Complicated compasses

A year of Mt. Tamalpais:

It’s hard to keep the focus on the ridgeline before us, isn’t it? We are so given to keep looking beyond. And we tend to look beyond not so much with our eyes, as with our feelings, whatever those may be, from fear to hope to greed. We set out to map that beyond with our complicated compasses: some of us look for adventures, while others for more territory to claim for our sprawling desires. We go from surveyors of experiences to purveyors of schemes in a heartbeat.

One more new blog recommendation and a note about Odes to Tools

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the new blog that originally gave me the idea to write a post profiling new blogs yesterday! I am such a scatter-brain sometimes.

The blog is called A year of Mt. Tamalpais. Its description: “dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden.”

Poet and blogger Maria Benet, author of Mapmaker of Absenses, began this so-far delightful and often moving record of Marin County, California’s “single most identifiable symbol” without any particularly lofty goals other than persistence:

Over the years and through many seasons, I’ve never tired of looking at the way the light and fog and rain work together to edit the mountain’s features, sometimes bringing out the depth of colors with a bold brush stroke and at other times rendering the solid ridges into gossamer. I’ve taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of Mt. Tam, mostly at random times of the day when the mountain seems to call out suddenly, demanding that I take notice and record the way a long, thin patch of fog slips fast over its peaks, or the way the narrow ray of winter sun slices through clouds to section the slopes with light, or the way, at the height of summer the ridges burst into a blaze with every conceivable shade of green.

So here is what I propose: a picture a day of the mountain that looms over our lives in this corner of the world.

Ideally, it would be best to take that shot at the same time and from the same place, every day. Knowing the way I work, this is not a realistic option. This is not just a question of my habits, but also of the eyes — of the vision becoming inhabited by a single perspective. With that approach I would be documenting a process over time, which is a fine project in itself, but not the one I want to launch.

A picture a day from the same place and same time would capture subtle changes, as well as those larger familiar ones wrought by the seasons. A robot would be the perfect candidate for that project. My project is about how the mountain gets itself seen in a daily life, in this case, mine. In other words, instead of my going to the mountain for data, I am going to let the mountain come to me in its power to make impressions.

So check it out. This is the sort of blogging project for which RSS feeds were invented. Sure, you could catch up once a week, but for maximum cumulative impact the photos, and Maria’s commentary, ought to be seen every day. If for some perverse reason you prefer the haphazard nature of Twitter to Google Reader, you can follow Maria there @alembic. And her main blog, small change, is worth following too, though it sounds as if it may be undergoing some not-so-small changes soon.


If price resistance, lack of physical space for new books or an extreme love of trees have prevented you from picking up a copy of my collection Odes to Tools yet, I have some good news: Beth at Phoenicia Publishing has just taken her first leap into e-book publishing, with my book as one of the first two to receive this treatment. The Kindle (MOBI) version is available through Amazon, but you can pick up either the MOBI or the EPUB directly from the publisher “to give a greater percentage of royalties to the author and greater support to independent publishing.” The price is $2.99 USD.