Recently Claire and I took a trip up north, visiting Maine, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We were away for 10 days and my wonderful group of volunteers looked after the sanctuary while I was gone, watering plants and refilling feeders. They did a fantastic job. We stayed with the notorious Rafael Adams for a couple of days in very pretty Cape Elizabeth, then took the "Nova Star" overnight ferry to Yarmouth, NS. It's actually more of a cruise ship than a ferry, though one can bring one's car aboard, as we did. We had a comfortable cabin at the bow of the ship with a huge porthole to view the ocean - but of course it was dark for most of the voyage. The only unpleasant part was waiting in the car for an hour and a half at the Portland dock for immigration/customs to re-enter the US (it took 10 minutes to enter Canada).
Perhaps I'll write something about this fascinating trip in a later post, but here I'm going to write about "Landscape". These thoughts were triggered by our return to Long Island, via the Orient Point Ferry. We travelled as often before along the Route 25, then Hwy Hwy and Sound Ave - as we did long ago (1981) when we first visited Long Island, to look at Stony Brook University after a research stint at the Marine Biology Lab in Woods Hole (MA).
I was struck then, and am still struck, by how attractive the landscape of the North Fork is. One of the things I like is that's it's calm, modest and authentic, with roots and traditions going back hundreds of years (settled around 1660). Of course the interlocking of countryside and sea views also helps! (I realize as I write that the use of those 2 terms is rather quaint and english - but then I am a (mildly) eccentric englishman.
So what is "landscape"? One thing it certainly is not is what "landscapers" (the "blow and mow" guys do) - quite the reverse. What they do is make everything look tidy and monotonous, at the expense of the neighbors' peace and quiet, essentially destroying the landscape. Here's the Wikipedia definition, and here's Webster's : an area of land that has a particular quality or appearance. That's not very helpful - of course all land has a particular quality or appearances.
We get a bit closer with a wonderful book by Ronald Pisano, with same title as my blog post today. This book collects images of paintings that show Long Island the way it was from 1820 to 1920 - and in a few places more or less still is. That's the key: appealing landscapes are enduring, and combine elements, natural and human-made, that have a long history. It's this quality that so many painters have sought and found on Long Island.
Here's another link (and another) that literally attempts to gets to the heart of what landscape is. To quote:
"Our landscape – the visible, audible, sensory features of the North York Moors – is what differentiates us from other regions. It’s a living record of the underlying geography and geology, and a reflection of our natural world, human history and heritage. It shapes our self-image and forms the backdrop to daily life."
I think this is why as we traveled down the North Fork, we felt that we were coming home. Although part of my heart is still in the Yorkshire Moors, where I wandered as a youth.
Here's another recent rosebud salvia clip - sorry that last one was blurry.