Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Saturday Snapshot #3

Beecher, Illinois (photo by Tom Peters)

     This, from regular reader Tom Peters—thank you Tom!—reminds us that we need to expand our idea of natural beauty. We have no trouble recognizing parks and forests as lovely; some of us don't, anyway. But farmland fails to meet the cut. Perhaps because it is cultivated—not raw, pristine natural beauty, but curated by man. Perhaps because, under certain circumstances, it can look bleak—fallow in winter, mile after mile of barren fields. But then again, so can the most gorgeous national park, as someone who has hiked out of Yellowstone through a hazy, humid morning after a sleepless night can assure you. 
     Tom employed two photographer's tricks that are worth mentioning. First, he stopped the car—a lot of people aren't willing to do that, both being in a needless hurry and, I suppose, for valid concerns about the safety of pulling over to the side of a road, even momentarily. He also took a number of exposures and picked the best. The results speak for themselves. 
     This scene of amber waves of grain and fluffy white clouds was captured in Beecher, a village just under three square miles in Will County, about 50 miles south of Chicago. 
Katharine Lee Bates
     "Amber waves of grain" is of course the second line of "America, the Beautiful" whose lyrics began as a poem written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, a 33-year-old English  professor at Wellesley. She was inspired by Pike's Peak, the "purple mountain's majesty" in the song, but also, as the year of composition hints at, by a visit to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, whose White City shows up in the final stanza as "Thine alabaster cities gleam/Undimmed by human tears."
   Speaking of human tears, the rest of the original poem went like this:
America! America!God shed His grace on theeTill nobler men keep once againThy whiter jubilee!
     While "Thy whiter jubilee" could easily be the heading for our current sad chapter in American history, it was swapped a decade later for the closing lines we are all familiar with, "And crown thy good, with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea." A nobler, if less readily attainable ambition. 



  1. Striking! I like the stark division between earth and sky.

  2. Looks like Ukraine, whose flag is blue and yellow. Now you know why.

    You can see for miles and miles and miles over those "amber waves of grain", about as far as you can over the corn and soybeans in DeKalb County, an hour west of the Loop, where I once lived. The pool-table flatness and the lack of trees bothered me at first. It felt too empty, after so many years in the city.

    But I later came to appreciate it, and even to like it. Much less confining. Best of all was the vast expanse of sky. You can see approaching weather systems a long way off, and the towering clouds of summer storms are truly magnificent.

    In second grade, we had to memorize all the verses of both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful"--and we learned to sing them in their proper order. At seven, the boys were still a little too young to change the line (very quietly, of course) to "alabastered cities"...that came along a couple of years later.


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