My 2012 in Images

I’m ambivalent about reviewing a whole year. I can’t possibly pare it down to a few images.

But I’ll do my best with the latest Weekly Photo Challenge. You can see what others are doing here:

(I can’t help thinking about what’s left out: how would a summary of the year look just from the vantage point of sound, or touch, or taste or smell? What about a summary of my feelings? They are all entirely relevant).

This is the first picture I took in 2011. It’s simplicity belies my state of mind at the time – absolute anxiety, frantic activity. In a month we would move across the country to a place we had been to only once, where we had no friends and just a handful of acquaintances. We would have no jobs waiting for us, and no family within thousands of miles. So many unknowns! No matter the worries and preoccupations – these shadows and shapes drew me in.

A quick overnight to Philadelphia in early January allowed me to say goodbye to some wonderful friends who had maintained my sanity while my son was deployed in Afghanistan the previous year. Was this statue telling me something about my future?

It was tough to say goodbye to these good people.

Soon after getting back home, I was on a plane to Seattle to find a place to live.  A generous acquaintance offered to put me up – I had a week to figure out where to live, but I had done the research and had good leads.  I secured an apartment within days, so I began exploring the area before the flight back home. One evening there was a spectacular sunset – maybe it was a portent, because the next day Seattle was hit with a big snowstorm – and in this part of the world, which doesn’t see a whole lot of snow, that meant everything stopped.

It sure was gorgeous though…

But planes were grounded and I waited nervously as flights were cancelled, and cancelled again. Finally I was good to go so I navigated the icy roads to the airport, turned my car in, and learned that once again, my flight was cancelled. I secured what appeared to be the last hotel room within miles, and the next morning the de-icers were out in force.


I did manage to get home. There wasn’t much time left for goodbyes to favorite places – and people. A close friend from upstate came down and we had a great day hanging out in coffee shops and scouring a tag sale for finds (yes, a tag sale in Manhattan!) I walked the High Line in January cold and photographed my favorite Gehry building through a scrim of morning glory vines.


And I was glad for sunny days. Oh, that skyline from the ferry. I didn’t know how I would live without it.

Two days before our lease was up, we muddled through a long day of watching and negotiating as movers packed our belongings and hit us with huge extra charges. We slept one last night on a couch we left for the landlord, and then turned our keys in and painstakingly wound our way through city traffic and out to JFK with our sedated sixteen-year-old cat and all the luggage we could carry. We climbed on board the plane and before long we were crossing the Rockies!

After one night in a hotel we took possession of our new apartment. I hung my beads at the window and we waited for our furniture, our clothes, our – everything – to arrive. For about ten days we slept on an air mattress and dined on an upturned box. Our netbooks became our lifelines at the local cafe. We slowly stocked the fridge and explored our neighborhood in a rental car while waiting for our own cars to make their way across the country. Yes! – we found a Trader Joe’s and plenty of good espresso joints nearby.

Eventually our furniture arrived – hardly anything broke!  Then one car, and eventually the other. The planning really paid off. One thing we could not control though, was our aging cat’s health. We found a good vet and they tried their best, but it was all too much, and we had to say goodbye to Pablo towards the end of the month.  It was a terrible blow, and we were dealing with it alone, in a strange place. The vet said his ashes would be spread at an apple orchard on the road into the mountains.  We were heartened by the thought of his body nourishing apples that might someday nourish us.  RIP Pabs.

We set about exploring the Pacific Northwest with a vengeance – rarely going more than two hours away – there were islands and mountains, a new city, interesting small towns, miles of shoreline and acres of farms.

Whether a distant view or a close-up, it was all looking good to me. And so different!

What are those weird things on the beach?

Bull whip kelp!  That’s like seaweed!  They grow everything so damn big out here!

When we weren’t exploring the countryside we poked around Seattle. Yes, there’s culture and yes, there’s art.

And MOSS. Moss everywhere! Even in the cold winter months it was brilliant green, coating branches like fur.


And what a refreshing change the open space was. I discovered Duvall, a nearby town founded in 1913 (like that was a long time ago?) with a great sense of style.

 I found a conservatory that I could escape to on the endless gray days, as I waited for spring.

Eventually spring did start to peek around the corner, but it took forever to warm up.

I volunteered at a botanical garden to get closer to the plants I love.

In the woods there were wildflowers I hadn’t seen in years – trilliums seemed almost commonplace. Back east they’re picked clean, at least around metropolitan New York.


I went up to see the fields of tulips and daffodils that are grown north of here. It was, of course, another gray day, but everyone promised that summer would be endlessly sunny.

I was getting tired of waiting for the sun.


