LOCAL WALKS: MORNING FOG

1. Driftwood, Lottie Bay

A late May walk on a cool, foggy morning, a favorite place ten minutes from home…

If you fly over this corner of Fidalgo Island in a small plane and look down, you’ll see a bay shaped like the curved knife used for chopping vegetables, sometimes called a mezzluna.  The knife edge is the beach. A rocky cliff takes a bite out of the edge and a long, narrow pier draws a fine line across the blade and into the bay. (A map is below, for reference.)

A bit of lawn disappears into thick woods surrounding the bay; the quiet water is speckled with rocks. To the west are more islands. In the distance, the Strait of Juan de Fuca disappears into the mist. In the off season the pier is deserted, the waters empty but for an occasional kayaker or small boat, the paths lightly traveled.

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2. At anchor in the fog, Bowman Bay

On this foggy morning there was just one other vehicle in the lot. I was effectively alone. We think of fog as removal: it takes away our ability to see clearly, it muffles sounds and obscures things.

But fog brings not-knowing forward, and what does that do? It returns us to the Wonder.

I’m not sure what’s ahead. I slow down.

3. Flowering grass, Bowman Bay

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4. The path to Lighthouse Point, nearly overtaken by wildflowers and dune grass.

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5. The growth of past seasons mixes with the fresh blades of dune grass on a tangled mess of crumbling driftwood.

 

Wild Nootka roses (Rosa nutkana) sprinkle the path like fat, pink polka dots. The pretty magenta flowers of Common vetch (Vicia sativa) are plentiful too, but are almost lost in  the welcoming, cloud-like drifts of Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum).

Stillness hangs heavy. The air is cool.

At the south end of the beach is a tombolo, an Italian-derived word for a narrow strip of land connecting an island to the mainland. This tombolo, strung between two bays, connects Lighthouse Point to Fidalgo Island. It’s the kind of place where edges have no edge, dancing with the tides, creating and erasing boundaries with the unpredictability of a butterfly’s flight. One day, masses of seaweed wash up onto the beach in spongy, pungent mounds. Another day a windstorm spills bay water into the marshy wetland. Sands shift and reach into the dune grass that lines a path over the tombolo. Waves cut shallow scoops from the shoreline. Forty-foot logs are tossed about like toothpicks, eventually becoming rooted in place by wildflowers growing around them. The rubbery ropes of Bullwhip kelp scribe messages in the sand alongside dainty racoon tracks.

It’s always changing here.

7. A receding tide deposits layers of seaweed on the beach and bares barnacle-studded rocks at the base of the cliff.

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8. On top of the cliff the view through the smooth branches of a Madrone tree is fine. Even on a foggy day. Especially so.

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9. Splashes of ochre-colored lichens, chestnut-hued moss, wildflowers, grasses and stunted trees provide decor on a cliff to the north of Light House Point.

On the back side of the tombolo a damp wetland gives way to a sheltered cove called Lottie Bay. This bay is fed by the straight whose churning waters barrel through Deception Pass several times a day, carrying water from the Pacific, ninety miles to the west. With its muddy, shallow bottom, the little cove is a favorite spot of gulls, ducks and chattering Kingfishers. On this day Kildeer spew their high-pitched cries into the gray air, raising the alarm at the slightest perception of threat. One bird drags its wing in the classic “broken wing” feint, designed by some mysterious twist of genetic material to draw would-be predators towards the bird pretending to be injured and away from its vulnerable young.

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10. Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) is beginning to go to seed. The young plant stems were peeled and eaten like celery by local tribes. Black bears forage on it too, which makes me wonder if the bear that swam ashore near here three weeks earlier might have snacked on this plant. That young bear swam to several other islands before being spotted back on the mainland, near a highway. It was finally darted, captured, and hauled off to the mountains. Life should be easier there, assuming this youngster didn’t get too used to dining on birdseed and trash during his island odyssey.

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11. A washed up, barnacle-studded branch is caught in a tangle of dune grass. Another still life to admire, until it all changes again with the next tide.

I return to this magical place at different hours, in fair and foul weather, through all the seasons. Because different habitats are jammed up against one another edge to edge, there are quick, dramatic changes to experience with all my senses. The chill in the air, the scent of low tides, the zippy flight of swallows and the echoing calls of Oystercatchers – it’s always a sensory banquet.

Woods, beaches, a wetland or two, rocky cliffs, a muddy bay, off-shore islands – all in the space of a half mile or so. That’s just what I see on foot, but if I were a seal or an otter, an eagle or a squirrel, then I would have parsed this place into different components. I’d have it memorized by sense instead of names: the place of fast water, the high tree where everything can be seen, the tangle of brush to hide in…

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12. A bouquet of wildflowers cascades off a cliff on Lighthouse Point. Delicate pink Streambank Spring beauty (Montia or Claytonia parvifolia) intermingles with the yellow flowers and succulent, blue-green leaves of Broad-leaved stonecrop (Sedum spathufolium).  Grasses, Licorice fern and Bedstraw (Galium triflorum) help anchor the mass to the rocks.

