Crocus arise amid the litter of last year’s growth, gracing the forest floor with tender color.
Photo taken today at Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA.
A Photo Challenge that makes you think! The idea this week is to take three photos: one to establish the scene, one to show interaction between two elements in the scene, and one to up get close. My second shot shows four rather than two elements – but I think the principle is the same, and who could resist that wacky word quartet?
These photos (taken with my old Samsung Galaxy phone) show a public art piece called “Vernacular” by Seattle artist Buster Simpson, at the Bellevue Public Library. The man and his son are heading into the parking garage, where even more license plates stamped with words hang on an interior wall.
Anyone care to create a poem from these words? Grabbing more words from the first photo is permitted.
More responses to this week’s Daily Post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge are here. And I can’t resist – here are two more images from yesterday’s trip to the library – an uncanny vamping welcome, anyone?
In case you’re wondering, as we were, a zyzzyva is a kind of snout-y, tropical American beetle, but the word’s obvious charm has led to other uses, among them, the name for a group of West coast artists and writers – how cool is that? Here’s their latest work.
We took another walk in a nearby state forest that’s full of old logging roads – the same place we found the crazy, moss-growing car wrecks. This time we went a bit further. It had been a very cold week, the pond was iced up and the creek at the far end rushed madly past ice-slicked logs and rocks.
The ice took strange forms – a football-size blob of it hung off a log from a narrow cord of ice – we couldn’t figure out what, if anything, was inside this ice blob to enable it to maintain that shape. We wondered how long ago this creek water had been part of a glacier somewhere far up in the Cascades. I suspect not too long ago. The noise at the creek’s edge was loud and energizing!
An ice-covered log did not invite crossing, but it did invite study – we admired the wavy ice form and it’s crackled glass surface.
Sturdy old cedars and firs were scattered here and there, and a prize Englemann spruce arced precariously over the beaver pond.
The branches you see leaning against the tree are not propping it up. Maybe someone was drying them to use for a fire – I saw evidence that folks do come down here to sit around a fire, and enjoy that secret family recipe…
Licorice fern fronds on the moss-covered tree trunks had curled up from the cold, but alongside the road an early bug basked in the winter sunlight on a blade of grass.
The logging road passes through a more recently logged area – not a pretty sight:
Along the creek I wandered off the path to look at the ice patterns on the water’s edge, and I stumbled across a pile of fresh water mussels – some of them quite sizable, left there by what – an otter, a raccoon, a muskrat?
Freshwater mussels in America are a very threatened group of animals; more than 10% of our species vanished in the last 100 years. The mussel below, the Western pearlshell mussel (Margaritifera falcata) is thought to be in decline. Its larvae actually live for a few weeks in the gills of salmon; then later, they drop down and burrow into the stream bed. Another sight that day was an old salmon carcass, caught in a logjam. That fish probably played host to mussels, which I learned grow abundantly in parts of this creek.
I felt privileged to have seen traces of the lives of creatures that are essential to the Pacific northwest.
And get this – the Western pearlshell mussel can live over 100 years! As you might guess, they are sensitive to changes in their habitat, so seeing them is an indicator of a good, clean, relatively undisturbed environment.
It was cold enough for extra layers, and hats and gloves too – but it felt good to be out in the fresh air. Though there was precious little bird life that day, we were delighted to hear the sweet, melodic song of the American Dipper, an eccentric little fellow clad in somber gray who perches just over the water and dips into it head-first – often with his whole body – to forage for food underwater. All the while he bobs up and down like some cool rocker. I couldn’t get a good photo, but here’s where we saw him (twice now):
And here is an amazing video of a dipper swimming under water, not too far from where we were.
This one is hard to believe – at the Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, a baby Beluga whale plays with a dipper.
We live in such an amazing world.
A parting shot of the winter woods:
I hope it’s not too jarring to see some of these photos processed as monotone images. The older trees especially seem to lend themselves to that look.
WordPress has compiled its Photography 101 series into a free ebook, which includes a chapter I wrote on Point of View. There are loads of images to inspire you and many useful tips and techniques throughout the book. Save it for reference or scroll through it for new ideas. You can download it here:
And since I cannot imagine a post without images, here are few random selections from the archives:
Why not end with a song?