So I amused myself by joining a photography group and working harder on my photography.

Overcast days can make for lovely, even light, so I tried to understand how to take better advantage of the weather.

When we had time we drove into the mountains and hiked among the old growth – the giants – and I was humbled and full of love for them.


Back in Seattle we discovered Georgetown, a photogenic neighborhood with an appealing funk quotient.

I volunteered for a court program that advocates for children. It was hard work but rewarding.

I read about a project that involves local people in making prints for the families of people killed on 9/11, and so I volunteered for that, too, and carved a block for a print.


Summer finally came, and it was simply gorgeous – dry every day for months, never hot.

Up on the mountain passes there was beautiful fog to wander through, and plentiful berries in the fields.

Wherever I live I make it a point to find scraps of land with wildflowers that become my florists. Ten minutes from home I found an abandoned railroad track with butterfly bush, California poppies, fireweed, tansy, St. Johnswort…heaven!

We explored the working docks and shipyards of Seattle. Back in New York we used to watch tugs and container ships from our window, but here we can get close up to small crew fishing boats.

In August I began this blog with a brief post about a mid-summer day when I felt glum and uninspired, but after walking through fields and recording the amazing light on seed, flower, leaf and fruit, I was renewed. It was a good beginning to the blog that has become a rewarding way to express myself and be inspired by others all over the world who are doing the same thing.

In the fall we took a day trip back to Mount Rainier. When we visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 2011, our day at Mount Rainier was one of the most powerful experiences we had.  This time I felt sick all say but I didn’t let it stop me – there were plentiful wildflowers, and we saw bears!

A few weeks later we took an overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula and caught a drizzly late afternoon chill on Hurricane Ridge. The infamous, quickly changing Pacific Northwest weather was demanding that we pay attention.


In November we returned to New York for a wedding, a week after Sandy had devastated the region. We stayed with family on Long Island who had been out of power for a week already.  We tried to help untangle wires from the broken trees and huddled in front of a gas fire.

But oh, the food! And the pizza! The Pacific Northwest has great fresh food, but nowhere else, as far as we know, can you get anything like this slice, from an ordinary pizza place in Manhattan.

The wedding went off without a hitch. We had a day or so to see more family and revisit old haunts like the Rubin Museum, Battery Park and Financier Patisserie, and then suddenly the trip was over.

Back home, I talked myself into appreciating the drizzly gray days.

On  Thanksgiving Day those overcast skies cast a gorgeous silvery light on the sound.

I still scream “SUN!” when it peaks out from behind the clouds, but I’m more reconciled to the weather than I was the first few months. There is so much to enjoy here, and somehow, spending a week back in New York helped me feel more like this is my home.  We’re sure that the spirit of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest will engage our curiosity for a long time.

Whether expressed in something fashioned by human hands or embodied in a roadside field, I find a great respect for the land and nature here.

The other day we saw this:

a stretch of hundred-year-old brick road and

a lovely, eccentric woman

taking a walk with her miniature horse, named


We expect to enjoy many years of pleasant surprises in this corner of the country. We wish our families were closer, but we’ll try to rack up frequent flier miles for visits – New York and the east coast are great places to visit, aren’t they?

Surprises Everywhere – Weekly Photo Challenge

There are all kinds of surprises…


Six years ago today I took this picture, and some thing never change.

But the upside to being distractable is that I notice a lot. And a  lot that I see interests and surprises me.

These men – one in Seattle, one in Manhattan – found creative ways to enjoy themselves in the city.

Sometimes though, the city has surprises that are not so appealing.

This rusted out car was abandoned in a park in New York City. And surprisingly, I saw this butterfly nectaring on a wildflower nearby on the same day.

People who are naturally curious find surprises everywhere.  The other day as dusk fell and fog settled over the fields, the lights went on in the greenhouses nearby, captivating me with their eerie glow.

And this afternoon amid the gloom of a cold gray rain, I found fuchsias blooming in Seattle:

And what’s more, I did not burn my toast today. Or my napkin. Surprise!

The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge subject this week is “Surprise”.  I could have posted an empty frame – “Surprise!” –  but I think that has limited appeal.  I’m hoping you enjoyed the photographs of just a few surprising things I’ve seen, and you’ll find more at:

Left to Their Own Devices

No gardener worked to create the strange song of the blues this leaf sings, alone on the wind.

No one designed this quiet intermingling of clinging lichens and springing moss, sharing secrets on a damp branch.

Ravaged to their core, grasses still bow and send soft arabesques into the cold.

And stalks of fireweed wind their wacky way to the sky, innocent of human intention.

