We find satisfaction – inspiration, even –
Ten minutes from home,
yet new, rose hips
The wind has its
way, but –
I can work with it.
Loving this earth we inhabit.
We find satisfaction – inspiration, even –
Ten minutes from home,
yet new, rose hips
The wind has its
way, but –
I can work with it.
Loving this earth we inhabit.
Last month I attended a conference in Monterey, on California’s central coast (between San Francisco and Los Angeles). I planned to stay an extra day or so in the area after the conference, and then I came down with a nasty cold – the kind that lowers a curtain between you and the world.
So it went by in a blur but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t find scenes and places to photograph. We had decided not stay in busy, touristy Monterey, but to head up the coast a bit to the quiet fishing village of Moss Landing. With a population under 300, the town spreads across a handful of streets, some lined with fishing boats, a few neatly set with modest bungalows, and one or two dotted with small restaurants.
Here is the back of one of the restaurants:
This was taken in the parking lot behind the Lighthouse Harbor Grille, an unpretentious burger and breakfast spot in Moss Landing. Tables are covered with vintage oilcloth, which looked like it was used for practical purposes rather than clever irony. A German family with two small kids were the only other customers. The food was simple, fresh and cheap and satisfying.
On the bulletin board in a restaurant, slices of local culture – a request for observations of endangered sharks and a John Deere farm equipment salesman’s card. The area is a favorite spot for whale watching and home of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, which conducts research in ocean science and technology.
Here’s the driveway and side of the house of our airbnb in Moss Landing.
The owner of the house picked up a brush one day after a period of fruitless job searching, and the rest is history. The interior is even more exuberant. One of her paintings:
Street scene, Moss Landing. It’s not just a fishing town – on the edge of town, acres of artichokes and strawberries stretch out in neat rows, right up to the blacktop of Highway 1. A farm stand sells truckloads of veggies and fruits at decent prices.
Ah, California produce!
Below, the parking lot behind the farm stand, featuring Moss Landing’s impossible-to-miss landmark: a natural gas powered electricity generation plant. The stacks were built in 1964 but the plant has been upgraded many times, and is California’s largest electrical power plant. There’s something appealing, for me anyway, about a place that has such an anomalous mix of industry and nature.
Many restaurants we visited on the central coast have restrooms in another building, often behind the restaurant. Follow the red footprints to the bathroom door…
More Moss Landing scenes.
The California coast displays its funky side in places like Moss Landing but nearby is another slice of beach culture – paragliding – a pricey sport that puts you above it all…
Marina Beach, just north of Monterey, is the home of the Coastal Condors, a hangliding and paragliding club established back in 1974. They get a great launch off the dunes. It was exhilarating to watch this man float up and down the beach, return to the launch dune, rest a minute and jump off into the wind again. Livin’ the dream!
We were near Big Sur so we had to take that famous coastal drive.
We passed a number of tempting little places to eat tucked into the Big Sur hills, finally settling on the only one with a parking space left! It was Sunday, and the Big Sur coastal meander is mythically popular.
Big Sur Bakery is in a converted 30’s ranch style house so seating is tight, but the atmosphere is pleasantly laid back…our waiter had a man bun and got flustered by the crowds (did we ruin his vibe?)…the wine was good…so was the espresso…the food, fresh and tasty. And yes, the restrooms are in back in separate building. With a line.
The hills rise sharply off Highway 1 opposite the ocean and are studded with Jubata grass, which is invasive but looked beautiful, waving it’s silvery seed heads in the wind.
Point Lobos is a state reserve I want to revisit, maybe in winter when whales migrate through. The morning we were there, barking Sea lions lounged on the distant rocks, uncommon plants bloomed at our feet, and waves of Brown pelicans sailed by over restless waters. The scenery was breathtaking. One day I’ll get a lens that can capture distant wildlife. Trust me, the sea lions are in the upper left corner. And for now, a rough shot of the pelicans will suffice.
Monday, on the way to the airport we detoured for a quick walk in Big Basin State Park, a redwood preserve and California’s oldest state park. Experiencing redwoods closeup was on my list and I wasn’t going to miss it, even if I felt like hell by that time. Who wouldn’t want to commune with thousand-year-old beings as tall as the statue of liberty?
