Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Downtown musings

Musings in my title might just be a cover-up for confusion.  I'll decide later.  I set off on a walk to Quincy's downtown with camera in hand.  I had a vague idea about photographing the various historical plaques and signs on downtown buildings showing when they were built or when the occupying businesses were established.  At the recently closed saloon I inadvertently got a self-portrait and a view of the courthouse in the reflection.  Since I just finished reading a great book on how biology, culture, and mutation all contribute to the evolution of the brain, I got to wondering about how my own brain works, for better or worse.  Lots of funny thoughts surfaced, and I started planning an essay tentatively titled, "Wandering between the historical and the hysterical."  I've got about a dozen photos that fulfilled the original plan, but also a photo of a young Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana, growing out of the snow by my driveway.  The field guides give all sorts of stats that enable a person to identify this pine.  Such things as average length of needles, how many needles per bundle, the size and character of the cones, etc.  But how is it that from 20 feet away I can tell that this baby is Sugar Pine?  Too far away to count needles or measure their length, no cones, just an impression after having seen lots of different pines.  Sort of like face recognition.  We don't take any measurements or count parts, but we easily recognize a friend's face even if we can't describe any specific characteristics.  The last photo is of a fire hydrant which does bear the date of its manufacture, but it's here for another reason.  It's a tribute to one of my favorite sketchers from Davis, CA.  He loves to draw and paint pictures of fire hydrants.  His name is Pete Scully.  I urge you to check out his blog.  Meanwhile, do you see what I meant when I said "musings" might just be a cover-up for "confusion?"  Actually, all these thoughts to form a coherent whole in my mind.  It'll just take a while to write about them in a convincing way.  A kind of natural history of the mind.

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