I have no argument with gardeners or human intent though. I know –

with or without our intervening helping hands,

there’s beauty out there,


along with us

on the precipice

of the darkest day

of the year.

Photos taken recently at Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland, Washington.

It’s Delicate

When my friend Joe worked at a state forensic psychiatric ward, one of his favorite patients was a man who never talked much except to remark, “It’s very tricky!” with a slightly conspiratorial air. Jerry would sit down in the art room and silently paint dreamy watercolor landscapes. For him it seemed life was a tricky series of negotiations between what some treatment professionals called reality and what he was actually experiencing. It was all tricky. One might also say, it’s all very delicate.

The borders between health and illness can be very delicately drawn when you’re trying to negotiate emotional ups and downs that seem to be conspiring to drive you over the edge.

But there’s nothing delicate about arming yourself with three guns and striding into an elementary school to find little kids to kill. There’s nothing delicate about shooting your mother in the face and killing her. There’s nothing delicate about the long nights and days the Newtown survivors now face without their children, their brothers and sisters, parents, friends, teachers.

As a mother of one child, a boy, I feel acutely the horror of the loss of a child when these violent acts happen, and I imagine the horror of grief and surprise that the parents of murderers must feel. Because this latest mass shooting took place not far from the house where we last lived together, I am compelled to look at pictures of my son taken long ago. An innocent infant – so inconceivably delicate:

How many nights did I stay up worrying that he wouldn’t come home? How many days did I spend agonizing over some trouble he was in and wondering if he would even make it to adulthood? It was often a very delicate balancing act, but yes, he is alive, and compared to many, he and I are lucky.

I don’t know what we can do to decrease the frequency of mass shootings – enact gun control legislation? Surely. Educate people towards a more enlightened approach to mental health? Certainly. Pay better attention to what’s going on in the delicate reaches of the minds of those around us? Yes. And perhaps try to embody light, in this dark season, a little more. It’s a delicate balance, isn’t it?

Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie, Washington

We were supposed to have a little sun yesterday. Well, the sun barely showed,  but at least it wasn’t raining so I took a drive south and found a spot along the Snoqualmie River to take a few pictures. I love the texture of a mountain with just a little snow on it, and the subtle drifts of clouds along the peaks.



Up the road people were casting for steelhead trout, but here it was quiet.


Until a paraglider caught my eye – the camera lens can only take in so much, so you have to look hard. But that’s what it looked like – a vast sky, a forbiddingly steep, rocky mountain face, and a tiny paraglider drifting down into the trees.


Somewhere over there, hopefully, a good landing was made.


The Big Leaf Maples along the river edge were thick with moss and licorice fern. They say the rootstock of this pretty little fern that stays green all winter tastes like licorice, but I keep forgetting to try it.


As for climbing Mount Si, I’m not in shape for that climb (thousands of people do though, every year) but I’m glad I can photograph it.

Time to Play

I’ve been playing with a free photo effects program put out by Onone, called Perfect Effects 4. There are textures, borders and vintage effects, HDR effects, what I call “quick and dirty” brushes you can use to highlight an area, make it warmer, change its contrast…and it goes on. The program works with Lightroom and/or Photoshop and they say that soon they’ll have a stand alone version.

The fabulous old truck pictured above is parked in an industrial area of Staten Island. There’s a wholesale food market I used to go to, and one day when we had to park way in the back we discovered this treasure. So cool! It said “E.H. Scroogy” on the side and had a 1956 N.J. inspection sticker, but it’s obviously much older. I only had my phone but I still got some good pics. But I digress.


I tend to use most effects with a light touch, but sometimes a heavier hand makes an interesting picture.


The yellow flowers and this road to a farm are in the Snoqualmie River Valley, not far from home. I took the pictures a few weeks ago. There were horses in the field, and those are the Cascade Mountains you see in the background. You can bet those are the last flowers blooming wild around here this year.


I used some selective blurring, highlighting,and darkening, and played with the colors of this photo of Japanese Hakone grass at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden in NYC. I think its curves are pure grace.


I ran into this wonderfully cool man in a parking lot in North Carolina. I’m guessing he carved his own crutch. His beard is braided & tied. Look at his sunglasses – so nonchalant! Such warm and lively eyes. What stories he must have.

You can find Onone software at their website – and no, I’m not advertising. You may be able to get a free program through an online magazine called They offered the program free for signing up for the (also free) magazine. It’s a self-promotional world…but I digress….

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD, at 47.6 degrees latitude, the change of the seasons means short days in December. Walking around Seattle in mid afternoon, I see alleys are already dim…

…but shop windows shine with objects to buy.

Bypassing the shops, I continue on to the waterfront.