These giants are way to big to get into the frame! In fact, it seems to me that you can’t ever see a whole redwood tree. It was interesting to compare Big Basin with the Pacific northwest temperate rain forests I know – both are dominated by huge tree species with many of the same plants and animals (sword ferns, chickadees) and different ones (tan oak, giant chain fern [above]).
Moss Landing sits beside Elkhorn Slough, the largest piece of tidal salt marsh outside San Francisco, and a magnet for birders and kayakers looking to observe wildlife up close. We didn’t have time to get out on the water, and when we drove by the slough we didn’t see much.
Sometimes the best sights are in unexpected places, like this one right in town – a flotilla of American white pelicans resting like puffs of cotton on the Old Salinas River. They had just arrived for the winter. The Brown pelicans stay all year. Lucky locals who get to watch pelicans year-round !
Two more birds I was thrilled to see on this trip were the American avocet and the Black-necked Stilt; both are delicate looking shorebirds with very long legs. We found them working the mudflats off a local bridge we crossed while exploring the town. They’re in the photo below, mixed with coots, dowitchers, and ducks (take my word for it).
We were delighted to find sea otters here too, floating by on their backs in classic otter poses. They have an unfortunate habit of sinking under the water just when you put the camera to your eye. Another reason to come back – surely with time and persistence I could photograph a sea otter.
Finally, this may not be a sunset that would impress a Californian, but it was sure pretty to my eyes, with those shimmering, soft tones and reflections.
A quick take on a beautiful area – hope to get back before too long!
When the worst happens – a cancer diagnosis, a Trump victory – I always take solace in the realization that outdoors the world goes on the same – the sun still rises, the air is sweet, birds fly and insects crawl, indifferent to our worries and drama.
But, you say – but what about this earth, rocking on a razor’s edge of man-made changes, the effects reaching deep into hot Amazonian forests, frigid Arctic ice and everywhere in between? Will the choice America has made mean it all only gets worse now? And what of humans, because we’re a piece of the earth too, as much as we forget that. Will imbalance and suffering worsen, and what of that? You’re right to ask. I don’t know.
Leaves drop and return to earth,
back and forth, visible
as raindrops, then
not. Energy curls
The slow fade of Fall.
Photos taken in and around Seattle, Washington. We’ve had the rainiest October on record this year. It’s great for the mountain snowpack, but….
Ever since my first taste of the outdoors as a tiny infant, and my introduction to New York City at age five, the bustling stimulation of big cities and the primal beauty of wild places have had equally powerful holds on me. As a teenager stuck in the suburbs I dreamed of city life, and fled to New York as soon as I could. Living in New York City, I longed for big, open spaces. It was a tough longing to fulfill, with truly wild places being far from the city.
In 2004 I took a job with New York state that required traveling within a hundred mile radius of downtown Manhattan, where my department was headquartered near the present day Freedom Tower. When I could schedule work upstate I was so happy. I knew I’d have a chance to steal an hour or two in a wilder place, and reconnect with nature.
The Ashokan Reservoir was one of those special places. Set down among the soft folds of the Catskill Mountains’ eastern edge, the reservoir isn’t far from Woodstock, Mount Tremper and Phoenicia, places many city dwellers fondly recall from upstate jaunts. The Ashokan settles across miles of beautiful rolling countryside, hiding the remains of several communities abandoned over a hundred years ago, when it was created as part of a vast system to collect fresh water for New York City.
These days, the giant silver-blue basin supplies up to 40% of the city’s drinking water, and it’s a long journey to city apartments. From the reservoir, water is shunted south through ninety-two miles of aqueduct to a holding reservoir closer to the city. The water settles there, flows south to yet another reservoir, and finally travels through two very old tunnels into the city water system. It was not a modest project, but then most projects associated with new York aren’t small scale.
Hours from home, standing at the reservoir’s edge, I could breathe in the essence of the landscape that surrounded and held my own drinking water. The quiet spread out and enveloped me. Herds of grass-grazing deer and the occasional sight of a Bald eagle tearing at a fish on the shoreline, refreshed my city-sore brain cells.
On a primal level, the reservoir was simply space – wide and plain and rolling out beyond the imagination. It was undulating hills, cold, deep water, sharp air and wildflowers at my feet. It was bigger than I was. I needed that.