I photographed pianist Johnny Hahn at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where he has played his piano on wheels most every day for over 25 years. Please enjoy this you tube video of him.
“Stillaguamish” is the lovely tongue twisting name of a wild river that runs from the Cascade Range into Puget Sound. Named after the people who originally lived there, it is fed by the North and South Fork Stillaguamish Rivers – forty combined miles of scenic, salmon-rich, flood-prone waters tumbling through mountains, foothills and farmlands.
Recently we took an afternoon walk on Lime Kiln Trail in the South Fork Stillaguamish River watershed. Formerly logging land and now a county park, the forest is scattered with giant cedar stumps – evidence of a landscape which must have been jaw dropping to anyone who saw it before logging eradicated the giant trees.
It is still a beautiful place, but when I gaze on the immensity of those stumps I wonder how people could have cut them all down and carted them away. They are like Grandmothers in my mind, Grandmothers slaughtered. For what? For buildings, and shingles, that so often just burned to the ground…
In spite of such thoughts I did enjoy the novelty of a sunny winter day on the trail. People and their dogs were out in force and the going was easy. Sunlight filtered gently through tattered drapes of hanging moss and a delightfully warm breeze wafted across our cheeks.
(this one looked like it burned down)
Sword fern (Polystichum munitum), an evergreen, leathery fern that often blankets the forest floor
Cat Tail Moss (Isothecium myosuoides, or I. stoloniferum)
A Polypore Mushroom, probably Fomitopsis pinicola (Red-Belted Conk)
Bird’s Nest Fungus (Nidula niveotomentosa)
Scrutinizing the forest floor beside the path, I was excited to find an unusual little fungus, called Bird’s Nest Fungus. These tiny fungi have spores concentrated in little discs at the bottom of the cup-shaped body. When a raindrop splashes at just the right angle, out pops a disc of spores.
Bird’s Nest Fungus from above – it was a sunny day but in this cool, shady pocket, raindrops persist on the moss. And there was something even more amazing today in this low, cold spot alongside the trail…
Yes, it’s ice. It forms under special conditions, often on the branches of Alder trees, which are plentiful in parts of this forest. Apparently a bacteria living inside alder wood causes water freeze at a slightly higher temperature than it normally would. When that happens, water inside the branch expands and squeezes out of little cracks and fissures in the bark. If the air temperature drops below freezing, then the ice stays frozen in place, curling up in hair-like tendrils.
Like so many small things in this forest, it remains undisturbed. Sunlight doesn’t reach this corner; wind is rare. Only a careless person or an animal walking by might knock it off. I was tempted to touch it but was afraid I would break it, so I resisted the impulse. I’ve seen this phenomenon in photos on other blogs, but never in person until this day. What a treat!
Sunlight filters through Cat Tail moss on a Douglas Fir Pseudotsuga menziesii tree.
From close to the ground the riot of growth looks chaotic.
Big Leaf Maple or Acer macrophyllum
These common lowland forest trees are often multi-trunked and typically host heavy loads of moss, lichens and epiphytic plants. It looks like this tree grew up around an old cedar stump which eventually rotted. It’s plants growing on plants here in the moist, shady forest.
Sun’s getting lower – time to head back. Someone has left two walking sticks for the next hikers…
A last glance at the forest. In the upper left corner another Big Leaf Maple sports Licorice ferns. The trees straight ahead are a mix of Douglas fir, Western Hemlock and Red Cedar. Forests in this part of the world support lush, dramatic growth but usually do not have a large variety of tree species, which makes it easy to learn to identify them.
I enjoy the identification game – figuring out what species I saw and reading about them when I get home – but I believe that fully being there with the living things of the forest- smelling, touching, listening, looking – is the ground on which the rest of our knowledge can flower. I’ll be getting out in the woods again, sun or no sun, as soon as I can!
The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is to focus on one object. Here’s a little silver clown ring with articulated head, arms and legs. While I was out exploring, I set it down on an old wood plank and took a picture. This guy may be out of place but he’s grinning anyway!
More objects people have photographed for the challenge are here.