The Marginalian
The Marginalian

The Story of the Stunning Victorian Algae Herbarium and the Eccentric Balloonist Who Awakened the Terrestrial Imagination to the Enchanted Forest of the Sea

The labor of love that illuminated the wonders of the “unfathomable abyss, too wide, too deep, too vast for perfect exploration by human eye, or intellectual vision.”

The Story of the Stunning Victorian Algae Herbarium and the Eccentric Balloonist Who Awakened the Terrestrial Imagination to the Enchanted Forest of the Sea

We think of language as a vessel for conveying our ideas to other minds, a tool for framing what we see. But language is often the whetstone on which the mind hones its ideas about what it is seeing. Take the word weed. It denotes not something inherent to the plant it names but its utility to us — a term for any plant for which no human use has yet been discovered; a word whose meaning is malleable in time, rooted only in a consensual reality. The dandelion, long considered a weed, made its way into the world’s first illustrated encyclopedia of medicinal plants. A use. G.K. Chesterton looked at a dandelion and saw a sublime metaphor for wonder. Another use.

Even though life in all its wonder emerged from the ocean, dragging the driftwood of our own evolutionary branch along with it, we have always been bounded by our terrestrial frames of reference. For the vast majority of our species history, the ocean remained more mysterious to us than the Moon. “Who has known the ocean?” asked Rachel Carson in the 1937 masterpiece that brought the science and splendor of the submarine wonderland to the human imagination for the first time. “Neither you nor I, with our earth-bound senses, know the foam and surge of the tide that beats over the crab hiding under the seaweed of his tide-pool home.”

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Seaweed. With our tendency to frame the unknown by the known and to discount the unfamiliar, we lumped a panoply of wilderness into a single category: useless plants of the sea. Today, we feed our children with crispy salted nori (Pyropia yezonesis) and find sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) among the ingredients of every other trendy face cream and salad; we know that kelp forests house some of this planet’s most precious biodiversity and suspect that the genes of billion-year-old algae might hold the key to the origin of the plants we grow to we slake our souls on gardening and the flowers in which we seek the meaning of life.

And yet algae remain both magnetic and repulsive in their strangeness — emissaries of what was once our womb but is now an alien world we can fathom only incompletely, peering at its otherness through the glass wall of our earthen consciousness.

Specimen from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Epochs before the cult of kelp, not long after the invention of sushi on the other side of this pale blue dot, fifteen years before the new science of the sea birthed the term ecology, a passionate eccentric set out to render the loveliness of the underwater forest enchanting to the terrestrial eye.

Charles Ferson Durant (September 19, 1805–March 2, 1873) had an improbable path to what we now call marine biology, then a curiosity-slaking hobby below the scowl of science. Having fallen in love with ballooning as a teenager, Durant had become America’s first aeronaut. By the time he was thirty, he had launched into the atmosphere more than a dozen times. On one of his aerial excursions, something went awry and he crashed into the Atlantic, where he was rescued by a passing brig.

Perhaps it was this uncommon contact with the grandeur of the ocean that awakened him to its otherworldly beauty; perhaps it was simply his polymathic ardor for science — he delighted in chemistry experiments, wrote treatises on astronomy, and planted mulberry trees to study silk-worms. But as a child of New York Bay, the mystique of the ocean remained his greatest love.

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

One summer in his mid-forties, Durant decided to devote himself to the wondrous world of underwater plants. Walt Whitman was yet to compose his serenade to the “forests at the bottom of the sea” full of “branches and leaves, sea-lettuce, vast lichens, strange flowers and seeds.” The submarine wilderness was still largely a mystery, calling out to the poetic imagination far more readily than to science. No survey of North American algae existed at all. Durant felt called to bring to light the life-forms of “an unfathomable abyss, too wide, too deep, too vast for perfect exploration by human eye, or intellectual vision.”

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

He set out to collect at least one specimen from every single algae species indigenous to New York Bay.

Half an hour after sunrise at low tide, he would set out on foot — first to the rocky shore ten minutes from his house, and eventually along the length of the bay, collecting a cornucopia of algae. He dried the most delicate of them in the sun, wrapped the sturdier ones in sea lettuce, and hauled the morning’s findings home, where he began his ordinary workday of managing business affairs.

In the evening, he returned to his specimens, examining them under the microscope by candlelight and classifying them by their Linnaean taxonomy.

Fronticepiece with a dedication to Neptune and specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Durant spent two years living this “sort of amphibious life.” By the end, he had walked or paddled more than a thousand miles and spent “two thousand hours most agreeably devoted to the subject.” When he published his Algology: Algae and Corallines of the Bay and Harbor of New York in 1850, it was recognized for what it was — “a monument of persevering devotion” — and heralded as the epoch-making “open door to a new field of science.”

