Stygian Skies

Heavy rain fell from decidedly Stygian skies throughout the morning during which I finished reading the fourth chapter, entitled ‘ ‘Give me combat!’ France: 1894-9′, of Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Proud Tower.

I had previously been vaguely aware of the Dreyfus Affair with dominated the decade, but never really understood it until reading Tuchman’s analysis of the schism that split France. Dreyfus was a French army captain who happened to be Jewish and was unjustly accused of selling secrets to Germany. There is now no doubt that Captain Dreyfus was framed by the French military authorities who used forged documents to condemn him to years of imprisonment. It became a national conflict between the Dreyfusards, convinced of his innocence, and those who believed the military should be supported at all costs. Violent anti-Semitism developed and was pitted against those, largely artists and intellectuals, who fought for justice.

I will refrain from offering more details save to say that the ultimate pardon did not come with a finding of innocence. Ms Tuchman describes the physical and emotional violence of the warring parties, which also involved a failed assassination. France, too, had the seething undercurrent which seemed endemic to the rest of Europe.

My mid afternoon today the rain had ceased and a brief appearance of sun had cast a little light over the land.

While I readied myself for a trip into the forest Jackie nipped out into the garden and photographed

raindrops on weeping birch and clematis cirrhosa Freckles.

The chameleon skies were the canvas on which my camera painted

varying tones of indigo and smoky ochres with pink tinges.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s mixed meats and vegetable stoup followed by pepperoni pizza and fresh salad, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank The Second Fleet Cabernet, Merlot, and Petit Verdot Coonawarra 2019.


  1. The Dreyfus case opened the gates to a flood of rabid antisemitism that drowned Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. The second famous one was the Bailis affair in Kiev, when a Jewish factory manager was accused of ritual murder of a Ukrainian boy. By the time of his arrest, the true perpetrators of the crime have been identified, yet the authorities let them go and arrested Menachem Bailis instead. That was the last known blood libel case. Both of these cases paved the way to the Holocaust.
    I am sorry about being too verbose and too emotional to comment on your exceptional photos of the Stygian sky, Derrick, but Styx leads to Hades.

          1. Now I have to apologize for allowing myself to express my feelings in a public forum instead of simply enjoying your delightful posts as I usually do. I appreciate your sensitivity, Derrick, but you have nothing to regret; the fault is mine.

          2. There is no fault, my very good friend. You are well entitled to express your feelings, as you do your pleasanter ones in an equally insightful manner. X

  2. Those clouds make the day dark, but certainly lead to stunning photos, Derrick! The Dreyfus affair as noted above opened floodgates–quite a stain on French history, I think.
    I read a novel about it a few years ago–by Robert Harris, I think?

  3. Fine skyscapes.
    The Dreyfus affair showed that people are ready to believe something in the face of evidence if it chimes in with their world view. Nothing much has changed as far as that goes. .

  4. I am enjoying reading your thoughts on “Tuchman’s The Proud Tower”. I will have to read that book.
    Such dramatic grey skies! Nature is beautiful no matter what the weather.

  5. Your photos remind me how expressive the sky can be with infinite combinations of colors and designs. Thank you for continuing share nature’s beauty with us.

  6. Chameleon sky – such an apt way of describing the ever-changing colour patterns. Your day looks damp and cold, yet you have made the most of it.

  7. I love a pure blue sky, but for interest and for photography, a cloudy day is best. Chameleon sky, Stygian sky … You’re so erudite, Derrick.

  8. Love Jackie’s raindrop photos! The first one looks like a jeweled drapery! Gorgeous!
    Your sky and tree photos are so breathtakingly beautiful! You and your camera painted some masterpieces! Oh, my! Those clouds are talking!
    I don’t know what it is…but I’ve always enjoyed a cloudy sky…cotton-y cheer-y clouds or denim-y moody clouds.
    We fixed salad and pizza for supper, too! Pizza was topped with onions, olives, tomatoes, and cheeses. πŸ™‚
    (((HUGS))) πŸ™‚

  9. The sky has been mightily describes and captured. The denuded, silhouetted, weirdly limbed trees in demi-light make for pretty photographs under the sky and in reflections.

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