gathers itself close. Shadows hide
dreams. Water swallows
a tangle of broken reeds.
- It’s 3:00 pm on December 11th at 47° 78′ North latitude. We’re walking a trail at the Paradise Valley Conservation Area, a park purchased by the county 17 years ago from the Lloyds, a Welsh family that homesteaded here back in 1887. Western hemlock, Douglas fir, Red cedar, Cottonwood and Red alder are common in this second growth woodland, which is reverting back to a wild state after earlier use for timber production and livestock. Trees grow tall and thick and evening comes early.
- A disintegrating alder leaf has caught on a small branch along the trail. I find leaves caught on branches and foliage frequently. The transience of leaves stopped mid-fall is a subject I like to frame, photograph, and carry home as memory.
- Gunnera (G. tinctoria), a perennial related to rhubarb that’s gardeners love for its dramatic foliage. The leaves have been neatly mounded and “put to bed” for the winter next to a conservatory in Seattle.
- A maple leaf caught on a Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). The Sword fern is an abundant evergreen understory fern found from Alaska to California. Notice how the maple leaf’s lobes are tucked under the fern leaflets. How long will it stay there?
- A Western hemlock has taken root on an old stump, probably a cedar, a common occurrence in these woods. The damp, temperate Pacific northwest is famous for its nursery logs and stumps. Eventually the stump will rot away and the roots will fill in. You can see this process at all stages in the woods here.
- Another leaf has come to rest on a Sword fern.
- Vegetation slowly disintegrates into the shallow waters at the north end of Lake Sammamish, in Marymoor Park. The park is heavily used for recreation, with a hugely popular off-leash dog run, frequent concerts, model plane flying, soccer, you name it. Even so, the river feeding Lake Sammamish supports a beaver lodge. An active Great Blue heron rookery is perched high in the Cottonwoods above the river, right next to a busy “dog beach.” Minutes after I took this photo I watched a River otter sinuously swimming down the river. Several times it stuck its little whiskered muzzle up to look around and sniff the air, then curved back underwater with a fluid swoosh of its fat, muscular tail. The park has three million annual visitors and River otters, beavers and herons live here. That fact testifies to a deep respect for the environment that is characteristic of Pacific northwest culture.
- Gentle waves interrupt reflections on placid Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, just east of Seattle. In the distance are mixed flocks of American coot, Green-winged teal, American wigeon, and Wood ducks. And Mallards, always Mallards! Bald eagles are nearby, ready to take advantage of any lapse in attention. The eagles prefer fish, but they will take waterfowl.
- A winter scene at Juanita Bay. The shapes and negative space created by the trees’ trunks and branches drew my attention. The bones of winter laid bare.
- Juanita Bay park is plagued with invasive species like this Reed canary grass, a problem throughout the county. To me, it has an interesting look as it collapses and decays, a process our wet climate encourages.
- The last reeds bend towards the water at Marymoor and fallen leaves dissolve into a rich muck on the bottom. This photo was taken with a new lens I’m getting used to. A polarizing filter would have reduced the glare off the water’s surface. I just ordered one – yes, it’s easy to accumulate gear!
- A single red berry, probably Red elderberry, dangles from a twig at Paradise Valley. Deer and elk like these but the nearest elk herd is miles away, so maybe a deer will nibble this one.
- The bay from the boardwalk at Juanita Bay on Christmas. We had snow on Christmas, a rarity here. Supposedly Seattle has only a 7% chance for a White Christmas. A few inches of good packing snow was great fun for the kids, not so slick that it caused accidents, and then gone three days later. Good for us! I’m sorry about the extreme cold eastern and Midwestern Americans and Canadians have been dealing with though!
- A group of Silver birch trees at Juanita Bay.
- A stand of Douglas firs and Western hemlocks at Paradise Valley.
- An old, non-native willow at Juanita Bay. Volunteers, some from local companies like Expedia, are helping to restore the native flora and remove the non-natives. The property used to be a golf course and has a number of ornamental trees like this that probably will not be removed. It can be a very fine balance to begin bringing a place back to its wild state.
- A snow-capped bird’s nest at Marymoor.
- Another old willow arches over a Juanita Bay boardwalk.
- Dried willow leaves cling to a branch at Juanita Bay. The branches hang down, but I I prefer this image on its side.
- An alder leaf is stuck in a tangle of twigs, Paradise Valley.
- Buds hold the promise of Spring, Paradise Valley.
- Grasses and fallen leaves slowly decay and enrich the soil at Juanita Beach Park. Taken on 1/1/18.
- Sunset over a field on West Snoqualmie River Road in Duvall, Washington. Taken at 4:05pm on 12/30/17; 47° 45′ N, 121° 57′ W.
* Cascadia is another name for the Pacific northwest, but it’s more than that. It refers to our “land of falling waters” – the bioregion – and “a geographic terrain and a terrain of consciousness” (see Wikipedia).