THE DRY SIDE

Dry side, wet side:

Washington’s two faces.

Lush, spare, dim, bright.

In two hours you can change sides, be

transformed.

The wet side:

Seattle techies huddle over their devices,

abundant rain permanently greens the land

and skies are often moody.

The dry side:

cattle and crops settle

into a spacious landscape of pale-hued,

open-skied desert.

*

Last weekend we sped up through Snoqualmie Pass to the dry side,

alert with anticipation:

new places, open spaces.

 

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The Columbia River:

big hunk of water

set down among towering basalt cliffs.

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Roadside rock:

at sixty miles an hour.

 

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Wanapum Lake.

A dam on the Columbia River created it. Setting disagreements with damming practices aside,

it is

breathtaking.

Even the details of odd patterns in the rocks fascinate us:

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Only an hour off the Pass, and

we’re already transformed.

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Looking back north, the Vantage Bridge begins to fade.

Onward!

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The Columbia Plateau.

Sprinkled with thousands of lakes, the land

attracts water birds, the

birds attract birders,

and I am not exempt.

Great egrets, check. A pelican, too. But where are my wished for

American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt? Oh well.

The landscape is its own reward.

Late spring wildflowers

and wide open vistas:

enough.

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A delicate beauty, the Sagebrush Mariposa lily

consorts with big sage among

dry grasses.

Sun lover, it beams.

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In harsh desert light

lilies almost hide.

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Showy milkweed.

Like so many wildflowers, it’s bloom is early this year.

Ants rejoice.

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Along Lower Crab Creek, just above the Saddle Mountains.

Old fence

slowly bows

to the ground.

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Lower Crab Creek spills into wetlands, painting the dry land with new colors.

Jubilant Spring growth is softened by somber, gray-green pillows of

fragrant big sage,

with side-notes of deep orange and gold grasses

already gone to seed.

*

Big sage sleeps.

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Salsify.

Yellow dandelion-like flower yesterday,

fuzzed ball of feathered parachutes today.

Fresh breeze makes quick work of the seeds.

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When the wind is too strong for photography, and the light is too harsh

(as it was last weekend in the desert),

take your pictures anyway.

Go with it.

Let the grasses blur and shimmer as they will,

press the shutter,

and breathe deeply.

 

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Saddle Mountains.

Their furrowed slope eases down into sage and grass,

through ancient lands shaped by fire and flood.

Look hard¬† –

see the lilies dotting the field;

they’re blooming in the middle of the old sage, too.

*

If you come back, it will still be good here.

This sparse place minds its business,

sucks down what rain it can,

bakes in the sunlight. It sings

the old, high-pitched,

buzz song

of desert silence.

 

 

 

 

 

IN NY: HIGH LINE

Last week I was back in New York, the city I fell in love with at the age of five, moved to at age seventeen, then left and returned to several times before moving west in 2012.

When I was in my early twenties I kept a bike in my apartment. I would ride around lower Manhattan on the weekends before my shift at an uptown restaurant, where I waited tables. For a few summers wildflowers grew in profusion on the empty lots that were the future site of the World Trade Center, then just in the planning stages. I could pick flowers for free and bring them back to my apartment. I was always trying to meld city and country. Sometimes I got up onto the High Line, too. The High Line was an old elevated railway on the West side that had been abandoned years before. Wildflowers grew there, and small trees sprouted up through the rubble, totally untended and mostly unseen. It was magic.

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This photo was taken just last week but it evokes the feeling of the old High Line, minus the broken glass and trash. The elevated rail line was used to haul in basic foods like cream, butter and meat back in the 1940’s and 50’s. For a time, it was safer than running trains down on the busy streets. When the trucking industry expanded, the rail line fell into disuse. Instead of tearing down what many people considered an eyesore, the city did the right thing and turned it into a park. It opened in 2009 and became an instant hit with New Yorkers and tourists.

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Above, the park seen from the Whitney Museum. Last year the Whitney moved into a new building designed by Renzo Piano. The building’s hulking, muscular form visually anchors the south end of the High Line. Piano’s design allows visitors to descend from floor to floor outside the building, offering expansive views of the Hudson River waterfront, Manhattan’s West Side, and the High Line. There are nice people-watching opportunities too, if you’re in a sociable mood. I was happy for the crowds that day. I enjoyed the huge portrait show at the Whitney – Seattle doesn’t come close to what New York offers in terms of art. I also liked a Whitney show of work by June Leaf, an older artist who’s not very well known. A gallery nearby had a concurrent show of her sculpture and drawing so we headed over. We passed shows of Sigmar Polke’s painting at David Zwirner Gallery and Richard Serra’s sculpture at Gagosian. We took long drinks at the deep well that is art in New York City. It was a day of serendipity, as one thing led to the next.