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13. Delicate Streambank Spring beauty.

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14. I believe this is Baltic rush, Juncus balticus. Rushes look like grass until you get closer.  They’re “walk right by” plants of cool, damp places that most people don’t notice. In Spring, the discerning eye can find a complex, beautiful architecture in their flowers.

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15. The evergreen Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is ubiquitous in the northwest, thriving in many different habitats. The repeating patterns are irresistible.

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16. Seaweed caught on a branch shows just how high the tides can go. This may have happened last winter in a storm. It’s a rather desolate look, but I think it captures the wildness of this place.

***

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn
by Wu Men (Hui-k’ai)

English version by Stephen Mitchell

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

from Poetry Chaikhana Blog

(The poem is a verse from Ordinary Mind is the Way, Case 19 in the Gateless Gate (Mumonkon), a compilation of zen koans compiled over 700 years ago in China by Chinese Zen master Wu-men Hui-hai.)

 

***

A rough map of the places mentioned in this post


86 comments

  1. Ah, Lynn. You and fog. What a great combination. Love the phrase “speckled with rocks” and, later, “roses . . . sprinkle the path”; still later: “a sensory banquet.” And your notion that fog returns us to the Wonder. Oh, I give up quoting you. Might as well quote the whole post. 🙂 About the photographs: The fog adds a nice touch to your S-shaped path to Lighthouse Point, which would have made a fine photograph in your hands even without it. . . . Cow parsnip has never looked so good, with its lovely array of tones. . . . It takes your talent to compose the “bouquet of wildflowers” in #12 into a good photograph. . . . Your evergreen Sword fern fronds are beautiful, almost metallic looking in that tone. . . . Thank you for “Ten Thousand Flowers in Spring, the Moon in Autumn.” It’s going in my poetry folder. Finally, I have to say that your imagining yourself as “a seal or an otter, an eagle or a squirrel” helps us see nature—at least a little bit—this way, too. Another gift you’ve given us. Thank you for all of them in this post and so many others.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Such a scrumptiously detailed comment, Linda! 😉 I appreciate it very much, a vote of confidence. (I too liked the metallic tones in that black and white, and I know what you mean about composing a photo of a loose group of wildflowers like in #12, it doesn’t always work out). The poem is part of a famous collection of zen koans, it reaches back into my past and ties it with the present. Seeing things differently is good, gifts are good, friends are too…. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your story takes me in as if I’m on the walk with you through the mysterious foggy damp day along the Northwest coastline. Your detailed description of the marine environment and its beautify describes the ambience we Northwesters enjoy. As usual, your photos are lovely. Thanks for sharing

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  3. You might remember that I’m not always fond of B&W conversions, but Cow parsnip had me sucking in my breath. It’s beautiful and so delicate and intricate. The Baltic rush was a close second for favorite… I am pleased to find you sinking into your location so intimately.

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    • Yes, I remember that, so I appreciate your comment! Great! And that little rush, I wish I could have taken more photos, I think they are already done flowering. But there’s next year….thanks Gunta!

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  4. So lovely, so tranquil – your words and pictures capture the place for me and I am immersed in the beauty of the fog. There are some exquisite photos in this lot – 1, 2, 8, 10, 14. So much beauty.
    Alison

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    • Thanks so much Alison! It’s always interesting to know which photos get to someone….yes, lots of beauty around here! But it’s everywhere, and the best thing is to try to not only see it, but embody it in some way….cheers!

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    • Vous êtes le bienvenu, vous savez que cela me fait plaisir … Je suis heureux de votre présence et mes excuses pour avoir manqué votre blog pendant trop de semaines! Sourires… 🙂

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  5. One could say, fog is always the photographers’ friend, but what you and your camera make of a foggy morning goes far beyond. I feel smelling the aroma, the cool dampness on my face and soft paths under my feet. Magician you.
    Especially the cow parsnip is breathtaking! But the mildly coloured charms of the Path to Lighthouse Point take my heart.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, we love fog, don’t we? And you are too kind, once again, but that’s OK with me! 😉 I’m glad I was able to transmit a little of the magic to you. And you know there are things I could have done to exaggerate certain qualities of Path to the Lighthouse, but I chose not to, so I appreciate your thumbs up. 🙂 Enjoy what’s left of your day, Ule!

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  6. We get a few foggy days in the early spring and I try to make the most of them when I can. I like the obscured landscapes (and seascapes) we are able to capture in the fog. In this set, I have to pick #15 as my favorite. The processing gives the leaves a silvery look, which I like a lot. Nice work, Lynn.

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    • This is my first Spring here, and apparently there is quite a bit of morning cloudiness, if not actual fog. But I need to get out earlier. 😉 That day it lasted until midday, which helped. Thanks for mentioning #15, i was very happy with that one. I’m thinking of a post about that one species – they are so photogenic, and I have (probably) hundreds of photos of them already. Possibilities! 😉

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  7. Good stuff, and especially “But fog brings not-knowing forward, and what does that do? It returns us to the Wonder.” – very, very true. And like the map too – LOVE maps, full stop!

