Warm Places

With sunlight wan and thin here in the Northern hemisphere, this may be a good time for images from warmer places.

For two years running – in 2010 and 2011 – I left ice-cold New York behind and flew south to Fort Myers, midway up Florida’s Gulf coast. It was delightful! Between forays to well-known places like Everglades National Park and Sanibel Island, I roamed the region in a rented car with an eye out for ordinary local scenes. The best part of traveling to my mind is the serendipity of unexpected discoveries, and the discoveries that excite me the most are found in everyday, quotidian spaces, where locals engage in activities unique to the place, buildings display an unpretentious native style, and objects seem to speak a local dialect.

Florida gave up many such surprises – the restaurant with seven vultures hunched on the roof and a vintage pink Mercedes parked in front, the local man fishing atop a precarious mangrove root sticking out of the water, a humble block of pastel vernacular housing just outside the Everglades, a small cemetery hidden away in the dense foliage…

All ordinary in their place, but new and wondrous to my eyes.

The flora and fauna did not disappoint either. I feasted on tall palms and wide beaches, Roseate spoonbills and snowy egrets…but I gave a wide berth to the alligator crossing a sandy, one lane road I was driving. No need to tempt fate. Use the zoom.

Here’s a selection of images from those trips.

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The Photos:

  1. Nine-armed Sea Star (Luidia senegalensis) at Sanibel Island beach. This video shows one slowly crawling back to the water in Naples, an hour north of where I was.
  2. Parking lot palm fronds, near the Fort Meyers airport.
  3. U Pick Citrus sign, Lee County. Once you get away from the coast you find the agriculture. Cattle, goats, chickens, bees, oranges, vegetables – there are hundreds of farms in Lee county; there were 844 farms listed in 2012.
  4. a, b c & d: Scenes from Smallwood’s Store, an historic general store built over the water on an island at the edge of the Everglades. The store is now an informal museum devoted to early life in the area, displaying items like a child’s schoolwork and a bedroom arranged as it may have looked in the 1930’s. Hurricane Irma did some damage this year, but the store is standing and repairs are planned.
  5. A produce market in Immokalee – cheap and local, what could be better? Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc here. The authorities were apparently more interested in policing the wealthier coastal areas than protecting residents in Immokalee, many of whom are undocumented farm laborers and their families, from Haiti and Latin America.
  6. a, b: Evidence of a previous fire disappears quickly in the dense vegetation; a market stand after a rain shower at Immokalee.
  7. All dressed up and nowhere to go? The four inch Lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) moves slowly for a grasshopper. Unlike most we’re familiar with, it walks and climbs more often than it  jumps. These charmers can spit a spray of toxic chemicals when threatened. They damage crops and are controlled by picking them off, setting traps, and using insecticide. Here are some creative ways locals have dealt these critters a blow or two.
  8. An unidentified mix of Florida plants.
  9. An alligator that I braked for.
  10. A Great blue heron and a fisherman share space amicably on Sanibel Island.
  11. a & b: Sanibel scenes – Willets (Tringa semipalmata) probe for insects and other goodies along the waves’ edge. Sanibel is known world wide for its abundant shells. 
  12. A handsome group of White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) next to a shopping mall in Fort Myers.  Look closely and you can see a gray youngster in the background.
  13. A Brown pelican perched on a piling in Everglades City. These big birds can have a 6.5 foot (200cm) wingspan. They make dramatic plunge dives for fish, unlike the even larger American white pelican, which catches fish by dipping its pouch-shaped beak in the water while swimming.
  14. a, b, c & d: Local scenes, including a man fishing at dusk from a precarious perch on a mangrove thicket at Rookery Bay, a roadside check cashing establishment, and a heron/egret roost at dusk.
  15. A family barbecue at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve/ Ten Thousand Islands. There used to be hermits living in the Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades area. I don’t know if there are any left, but a local high school class wrote about them back in 1980.
  16. A congregation of alligators, Everglades National Park. (Yes, a congregation is what you call a group of gators!). The American alligator is at the southern edge of its range in the Everglades; the American crocodile reaches its northern limits there.