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Back on the street next to Whitney, looking up towards the High Line. As you walk north or south through the park, essentially a narrow strip of real estate set with tasteful benches and beautifully landscaped with (mostly) native flowers and trees, you can pass under buildings, peer into windows and gaze down onto streets that cross underneath. You’re just above the fray. It’s enough to gain a different perspective, but not so far above that it isn’t still real, and close.

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If you’re interested, that’s Baptisia in the right corner and Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon) sprouting up through concrete strips that echo the railroad tracks. The pink and blue flowers above are Salvia pratensis (Meadow sage). The metal hoops between the rails are a sculpture called “Steel Rings” that references the Trans-Arabian pipeline, by Rayyane Tabet.

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Tony Matelli’s painted bronze sculpture “Sleepwalker” draws crowds.

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Someone has written “FELIX” on these construction plates. Why, I don’t know. It’s just another manifestation of identity in a city that always strives upwards.

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Frank Gehry’s IAC Building, his first in New York, and one of my favorite sites along the High Line. I love viewing it through these honeysuckle vines winding up a fence, but I understand that may not appeal to everyone.

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DID YOU KNOW that the elevated railroad was built because trains on tracks running down Tenth Avenue caused the deaths of many pedestrians? DID YOU KNOW that “West Side Cowboys” ran ahead of the trains on their horses, carrying red flags to warn passers by of the oncoming train? Eventually the city decided enough was enough and built the elevated line. It fell out of favor when trucking got big. It was considered an eyesore for years, but now lives anew, as one of New York’s big attractions.

The links are excellent – worth a few minutes!

Lynn Purse, of the blog Composerinthegarden, sent a great video link about the making of the High Line:

I made liberal use of some of the so-called art filters on my Olympus camera the day we went to the Whitney and High Line. It was overcast and dull out. The filters added a little punch. I go back and forth about using them, sometimes believing I should stick with images straight from the camera without in-camera modifications that I might later regret (but it’s always good to question one’s “shoulds”).

Two days earlier, I met up with another blogger, Patti Kuche. We sat down in the Rubin Museum and talked a blue streak about photography and blogging. Patti picked up my camera and casually took a few photos from where we sat, using the filters – she knew about them because she had once considered getting the camera.¬† I liked what she did, and that was all I needed to go back to trying them again. Coming soon: Patti’s photos and thoughts about bloggers’ meetings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images of Spring

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WHERE TO START? How about this closeup of a Camas blossom in a park outside of Seattle? The park used to be a golf club, and efforts are being made to slowly return the landscape to native habitat. Hence the recently planted Camassia quamash, a local meadow flower that grew in such profusion centuries ago, that Lewis and Clark are said to have remarked that the flowers gave the appearance of a lake in the distance. An important food source, the bulbs were gathered and eaten by indigenous people, and like many native plants it has suffered from habitat destruction. Now it’s often seen in perennial gardens.

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At the other end of the flowers-that-gain-our-respect spectrum are dandelions. The first crop has gone to seed, presenting macro photography opportunities. This one wore a glittering skirt of morning dew:

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This pretty little bud is another native that’s been planted here and there in the park, the Western Columbine, or Aquilegia formosa. You may have seen it in gardens:

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Squatting down in the wet grass and peering through it, as if you were a mouse, brings rewards. So does looking up.

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This is our native Vine maple, Acer circinatum, a slight tree with delicate branches and many-lobed leaves. Maples have tiny flowers in Spring – here, they make shadow play on the new leaves. Huge old willows in the park have taken a beating over the years, but the dead branches are left for the wildlife.

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Time to stroll along the willow-draped boardwalk to the water –

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On lake Washington, which hooks around to form a sheltered bay here at Juanita Bay Park, the water lily leaves have grown large enough to provide a resting spot for a weary frog, but aren’t quite big enough yet for the little Pied-billed Grebes, which will soon build nests on and among the lily pads.

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A pair of Wood Ducks, which nest in trees, scoots across the water. By this time the sun is glaring on the water and without a long lens, I can barely get a usable image. But you get the idea – they are eye-popping birds!

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As a pair of Bald eagles looks on from their post atop an empty osprey nest platform, a Mallard mother shepherds her little entourage of ten ducklings across the bay. She passes directly underneath them, but they’re uninterested in the foraging family.

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The abundant Western Painted turtles are safe from most predators and have reappeared on logs across the bay after spending winter in the mud. It’s very amusing when a heavier fellow climbs on board and the whole crew has to grab tight as the log starts to roll. Plop, plop, splash, as they fall in…

(Google log-rolling turtles and you’ll see some funny videos).

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After the walking and bending and all, it felt good to flop down on a bench and, legs splayed, lean back into the sun…

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In a few days I’m off to New York. It’s been over three years since I’ve been back and I feel out of touch. I’m looking forward to being around familiar places, sounds, smells (?), and people. But I’m kicking myself just a bit for leaving at the height of Spring.