Meandering the Edges

Meandering the edges, these

wavy borders

between wet and not-wet, these

liminal spaces

that inhale and exhale life,

I feel alive, calm.

Being present here is easy –

just a matter of embodying tidal shifts

from one state of being to another,

just being the rhythm of

back and forth.

On the lapping edges

light shimmers, fades

and carries all known and unknown colors forward.

This curving, expanding, effervescing

between – for it is a “between” –

is made for meandering.

Here, I am carried back to the ground of being,

where being comfortable

means being as shifty as

a cloud.

 

1. The quiet hour before low tide, on a sliver of Salish Sea* beach, strewn with weathered logs and fist-sized rocks. 

 

2. As the tide recedes, shades of deep purple and brick red emerge in the sand around a single blue rock marked with a skitter of celadon green.

 

3. High tides slowly add stones to a cheerful collection in the hollow of a beached Redcedar log.

 

4. Lace lichen hangs soft and weightless in the dim recess of wet forest along the shoreline. Lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) is the state lichen of California, where it grows on the coast and at higher elevations. Here on the Salish Sea I find it hanging from the trees that line the moist rims of the islands.

 

5. Lace lichen is variable, sometimes forming flattened ribbons alongside the delicate openwork structures that give the lichen its name. Lichens are composite life forms,  consisting of a fungus and a cyanobacteria or a green alga, living symbiotically. The structure you see (the thallus) is the fungus, which protects the alga as it photosynthesizes and make nutrients.

 

6. Lace lichen at dusk, photographed with a vintage Takumar 50mm f1.4 lens.  Lichens are a complex sort of borderland life form, which to me feels philosophically appropriate for the marginal space where water meets and mixes with land.

 

7. The sun setting in the southwest, over the Salish Sea, is reflected on the water of Cranberry Lake, a fresh-water lake separated from a beach by a narrow strip of dunes.

 

8. Spider webs thread the thorny branches of a wild rose (probably Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana) on the shore of Cranberry Lake (so-called because early settlers grew cranberries here).

 

9. Sunset over Cranberry Lake is a graceful sonata of dark evergreens, their calm-water reflections, the ragged, torn-paper silhouette of the Olympic Mountains, wispy clouds and softly bending reeds.

 

10. The sturdy golden stems of Bullwhip kelp (Nereocystis Leutkeana), a thin strand of green seaweed, and a washed-up tree branch (probably a Madrone, or Arbutus menziesii), create a still life on the beach.  The Latin names of the Madrone tree and Lace lichen share a species name, menziesii, that honors Archibald Menzies, a Scottish naturalist and surgeon who explored this region in the 1790’s, on the four-year-long Vancouver Expedition. His was the first European record of Madrone trees.

 

11. The smooth stones of Rosario Beach glisten, inviting a closer look.  A fragment of green seaweed and bits of bark landed here, but they may float back into the water with the next wave.

 

12. A tangle of Bullwhip kelp is buried in the stones at Rosario Beach. Imagine how nourishing the seaweed would be as it slowly decomposes under the rocks. If the kelp lands far up on the beach, maybe it will decompose in place, and perhaps a coastal strand plant like American dune grass (Leymus mollis ssp. mollis) will take root there, holding the land fast against the tides, if only until the next spring tide or big storm.

 

13. The graceful American dune grass grows in the shelter of a driftwood log, just a few feet from the shoreline.

 

14. Sometimes it seems there are as many beached logs and pieces of driftwood on these beaches as there are blades of dune grass. This sinewy log washed up onto the fine sand of the beach seen in the first photograph.

 

15. This sculptural piece of driftwood could be a piece of a Western Redcedar tree (Thuja plicata), or perhaps it’s a from a Madrone. It looks like it could crawl away, given half a chance.

 

16. Behind heavy clouds, the sun lays golden light down on the waters of Northwest Pass. Two spindly Douglas fir trees stand apart from the forest that blankets Deception Island, one of hundreds of uninhabited islands dotting the Salish Sea.

 

17. A Great Blue heron (Ardea herodias) is sheltering well back from the water’s edge, in a tangle of wildflowers and driftwood. The wind is blowing hard on this December day, and it’s high tide, so perhaps the heron is waiting for the tide to turn before going back to foraging. The heron startled me as I meandered the beach, studying the rocks. Moving very slowly, I managed to take photographs without disturbing my new-found friend, even though I was only about 15 feet away.

 

 

18. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) grows tall and strong here; the dried fronds persist for months. The “world’s most widespread fern”, sturdy bracken can be found in Washington State growing on Salish Sea shorelines, in suburban parks, and on subalpine avalanche tracks.