Is the name Ashokan familiar? It probably is if you’re American and you watch TV. Ken Burns’ popular TV series about the American Civil War featured a haunting lament by the name of Ashokan Farewell. Composed in the early 80’s by Jay Ungar, an American folk musician, the song came to signify all the troubled emotions and regrets of our Civil War years.
These days Jay Ungar still makes music and directs the Ashokan Center, the oldest environmental education center in the state, located just south of the reservoir. Listen to the song in a pure rendition by the composer and his family. And by the way, Jay is a Jewish boy from the Bronx. Go figure.
For me the song conjures a poignant longing for deep connection, symbolized in the hills and valleys around the Ashokan reservoir, where there is something I can’t quite put my finger on, something that seems at once lost, and present.
The photographs were taken in the summer and winter of 2010 and summer of 2011, from the causeway separating the reservoir’s two basins.
The daily circling out from home doesn’t extend very far these days, but
places nearby, when examined over and over
reveal delightful twists on
Just look –
strewn across the sidewalk
make use of
Field and forest:
these tangled masses
are experts at being
Leaf’s clipped edges,
allow a glimpse of the next season.
Stem’s inner glow
recalls the season past.
Lily pads blurred,
lily pads crisp:
neither one preferred.
Queen Anne’s lace –
in the intimate clutch of its seedheads
Stink bug finds comfort.
to forget the way.
Sucked into the void, floating on the wind –
leaves and ribbons
shadow the season.
Parting shot: the first photograph, this time in black and white.
Photos taken in King, Snohomish and Skagit counties, Washington State, USA.
Some taken with a Samsung phone, some with an Olympus EM-1. Processed in Lightroom, Silver efex pro and Color efex pro.
I’ve been spending time scrolling back through the image archives, as I recover from an injury that prevents me from using a camera. Also, a year ago my desktop computer crashed and though most of my files were backed up, there’s the laborious process of importing photos back into lightroom, keywording and rating them…I’m working on that, too.
The last post about Staten Island reminded me of a series of photos I took out the windows of the apartment where I lived, from 2008 -2012. It was a top floor corner apartment in an older building, drenched with light from many large windows, but quite vulnerable to the impact of powerful storms. A favorite window faced west, down my street. Lined with older two story homes and punctuated at the end by St. Peters Catholic church, it’s a quiet block in an area of quick transitions from low-income projects to middle class homes. My building struck the bargain between the two; there was nothing swank about it, but it retained a considerable charm from decades past.
I became interested in the intersecting roof lines and shingle patterns of the older homes.
The shadows were interesting, too. Below, the sun dried part of the cupola, leaving the shingles under the chimney’s shadow and out of the sun still wet from a summer shower.
There was plenty of light for cuttings to root in the windowsill.
Foggy mornings, summer and winter storms, September hurricanes – the weather always provided something to ponder (or cringe from).
This is a northwest-facing window after yet another major snowstorm, with the snow piled up like cotton candy on the screen. Those ugly black bars are NYC required child-proofing (no, I didn’t have a young child living with me, but neither was this the sort of building where the landlord would honor a request to remove the bars…nor requests for more heat!). The radiator under this window didn’t work. But like I said, the light was plentiful even in winter, and hey, I had FIVE closets, high ceilings and hardwood floors!
Are you feeling cold yet? The man in the old house next door kept the cold away by burning anything he could find. His chimney belched smoke that made us gag.
There were days when we enjoyed a classic winter wonderland…
Enjoyed? There’s the matter of cars covered by fresh mounds of snow, thanks to efficient NYC snow removal.
Digging your car out, walking the dog, everything is a chore after a heavy snowfall.
On more than one occasion I got busted for not helping…
I admit, I was happier upstairs checking out the view. To the northwest we could see ships, barges and tugs on the Kill van Kull.
We benefited from beautiful sunsets and evening views out the west-facing windows.
All that, from one window! The second window I liked to look out is on an angle facing northwest, overlooking the busy shipping lanes of the Kill van Kull. According to Wikipedia, the strait is “the principal access for oceangoing container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States.” A critical transportation corridor since at least colonial times, the channel tends to be too shallow for huge, modern bulk carriers. One of our many complaints about living on the north tip of Staten Island was the constant noise of dredging, as huge machines worked day and night to deepen the passageway and keep stuff moving.
