos dirá de quién, en esta casa,
sin saberlo, nos hemos despedido?
Tras el cristal ya gris la noche cesa
y del alto de libros que una trunca
sombra dilata por la vaga mesa,
alguno habrá que no leeremos nunca.
Hay en el Sur más de un portón gastado
con sus jarrones de mampostería
y tunas, que a mi paso está vedado
como si fuera una litografía.
Para siempre cerraste alguna puerta
y hay un espejo que te aguarda en vano;
la encrucijada te parece abierta
y la vigila, cuadrifronte, Jano*.
Hay, entre todas tus memorias, una
que se ha perdido irreparablemente;
no te verán bajar a aquella fuente
ni el blanco sol ni la amarilla luna.
No volverá tu voz a lo que el persa
dijo en su lengua de aves y de rosas,
cuando al ocaso, ante la luz dispersa,
quieras decir inolvidables cosas.
¿Y el incesante Ródano y el lago,
todo ese ayer sobre el cual hoy me inclino?
Tan perdido estará como Cartago
que con fuego y con sal borró el latino*.
Creo en el alba oír un atareado
rumor de multitudes que se alejan;
son lo que me ha querido y olvidado;
espacio, tiempo y Borges ya me dejan.
Limits – Jorge Luís Borges
Of all those boulevards blurred into the sunset
There’s one (I know not which) that I have strolled
Across for the last time without a care,
And unaware of what it was, controlled
By One who predesigns almighty norms,
All laws and a strict scale in secrecy
For dreams and shadows, formulas and forms
Which are the texture of our tapestry.
If all things have a limit and a length,
A final moment and a nevermore,
Then who shall let us know upon whose house
We have unwittingly now sealed the door?
Through the bleached window night withdraws again
And, in the jumbled stack of books that shed
A craze of shadows on the hazy table,
There shall be one that must be left unread.
Out in the south stands more than one worn gate
There with its cactus and cemented urns
Whose entry is forbidden to my feet
As in a lithograph. Nothing returns:
You’ve bolted shut a certain door forever;
A mirror waits in vain, expecting you;
The crossroads seem to lie unbarred before you
But four-faced Janus watches what you do.
Among your many memories is one
Which has been lost to you forevermore;
They will not see you by that fountain nor
Beneath the yellow moon, or the white sun.
Your voice shall never come to what the Persian
Said in his tongue of roses, wine and birds,
When under dusk before the light is scattered
You wish to say some unforgettable words.
The ceaseless Rhône? My European lake?
That yesterday I hunch upon today
Will be erased as Carthage by the Romans
Whose salt and fire it could not hold at bay.
Here in the dawn I hear a multitude,
A murmur fading out of mind and ear.
They have forgotten me who used to love me.
Borges and Space and Time have left me here.
Translated by A.Z. Foreman