 

 

19. After the rain, lichens sparkle and drip. Because they gather moisture from rain, lichens are very susceptible to pollutants in rainwater. Some are highly sensitive to pollutants like sulphur dioxide, so just finding them growing at a given location is a sign of good air quality. There are at least two species here: the fruticose lichen (the one hanging down) is probably an Usnea, perhaps U. dasopoga.  A foliose lichen is stuck to the twig, and may be a Parmelia.  Some Usnea lichens have become rare in lowland Britain since industrialization; similarly, U. longissima was once common in the US and is now considered rare due to habitat loss and pollution. 

 

20. A fragment of lichen and a scattering of Shore pine (Pinus contorta) needles rest on a thick bed of moss. All three plants benefit from the moist climate on the edge of the Salish Sea. Identifying mosses and lichens is difficult, and I’m taking a pass at these two!

 

21. Lovely young Madrone trees emerge from the rich soil next to fallen trees on a bluff high above the water. Reindeer lichen (Cladonia sp.), mosses, and grasses arrange themselves at the feet of the Madrones into a perfect garden composition  – no flowers needed!

 

22. Raindrops clinging to the Red huckleberry twigs (Vaccinium parvifolium) glisten in the forest, just yards from a steep cliff that plunges into the cold waters of Deception Pass. The red berries were used by all the local indigenous people. The birds must like them too, because I never see many berries on Red huckleberry bushes.

 

23. It grows dark quickly under the thick canopy of Douglas fir and Western Redcedar trees, and a single raindrop hanging from a Red huckleberry branch catches my eye.

 

 

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24. Two smooth stones and a third that’s partially buried. An entirely temporary arrangement.

 

25. Shimmering waves throw stones at the logs that line the beach.

 

26. A Shore pine and a Douglas fir huddle together on the rocks beside Cranberry Lake.

 

27. This weathered Douglas fir withstands strong gusts of wind up on Rosario Head, as it has for years. Unlike the tree, I’m mobile enough to choose a different location when those December winds blow, and that’s what I did – I quickly descended the grassy path for a more sheltered spot.

 

***

The photographs were taken this month at three locations in Deception Pass State Park close to, or at, the water’s edge.

*

From the Wikipedia entry on liminality:

“Major transformations occur at crossroads and other liminal places, at least partly because liminality—being so unstable—can pave the way for access to esoteric knowledge or understanding of both sides.[73] Liminality is sacred, alluring, and dangerous.”

*

For more about the beautiful Lace lichen, see this resource.

*

* The Salish Sea

“Salish Sea” is a relatively new term, approved in 2009 by the Coast Salish people and geographical name Boards in the US and Canada. It refers to an integrated marine ecosystem that comprises the Strait of Juan de Fuca (which separates northwestern Washington State from Vancouver Island, Canada), the Strait of Georgia (which separates Vancouver Island from the Canadian mainland) and Puget Sound, (which extends south past Seattle).

The Coast Salish people are thought to have inhabited this region for the last 11,000 years. The tribes enjoyed abundant resources in this land of temperate rainforests, rich waters and biologically productive tidal edges. Now many of these resources are dwindling or threatened, but people are working hard to conserve what’s left.

 

 


89 comments

  1. What a beautiful post. Very calming, though I expect the Salush Sea can be equally wild and invigorating. Thank you for the update on naming the SS, and on all your biology notes.

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  2. Lovely poem, lovely photos. “Shifty as a cloud” was a nice surprise, a shift itself in the language, and a nice coinage. And every picture gives a reason to stop, look closely, let it wash over you. That weathered jewel-box of pebbles in #3, the shadings in #2, and the beautiful variety of stones in #11, the golden color and series of overlaid silhouettes in #9, the bracken fern in #18 like a wood carving, the lichen fragment bedded down on the moss in #20. Wonderful textures in the landscape garden in #24.
    Thank you for all the wonderful posts this year.

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    • Your comments are such a joy, Robert. The shifty cloud just came in a flash and then I saw how odd it was, and I liked that, so I really appreciate your noticing it. Thinking of the bracken fern as a wood carving is very interesting….and you’re calling the stones on a beach a landscape garden? Nice! I like it. Thank YOU for your posts, and for your comments this year.

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  3. This post is filled with very artistic photos, many with parts of nature that we often overlook and miss their exquisite beauty. By the way, I have yet to come within 15 ft of a Great Blue Heron.

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    • 🙂 I was surprised, but I think the heron was, too, by the look in its eye. I was so pleased that the bird stood its ground and didn’t fly away. It stretched its neck up straight and looked at the sky after a few seconds. When I looked up I saw a second heron circling high above. When that one saw me, it decided to leave – or maybe that was because of the heron standing there. They certainly are very solitary most of the year, and I don’t think they like to share territory. BTW, one place you can get close to them is on Sanibel Island – stand next to a fisherman and chances are, a heron will be close by, waiting for a bait handout.