Durant had done for American algae what the self-taught trailblazer Margaret Gatty had done for British algae two years earlier, and he had rendered them the way Emily Dickinson had rendered New England’s wildflowers another year before that: He had made an exquisite herbarium of the underwater wilderness.

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Seaweed albums were nothing new in Victorian times, but they were mostly made for aesthetic pleasure, rarely featured scientific classification, and existed as individual artifacts to be enjoyed by the collector and their private circle.

Durant did something very different both in substance and in form.

Although winged by a personal passion, his was not a private album but a public book, both beautiful and informative, intended to cast on strangers the same spell the ocean had cast on him. He ended his preface with these prayerful words:

If my feeble efforts shall inspire a love of the science, and induce others to join in perfecting the catalogue of Algae and Corallines that flourish and decay in our waters, then I shall have accomplished a very desirable object.

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Unlike Anna Atkins, whose stunning cyanotypes prints of algae had rendered her the first person to illustrate a scientific book with photographs, Durant insisted on using real specimens in each handsomely bound copy of his labor of love. He set out to make fifty, but the endeavor — like anything worth making — turned out to be infinitely more time-consuming than anticipated: each specimen carefully pressed and glued, labeled with its scientific classification, and accompanied by a letterpress description. He barely managed a dozen copies, investing in them incalculable hours and more than two thousand dollars of his savings — the equivalent of about $75,000 today.

He had intended to sell the books for $100 each. But in the end, he couldn’t bear the thought of parting with something so precious in a mere monetary transaction, so he ended up giving them away — a handful to cultural institutions he felt would benefit from this unexampled survey of the sea, the rest to his three daughters and four sons. He only sold a single copy, in a fundraiser for sick and wounded Civil War soldiers. Fewer than five copies are known to survive.

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Radiating from the pages of Durant’s algae herbarium are the otherworldly blooms of some three hundred underwater photosynthetes, some previously unknown, all meticulously labeled and artfully arranged. Tender yet alien, belonging to a world for which we have no creaturely frame of reference, they confuse the imagination with their resemblance to things both familiar and surreal — the plumage of some mystical bird, the antlers of some Borgesian being, aerial maps of tributaries on some other planet.

Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)
Specimens from Durant’s Algology. (Available as a print and stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Complement Durant’s Algology with Concology — a stunningly illustrated Victorian encyclopedia of shells — and be sure to subscribe to Alie Ward’s reliably delightful kindred-spirited podcast Ologies, then revisit the story of the teenage Emily Dickinson’s extraordinary herbarium — a forgotten treasure at the intersection of poetry and science.

BP

Keith Haring on Our Resistance to Change, the Dangers of Certainty, and the Root of Creativity

“To be a victim of change is to ignore its existence.”

Keith Haring on Our Resistance to Change, the Dangers of Certainty, and the Root of Creativity

“It is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis,” Henry Miller wrote as he contemplated humanity’s future. And yet it does need to be stressed continually, because coursing through us is the fundamental paradox of our humanity: our longing for permanence amid a universe governed by entropy — the great source of our existential restlessness and our creative fury, to which all of our sorrow and all of our art can be traced.

The oracular Octavia Butler captured this in her reckoning with the meaning of God: “the only lasting truth is Change.” The rest of nature is constantly attesting to this inconstancy. And yet with every fiber of our being, we resist its fundamental reality — even though our very fibers, each and every cell composing us, have been replaced since we first came into being. As life lives itself through us, our bodies change; the physical places and social spheres we inhabit change; if we are alive enough and courageous enough, our opinions and ideas about life change. And yet we cling to the comforting illusion that we remain, in some unmappable region of being, fundamentally ourselves — our immutable selves.

Art by Keith Haring

Keith Haring (May 4, 1958–February 16, 1990) was only twenty and already colliding with his own impermanence when he turned his soulful intellect to these perennial paradoxes in Keith Haring Journals (public library) — the posthumous gem of a book that gave us his largehearted wisdom on creativity, empathy, and what makes us who we are.

Two millennia after the ship of Theseus and a generation before neuroscience began illuminating the dazzling realities of different minds, Haring marvels at our tactics for bridling the basic effervescence of being:

The physical reality of the world as we know it is motion. Motion itself = movement. Change. If there is any repetition it is not identical repetition because (at least) time has passed and therefore there is an element of change.

