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Balanced Scenery

'Balance' is a subtle form of beauty in a landscape, but it is a real one. It is also a rare one in the West. When people show postcards of western scenery and describe it as 'breathtakingly beautiful', they are being narrow and philistine. What they mean is that something in landscape -- hopefully reddish -- is freakishly large and vertical.

The truth is that much more balanced scenery exists in the East and the South, and a little bit in the Great Lakes region. Imagine a place that actually has pretty forests full of a variety of trees that have leaves (!),  a creek, a barn, and some productive fields. In most of the West (other than the Willamette Valley in Oregon) forests are nothing but dreary monocultures of some species of needle-tree.

The lack of balance and variety in the West just means that I have learned to appreciate those rare places where it can be found. One of those places is southeastern Arizona. That is the theme of today's postcard.


XXXXX said…
VERY interesting topic but.....what are you really saying here?
Is "balance" a prerequisite to the experience of "beauty" or only one possible way a landscape can be arranged in order to elicit this reaction in any given human being?
As I look at your postcard of the day, I don't experience it's beauty as one of "balance" particularly. It is an attractive shot, not breathtakingly beautiful but attractive. It is the textural differences though that are prevalent for me.....the hardness of the mountain, the feathery look of the clouds, the soft grasses that blow so easily in the wind, the starkness of the tree with no leaves and then the green fullness of the tree in the foreground. I suppose these differences give a balance in a way. Is this what you mean?
BUT, I do think that pictures of all one sort of thing are quite striking as well. And perhaps this experience of being STRUCK by something.......struck hard..........a real also a form of beauty.
As one looks at a picture of the giant redwoods, surely what makes this gorgeous is the LARGENESS of not only the individual trees but the forest itself. One is not looking for balance here.
No, I am not saying that 'balance' is necessary for any sense of beauty, nor is it the only kind. But it is an example of the mature and subtle appreciation of beauty that one can progress toward, once the cheap spectacle of tourist scenery has worn off.

The postcard of the day was more of an homage to the land than to the photograph. You have to be there to take in the significance of running water, leaves on the oak, the dry and windy grassland, the flatness in contrast with the cliff in the center, etc.