High on my Adirondack Coast lifestyle list — my mental “Aren’t we lucky to live here?!?!” database of people, perks, and activities that add incalculable value to my existence — is bicycling backroads and byways from the shores of Lake Champlain to the Adirondack High Peaks. Sometimes solitary, sometimes accompanied by a friend, these pedal-power adventures through the Boquet Valley and rolling foothills, are like mini vacations, adventures concurrently familiar and exotic. From adrenaline pumping thrills to mellow meanders, shaded forests to bucolic farmland, breezy lakeside routes to stream and river crossings, the diversity of conditions, terrain, and landscape is captivating.
Often something catches my eye, and I stop to observe. An industrious beaver engineering a dam. A bald eagle breakfasting on a landlocked salmon. A team of draft horses pulling a blue shirted, straw hatted farmer through rows of crops, leaving a wake of disinterred weeds. A pair of young women, braids bouncing, executing a perfect jibe in stiff winds on Whallons Bay…
The bovine beauties above, photographed on July 22, 2021 (but visited frequently during my summer bicycle rides), are a poem unwritten. These gentle ruminants are a pair of wordless couplets, perhaps a hay chewing haiku, or a black and white ode to a sylvan sea. I suspect that, for each of us, the meter and matter of these roadside verses differ. We arrive at a moment like this with our own distinct experiential lens that distills our perception, that provokes our feelings, and that underpins our aesthetics. Each of us possesses a totally unique way of seeing. Sui generis. As distinct as our fingerprints. As our irises.
In the image below — the same photograph as above, albeit with color removed — the poetry is transformed. Same subject. Same context, background, composition, and framing. But the tone is not the same. The mood and the focus have shifted. Textures and tonal contrasts have replaced the richness and depth and vibrancy of color. The stark black and white figures in the middle no longer pop against a wide spectrum of greens and blues. They’re in harmony with the near infinite shades of grey that envelope them. The clouds have emerged from the chorus to deliver a spellbinding aria.
Are you scratching your head and rolling your eyes? “Stick with cows in a field beneath overcast skies, please.” I understand the urge. There’s a comfortable ease in assuming that we’re all appreciating the same thing when we look at the photo, in allowing nuance to fall outside our frame of reference. Comfortable. Easy. But potentially misleading. Rosslyn reminds me time and again that reality isn’t as comfortable or easy. She has invited me, encouraged me, supported me in seeing that no matter how universal or congruent our perceptions, our ways of seeing are subtly (and often not so subtly) dissimilar.
One person’s bovine beauties might be another person’s dairy bar. Or they might be unnoticed altogether, just another blur on the periphery. A metaphorical garnish.
What do you think?