No two human beings ever experience two sensations, experiences, feelings, or thoughts identically. Everything changes, everything is always different. All of these variables merging, interacting, destroying each other, building new forms, ideas, “realities,” mean that the human experience is one of constant change and, as we label it, “growth” [and yet] most living human beings build their lives around the belief that these differences, changes, don’t exist. They choose to ignore these things and attempt to program or control their own existence. They make schedules, long-term commitments, set up a system of time and become controlled by their system of controls.

Keith Haring at work. Illustration by Josh Cochran from Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring by Matthew Burgess

A century and a half after Emerson lamented that “people wish to be settled [but] only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them,” Haring considers the underlying unease that leads us to these coping mechanisms, these artificial hedges against this most natural manifestation of nature:

People don’t want to know that they change.

Unless they feel it is an improvement, and then they are all for “change,” and will go to great lengths to “make changes” or contrive situations or force a change that is unnatural… Some attitudes I see all around me are:

Change is acceptable as long as it is controllable.

Change can be predicted.

Changes can be contrived and/or altered and/or planned.

Part of our willful blindness to change in the grand scheme, Haring intimates, is our unease about change in the small scheme of the self — the multitudes we each contain, discontinuous and contradictory, a flickering of emotional and mental states that never still to a permanent constellation across the sweep of time. He observes:

Usually the underlying fact that change is reality, that we are constantly changing and constantly in difficult situations, different states of mind and actually different realities is

ignored

or misunderstood

or misinterpreted

or confronted.

Most simply, people know to some extent that they feel different at different times or look different to themselves different days, but few people really try to experience this or question it or really investigate its reasons or its implications.

In a sentiment evocative of Iris Murdoch’s meditation on the beautiful, maddening blind spots of our self-knowledge, he adds:

To be a victim of your own knowledge is not understanding what your knowledge is and what its result is.

To be a victim of change is to ignore its existence.

To be a victim of “living by what you think” is to ignore the possibilities of “another way to live” or the possibility of “being wrong about the way it is” or ignoring the possibility of “not knowing what you think.”

Thinking you know the answer is as dangerous as not thinking about the possibility of no answers.

Creativity, Haring suggests, is a form of candor, a kind of fidelity to reality — a way of responding to change genuinely rather than artificially:

Pure art exists only on the level of instant response to pure life.

[…]

I am interested in making art to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible with as many different individual ideas about the given piece with no final meaning attached. The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece. I am merely a middleman trying to bring ideas together.

Complement this fragment of the wholly wondrous Keith Haring Journals with the forgotten prodigy William James Sidis on the controversial science of change and reversibility, then revisit Haring on the love of life even in the face of death.

BP

July 3, 1947: The Young Jack Kerouac Coins “Beat” While Grieving His Father

“My conscience of life and eternity is not a mistake, or a loneliness, or a foolishness — but a warm dear love of our poor predicament.”

July 3, 1947: The Young Jack Kerouac Coins “Beat” While Grieving His Father

The youngest of three children in a working-class family, Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922–October 21, 1969) yearned to be a writer by the time he was ten. He began keeping a journal at fourteen and never stopped. Everywhere he went, he carried a spiral notebook or a railroad brakeman’s ledger. He called the journals his “work-logs,” “mood logs,” “scribbled secret notebooks,” using them to “keep track of lags, and digressions, and moods.” He filled their pages with streams of thought and feeling, reckonings with what it means to be human and what America means, punctuated by drawings and riddles, psalms and haikus.

Just before he turned twenty-four, Kerouac watched his father Leo slip out of life with the mortal agonies of stomach cancer — his father, who had risen to America from a long lineage of potato farmers in rural Quebec; his father, in whose print shop Jack had nursed his childhood dreams of becoming a writer; his father, whom he saw as the only person capable of reconciling spiritual values with Americanism.

Adrift in the ether of grief, Kerouac struggled to make sense of life and loss and his young self. He turned to the only self-salvation he knew: On his mother’s kitchen table in working-class Queens, he set out to write the great American novel. There, he would make of himself a Melville for the twentieth century, but always with a strain of Whitman — of that soulful sensitivity to the bittersweet dimension of life, that secret kinship with the lonesome, the melancholy, the outcast, who are often most awake to beauty.

Jack Kerouac by John Cohen. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.)

Over months and months of “ascetic gloom and labor,” he produced 300,000 words sprawling across 1,200 manuscript pages, populated with characters that embodied his own multitudes — the romantic poet with the existential bend, the stoical grief-stricken mother, the Village hipster, the indomitable wanderer, the perennial lost soul.

Just like Steinbeck used his journal as a tool of discipline and a hedge against self-doubt while composing his own masterwork, Kerouac continued using his notebook as an integral part of his creative process. “Doubt is no longer my devil, just sadness now,” he wrote in it more than a year after his father’s death, as the novel began taking its final shape. Later, he would compress the epoch of heartache and creative fury in a single spartan statement: “I stayed home all that time, finished my book and began going to school on the GI Bill of Rights.”

He couldn’t have known it then, the way we can never foretell the way the confusions of the present imprint the hallmarks of the future, but in grieving his own father, the young Jack Kerouac was becoming the Father of the Beat Generation.

Jack Kerouac by Wendy MacNaughton

The previously unpublished journals he kept in that period, collected in Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947–1954 (public library), contain not only the record of his self-creation but the creation of the Beat ethos itself.

In an entry penned in the middle of weeklong Independence Day party at his friend Allen Ginsberg’s house in Harlem, the twenty-five-year-old Kerouac uses the word “beat” as an adjective for the first time, a year before he formally introduced the term “Beat Generation” to describe New York’s underground nonconformist creative youth.

On July 3, 1947 — a sweltering Saturday — he writes:

To get to the hymn of images, the facts of living mystery… I spent another 3 days without eating or sleeping to speak of, just drinking and wineing and squinting and sweating. There was a vivacious girl right out of the Twenties, redhaired, distraught, sexually frigid (I learned.) With her I walked 3½ miles in a Second Avenue heat wave (on Monday this is) till we got to her “streamlined Italian apartment” where I lay on the floor looking up out of a dream. Seems like I had sensed it all before. There was misery, and the beautiful ugliness of people.

Art by Virginia Frances Sterrett, Old French Fairy Tales, 1920
Art by the teenage artist Virginia Frances Sterrett, 1920. (Available as a print and as stationery cards.)

In this waking dream, this deja-vu of life, his friend Herbert “Hunkey” Huncke appears — a scrappy sporadic writer and petty thief bedeviled by chronic addiction, whose affable candor had made him a beloved fixture of the New York Beat world. The dreamt-up Hunkey comes bearing news of Kerouac’s first wife turned lifelong friend — the woman to whom he would write his most beautiful letter a decade later. Now, in the sweltering stupor of youth and grief, on the pages of his journal, he goes on to coin the epochal use of “beat”:

There was Hunkey — in this evil dawn — telling me he had seen Edie in Detroit and told her that I still loved her. What a surprise that was! — how strange can Hunkey get? Hunkey scares me because he has been the most miserable of men, jailed & beaten and cheated and starved and sickened and homeless, and still he knows there’s such a thing as love, and my stupidity… and what else is there in Hunkey’s wisdom? What does he know that makes him so human after all he has known? — it seems to me if I were Hunkey I would be dead now, someone would have killed me long ago. But he’s still alive, and strange, and wise, and beat, and human, and all blood-and-flesh and staring as in a benny depression forever. He is truly more remarkable than Celine’s Leon Robinson, really so. He knows more, suffers more… sort of American in his wider range of terrors. And do I love Edie still? — The wife of my youth? Tonight I think so, I think so. And what does she know? And where are we all?

In a passage that presages his later pull to Buddhism and its salutary teachings of nondualism, he adds:

God it’s a strange sea-light over all this… We are in the bottom of some ocean; I never realized it before. In my phantasy of glee there is no sea-light and no beatness, just things like the wind blowing through the pines over the kitchen window on an October morning. I’ll have to start pulling all these new things together now. And this is why men love dualisms… they cannot get away from them… and they feel independent and wise among them… And they choose about and stumble on to death and the end of phantasy. (or beginning.)

One of Aubrey Beardsley’s visionary 19th-century illustrations for Oscar Wilde’s Salome. (Available as a print.)

Two years later, in an entry strikingly evocative of the young Sylvia Plath’s largehearted (and bittersweet in hindsight) life-resolution in her own journal, Kerouac points in words what would always remain the central animating spirit of his art and life:

I shall keep in contact with all things that cross my path, and trust all things that do not cross my path, and exert more greatly for further and further visions of the other world, and preach (if I can) in my work, and love, and attempt to hold down my lonely vanities so as to connect more and more with all things (and kinds of people), and believe that my conscience of life and eternity is not a mistake, or a loneliness, or a foolishness — but a warm dear love of our poor predicament which by the grace of Mysterious God will be solved and made clear to all of us in the end, maybe only.

Complement this fragment of the altogether breathtaking Windblown World with Melville on the mystery of what makes us who we are, then revisit his reflections on kindness and the self illusion, the crucial difference between talent and genius, his “30 beliefs & techniques” for writing and life, and the stirring story of the night Kerouac kept a young woman from taking her own life.