  17. Seen at the airport. Fill in the tag line, please! 🙂
  18. Homes in Everglades City, population 402 in 2013. The link is to an interesting NY Times article about this historic, out of the way little town.
  19. The Depot Restaurant in Everglades City, with an old pink Mercedes in the lot and a venue of vultures (really, that’s what a group of vultures is called!) on the roof. There were more vultures by the garbage cans out back. This restaurant is now closed.
  20. An old cemetery outside Fort Myers. Poring over a map, I noticed a “Cemetery Road” on the outskirts of a small town. I figured it must lead to a cemetery, probably an old one. It looked out of the way and intriguing, so I drove there. It was a great find and I enjoyed reading the old headstones, observing the mementos placed on graves, and photographing. This man died in 1981. Thirty years later, someone had left a handful of flowers on his grave.
  21. A spontaneous collage. I placed a plant fragment (Tillandsia fasciculata) I picked up on the map I was using, and photographed it. Most of the places I explored are visible on this piece of the map.
  22. A roadside scene in Everglades City.
  23. Looking up into a Royal palm (?) (Roystonea regia) near Edison Park in Fort Myers.
  24. Another mix of tropical flora.
  25. a & b: A Great blue heron and a Snowy egret. Both are common in Florida.
  26. Birders scope a flock of Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) at Bunche Beach Preserve. The Black skimmer is one of my (many!) favorite birds. It’s lower mandible is longer than the upper mandible so it just drops its jaw, as it were, and skims food from the surface of the water (link to photo). Of course, this requires the ability to fly steadily just at the surface, making them really fun to watch.
  27. Beautiful Bunche Beach Preserve hearkens back to the old Florida, before rampant building obliterated so much land. Volunteers tore out all the invasive species here. A tidal wetland with beaches, inlets, and mangrove forests, the preserve is known for great birding. Fresh raccoon tracks marked the edge of this inlet.
  28. Spectacular little Sanibel Island is very scenic, but the town can be crowded.  As I write, it’s 73 degrees there. It’s 36 degrees here. ) – :
  29. A roadside sunset outside Immokalee. Immokalee is an agricultural center, and is home to many immigrants who work fields of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and citrus. The name means “My Home” in the Mikasuki language of the Miccosukee people. After being pushed out of their original territory, a small group of Miccosukee managed to resist resettlement in Oklahoma by escaping to the Everglades, where they adapted to the unique environment. A road built in 1928 signaled the beginning of assimilation; since gaining US government recognition as an Indian tribe, they have built a golf club and gaming resort, and an “Indian Village.” On this day it had just rained and then the sun came out, setting the road on fire. A fitting end to a stay in Florida.

 

 

 

 

Odds & Endings

Here is a miscellaneous group of images taken this year that have not been posted. The emphasis this time is urban. I’m going to attempt to tie them together with a bit of whimsy.

So: out with the old, in with the new, as cranes of all colors tear out a concrete building in downtown Seattle, exposing the upside-down, curvy underside of its neighbor.

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That’s a lot of work! I doubt those guys do anything exciting on their breaks, but if you’re setting up a silo for a new brewery at Pike Place Market, lucky you! You get to watch Mount Rainier bask in the glow of the setting sun.

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Just to the south a jumble of vents atop a building creates yet another oddball urban composition.

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Farther south in Seattle’s old Pioneer Square neighborhood, handsome brick buildings compose themselves against a clear blue sky – yes, blue sky happens in Seattle – in fact, the sky is blue here all summer long.

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A museum staircase provides another opportunity to enjoy architectural design.

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So does a 1929 Art Deco tower backed up by a newer building in downtown Seattle. In your eyes, the newer building may or may not have succeeded in taking its cues from the past. But like it or not, it’s fun to wander the city streets in search of patterns.

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At some point you have to give it all a rest, go out to the back alley, sit a spell. The cigarette buts tell me someone’s been doing just that.

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Maybe they daydream about the holidays and colorful toys from the past…

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Or maybe their reveries center on sunny days running through candy-colored gardens….

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And treats, yes, let’s not forget that. Here’s to all of you having as many treats as you want in the New Year!

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Whether you prefer Christmas red and green, Hanukah blue and white,

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or something else altogether,

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I wish you oodles of cheer, and lets make it ordinary cheer, like this fellow spreads down at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Sure, he has dreads down to his knees, his scarf is awry and his jacket frayed, but that’s what ordinary looks like, and maybe we need a little more of it.

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*

I thank you for your presence here. It’s meant a lot this year. I’ll see you again very soon, with photographs from a warmer place…pleasant dreams!

Both Sides of the Glass

This time of year, a few hours in a conservatory renews the spirits. You may not have thought about looking in from the outside of the building, but the view from the other side of the glass can be very interesting.

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These photos were made during two trips – one to the WW Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, in November, one to the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle in December. Both glass houses are over a hundred years old, and they’re kept going thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers. Here’s to those hard working people who maintain the plants, the facilities and everything else that keeps these wonderful resources running and available to the public.

The photos:

  1. A Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) inside the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle.
  2. Dead leaves push against the glass, seen outside the WW Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma.
  3. More dried leaves pushing against the glass at the conservatory in Tacoma.
  4. A palm stem with coarse fibers surrounding the leaf sheath, inside the conservatory in Tacoma.
  5. A jumble of conservatory plants, including Spanish moss, or Tillandsia usneoides. That’s the familiar gray epiphyte which, draped heavily on live oak trees, is characteristic of much of the American south. It’s not a moss and it’s not from Spain – the original range was southeastern N. America, down through Central & S. America to Argentina. Now it has been introduced in other locations.
  6. A graceful orchid at the conservatory in Seattle.
  7. Dried plants settle against the windows of the WW Seymour conservatory in Tacoma.
  8. Ferns against the window at the conservatory in Tacoma. This photo was taken with a vintage lens, the Pentax Super Takumar 50mm F/1.4.
  9. Palm leaves, alive and healthy, inside the conservatory in Tacoma. Also taken with the Takumar 50mm F/1.4.
  10. Looking up at palm fronds in the conservatory in Tacoma.
  11. A single orchid petal in the conservatory in Seattle.
  12. A cactus inside the conservatory in Seattle.
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  14. I think this is a fan aloe, Aloe plicatilis, aka Kumara plicatilis, a South African plant. Seen at the conservatory in Seattle.
  15. I could look up at palms all day. Inside the conservatory in Seattle. This was taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  16. Inside a vestibule at the conservatory in Seattle, plants are pressed up against the windows. Taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  17. A complex shot – looking across a conservatory room, through windows to another room, with reflections. Taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  18. An orchid display (maybe Dendrobium sp.) anchored by maidenhair ferns at the conservatory in Seattle, taken with a Lensbaby Composer.
  19. The Coleus plants were going strong at the conservatory in Tacoma, and made an interesting picture as they pressed against the glass. I walked all around the conservatory, getting as close as I could to it, to find scenes like this.
  20. A view of the front of the WW Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma. It’s a small one, but it’s full of Victorian charm!

 

 

IMMANENCE

There is an immanence inherent in all things,

a constant becoming

not separate from, not outside of.

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Immanence – it’s a tricky word. It’s not the same as imminence. It is of course, the state of being immanent, which Merriam-Webster defines as indwelling or inherent, or within the limits of possible experience or knowledge.

The sense of immanence I’m getting at with these images (hopefully) is close to the concept discussed below in a Wikipedia entry about a French philosopher named Gilles Deleuze:

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Plane of immanence (French plan d’immanence) is a founding concept in the metaphysics or ontology of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Immanence, meaning “existing or remaining within” generally offers a relative opposition to transcendence, that which is beyond or outside. Deleuze rejects the idea that life and creation are opposed to death and non-creation. He instead conceives of a plane of immanence that already includes life and death.
[Colebrook, in Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed states] “Deleuze refuses to see deviations, redundancies, destructions, cruelties or contingency as accidents that befall or lie outside life; life and death were aspects of desire or the plane of immanence.” This plane is a pure immanence, an unqualified immersion or embeddedness, an immanence which denies transcendence as a real distinction, Cartesian or otherwise. Pure immanence is thus often referred to as a pure plane, an infinite field or smooth space without substantial or constitutive division.
[Deleuze states] “We will say of pure immanence that it is A LIFE, and nothing else.”   This is not some abstract, mystical notion of life but a life, a specific yet impersonal, indefinite life discovered in the real singularity of events and virtuality of moments. A life is subjectless, neutral, and preceding all individuation and stratification, is present in all things, and thus always immanent to itself.

 

An ethics of immanence will disavow its reference to judgments of good and evil, right and wrong, as according to a transcendent model, rule or law. Rather the diversity of living things and particularity of events will demand the concrete methods of immanent evaluation (ethics) and immanent experimentation (creativity).

 

Lest you think I’ve gone off the rails, let’s just say that Deleuze’s ideas as presented above and in this link resonate with me now, as I look at these photos. I might also describe the quality I’m thinking about as a roving, ever-present sense of possibility and becoming, equally inherent in and permeating all things – the rain chain, the running boy, the shadow, your own eyes.

Photos:

  1. A rain chain at Seattle’s Washington Arboretum Japanese Garden. Rain chains can make the movement of water from roof to ground a delight to watch and hear.
  2. A bamboo pole keeps the old wooden doors closed at the Japanese Garden.
  3. A Madrone tree at Washington Park on Fidalgo Island. The peeling bark reveals wonderful colors, the branches curve and contort in pleasing ways.
  4. Dead limbs on an old juniper tree at Washington Park. Junipers normally don’t like the Pacific northwest but these trees, Juniperus maritima, have adapted to our islands in Puget Sound and a few spots on the Olympic Peninsula and coastal British Columbia. This species was “discovered,” i.e. recognized as genetically and reproductively distinct from the Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), just ten years ago.
  5. A Ginkgo leaf on its way to the ground, stopped by a twig at the Japanese Garden.
  6. Late afternoon at the conservatory in Volunteer Park, Seattle.
  7. Espresso with a glass of water, and Christmas lights in the background; Pelican Bay Books, Anacortes, Washington.
  8. A boy leaving a cafe in Seattle. Dad let us have cookies!
  9. Looking out to the street while staying warm and cozy at Pelican Bay Books.
  10. Shadow play on a wall at home.
  11. & 12. Sunset over Lake Washington from Juanita Beach in Kirkland. Photos taken with my phone.

Autumn’s Quiet Radiance

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Continuing the autumn woods theme from last week, I returned to Moss Lake and O.O. Denny Park for more photographs. In some of these photos I steered towards a more impressionistic look, either when shooting or in processing. Maybe that forest magic is getting into my brain.

