on entering a new space
Even before coffee, when I wake up, I go to the window and open the blinds to look at the sky.
A new day, a new sky.
Maybe not coffee awake, but awake enough to be actively aware of the new space.
Depending on my mood I may mumble the rhyme, Red sky at night, sailor’s delight – Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.
I was asked recently where did that saying come from and I was happy to report that, for me, the most important recorded early use is from Jesus.
In the Bible, Matthew 16:2-3, Jesus says, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red, and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (NIV)
There is an essay and discussion on this saying and its Biblical roots at the United States Library of Congress.
In the Question and Answer section of the LOC website, in an essay with the attribution, “Author: Science Reference Section, Library of Congress”, the author states:
The colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will see in the sky.
During sunrise and sunset the sun is low in the sky, and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered and broken up.
Even before I have coffee, I check the sky.
Here in coastal South Carolina, the sky seems to be most often a lighter shade of sky blue than I am used to seeing.
When I was in college, my what-was-then-called-a-minor, was the field of History of Art.
Really I took History of Art classes because the college I went to was blessed with a bunch of professors in the field who loved to sit back and tell wonderful stories about art and artists.
I was happy to sit back and listen.
I can replay those lectures in my mind.
They weren’t so much lectures, they were single person plays.
I can feel the passion as this one Professor told the story of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, on the run from the law, desperately painting paintings to sell for the money to live on until he dies from the anguish of being a fugitive just as his pardon is at hand.
This same Professor told a story about the The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, a fresco ceiling painted by Annibale Carracci, that is in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.
He told how the Palazzo Farnese had become the French Embassy in Rome and was only open to art scholars on Sunday Mornings so if you wanted to see The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, you had to show up on Sunday Morning.
The Professor related that if you got there early enough, you could watch the Piazza Farnese outside the Palazzo slowly fill up with a WHO’s WHO in the art world of who was in Rome that weekend.
The lecture was continued about the fresco, when the Professor paused, he looked out at us and smiled and said, “Good ice cream in the Piazza Farnese.”
But I digress.
When I started this I was thinking about another Professor in the History of Art department.
This Professor loved light and talking about light.
This was the feller who told us we had to visit an Art Gallery three times – In the morning for white light, in the afternoon for warm light and at night for electric light.
He was also the feller who advised us that to see paintings in the proper perspective of the painter, we had to sit on the floor.
I rarely have opportunity to visit any Art Gallery three times but I do sit on the floor (or at least drop to a knee).
He felt that the bright blues of Tuscan Renaissance Art was caused by the bright blues of the Italian sky.
He felt that the bright blues of the Italian sky was due to Italy being so narrow and having the sea on either side.
I grew up in the State of Michigan with Lake Michigan and Lake Huron on either side of me.
Sorry to say that along with being the Great Lake State, my meteorological friends also tell me that Michigan is one of the most overcast locations in the 48 states.
Maybe second only to the Seattle area.
If the lakes had any impact on the colors we saw in the sky, we most likely were not able to see the sky to know it.
Even before I have coffee, I check the sky.
Much like that the coffee will be ready because of the timer on the coffee maker, I expect to see the sky.
There have been some mornings of gray clouds but for the most part, when before I have coffee. I check the sky, I WILL see the sky.
A few miles from the coast, influenced by the sea, its a blue sky that is new to my sensitivity.
Hard to explain in the words that I have, but after a lifetime of overcast, you just feel better seeing it.
Feeling better, then I have coffee.
*I based this haiku and several others like it from the writing in the book, The Art of Travel (2002, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton, and the passage:
On entering a new space, our sensitivity is directed towards a number of elements, which we gradually reduce in line with the function we find for the space. Of the four thousand things there might be to see and reflect on in a street, we end up being actively aware of only a few: the number of humans in our path, perhaps, the amount of traffic and the likelihood of rain. A bus that we might at first have viewed aesthetically or mechanically—or even used as a springboard to thoughts about communities within cities—becomes simply a box to move us as rapidly as possible across an area that might as well not exist, so unconnected is it to our primary goal, outside of which all is darkness, all is invisible.
*Adapted from the book, The Art of Travel (2002, Vintage Books) by Alain de Botton.According to the website, GOOD READS, Any Baedeker will tell us where we ought to travel, but only Alain de Botton will tell us how and why.
As I said in the section on Architecture , what I find irresistible in reading Mr. de Botton is his use of language.
To also quote myself, I get the feeling that if you made a spread sheet of all the words, adverbs and adjectives used by Mr. de Botton, you just might find that he used each word just once.
And to reemphasize, neat trick in writing a book.
If I knew how to do that, hey, I would.