What a Difference a Year Can Make

This week I will celebrate my first 365 days in the Pacific Northwest. These images, photographs of places I frequented in my old home town and places I’m been exploring here on my new home ground, bookend the year.

Last week I drove up Cougar Mountain, outside Seattle, to the so-called “Million Dollar View”.  We had been stuck in a weather inversion that produced nothing but thick fog day and night. It’s easy to rise above it though – a thousand or so feet up and I was out of the mist. Foggy cloud banks rested gracefully across the valleys and Douglas firs cast soft lavender blue reflections on the lake below. Over a hundred miles north of where I stood, sunlight graced the flanks of Mount Baker, one of the snowiest places in the world and the site of extensive volcanic research.

Exactly a year before that day I met old friends for coffee at Think Coffee near New York University. Walking past an alley in Soho later that afternoon I came across this softly lit and surprisingly quiet scene:

A few days later I took a break from packing to spend an hour in one of my favorite places – the Conservatory at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden. A Bird of Paradise flower provided all the scrumptious candy color I craved on that cold, dark New York winter afternoon.

Exactly a year later I was looking for a diversion from winter’s dreariness again. This time a  handsome horse named Diamond trotted over to see what I was up to as I walked beside a fenced field where she boards. Realizing I had no treats for her, she turned and broke into a wild gallop in the mud with another horse. She’s clearly well cared for, and what nice digs she has in the foothills of the Cascades. (How do I know her name? Because a guy on a four wheeler zoomed over to tell me I shouldn’t be trespassing. Before walking back to the road I asked about the horse, who he said was Diamond,  “a real show-off.”)

The next day, I was watching the sun set along a back road that follows a meandering river ten miles east of my house.  I had spotted a Great Blue Heron in a wet field a mile down the road, but here the only sign of life was a lone, out of season frog calling from its hiding spot in the tangle of grass. I wondered how old that barn is, and what they grow here, and I was glad for the small farms that somehow manage to survive so close to my new home.

Just a year ago I was on the water in New York Harbor, taking this photograph of the MOL Endurance, a container ship making its way towards port. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, spanned sparkling blue harbor waters that morning. On a good day the light and spaciousness of New York Harbor trigger ideas and possibilities in my mind – where did that ship come from, what’s in those containers, and what adventure awaits me in a few minutes, when I walk off the ferry to Manhattan?

Two late January sunsets complete my coastal seesaw – one taken a year ago from my old apartment above New York Harbor, looking over snowy rooftops to the soft glow of lights at a container terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. The other sunset is over the Snoqualmie River, just outside the little town of Duvall, Washington:

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Themes seem to repeat on both sides of the country: landscapes seen through the filigree of tangled grasses or branches, colors and textures that make me want to reach out and touch, and foregrounds giving way to distant views. A lot has changed in a year, but my central concerns in photography – the love of nature and of ordinary, everyday life – have just shifted their expression a few thousand miles to the west.


24 comments

  1. As a coast-hopper myself, I can definitely appreciate the wonderful differences, and every place has its delicious flavors. I have had a tantalizing taste of New York and hope to go back some day and savor it for more than a painfully short couple days. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    • Absolutely – you must go back for as long as you can. I know it’s expensive but there are ways to tackle that. I have a friend who rents a room out very inexpensively, for example. Thanks!

      • I’d love to go with some friends to see the Brooklyn Art Library where our sketchbooks, like the one I’ve been posting from, reside and can be checked out for viewing. So many things to do and see there…

  2. What a thoughtful post. I love the simple, what some would call the ordinary. I don’t see and clearly you don’t see the ordinary as mundane, as something to be passed over. You celebrate that which so many pass by while they wait for some sort of magnificence? Ironic isn’t it. And I must add as well, you do a fantastic job of photographing what you bring into your life and you elevate it to art. 🙂

    • Thanks for taking the time to make a thoughtful comment! It’s hard to find the time – there are so many interesting blogs out there. As for observing the world, some people can’t even see the magnificent, right? I’ve been paying close attention since I was tiny, and over the years the observation skills are honed. Then if we’re lucky, we find a way to share what we’ve seen, and the most gratifying thing is when the sharing triggers responses like yours, so thanks again.

    • Well, there has been some culture shock – I’m used to much louder, more expressive, less polite people! It’s actually Western WA, outside of Seattle. It would have been too big a shock to move to someplace without the diversity Seattle has. There’s so much to enjoy – from the miracle of solar powered recycling bins on street corners to tromping around Paradise on Mount Rainier, it never ends! And Trumpeter swans in fields nearby! I’m used to aggressively begging Mute swans! Funny how Song sparrows are darker here. Oh, and drivers who let you in a lane? Unthinkable in NY!

  3. What a change, but it sounds like you’ve adapted well. That guy on the three wheeler sounds like a killjoy. Once he informed you that you were on private property and saw that you weren’t a threat, he could have let you stay.

    • That would have been nice. I’m pretty sure his boss, the owner, sent him over and watched. This is typical metro NYC behavior so I’m very use to it, but so far I’ve hardly experienced a rude moment here in the Pacific Northwest. The adaptation thing is a work in progress.


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