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  4. Such beautiful photos capturing the ever present allure of the PNW. My favourites are1, 4, and 19. And your poem was a gentle and much needed reminder to give myself this kind of time – to wander without agenda, or future, or need.
    Merry merry.
    Alison

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  5. Oh you’re on a roll, my friend, so much to like here!!! (And if its a bread roll, please forward some soonest, I’m hungry!). Love your words, that’s the first thing. But then the images I like: 1, 2, 3 ohhh!, 6, 8, 11 – the big pebble and its positioning make it!; 12, 14 ohh!, 15, 17 very like our Grey Heron; 23, 24 ohh!, 26. Think I’ll have to and have a sit down now … 🙂 …

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    • This is really good to read, a bit of confirmation. Along with a spot of humor, of course – thank you. I think there’s a similar large heron in many places. It’s kind of my totem bird – there have been nice encounters with them over the years.And there’s a huge rookery nearby, where hundreds next – that’s going to be fun to see (if only from a distance as you can’t get near it) in the spring. This batch has more contrasty images, I think, and a bit more darkness, which you spoke about recently. Hey, don’t sit down for too long – we need you to be out there, camera in hand….

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    • Smiles to you too, Hedy. It’s a very different landscape than yours at this time of year, yes? I’m so glad you enjoy the sensory pleasures, even if all except vision are a bit vicarious. The air is fresh and smells good, the eagles are crying, the stones crackle as they roll back down with each wave, and those Lace lichens feel incredibly weightless and soft…

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  6. A beautiful piece of writing to begin with that slows one down and paints pictures in one’s mind. And then the images – to linger over and take in. What a fantastic way to start my new day with a cup of tea to hand. Impossible to pick a single favourite but I particularly like the Heron, and the tree trunk that acts as a basket for washed up stones. Have a great Holiday break, Lynn.

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  7. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this nature meditation, Lynn. Your artistic images are a treat along with your lovely words. I love the varying rock shots- in the log, wet and the black and white. Learned about Salish– thanks. Your new format of putting the descriptions with the image works well – eliminates scrolling back to the image. Good flow. 🙂
    It’s clear these places make you feel happy and peaceful. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and new year!

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    • Hi Jane, it’s good to hear your thoughts about the stones in various guises. I’m not one to settle for one way. 😉 The Salish Sea name came about in concert with groups working to draw attention to the importance of the whole ecosystem and its importance to the region. I’m sure you understand. Yes, these places are good for the soul, and everything else I think. Thank you Jane, and best wishes for the holidays and new year to you.

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  8. What a delightful collection. I was especially taken with the stone in the second photo. I have a small bowl of pebbles — gray, with white striations — that I picked up at the mouth of California’s Russian River and just northward — and I never see them without hearing the surf, and wondering again, “What kind of rock is that?” Someday I’ll settle down and figure it out, but it’s enough to have them.

    The lace lichen looks so much like Spanish moss. I think it would be easy to confuse them, although of course there are obvious differences once you know that lace lichen exists. It tickles me that it’s the state lichen of California. It seems Texas doesn’t have a state lichen. Perhaps that should be my project for 2019: learning about our native lichens, and then lobbying for one’s acceptance as an official symbol.

    Like you, I find liminality an appealing and useful concept. In fact, I have a draft in my files that also makes use of the concept, albeit in terms more sociological than natural. And the term “ground of being” certainly resonated. Have you read any Paul Tillich? His development of ‘ground of being’ as a keystone in his theology certainly sent a breath of fresh air through 1970s classrooms and preaching.

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    • Somewhere else you asked what camera I used, and it’s always the same so I’ll answer here – it’s an Olympus OM D1, a micro 4/3rds camera. I don’t like to carry too much weight and that camera also has great image stabilization, which helps since I also don’t use a tripod. You said something about photographing in forests being very different….I found that out when I moved to the PNW from NYC. I thought everything was so dark. I’ve gotten used to it though. This time of year it helps sometimes to have a lens that works well wide open, or once in a while to bump the exposure up a notch in camera. I tend not to shoot with very narrow apertures, in general.
      Woudln’t it be great to be able to ID those stones the way we can (usually) ID the plants and birds!! I gaze in wonder.
      The Lace lichen does hang sort of like Spanish moss, but in person you’d see a big difference right away, unless you’re at a great distance. Spanish moss a more regular back and forth to it’s strands, if that makes sense. The hole state lichen thing is so cool, and I’m pretty sure CA is the first state to do that. I love your idea for 2019.
      Liminality….there’s something about it. Hard to put into words. As for ground of being, I think my sense of it comes more from Tibetan Buddhist teachings. They’re earthy and spiritual at the same time, the Tibetans, something I always admired. I will have to look into Tillich – I probably read something of his years ago, I’m not sure though.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground_(Dzogchen)

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  9. This is indeed a beautiful collection of photographs, Lynn…and the narrative completes them. I can see and feel so much more than the mere images you’ve captured because of your chosen words…. I love the isolated drops of water…the colorful jelly-bean-like pebbles…the simplicity and nuance of the black and white images…and the sunset over Cranberry Lake…wow…to be there…thank you….

