SCATTER

What does “scatter” bring to mind? An image of objects thrown about chaotically? Someone being called scatter-brained?

That’s never a good thing.

But look around. The world tends to fall out of order, scattering is everywhere.

And often, the disorder is beautiful.

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Wildflowers and grasses scatter across summer fields.

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Shadows and reflections scatter over the water’s surface.

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Paint peels, leaving old things looking scattered and tattered.

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Rocks are scattered over riverbeds, trees topple and scatter through forests and fields.

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Petals scatter when they fall to the ground, reminding us how close we are to earth.

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Clouds and shadows scatter among the mountain tops.

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Maybe even mountains scatter when they’re thrust up over the earth’s crust.

The tumbling horizon that carries our thoughts away may seem orderly, but isn’t it a scattered path?

Unpredictable energy.

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We try to contain the disorder, but our efforts are only temporarily successful.

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Sometimes we invite chaos, we entertain disorder.

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Above, a shelter at a public garden with a scattered pattern of colored glass panes, being overtaken by equally scattered vines.  Below, a pair of flower part “scatterings” I threw together from bouquet leavings.

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No doubt there is satisfaction in ordering one’s world, but the act of scattering, whether it happens in nature, in the built environment or in our minds, brings unexpected relationships forward. That in turn, offers an opportunity to see the world (and maybe the self) differently.

The next time you’re compelled to put your environment in order, taking a minute to find something interesting in the scattered disarray might be worth your while.

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From the Cambridge dictionary:

scatter                                                                                                                                                    

verb                                                                                                                                                                                             to move apart in many directions, or to throw something in different directions:
We grew up in a small town, but now we’re scattered all over the country.

scattered                                                                                                                                 

adjective                                                                                                                                                                                    There will be scattered showers throughout the afternoon.

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The West is East of Here

 

Here are images from my recent trip east, where I roamed around the West.

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Confused? Well… Washington is geographically in the western United States, but only parts of the state look like our idea of the “West.”  The Cascade Mountain Range divides the state in two: western/coastal Washington and central/eastern Washington. The western side of the mountains, where I live, has a wet, temperate climate. Industry and technology drive the economy, especially in and around Seattle. On the eastern side the weather is much drier, the population more sparse, and agriculture takes precedence over technology or industry.  That’s where I expect to find remnants of America’s “Wild West”  – but I have to travel east to get there.

 

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The Govan Schoolhouse. Photo taken with a film camera and processed in Silver Efex.

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The shingles are loose, the floor is rotten, and birds scatter and cry foul if you get too close.

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The schoolhouse roof has seen better days.

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More old buildings in Govan that seem to embody a life of hard work and practical values.

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A deserted home welcomes plants more than people these days. Photo taken with a film camera, processed in Silver Efex.

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The town of Curlew still has a false-fronted saloon and a general store, but miners no longer come looking for moonshine.  Around the corner…

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An old Seagrave fire truck from about 1949 gathers dust and dirt. 

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The Curlew bridge. It hasn’t been altered since it was built in 1908, and still features a wooden roadbed. Center your wheels!

 

 

Sadly, Riverside’s Detro’s Western Store is going out of business after 71 years. Western boots are on sale, along with saddles, hats, and rodeo equipment.

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Down the street from Detro’s Western store, a weathered building has an aura of neglect.

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Another anonymous building in Riverside.

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The stretch of small town shadows and summer afternoons is mighty long.

 

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A bike in front of the store has been left out a little too long, but it sure adds to the charm.

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A cigar store  Indian stands guard at the grocery store in Riverside.

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A life-size, sculpted Indian on horseback gazes into the distance. He’s part of an extensive Wild West collection at the Black Bear Motel in Davenport.

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In Metaline Falls, architectural details recall a more prosperous past.

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There’s plenty of room to spread out, here among the rolling hills.

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It seems that everywhere I look, whether at an old storefront in town or a grassy field outside of town, colors are subtly weathered, from the harshness of the elements.

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An unidentified wildflower, past bloom but still beautiful, graces a vacant lot.

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A barbed wire fence, a bullet-ridden old can, and utter quiet in Lincoln County.

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This pretty Mariposa lily hosts an insect convention.

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One lone tree stands vigil amid grasses and wildflowers.

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Glacial erratics are scattered over the earth in Douglas County. A National Natural Landmark, the area was on the edge of an ice sheet several million years ago; these giants were left behind.

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The empty road reminds me of all the people who have come west, looking for freedom and a new life.

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Why do we take photographs when we travel? To remember. In the emotional rush that is the excitement of new places, there often isn’t much consideration given to the best angle, the best settings, or how to compose a picture that tells the story – we aren’t even sure what the story is sometimes. We just want to record, and sometimes that means less than optimal images. But each time we travel we get a little better at remembering to work the image, to make it more than a snapshot. There’s another factor that motivates me – I’m looking for patterns. Not just patterns within a particular frame, but patterns across time that are connections to other images from other places.

This post is presented as a visual narrative of a particular trip, but also carries forward ideas I have about beauty and loss, the intrigue of form and shadow, and maybe, an expression of the fullness of spirit that sometimes finds me, in the best moments of forgetting.

 

 

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Other Roads

Our trip to the Kootenay region of British Columbia hit a snag, and roads led us

elsewhere.

I found the four elements arranged themselves nicely,

anyway.

Fire, earth, air, water – we felt them all, sometimes

painfully.

The heat was oppressive and we had a bad meal or two. But smile-inducing surprises

found us.

And visual delights?

I found them.

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Pastels soothe the eyes and in the distance, power giants loom, but delicately.

We were there, and

Yes, you’re here.

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Here is an arrangement of images, reflecting various arrangements of the four elements, as seen on my trip through central and eastern Washington State.

 

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First Photo:  A rural road in Douglas County, central Washington State. There were 849 farms in the county at last US Dept. of Agriculture census in 2012. The average age of the farms’ principle operators was 59, and farms produced $327,190,000 in wheat. (Earth)

Second: Trail marker at Ohme Gardens, Wenatchee.

Third: Rushing water at Deception Falls, Cascade Mountains, near Skykomish. (Water)

Fourth: Detail of the Tumwater Pipeline Bridge. In the 1890’s the bridge supported a wooden pipe carrying water to power the Great Northern Railroad as it climbed Stevens Pass. Now it is repurposed as part of the Tumwater Pipeline trail. (Earth)

Fifth: A field of Yarrow behind barbed wire outside the ghost town of Govan, Lincoln County. (Earth)

Sixth: “Amber waves of grain” – and green, Lincoln County. (Earth)

Seventh: More wheat fields outside Govan. (Earth)

Eighth: An old windmill in a wheat field, at 60 mph. (Air)

Ninth: Shingle siding on the old Govan Schoolhouse, built in 1905. The small town has slowly faded over the years and is now marked by a grain elevator and shipping terminal.  The steeple came down two years ago; there are many photos of the two room schoolhouse online, with the steeple intact.  (Earth)

Tenth: Plants press against an old window at a general store, Riverside. (Earth)

Eleventh: Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) on a tree at Sweet Creek Falls, between the old mining towns of Ione and Metalline, in Washington’s northeast corner. (Earth)

Twelfth: The Tye River eases over rock at Deception Falls, about 13 miles west of Stevens Pass. Nearby, on January 6, 1893 the last rail spike was set to connect Seattle to St. Paul, Minnesota, and through to the east coast.  Echoes of revolvers and the shouts of men on a winter night marked the achievement of over 1800 miles of track laid down across the West. Twenty-four years earlier the first transcontinental railroad had been completed in Utah; the privately financed GN was now the northernmost rail line in the states. Nearby Stevens Pass is named for its discoverer, John Frank Stevens, who engineered the Great Northern Railroad and later was chief engineer of the Panama Canal. (Water)

Thirteenth: Water roars through a narrow passage at Deception Falls. (Water)

Fourteenth: An old tree root, probably Western redcedar, at Ohme Gardens in Wenatchee. (Earth)

Fifteenth: Forest fire damage in the Colville National Forest, seen from Boulder Creek Road at 60 mph. The Stickpin Fire of 2015 originated with a lightning strike on August 11th. By early September the National Guard, helicopters, and crews from distant locations were on the scene working to contain the fire. It was just 36% contained on September 8th, almost a month after it began, The fire was one of many across the region that year. Three firefighters lost their lives on August 19th when fire enveloped their vehicle in a separate fire east of here. By that time, 600 square miles were burning across Washington. The road this photo was taken from was closed, people miles away wore face masks outdoors, and evacuation orders were issued for some areas.

–  From the Barreca Vineyard blog: “The valleys filled with smoke, the ghosts of dead forests from the mountains around us. We wore breathing masks outside. Ash rained down on buildings, cars, the garden… Fire camps sprung up in Colville and Kettle Falls. You would see helicopters and planes flying here and there to fight the fires.”

By the end of October the 73,392 acre conflagration was 82% contained.  The Incident Commander planned ongoing patrols and mop-up repair work. Today, fireweed blooms among blackened pine trees.  (Fire)

Sixteenth: The Tumwater Pipeline strut work casts shadows that would make an engineer happy, though now they fall on a flat trail bed instead of a rounded wooden pipeline. (Earth)

Seventeenth: Another view of forest fire damage in the Colville National Forest.  (Fire)

Eighteenth: An unidentified wildflower in a vacant lot by an auto parts store, Omak. If you have any idea what it is, let me know!  (Earth)

Nineteenth: Hay bales ready for pick up outside Curlew. (Earth)

Twentieth: Looking up into a wheat field planted hard by the road in Lincoln County. (Earth)

Twenty-first: Summertime on the road, eastern Washington. (Air)

** There is an admitted arbitrariness to these elemental assignments. And let’s not forget spirit, an element that may weave through it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Songs

Green-edged road

broken robin’s egg

left in the grass.

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Below are four groups of photographs, all taken in the last month, some near home and some a day’s trip away.

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The photos above were taken along Umtanum Road, a rural two lane winding through the hilly grasslands of Kittitas County, on the dry side of the Cascade Range.  We’d taken a quick overnight trip on a whim – I was hoping to see wildflowers. Our route climbed east over the Cascade Mountains, then south, with a stop near a mountain pass for a lovely walk through the forest (photos below).

We had dinner in Ellensburg that evening, and spent the night at a local airbnb, where our host regaled us with the inside scoop on the local agriculture business. She used to work for a hay exporter but was happy to leave the stressful job behind. We learned that the timothy hay grown in the area is a multi-million dollar business. Most of it is shipped to Japan and China – apparently Asian cows and racehorses are thriving on it.

The next day we explored Umtanum Road, seen above. The region was bursting with wildflowers, as temperatures were not yet in the 90’s, which is the summer norm for the area. The flowers took my breath away. I plan to post photos of them in the future. In addition to flowers, the occasional abandoned building and dozens of bluebird boxes, we noticed the piece of abandoned farm equipment pictured above – if anyone has an idea what it was used for, I’d love to know!

Below, photos from our walk along the Swauk Forest Discovery Trail, an easy two mile loop near Blewett Pass.  At about 4,000 feet we were high enough for nice views, though it was a cloudy day. Still, the quiet trail was inspiring. The forest ecosystem there is Ponderosa pine-Douglas fir, with widely spaced trees, various sages, grasses, and many flowers, including the beloved Tweedy’s lewisia, below.  We saw thick manes of wolf lichen on the trees, and learned first-hand the tantalizingly sweet, warm smell of Ponderosa pine bark.  A penstemon (P. fruticosus) decorates the path below:

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On another day I drove north to Skagit County, where life revolves around agriculture. Fields are planted with potatoes, berries, daffodils, tulips and more; dairy cows and other livestock complete the picture.  Restaurants in some of the small towns feature food made with locally grown ingredients and a rustic atmosphere, drawing people from far afield. Local residents seem to have a penchant for slightly eccentric, artistic touches and colorful gardens.

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Closer to home there’s a roadside spot I visit from time to time. Nothing elaborate, in fact, it’s the kind of space most people ignore, but I like places like that. My expectations are less defined than they are at established parks or trails, and I enjoy the thought that I have no idea what I’ll find.

There’s a retention pond to regulate water runoff, a grassy knoll, and a sliver of woods with a bit of wetland in a sink. The land has a rural feeling but it’s minutes away from the sprawling Redmond Microsoft corporate campus.  Birdsong is the high note, traffic is the low note.

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Summer pleasures! It’s been a good season for them. On Sunday we’re off for a week-long road trip, this time heading east and north, into a quiet corner of British Columbia where the Kootenay River joins the mighty Columbia. Maybe we’ll stop at Grand Coulee Dam on the way up. Lots of maybes! Time to pack!

 

 

 

 

 

Department of Abandoned Property

Well, not totally abandoned – these old phone booths sit side by side, behind a furniture store in Snohomish, Washington.

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I hope to post soon about a few recent day trips, one to Mount Rainier and one to central Washington. In less than a week we’ll be on the road again, heading to eastern Washington and then up into southeastern British Columbia, Canada. I’m looking forward to seeing the rugged, pristine beauty of the Kootenay Rockies.