Another complaint was hot summers (we were right under a flat, dark roof) and cold winters. It’s an old building with an old furnace system, monitored remotely by an un-generous landlord. The windows let in a lot of weather. In fact, once one window blew right out of the frame and landed on the floor in shattered pieces!
But here was a better day:
It was interesting to see the container ships with their tugs being guided in and out of the narrow passage. I found a ship tracking website which enabled me to identify amd ;earn about the ships I saw floating by. As I write this, looking at a ship tracking site, I see the ubiquitous McAllister and Moran tugs are racing through the Kill van Kull, the oil tanker Tenacity is tied up across the way in Bayonne, and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, a huge cruise ship just launched last year, is at home port in Bayonne readying for a Bermuda cruise on the 15th of this month (it would be on the right edge of these photos).
Never a “cruise type” of person, I was not enthused when offered a cruise trip from NY to Bermuda on Holland America’s SS Statendam, back in the late 70’s. Eventually I capitulated to family pressure and went, bringing a friend. It was a fortunate decision – I was to be amazed on that trip, again and again. I was impressed by the elegant beauty of the ship with its teak decks and formal dining rooms, moved by the Indonesian and Dutch crew who were to a person, competent, gracious and dignified, and thrilled by Bermuda’s beauty and the sweet scents that floated on by as I scooted around the island. But I was most deeply moved by an encounter on the island with a noted naturalist, David Wingate.
As a young, enthusiastic birder I thought I might as well contact someone on Bermuda to show me around. Birders are good that way. I knew little about Wingate but I wrote to him and he agreed to take my friend and me on an outing while we were in port. It turns out he is a notable naturalist, the man responsible for restoring the island’s national bird, once thought extinct, to a viable population. An intense, single-minded man who grew up on the island, he became Bermuda’s first Conservation Officer and embarked on a major project to save the endangered Bermuda petrel. His decades of tireless work creating favorable nesting habitat likely prevented the petrel from going extinct.
Wingate had enough focused energy for two people. He actually recreated the original habitat of native plants, which had been destroyed hundreds of years before, on one of Bermuda’s small islands, Nonsuch. How did he accomplish that? By hand, over fifty years time. Dedication.
We didn’t have time to see Nonsuch but Mr. Wingate took us in a small boat through a Bermuda mangrove swamp. As he introduced us to the ecology of mangroves he began to describe, in vivid detail, the depredations which resulted from all the introduced fauna people brought to the islands over the centuries. Islands are particularly vulnerable to loss of species when humans arrive with their pigs and rats and agricultural aspirations.
Take the Great kiscadaee – a cheerful, common bird that delighted me the first time I saw it on Bermuda. I was wrong to assume it was native – no, it was brought in to control a lizard problem (and the lizards had been brought in to control scale on plants) but it ate just about everything else, wreaking new havoc.
What is the solution? In a country with strict gun laws, it was shocking to hear Wingate quietly, almost cautiously declare that the answer was the gun. Kiscadees can’t be caught easily, but they can be shot. Pick them off, one by one, and Bermuda would have one less problem species. It was a chilling conclusion to reach in such a gently beautiful place, but the logic was clear.
David Wingate has retired, but that idea lives on. When we met him, he was the only conservation officer allowed to use a gun at work (and he was probably the only conservation officer). Last year the Bermudian government considered widening the authority to use guns to destroy feral chickens, crows and pigeons to a certain members of the public. It’s controversial, but it may yet happen.
The big success story in Bermuda ecology is that Bermuda petrels are now successfully nesting on Nonsuch Island after a 300 year absence, thanks to Wingate’s work. Rising seas threaten some nesting sites but Nonsuch seems safer, having higher ground. However, in recent years hurricanes have taken a toll. There are only about 250 – 300 of the birds living on our planet now. They remain vulnerable.
But however the petrel’s numbers wax and wane, David Wingate’s passionate work on behalf of native Bermuda ecology continues to inspire.
Back to watching boats in New York:
There’s my favorite boat, below – must be a tight squeeze for the captain in there!
You’re looking at an industrialized part of Bayonne, New Jersey, but that is a golf course on the hill behind the oil tanks! The NY/NJ border runs down the middle of the waterway. The Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan are off to the right, out of sight.
Looking out the same window, a grand old tree held my attention on many afternoons. Cherry trees bloomed under its sheltering branches in Spring.
Parting shots: even with the screen covered in ice, or obscuring the view at night, the view satisfied!
Note on the photos: Taken with an older camera phone, a Lumix point and shoot and an early SONY Nex, the quality of these photos wasn’t always what I wanted. I have reworked them in Lightroom.
Three years ago I posted about New York City’s Staten Island, the borough New Yorkers love to hate. As I said back then, I had lived in the city on and off for four decades – on Manhattan’s Lower and Upper East Sides, the Bowery, the Upper West Side, Brooklyn, the Bronx’s pretty Riverdale neighborhood, and other city locations. In 2008 I worked in Lower Manhattan and commuted from Connecticut – a four hour round trip by car, train, and subway: pure madness. At the time I couldn’t afford Manhattan or Brooklyn rent, so I decided to look on Staten Island. I found a big, rambling apartment on the north end of the island, a pleasant ten minute walk to the ferry to Lower Manhattan. After the ferry ride, I could jump on the subway or walk the last bit to my job, in an office building next to the old World Trade Center site, then under construction.
On weekends I explored my new back yard: the somewhat wild and very weird Staten Island. I found it to be an endlessly fascinating mashup of the sublime and the ridiculous.
I’m grounded this month – I can’t drive, I can’t use my camera. I can pick away at the keyboard with my left hand though, so it’s an opportunity to dredge the archives and see what surfaces.This handful of images from New York’s forgotten borough has waited long enough.
As I said in that last Staten Island post, when I lived there I found plenty to hate – noise, traffic, pollution, rudeness, stupidity – but I also found lots to love, and much to wonder about.
This too, is New York City:
Great egrets stalk prey in a flooded park next to a Staten Island beach, after a September hurricane ripped apart the thin margin separating ocean and lawn. Like New York’s other boroughs – Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx – Staten Island has an abundance of bird life. It offers good habitat variety and sits right on the Atlantic flyway, one of North America’s main avian migration routes.
The beaches also attract island residents, who migrate here from all over the world.
Our favorite stretch of beach for walks was off the beaten track and boasted a series of cairn sculptures that grew into an elaborate installation, transforming a good half mile of coastline into an ingenious wonderland. A dedicated local zookeeper named Doug Schwartz was behind this obsessive labor of love. We ran into him once. A quiet man, he seemed to be a typically eccentric Staten Islander. Every piece of the stone monoliths was found on site, hauled and stacked by hand. Beach walkers, captivated by the impressive effort, would sometimes lend a hand, or add their own touches in typically spontaneous New York fashion.
Powerful storms washed the sturdy cairns away several times, but Doug kept at it. Then, unbelievably, he was ordered by the Department of Environmental Conservation to remove all the sculptures. I thought the sculptures were an intelligent, attractive solution to the problem of debris that continuously washes up on Staten Island’s none-too-pristine beaches. The DEC guys thought otherwise. Here’s a story about that fiasco. It exemplifies the bloated, inhuman, bureaucratic side of New York, which was partially responsible for my leaving the state.
Beach debris is so tempting, isn’t it? The day I took this picture, we were sorely tempted by these rusted artifacts, but the car was too far away – a photo had to suffice. In the background are migrating ducks and Brant geese.
Speaking of debris washing up, while exploring the industrialized north shore one day, we noticed a promising dirt road leading towards the waterfront. OK, it was private property – but no one was around and the gate was open, so I insisted on checking it out. At the end of the narrow, overgrown road we came to a sliver of sand littered with debris. Looking closely, I realized that dozens of small, old potsherds and bits of glass were scattered about, and were still washing up in the gentle tide.
It was an amazing find – everything was quite old and seemed to have originated in the same place – maybe Britain circa 1920, or even earlier. A shipwreck?
I was unable to ferret out any clues as to the origin of this small bonanza. We returned once more that summer to collect more artifacts. The following year we returned again, but a tall fence blocked access to the road and property. A younger, braver member of our group tried to scale it, but he couldn’t. That was the end of that.
I wonder if old fragments of forgotten lives still wash ashore there, and if anyone notices.
Inland on Staten Island, the greenest borough, there are many parks and preserves – over 12,000 acres. Some are still fairly wild, considering you’re in a city of eight million souls.
But wildness attracts the “wrong kind” of New Yorker, too, and Staten Island has plenty of those. This park was beset with rusting car wrecks, tires and garbage.
In another park nearby, a sweet statue survived relatively unscathed at an open air shrine. Perched on a bluff overlooking the water and dating to 1935, the shrine is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. People leaves flowers, crosses, hand written prayers, photos of loved ones, rosaries…and during the four years I lived in the area, the offerings remained undisturbed. An old broom leaned against the wall, ready to tidy the shrine.
You can see the figure take the weather in stride – the second photo was taken a few years before the first one.
Staten Island is a famously Italian borough. Besides the shrine at Mount Loretto and fabulous Italian food, a local cultural center boasts a pretty little Italianate building and reflecting pool, built a few years ago for weddings and receptions.
A few steps away, the center (Snug Harbor) offers a charmingly overgrown botanical garden. It may be a poor cousin to the well known New York Botanical Garden, but I came to love it more, for its simple charms and air of subtly elegant neglect. I must have a thousand pictures of the gardens and flowers at Snug Harbor. It became my go-to place for R & R after long weeks of working for the state department of health, monitoring services for people with brain injuries. My office in a building adjacent to the twin towers site was a stressful place to be during the reconstruction, and Snug Harbor provided respite.
There is a Chinese Scholar’s Garden at Snug Harbor, too. Other than a nominal charge to enter the Scholar’s Garden, the grounds of Snug Harbor are free to all.
Surprises are a dime a dozen on Staten Island – turn down a side street in a residential area, and you may find something like this next to a modest home. Explore back roads in sparsely populated neighborhoods, and you’ll see the occasional rooster scratching in a side yard.
Here’s Superman atop a business that makes awnings. Around the corner in this mixed use neighborhood was a dignified, if dilapidated older home, with interesting curtains on the door.
The island was (and still is, I hope) a rich hunting ground for oddball attractions. One sunny Saturday we ventured warily through an open chain link gate in a post-industrial wasteland just off a highway. Someone had been living in an abandoned trailer on a concrete-covered lot that was quickly reverting to weeds. It was hard to tell how long ago they last used the space, but they certainly left their mark. Behind the trailer, hard by a marsh and winding creek, sculptures constructed from waste dumped at the site dotted the rough landscape.
This is REAL outsider art! Who else ever saw these? Anyone? What impulse moved the artist – you’d have to give them that – to create these?
On the trailer wall, a broken plastic candy cane played visual tag with a series of stencils. I couldn’t decide whether it was creepy or poignant.
I think the latter.
Staten Island offers quotidian delights like magnolia blossom-strewn sidewalks as readily as the strange sights of less traveled roads. This was on the block where I lived.
And sunsets – I remember sitting alone on the sandy beach and watching the sun go down on this beautiful April evening, reveling in that brief, glowing meld of color that settles in once the sun is below the horizon. How about wild deer on an island in New York City? Staten Island has that. Folks say they swam over from New Jersey. (We were in a car, when I took this, exploring back roads again).
The flora of Staten Island is what a botanist would consider degraded, since it is overrun with alien species and invasives. Still, I enjoyed my regular wildflower forays each summer and fall. I explored every back road I could find on that island. Pretty soon I knew exactly where I could go to put together a bouquet.
I drew maps to remember where I’d been – and how to get back.
If the weather didn’t cooperate, there was always the view from my window. Looking west, the old St. Peters clock tower is just visible during a winter ice storm. A neighbor is burning cardboard and trash in his old furnace to get warm – just don’t inhale too much!
To the northwest are the busy ports of Bayonne and Elizabeth, New Jersey, just past the Kill van Kull’s busy shipping lanes. I never tired of watching the ships and tugs. I would google a container ship name to learn where it came from and where it was going. Here, a barge is pushed out the Kill van Kull by a local tug as another tug returns to port. Dramatic skies vie for attention.
There are too many window views to include here – they deserve their own post. Another day.
Parting shot: sunset on the Kill van Kull with the Bayonne Bridge in the distance. A curve of neglected rail track glints and a trio of gulls soars west past the ubiquitous chain link fence – a typical meeting of the mundane and sublime, on Staten Island.
SCATTER, part two: a second scattering of summer images. You’ll see fall color creeping in, and towards the end, a brief narration of a fall from grace.
Fall from grace: I’d been wanting to see Mt. Baker, one of the state’s highest peaks, for years. We drove north last Sunday and spent the night nearby to get an early start on Monday, when crowds would be thinner. We didn’t sleep well so it wasn’t a very early start…up and up we drove to a short hike along a stony trail at Artist Point in the North Cascades, where views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan and other peaks have been drawing visitors since the road was completed in 1931. The clear, thin air was cool, the sun strong.
Views morphed as we followed the well worn trail across rocky Kulshan Ridge. At over 5,100′ vistas spread out in all directions, across glacier-scrubbed slopes set with tarns, scree and patches of late summer snow. The gnarled old evergreens and warm-hued heather we saw are smothered under an average of 50′ of snow in winter; road crews must remove signs at the end of each season if they want to use them next year – the weather here is unforgiving.
The mid-September day was calm enough for a butterfly and a few bees to flit among the last tiny alpine flowers. I expected to enjoy the views and complete the circuit.
HOWEVER, I tripped over a rock and took a hard fall on my right arm and left knee, with a taste of gravel in the bargain. After catching my breath, with full support I made it back to the car for the three hour ride to the emergency room. By that evening I had the diagnosis: the knee was badly bruised but not broken, my face only lightly scratched. But the right shoulder – not so great. The humerus shattered where it fits into the socket, and it was well out of the socket. A skilled, patient doctor scrunched it back in and sent me home with pain killers and my arm in a sling. Several days later an orthopedist re-evaluated the shoulder, giving me the all clear to…..yup, just wait. No driving or lifting anything (not even a camera!) with the right arm for a long time. Hopefully by late next month I’ll be out of the sling and driving again. Talk about curtailing freedom…
Well, it WAS a great view up there but not that great! I will take advantage of the down time and get to projects that fell by the wayside this year as work gobbled up my time. I’ll post more, I’ll visit your blogs more, and I’ll certainly perfect the left-handed fork-to-mouth routine!
As summer quickly fades into fall, people scatter, looking for those precious last summer pleasures. Here in America’s northwest corner, cars from faraway states like Mississippi and New Jersey roam the highways, taking that final spin before the responsibilities of school and work assume primacy again.
Birds scatter too: fledglings that must survive on their own are exploring further from their nest sites. Shorebirds are already migrating south. Our local online birding forum reports rarities like the charmingly named Wandering tattler, a shorebird that nests in Alaska and winters on the coast, far from Seattle. Seeds are scattering to disperse their genetic material, aided by wind, animals, birds, insects – and once in a while, my shoes.
Scattered movement seems to be common in late summer/early fall in the Northern hemisphere. In keeping with the season, I have a scattering of photos from the last few months.
I’ve gotten out whenever I could. It never feels often enough, but that sort of dissatisfaction is called being human, isn’t it? I long for more, for places farther and farther away.
Gold Creek Pond, Snoqualmie Pass, Cascade Mountains (Washington)
Naches Peak Loop Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park
There have been many short jaunts nearer home this summer. These drives and walks that trace local pathways help construct a bedrock of felt knowledge about my local landscape.
Growing up in the northeast, I grew into an intimate relationship with the land, its flora and fauna. This knowledge is formed by the accretion of layer upon layer of sensing, in the outdoors. Experiencing the weather, inhaling the scent of local plants, encountering local creatures – it all adds up. It is years of watching the sky, listening closely to the faintest birdsong, feeling the tingle of a bug crawling across my arm, and inhaling the sharp air over a frozen snow field. It is decades of thinking about the progression of wildflower bloom along roadsides, the odd differences in Song sparrow songs, the beauty of a rounded canopy of deciduous trees laid across rolling hills.
Now I’m beginning the same journey thousands of miles away.
Here, the characters are different (well, mostly) and the setting is different, but the forays outside to check out a new place or return again to the same spot will accrue a felt sense of this place, just as my wanderings on the east coast embedded an intimate knowledge of that landscape.
Along the way the photos play their part, too.
The key is getting out, looking, listening, tasting, inhaling and feeling the outdoors til it fills every pore.