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    • Anyone who enjoys taking photographs is a “real photographer” and I’m sure you have a vision that is more than worthwhile to share – it’s just a matter of spending time (a lot!) with the camera, paying attention to the world with love, and evolving. If time is hard to find, then I hope you have more of it, soon. Thanks for your comment!

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  10. I like shifty as a cloud. You seem to be exuding peace, my friend. You’ve made it nearly impossible to pick any favorites. I’m seeing a new ‘theme’ evolving as in your through-the-glass series… You’re bringing the PNW coast alive in your images. All very meaningful to me. Push comes to shove, I’d choose #11 (I want to pick up all the stones and bring them home), 13- sepia is the perfect choice here and #17- how marvelous to have this prehistoric bird as a familiar (we seem to have a pair of crows who guide us on our travels)

    Have to agree with Jane : I get less lost not needing to scroll back to the image.

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    • I’m glad the captions are helpful – don’t know why it took so long for me to get to that. 🙂 How wonderful to hear you say I’m bringing this coast alive, since that’s certainly what you have done for many people, with your photographs. It’s always interesting to know which photos speak to you more, and why. I used to see a Great Blue heron in a marsh along a highway that I traveled frequently, in busy Westchester County, just north of New York City. It meant so much to me to see the heron there, in the midst of suburban sprawl and my busy life. Everywhere I go I seem to see them – they’re widespread and always distinctive. Two crows, very poetic and mythical. Happy Holidays!!

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      • Oh, wait. I did say crows. It’s actually a pair of ravens. That’s more typical of ravens to travel in pairs. We do have a murder of crows hanging out up the creek a bit. They’re very raucous. I probably need to pay more attention to what draws me to particular images and thus perhaps the why. Merry, merry to you, too! 🎄🎄🎄🕊

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  11. It’s hard to know what to say, Lynn. I would be totally exhausted if I told you what I like about each of these photographs. I’ll start in, though. Your compositions have caught all the rocks at their charming best. The variety of colors reminds me of what I’ve seen along the southern shore of Lake Superior. We drove so many of them back to Ohio! Lace lichen is something new to me; thanks for the beautiful introduction. Your yellow sunset is all the more beautiful for its fringe of reeds. The twin curves of the dune grass and driftwood are all the more striking for being rendered in sepia; this one really gets to me. Not that they ALL don’t!!! Love the balance of dark shape on the bottom left and dark shape on the top right in #16. The composition of #21 is terrific! This is just a wonderful collection. I could have said something about each photograph—but I’m exhausted already.

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  12. With your prose and your photos, you have captured some of the beauty that abounds in Washington state perfectly. I came from Los Angeles to Central Washington 21 years ago, and the extreme beauty of our varying landscapes is one of the incredible aspects of living here that has kept me. I LOVE this post!!!!!!

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    • What a change from L.A! I love it to (I moved here from NYC seven yrs ago) and I love the changes that happen when you go over the mountains. I still haven’t made it to the southeast corner – the Palouse, etc. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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    • That’s great! Years ago I read a book – fiction – that took place in LA and I don’t remember the name of the book, or the author, but I remember the idea that “everything happens on the edges” (in many ways of course, not just physically) from that book. I too have been interested in edges since reading that book. We should make a society for the philosophy of edges….. 🙂

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      • Right ! I was in Lanzarote and wrote about edges between land and sea, land and volcanoes then in Iran in a desert and it was the same type of reflection between sand and air. For the moment being i am interested in trees, i see them as a pilar between earth and sky, a vehicle we can use for deep thinkings. To be sick is also a in between state, failure as well. But what i love as an example is the state between the caterpillar and the butterfly, the most poetic one! Have a nice 2019 year!

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  13. Wow, BEAUTIFUL set of images. The stones in the cedar log are amazing. So are the three pebbles in the sand by the water line. And the last image of the lonely fir, wish that was in my portfolio. Nature is crazy beautiful and you sure have the skills to capture it.

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    • The three pebbles looks like something you might do. 🙂 I’m very pleased that you enjoyed these. Crazy beautiful nature for sure – I know you see that. You are very kind, Goran, I appreciate hearing from you.

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