Saturday, June 8, 2013

Piedmont eye chart

Near and far in sestina

By Morris Dean

Questions have arisen about sunsets.
Why is one beautiful to me but plain
to the next person? Some want horizons
spread out under a big sky at a far
distance over vast space, but I want near
displays set against trees and local piedmont

hills. I love the forests of the Piedmont.
When I saw my first Chapel Hill sunset—
at the end of '82, or right near—
its radiant vision was nothing plain—
to me—this was a place I could live far
into the future, my life's horizon.

What would there be beyond our horizon?—
soon we'd leave San Jose for the Piedmont,
to new jobs, new schools, a new climate. So far,
we were thinking sunrises, not sunsets.
To us four Deans life was an open plain,
revealed only as each new thing drew near.

I discovered in '61 that near
hadn't been the San Joaquin's horizon;
it provoked sadness, its wide farming plain.
I was back from Connecticut's Piedmont,
my college freshman year's city sunsets,
"home" for summer, missing it from afar.

Thirty years ago June 16 brought far-
off back again, in Carolina. Near
was where I preferred to see the sun set,
sliding off behind a short horizon
like you see in the Eastern Piedmont
but feel sick for on a widening plain.

The reason for my preference is plain.
I don't see things very well that are far
off. But I had to look around the Piedmont
some years to appreciate being near-
sighted. My eyes require the horizon
close—hills and clouds—for sunrise and sunset.

With clouds in plain view because they are near,
I don't have to look far for the horizon
here in the Piedmont—my kind of sunset!
Copyright © 2013 by Morris Dean

Please comment


  1. I'd love to see one with you Uncle Mo !

    1. For several minutes I was wondering, see WHAT? An eye chart, a...Then it hit me: a sunset! Yes, me too!

  2. I have spent more than 60 years looking and memorizing sunsets and sunrises.
    Pink, lavender, white and purple clouds with small rays of sunlight trying to sneak through.
    The sun like a large gold globe, slowly sinking behind foothills, but, the most spectacular, breath taking sunset I have ever witnessed was in Manila Bay, Philippine Islands. The sun filled the sky from East to West, just touching the ocean and the top seemed to touch the faint moon above. Gigantic is not enough to describe that Sunset.
    I swear it seemed the ocean was starting to steam as the sun settled into the bay.
    Every sunset is memorable in some way. I'd like to think I have all those sunsets in my memory so I that if the day arrives when the me that is today, disapears from my brain, I will live on caressed by all my memories. I want the people who will be attending to my physical needs to wonder what it is that keeps the smile on my face.
    My beautiful sunsets! Dreamers, artists, those not confined by "the box" know that every sunset, every sunrise has beauty. One only needs to open your mind, and then you can see.

    1. I think you really must love sunsets, Sharon--I don't think I ever before heard you so eloquent!

  3. For all the synchronicity between the two Morris', Sr. and Jr., here they part.

    Dad has never grown accustomed to the claustrophobic forest. As a kid he hauled me up above treeline on backpacking trips. I was told it was because it was easier to travel without a trail. As a Tar-Heel from 1947 - `50 he felt longed for the long view of his native California. And when he moved to Bainbridge Island to be where Morissa could tend to him, the stands of pine encroached for from every direction.
    Now he's back in California. Wide open desert vistas in Cathedral City or the not-so-wide of Tulare. Perhaps they'll sequence that part of the genome that makes one want to dance round the fire in the middle of a forest or run beneath the indigo dome of the earth.

    1. James, thank you SO MUCH for that dear comment!

    2. My reply seems to have disappeared. Try again; my Dad grew up in the mighty forests of the Columbia River, and told me he never really got reconciled to Tulare. I, on the other hand, always get claustrophobic after a few days in New Hampshire.
      Wish I'd had a chance to visit timberline with your Dad. Alas, I didn't see my first alpine meadow until a couple of years after I left Tulare.

  4. I found a copy of Richard Selzer's "Mortal Lessons" inscribed with jr & sr prefixes.

    1. James, I remember giving that book to your dad, and also to a urologist in San Jose (because of Selzer's chapter on stones) who operating on Jennifer when she was one year old. G. I. Smith. Practical man, like your father: I told him that even then (a young man) I was having to get up during the night to pee. He suggested I not drink so much water in the evening. I still like to drink water in the evening....
          I later recommended to your father Selzer's book Raising the Dead: A Doctor’s Encounter with His Own Mortality, but he rejected it out of hand because of what I understood him to take as an exploitative title, as though a DOCTOR's encounter should be privileged in some way.
          Other respective titles your father and I had fun with were "Apprentice" and "Mentor," and, especially, "Morris Minor" and "Morris Major."

  5. It was my original intention,
    to reply by sestinic convention,
    and ask if you think that stronger vision,
    prefers wide skies over near horizon.

    But others in warm words already sent,
    posted thoughts so vivid and eloquent,
    my time seems it could be much better spent,
    enjoying rather than adding comment.

    1. Paul, even though I know that you have very keen eyesight and prefer wider horizons, I now doubt that there's a correlation—although it is true I have not spent much time looking for data on the web. Anyway, I have spoken with others lately whose eyesight and preferences seem counter to any supposed correlation. Still, it makes sense to me, so there might actually be data that say, for example, that 60% of people with extremely keen eyesight prefer wide horizons, and 73% who are very nearsighted prefer close, Piedmont horizons.
          Hmm, if there has been no study yet, perhaps a graduate student somewhere could be persuaded to do doctoral research and dissertation on this....

  6. Maybe it is just that more expansive thinkers prefer more expansive horizons...perhaps they could research that too?

    1. Ha, that could be, too. How would that graduate student design experiments to even identify the most pertinent variables? It's one thing to test a hypothesized variable, quite another to discover variables.
          Chuck, could you comment on that last point?
          Of course, you're really (I think) just making a joke—quite a nice one, too!

    2. Lord forfend that I take this too seriously...but no, I haven't any clever research design in mind. Personal observation suggests (see a few comments back) that you love what you've grown up with.
      And speaking of sunsets, don't make any commitments until you see the sun set on the Sangre de Christo. You stand in this great desert basin, the San Luis Valley, bounded to the East by a vast mountain wall, four thousand feet high and fifty miles long. As the sun sets it paints the whole scarp a brilliant, deep gold. If the sun is playing tag with a thunderstorm, so much the better. Hence the name, "Mountains of the Blood of Christ". The padres did have a flair for names.

    3. Chuck, let's see if this works:

      For a photograph of the Sangre de Christo, click Sangre de Christo.

    4. Spectacular photo! Glad I did a last email check. Not that it compares to the sun setting over some scraggly Piedmont NC pine trees and scum-coated farm ponds, but what a great way to end the day!

    5. It worked! Thanks, Mo, that one needs a photo. Moto, are you SURE you want California? BTW, I think a large flock of Sandhill Cranes nests in the foreground marsh.

    6. Now here is a sunset.

    7. Chuck, I'm thinking there is a lot to your "you love what you've grown up with," for what I feel is missing from the two SPECTACULAR SUNSETS offered in evidence above is simply that—to me—they just DON'T FEEL LIKE HOME. One's response to a given sunset is indeed probably VERY PERSONAL.

    8. Moto, your link gave me a list of irrelevant Bing sites.

    9. gives me a vivid sunset in Hawaii that at first glance seems a photo, but is actually an embedded video with gently moving water.

  7. Chuck, thank you for the additional evidence for the expansive thinker theory. A natural wall "four thousand feet high and fifty miles long" and painted by the sun, as you describe it, takes a renaissance sort of brain to comprehend, and to create such a wondrous description.