It’s a little after 4pm on December 7th and the stark beauty of the sunset draws me to this construction site. A crane looms and seed heads of butterfly bushes, gone wild along the edge of a parking lot, bend with the wind. In the distance across Puget Sound I can see the wild, snow-topped Olympic Mountains.

The shortest day of the year is a few weeks away. Gray skies will rule for several more months, but soon the days will slowly grow longer as winter pushes towards spring.

Bloggers from around the world are sharing photos of changing seasons – in all sorts of latitudes and longitudes:

MAPPING A CONCEPT: Weekly Photo Challenge: Concept

Jake’s Weekly Photo Challenge topic is “Concept”.  I like maps as maps and I like maps as concepts – above, a plant found on Florida’s West coast sits on a map of the region, the plant’s tangled arcs echoing the curves of road and shoreline.

My scribbled map of local wanderings in the “wilds” of Staten Island, a forgotten borough of New York City that, if you explore its fringes, can reveal old pot shards at the water’s edge and fields of yellow sweet clover.


Photoshopping a picture of tropical leaves from a greenhouse produces a map-like array of lines and shapes – countries, rivers, boundaries and highways.


The broken glass at an abandoned greenhouse in Yonkers, New York reminds me of a map too. The fragments could be islands separated by canals.


Twigs reach into space like roads reach across a territory; their buds are the exits where something new awaits.



The Boardman Bombing Range in Oregon: No Public Access – says the map.

The Columbia River passing through Longview, and on down into the uncharted parts of a well eaten magnolia leaf.

Today I was planning to post some photographic studies I did earlier this week of  “skeletonized” leaves (their essence pared down to vein structure) and a map of Washington. The leaf  veins are a kind of map themselves, and when they are superimposed over the routes of the map a confusion of lines and scale erupts: the vast spaces represented by the map mix it up with the tiny interstices of leaf veins.  I must have intuited that Jake was going to challenge us to photograph a concept this week. Maps exist as objects but they’re deeply imprinted as concepts in our minds, too. There’s something deeply satisfying about the way maps  reflect our internal sense of order and our external knowledge of the land.

Maps fire the imagination. I like to pour over them at home, make a plan, follow it for awhile, then jettison the map and veer off into the unknown.

And I love GPS, especially when I drive onto a ferry and the screen puts the little car in the middle of the vast blue water.  There’s nothing so pleasurable as turning off the GPS once you’ve reached new territory and exploring until you’re hungry, knowing you can turn it back on again and find your way “Home” anytime.

“A map is by nature interdisciplinary.”  P.C. Meuhrcke



Lingering Local Color

Fall lingers in the pacific northwest; its transition to winter is subtle. Without the hard freezes many areas experience, scattered leaves cling tightly to fences, mushrooms crop up on forest logs, and berries and mosses remain bright.

Reflective Weekly Photo Challenge

Reflections are all around us, and can create a surreal sense of duality in photographs – says Jared Bramblett, who hosts this week’s photo challenge at The Daily Post. He’s used a mirror placed on a wooden walkway to wonderful effect – it looks as though the wood planks are reflected in a puddle of water.  I love that kind of playing with the way we see and I’ve been interested in reflections for years – they catch you off guard, often providing an amusing take on your surroundings. So here are a few photos of reflections I’ve taken:


The subject is ambiguous – it could be the man wearing sunglasses, the reflection of the flowering tree in his sunglasses, or the photographer.

Self portrait

The subject is more obvious here – sometimes leaving the screens up all winter provides a texture you can play with.



The Everglades in Florida is full of epiphytes – those cool looking plants that perch on dead branches and gather moisture from the air.



Muscular! That’s what I think this building in Manhattan is. The sky it reflects on this day – poetic.



The Experience Music Project in Seattle is an ode to Hendrix, and the main building is extraordinary. It’s all wild curves and intense colors – so much so that on a bright day (there are plenty in Seattle in the summertime) the building throws its reflections onto the sidewalks, creating patterns that explode almost as wildly as…you know, Jimi.


This sedate building on the grounds of Snug Harbor, a botanical garden in Staten Island, NY, allows afternoon sunlight to cast shadows and reflections simultaneously, creating a complex puzzle of inside and outside.


More complexity – flowers, their shadows, their reflections, a frame without a picture in it – except there is a picture in it – the reflections and shadows of the sky and flowers, which take on a stained glass look.


Taken on the fly with my phone camera, this is what I love to do as soon as weather permits – fling my foot out the car window and maybe take a picture into the side view mirror – there, I have a mirror photo in my reflection collection!


More reflections can be found along with Jared’s photo at: