Washington Coast Day Trip

I took a drive up north towards Canada, not long ago, to explore the coast. The rock formations at Larrabee State Park, on the Samish Bay near Bellingham are fantastic. While clambering around them, I found a few bright purple sea stars – I used to call them starfish but I’ve learned better – and various limpets, barnacles and tiny snails.

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Purple Star, or Pisaster ochraceus, common from Baja California to Alaska in mid-tidal zones. You can see barnacles under it – they eat barnacles and limpets, slowly prying them open with their many tube feet and then inserting their flexible stomachs to digest them. They’re sometimes orange, red or brown, and live to be 20 yrs old…I really am eager to see another one!

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I drove west towards Samish Island and saw this Great Blue Heron near a bridge at the mouth of the Samish River.

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An abandoned fishing boat was looking photogenic on the other side of the same bridge.

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Samish Island, one of the Inner San Juan Islands, was quiet and peaceful.

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Evening light on the bay – and it’s time to go home.

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Natural Resources – a Weekly Photo Challenge

Another Weekly Photo Challenge – Natural Resources – suggests an obvious answer: water.

A less obvious take on water as a natural resource is this crustacean’s-eye-view of Great South Bay from Fire Island, NY. Our shores and the water that defines them – sometimes gently and sometimes ferociously – are natural resources people around the world depend on. Paying closer attention to shoreline ecosystems saves lives – human, crustacean and otherwise!

Another basic a natural resource is air – the air we breathe, the air that buoys us up:

Trees are fundamental natural resources too – as shade and shelter, as slope stabilizers and air purifiers. Here in the pacific northwest, trees seem so eager to grow that when big cedars and firs topple, new trees will take root on the stumps, their roots steadily groping their way towards the soil.

From plant giant to animal dwarf – bees are a natural resource, providing for themselves, for flowers, for us –

And…chickens! An important natural resource for us – sometimes for entertainment as well as food.

About as unprocessed a natural resource as you can ask for, these freshly dug razor clams were for sale at Pikes Place Market in Seattle a few days ago. But for me, they have the “eww” factor, big time.

And what about humans as a natural resource?

Human creativity is a natural resource that expresses itself in an incomprehensible variety of ways –  from graffiti as art,

to protest as the creation of new forms of discourse, (above, Occupy Wall Street, fall, 2011).

Or, meditation as protest (nearby in lower Manhattan, 2011).

Dance as celebration – a worldwide natural human resource (here, at a Turkish Festival in Manhattan).

“Abundant natural resources” – that’s such a cliche. But it’s never unintelligent to ask how we are impacting our natural resources.  Are we wasting water? Dirtying the air? Breaking the food chain? Squandering our energy? Shutting down our creativity? Forgetting to celebrate? Our goal needn’t be perfection – just a little more attention.

More responses to this week’s photo challenge are at:  http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/sunday-post-natural-resources/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Architecture

Jake from Manila is challenging bloggers to submit photographs of architecture this week. He has some interesting points to make about architecture, saying that architecture is to building as literature is to the printed word…that architectural structures are culturally significant and have aesthetic meaning:  architecture as social art.

Once more I can’t leave well enough alone, so I will color outside the lines a bit as I interpret the challenge.

First, an architectural gem that most anyone would agree has significance, whether they appreciate it aesthetically or not (I love it). Gehry’s IAC Building, with its subtle curves and softly banded exterior, as seen from the High Line in Manhattan:

Another Gehry building, the Experience Music Project is in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle. Its voluptuous, undulating curves below are, according to arcspace.com, inspired in part by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster. And the colors are real eye candy.

More curves, this time gracefully Italianate, are on a small building whose arched windows perfectly echo curves in the landscape around it.

The Lemon House at the Tuscan Garden, Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NYC:

Another New York City Botanical Garden building, in the Bronx (New York City) is the gorgeous Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, America’s largest glass house, 110 years old this year. As beautiful outside as it is inside.

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But what about vernacular architecture? I love that just as much.

On a roadside in northwestern Arkansas, a deceptively simple looking stone house begs shade from a hot day with a corrugated metal awning, whose angle reflects the building’s roof line.

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On St. Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina, Spanish moss lends atmosphere to a ruin built of tabby called the Chapel of Ease. Tabby is a mixture of oyster shells, sand and lime and was used extensively in the area. Built around 1740, the chapel served plantation owners who could not always get to church in Beaufort, on the mainland. It was deserted after 1861, when residents fled from Civil War strife, and later it was used by northerners to educate freedmen. In 1886 it burned in a forest fire but much of the building still stands today. Some history of this fascinating area can be found here:

http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/MPS/MPS033.pdf

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A barn in Adna, Washington, sports a series of angles that are dumbfounding. Why? Maybe no reason, I don’t know!

But when you view it from different sides you can appreciate the way it settles into the landscape and, I assume, fulfills its function.

and…(yes, it’s the same barn!)…

Another weathered example of vernacular architecture sits abandoned along a rural road in Wayne County, North Carolina, about halfway between Raleigh-Durham and the coast.

I think it still has a very graceful roof line.

Here’s a link to the Vernacular Architecture Forum: site http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/about/index.html

And examples of vernacular architecture are here: http://www.archdaily.com/155224/vernacular-architecture-and-the-21st-century/

Going further out on an architectural limb, sometimes temporary structures also show a strong aesthetic impulse:

On Whidbey Island in Washington, someone has built a shelter from driftwood and logs that washed up on the beach.

You can’t do much better at blending with the landscape.  And look at the view from the inside:

Another beach structure, on Camano Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, really works the angles and pays close attention to surface decoration:

Angles are featured in these buildings, too, but in a context that’s a little…shinier, shall we say?

This was taken last week, on another island, on another coast.

On the left is One World Trade Center, slowly rising up near the empty square beds of the World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed on 9/11 and now mark the memorial site.  I stood next to the building on the right, across the street from the building site, so it looks taller – but it’s not.

The antenna for One World Trade Center will rise 1776 feet. Needless to say, the structure is designed around strength and durability as much as aesthetics. It’s also said to be the most environmentally sustainable project of its size in the world, with LEED Gold Certification and energy performance that exceeds code requirements by 20%. I bet the beach structures exceed local codes too.

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So there you are, from a humble beach lean on a quiet island to a Manhattan skyscraper, with a few stops in between.

More entries are at:

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/sunday-post-architecture/

infinite thanks

Life moves pretty quickly –

people, places, things blow

by so fast I hardly

see them sometimes and

I forget to take the opportunity to

thank you,

and thank the places

and the things that

make life so,

so

perfect.

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“Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of these jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite. “

The Avatamsaka Sutra,  Francis H. Cook:  Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra 1977

Weekly Photo Challenge: GREEN

If there’s one subject that appears over and over in my work, it’s plants. And leaves. And green. So I thought I would depart from that and see what I can find in my files that’s green but not a plant. It was surprisingly difficult – it seems that the world is full of green but it’s mostly flora. I did find some interesting green things though. Isn’t she lovely?

She was in a store window in Goldsboro, North Carolina not too long ago.

I bet she’s still there.

Elsewhere in the south I found this green toy truck placed on a gravestone in a rural cemetery in Lee County, Florida.

The grave is inscribed with the dates March 20, 1901 – November 13, 1906.

A five and half year old boy, dead for over a hundred years, and still toys are left on his grave.

Life and death are full of wonderful mysteries.

Here’s a Walking Stick in a public garden on Staten Island, in New York City. He’s being eyed from both sides but doesn’t seem to be worried about it. His translucent green color and skinny shape made him hard to spot, hence the big grin.

A bright green sign announces Trees for sale, only $5 each. This truck was parked on the side of a busy road in Ellensburg, Washington. The retired farmer who made it said he digs up unwanted trees in vacant lots, bags them and sells them out of his truck. Passes the time.

And behind him was a bus, parked hard by a shed full of hay bales and probably serving as a home for someone. On the side and back it says, “Ravinwolf.com”  –  turns out that’s an “Acoustic Mountain Blues”  band. I found the story of the 1972 diesel bus, which the band was planning to convert to bio diesel fuel, on their website:  http://www.ravinwolf.com/Press___Reviews.html

Finally, this is easily the most interesting green photo, and I didn’t take it – my son did, with a camera phone while stationed in southern Afghanistan (Marines). He knew I would love the juxtaposition of the green door, the green field and the girl with the green dress.

Green flora does creep in to several of these pictures, so I missed my goal of posting green photographs without plants.

Maybe I’ll do another Green Challenge with just leaves…

The challenge calls for bloggers to post a gallery of photos, using the WordPress gallery format. I had trouble with the formatting so these are posted in the usual one-after-the-other style. Here’s the challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/weekly-photo-challenge-green/

Weekly Photo Challenge

This is a very late weekly photo challenge, because I have been away, back in New York.  For two days we stayed in a house with no power. After that we had a hotel room, complete with electricity, but between the family events, my slow netbook and a desperate need to spend time revisiting some favorite places in the city, I didn’t post last week.

The Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress is “Renewal” and Jakesprinter’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “Surroundings”. I have definitely been in unusual surroundings in the past week. And being in New York for the first time since moving west earlier this year, I experienced a renewal of my love for new York and a renewal of my intentions in moving out here. Yes, I miss the pleasures of the city, but the pleasures here are sweet, too.

We took off into the sunrise – a promising start. However, the NYC forecast called for a “significant storm” to hit the region just as we arrived. I was anxious.  Sure enough, just as we began our descent into JFK, the plane suddenly pulled up.  The monitor map traced a huge circle away from the airport, as ice flew by the shaking wing at my side.

But of course we made it, arriving at a messy airport still dealing with Hurricane Sandy clean-up. Many other flights were cancelled due to this second storm – we just made it in time.

The surroundings were chaotic. This we knew! We had called ahead to be sure our rental car had a full tank of gas because of the reports (all true) that people were waiting in long lines for 3-5 hours to fill their tanks. We drove onto the Belt, slushy with snow and snarled with traffic – what a welcome!

We were staying with family on Long Island. It was Day 9 without power for them, and it was plenty cold outside. “Surroundings” began to take on a new meaning.

We huddled around the fire and ate a simple meal of pasta – thank god the house has a gas stove. A picnic cooler outside kept perishable food cool. We turned in early, buried under quilts, tired but cozy.

The next morning we lent a hand in the yard. A telephone pole in the front yard had snapped in two and the transformer now dangled precariously, its wires weaving a complicated web through a prized plum tree, which had split down the middle. More wires traced a long arc across the driveway. We sawed off  limbs to free the wires, and hoped LIPA (the hated Long Island Power Authority) would get to our street soon.

Back inside, we warmed up around the fire again, stuffing our wet gloves with newspaper (enough stories of suffering!) and setting them by the fire to dry.

The village had power, so we drove down to a packed Starbucks to recharge phones and laptops (and recharge my brain with the daily double espresso). A thoughtful customer had plugged a power strip into the wall outlet – otherwise, we could have waited an hour or more to charge our phones. Later we went to a rehearsal dinner – this trip was in honor of a nephew’s wedding, taking place the next day at a catering hall, which happily had power. The surroundings were convivial, the food was incredible, and the wine flowed. I guess that was in the opposite order.

The next day we checked into a hotel. Our reservations were made months ago – lucky for us, because there were no hotel rooms available on Long Island. Our hotel was packed with line and tree workers from all over the country; a scrawled sign on the door read, “No Rooms”. The thought of getting ready for a wedding in the dark? Not too good. So we were glad to have the room. The wedding and reception went off without a hitch, and after another day spent with family, we finally had time to jump on the train to Manhattan.

As soon as I emerged from the subway I felt renewed. These surroundings – the crowds, the noise, the cabs and bikes and vendors – will always draw and energize me.

Another family get together was planned for midtown, so we wandered through Central Park. We had to leave downtown – my preference – for another day.

The park looked surprisingly intact – I only saw one large tree lost to the hurricane. But the Central Park Conservancy website says over 800 of its 20,000 trees were lost in the storm.

That night we ate at John’s Shanghai in midtown with my sister-in-law, who’s from Shanghai. She ordered of course, and it was funny to hear how she and the waiter began speaking English, then added a few Chinese words, and gradually morphed into full Chinese as they negotiated the details. Their famous soup dumplings were delicious.

The next day we were able to spend a few hours downtown.

First, the Rubin Museum, which always renews me:

Then a train down to the World Trade Center area, where I worked.

One World Trade Center is looking good. There are lights on in my old office building, on the right. It felt good to touch base, but it feels great not to be working here anymore. Talk about stressful surroundings – constant worries about security, never ending construction – we even had to put up with snipers on our roof one day when Obama visited.

Over in Battery Park, which took the brunt of the storm surge, it looked like nothing had ever happened. I suspect that had we walked the length of the park, down to the ferry terminal, it would have been another story.

Here though, boats were safely tied up and lights sparkled across the Hudson River as evening fell. I used to come over here after work to walk and be renewed by my surroundings. Now, they inspired me again. But inside, I felt disoriented – perfectly relaxed, alert and at home in New York, and yet not. I was a tourist now, this was not my home any more. Sill, I felt more attached to the city than to my new home in the west.

I wished I had more time in the city, but this was our last day. We topped it off with Kobe burgers at Zaitzeff and headed over to Financier, where I bought as many of their outrageous pastries as I could tuck into my bag for the plane ride back. Chocolate eclair, Madelaines, Apple Gallette, Macaroon…umm.

Our plane took off at dusk the next day and the moon was new so the skies were bright with stars. I nodded off after a glass of wine and woke up over Montana to see a mysterious glowing curtain hanging below the Big Dipper – I stared and stared at this weird shape shifter, and finally I was convinced that this really was the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights. Of course I tried to get a picture, but it’s just a green blob. What are the chances of waking up from a nap on a six hour flight just as your plane flies by the Northern Lights? What rare surroundings!

The next day was quiet, and I didn’t get out of the house until almost dark. I drove over to the waterfront and watched a beautiful sunset. The ducks were content. The surroundings were lovely. I felt pretty content, too.

And yesterday morning, a foggy dawn gave way to clear skies. I had just enough time after taking care of business for a walk on the Coal Creek Falls trail on Cougar Mountain.

The surroundings were magical.

Moss glowed on cedars, aspens and maples.

Mushrooms sprouted.

Lichens dripped with moisture.

Leaves dangled, caught by branches as they fell to the ground.

The sun set.

I felt renewed.

More information about these Weekly Photo Challenges, and many more submissions, can be found here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/weekly-photo-challenge-renewal/

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/sunday-post-surroundings/

Intermission

I’ve been away for a week, back in New York for the first time since I moved last winter.  The trip was crowded with family events, so I had limited time to walk Manhattan streets and visit favorite places (ah, the pizza, oh, the pastries). My brain has been overflowing with impressions. Ten months ago I left New York for a very different part of the world, and going back provided an opportunity to examine the differences. Then last night, coming “home” to the Pacific northwest presented additional opportunities to compare and contrast. My mind spins. Somehow this image of a clutch of tiny cyclamen, taken in August at Kubota Gardens in Seattle, feels like a balm for my tumultuous mind.

So I’m starting here with an intermission of sorts, and then I will begin the task of sorting through the photographs and impressions of my trip and see what to post next.

Geometry Take Two

Quintin Lake’s current Daily Post Photo Challenge suggests we crop our images tightly to better reveal their geometry. Below are the photos I submitted the first time around; all except one have been cropped down.

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I played with a few Photoshop brushes and filters this time, too. (But I didn’t change the bridge photo – it’s abstract enough at 60 mph!) I hope you enjoy looking.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

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Church in a small town in the Adirondack Mountains, NY

Rooftops of St. Marks Place, Staten Island, NY, NY

Verrazano Bridge, New York City

Heirloom silver fork

Brugmansia, or Angel’s Trumpet

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From the solidly comforting planes of an old church to the soft radial symmetry of a flower, geometry takes many forms.

from Wikipedia:  Geometry (Ancient Greek: γεωμετρία; geo- “earth”, -metron “measurement”) is a branch of mathematics concerned with questions of shape, size, relative position of figures, and the properties of space.