BP

The Sea and the Soul: Poet, Painter, and Philosopher Etel Adnan on the Elemental Blues of Being

“For seeing the sea it’s sometimes better to close one’s eyes.”

The Sea and the Soul: Poet, Painter, and Philosopher Etel Adnan on the Elemental Blues of Being

“It is a general sense of the poetry of existence that overcomes me. Often it is connected with the sea,” the young Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary a century ago as she reckoned with the “extraordinary emotions” that often overcame her — the source from which some of humanity’s greatest literature was about to spring.

Half a century later, the protagonist of Iris Murdoch’s exquisite existentialist novel The Sea, the Sea gasped: “The sea. I could fill a volume simply with my word-pictures of it.”

Another epoch later, the painter, poet, and philosopher Etel Adnan (February 24, 1925–November 14, 2021) filled with exquisite existentialist word-pictures her slender, splendid volume Sea & Fog (public library) — a suite of quickenings and questions: unanswerable, perhaps unaskable, but beautiful for the momentum by which they impel us to go on asking, the momentum we call life.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Hokusai, 1831. (Available as a print and as a face mask, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Having explored the mountain as a lens on the soul and night as a lens on the self, Adnan turns her oracular mind to the sea:

The sea. Nothing else. Walls ruptured. Sea. Water tumbling.

[…]

Dryness peels away the soul caught in gravity’s unconquerable solitude. The body’s magnetized metals turn naturally North. The face, with eyes, mouth and nostrils, strains to remember intricate mental constructions. Bones end dust over dust.

A generation after Rachel Carson watched “earth becoming fluid as the sea itself” in her reflection on the ocean and the meaning of life, Adnan writes:

The sea’s instincts collaborate with ours to create thinking. Our thoughts come and go, in birth and evanescence. We feel we own them but we’re the ones to belong to the radiations that they are, lighter than fog, but endearing in their unreliability.

[…]

Sea, made of instants chained. Where to shelter impermanence within its defenses? A threat, for sure. What about the permanent affinity between light and mind, both a processing machine, of particles, of thoughts?

Painting by Etel Adnan from Etel Adnan: Light’s New Measure, Guggenheim Museum, 2021. (Photograph: Maria Popova)

She reflects on how we bask in “the soft happiness that invades the spirit when water meets light” and at the same time find ourselves “exasperated by water’s alarming coherence” — an echo of the great Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd, who captured this bipolar enchantment a generation earlier as she contemplated the might and mystery of water on the edge of a rushing river near its mountain source: “The most appalling quality of water is its strength. I love its flash and gleam, its music, its pliancy and grace, its slap against my body; but I fear its strength.”

For Adnan, this vital tension between violence and serenity, between uncertainty and coherence, is the element’s nature — the very aspect of the sea that speaks to the elemental in us:

Let your back lie on the water and be a raft for birds, then in the middle of the night, dive. Your ears will ring, spit fire; the waters will remember that once they were you.

Elements. Elemental… And we are here, anywhere, so long as space would be. Is given to us sea/ocean, sea permanent revelation; open revelation of itself, to itself. Mind approximates those lit lines in the front, that darkness above, meant not to understand but to penetrate, to silence itself while heightening its power, to reach vision in essential unknowing.

In her orphic voice, she adds:

Look well at the Pacific before you die. The best of the promised paradises have neither its hues nor its splendor.

Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach, 1931 — one of Hasui Kawase’s stunning vintage Japanese woodblocks. (Available as a print.)

In a passage evocative of that immortal line from The Little Prince“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” — Adnan writes:

For seeing the sea it’s sometimes better to close one’s eyes.

[…]

The sea is to be seen. See the sea. Wait. Do not hurry. Do not run to her. Wait, she says. Or I say. See the sea. Look at her using your eyes. Open them, those eyes that will close one day when you won’t be standing. You will be flat, like her, but she will be alive. Therefore look at her while you can. Let your eyes tire and burn. Let them suffer. Keep them open like one does at midday. Don’t worry. Other eyes within will take over and go on seeing her. They will not search for forms nor seek divine presence. They will rather continue to see water which stirs and shouts, becomes ice in the North, vapor in the tropics.

[…]

Eyes have busied themselves exclusively with seeing although they can hear better than ears whenever they join forces with what’s outside the mind’s perimeter.

A century after Whitman bellowed into the New York flood-tide that the body is the soul and Melville wrote in Moby-Dick that “all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea,” Adnan adds:

Without a body there’s no soul and without the latter there’s no way to speak about the sea.

Complement Sea & Fog — the other half of which brings Adnan’s singular lens to the mystique of the mist — with her deathbed meditation on how to live and how to die, then revisit two centuries of great writers reflecting on the color blue.

BP

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