Reflection 280: Photo Comparison

June 22, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

In my view, a good part of consciousness arises from comparison in the brain between expectations and what actually happens. If both are the same, it’s business as usual and there’s no need to pay special attention.

But if there’s a difference so that things happen otherwise than we expect—for better or worse—that’s when we are jolted into alert consciousness so we can pay special attention to what’s going on.

I offer this example from my conscious experience this week. My brother was visiting me from upstate New York. I showed him a photo album that our mother put together in the 1920s, and in it were three pictures of the “dance floor” on Baker Island made in 1923 when she was working as a geologist in Acadia National Park. The “dance floor” is a granite ledge on the outer shore of Baker that is swept by surf coming in from the Gulf of Maine, and the North Atlantic beyond that.

Standing on a slab of granite, notable Boston photographer Herbert W. Gleason stood in one of our mother’s old photographs of the shore of Baker Island. I recognized the dance floor right away from having been there twice before. I wondered if I could find the site where Gleason stood as it looks today. That set up the hope of making a comparison between how the granite ledge looked across a span of 89 years.

My brother had never been to Baker Island, and the photos sparked his interest. I told him there was a ranger-guided tour to the island, and he invited me to join him on such a tour the next day. As it turned out, it was the summer solstice with the temperature reaching 91 degrees Fahrenheit—a perfect day to be out on the water.

We saw loons, guillemots, cormorants, eiders, gulls, and a bald eagle, so the birding alone was sufficient reason to make the trip. But the island itself far surpassed that meager justification—signs of wildlife (deer, bear), lighthouse, cool woods and island breeze, and of course the dance floor swept by the sea.

Here’s some of what it looked like:

Slide6

Slide5Slide3

Slide1From memory, I couldn’t find the spot where Mr. Gleason had had his picture taken, but when we got back, I took out the album and studied the shot labeled, “Baker Island, Mr. Gleason & Mrs. Johnson 1923.

Slide7 I looked through the photos I’d taken of the dance floor to see if I could see anything similar. Crack in the floor. Slab of a certain height. Bend in the rock face. And then I saw it. The waves had moved the rocks around, but the bottom layer was almost exactly the same.

Slide8The crack was still there, the bend in the rock face, and a particular edge and stain on the upper surface of the stone.

Slide2The landward edge of the slab had broken off since 1923, and the smaller pieces had been well scrambled—but I recognized it as the same site. My brother was eating lunch very close to where Mr. Gleason had stood 89 years ago! The dance floor had changed, but it was still the same place. My mind matched up the two images because that’s what minds do when you put consciousness to work.

Another day, another miracle.

That’s my word for today. Thanks for stopping by. I remain as ever, y’r friend, –Steve

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