  1. Dead leaves on a Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata) glow like pewter in the late afternoon light. The two cedars of the Pacific northwest, Western Redcedar and Yellow Cedar, were tremendously important to early people in this area, supplying materials for transportation, shelter, tools and clothing. The Western Redcedar (not a true cedar) can attain a huge size and live for hundreds of years before falling and returning its nutrients back to the forest, where it will continue taking part in the long, winding thread of life.
  2. Layers of leaves: rust colored Big Leaf Maple leaves (Acer macrophyllum) and little Red Huckleberry leaves (Vaccinium parvifolium) mingle on the forest floor.
  3. Big Leaf Maple leaves can grow to 10 inches across. When they fall they often are trapped in tree branches before they can reach the ground. Clumps of moss can fall in storms and be caught in branches too, which is probably how this healthy clump came to rest in such a small tree. Mosses like this specimen, probably Douglas’ Neckera (Neckera Douglasii) can get all the nutrients they need from the air and rain.
  4. Another maple leaf is caught in a Red Huckleberry tree that still holds on a few leaves itself. I gave this image a flat, graphic look to accentuate the shapes and colors.
  5. Another leaf – you know what kind now – caught again.
  6. A maple leaf has fallen onto a clump of Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). Sword fern is a large, tough evergreen fern that grows prolifically in the Pacific northwest.
  7. A slowly decomposing stump, probably a Western Redcedar. It may have been burned long ago and bears evidence of woodpecker excavation. For how long will it continue to nourish the community of plants and animals around it? Research shows that this species has lower rates of nitrogen release than other trees in the same area, such as Douglas fir. But I have no doubt that every cell is valuable in some way – in fact, the tree stump may be nourishing you, if you enjoy the photo. It’s all part of the big dance.
  8. This log has a relatively thin covering of cedar leaves and mosses – maybe it fell only a few years ago. Many plants will take root on its surface as time passes.
  9. If you look very closely (slightly right of center), maybe you can see little lichens under the bits of moss on these branches. One lichen looks like Forking Bone (Hypogymnia inactiva). I read that the “inactiva” doesn’t mean this lichen is lazy, rather it means it doesn’t have the chemical reactivity of some of its relatives. And “Hypogymnia” refers to a naked underside. Make what you will of it!
  10. A tree that fell across a path was cut up and left to decompose. Sections of the wood bear pieces of Lungwort lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria). Three kingdoms of organisms symbiotically unite in this lichen: an algae, a fungus and a bacteria. Lungwort lichen is widespread, ranging across parts of Asia, North America and Africa. In Europe this lichen is declining. In our area it is associated with humid, old-growth forests. Sensitive to air pollution, the Lungwort lichen typically reproduces asexually, but after 10 – 25 years it may also reproduce sexually. Who knew lichens could live so long, and be so versatile?
  11. The flip side of our long-lived Lungwort lichen. People have used this plant for dye, in tanning, and for medicine. Moose and goats are known to dine on it and wild sheep probably eat it, too. The lungwort name arose, like many plant names, from an observation that the plant resembled something else – in this case, human lungs. It followed that lungwort lichen was used for lung ailments (as was the spotted-leaved perennial plant named Lungwort). Recent research has shown that L. pulmonaria has anti-inflammatory and gastroprotective properties.
  12. Bright yellow leaves fall into a roadside stream. I can’t identify this plant but it was striking. The green leaves are the invasive Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor), an Indian introduction by way of England that is abundant here.
  13. Specimens of Big Leaf Maple covered with mosses and Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza). Moss growth in the Pacific Northwest is luxuriant thanks to our wet, relatively mild climate. The spongy mats seen on these trees have taken decades to grow. An average mature Big Leaf Maple holds 87 lbs (35.5 kilos) of epiphyte biomass – moss, lichens, ferns, etc. That’s almost four times the biomass of the leaves! All those epiphytes are hard at work, gathering nutrients from the air and rain (and the occasional bird dropping), keeping everything in circulation.
  14. A Big Leaf Maple is the setting for two of our common evergreen forest ferns, Sword fern and Licorice fern. The seem to rejoice in the misty weather, holding their fronds aloft. Licorice fern’s rhizome – the root-like appendage connecting the plant to the tree trunk – really does taste like licorice; I’ve tried it. The plant was used medicinally for colds and sore throats by First Nations people in British Columbia.
  15. The rain has stopped but the humidity remains. Our rains tend to be the off-and-on, light, drizzly kind, not downpours. So far this year we’ve had about 42″ of rain, almost 10″ above normal. Rain down here means snow in the mountains, so Seattle skiers and snowboarders don’t mind all the precipitation. The plants like it, too. As for me, I’m ready for a string of dry days, but I’m doing my best to appreciate wet weather!
  16. Raindrops sprinkled across dead twigs, probably a Western hemlock.
  17. 18. & 19.  Red Huckleberry leaves are among the last to drop. They make a pretty, glowing haze in the woods.