    Pictures here that get to me are 9, 10, 14 and 16. But 8 is ohhhh! >>> and 15 is way beyond ohhh!!!. A 🙂

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    • Oh, how nice that you teased that out of the text, since you must be very familiar with fog. We are both map people, and bird people, and photographers, and other things. Our taste in food? A little diversion there….
      #8 was fun to photograph, and I’ve photographed it without the fog as well. #15 was really fun to process. #9 speaks to the rockhound in both of us. Thank you Adrian!! Cheers!

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  8. I’ve been to Bowman Bay a couple times, usually to wait and hope the fog rises before motoring out into the Strait. But I didn’t pay as close attention to the flora. Nicely described and photographed.

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    • Maybe you stayed on the boat, which could be very enjoyable too. 🙂 If you’re back there again though, be sure to take the Lighthouse Point Loop – the scenery is spectacular and it’s a short, interesting walk.

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      • Normally we’re camping at the park, and the boat is an open 19 footer my dive club dives off of. Not something you’d sleep on. It’s possible our wives have done that trail while we’re out getting wet.

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  9. The foggy pictures are really magical, like a different mysterious world and you captured the atmosphere so well. I love fog, if it is for a short time 😉 It enchants our world right? I love the luscious growth of the plants and flowers as well as the rough and stony places. The parsnip is very poetic and the little Vicia and the Roses are colourful highlights in this scenery. Nr. 13 is so tiny and nice and I am not sure if I ever saw blooming rush 🙂 Thank you for showing! Your text is wonderful and very poetic too, so that the pictures and words form a poem altogether. One can feel how much you already love this landscape though you moved their “recently” – okay, almost 😉 I like the passage about “by sense instead of names” where you describe the surroundings. To me it feels quite right. Wonderful post Lynn!

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    • I’m so glad you liked these foggy musings, Almuth. You and I are fascinated by names, but I think we agree that naming has its limitations. I went back looking for that rush because it looks exactly like some photos online but I had questions about the stem – round or not? I couldn’t find it for sure, probably because it finished flowering already and has gone to seed – the one I found has only seeds. So that could be why you haven’t seen it in flower; it flowers very briefly. That’s today’s theory! 🙂 Thank you for your comment!!

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      • That can be a reason, the short period and of course the missing wet landscapes, that the rush prefers. In Ireland you can find lots of fields with rushes, but here in my surroundings they are limited. I am so glad, you made the picture at the right time 🙂 In the future I will watch out for it!

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  10. A tranquil and splendid walk with you, Lynn. Love the quiet images and your insights about what you’re seeing. Thanks for teaching me about a tombolo among other plant identifications. I don’t think you will be surprised that I love your monochromes especially- your conversions are beautiful- the foggy boat in the bay, the cow parsnips image is fabulous, the fern, the tree stump. And your close-ups of the flowers and grasses are terrific. And, on our 24th anniversary 🙂 we were celebrating on the coast in Mendocino County. Glorious.
    (As an aside, on our nature tour there, the guide told us that Cow Parsnips are highly phototoxic – after you brush into them, the light causes severe blistering. I photograph them often and now will beware! I think Native Americans must have developed an immunity to them.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Isn’t that a great word, tombolo? I learned it last year, after moving here. I’m very pleased to know you like the B&W conversions. I enjoy doing them. The business about Cow parsnips is confusing – there are two similar plants that are downright poisonous (Poison hemlock & wter-hemlock), and another one, a close relative, is the one that’s phototoxic. This is where the common names are misleading, and to further confuse matters, the native non-phototoxic plant has been renamed Common cowparsnip, or H. maximum. Whew!!
      An even bigger Cow parsnip, Heracleum mantegazzianum, aka Giant hogweed, which is not native, is the phototoxic one. The native one isn’t phototoxic and I’m pretty sure that’s what I photographed. Apparently you need to peel off the outer layer before eating or your mouth gets irritated, so it’s not totally harmless – but it’s not phototoxic the way the one your guide talked about is.
      I don’t have this all in my ahead – I have to look it up again every time. 😉
      How wonderful to be on the coast for your anniversary….I can feel the breeze….smell the salt air….and taste the wine…..

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  11. Don’t you love the woody asterisks that the remains at the bases of fallen tree trunks turn into?
    Regarding #15: “The repeating patterns are irresistible.” I wouldn’t’ve resisted, either.
    You did yourself proud with the luscious coastscape in #9.
    Regarding #11: Don’t think I’ve ever seen barnacles on anything but rocks, though I know that they can plague ships’ hulls.

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    • Thank you, Steve, I appreciate your comments….I’m glad you liked that cliff composition – the lichens over there are striking, as are the wildflowers clinging to it. There should be Campanulas blooming there soon. And barnacles, yes, they get around. 🙂

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  12. “But fog brings not-knowing forward, and what does that do? It returns us to the Wonder.” Ah, Lynn, you have gone to the heart of the matter. Thank you for allowing us to follow in your journey through the fog and see the beauty through your eyes. Every photo is exceptional but it was really your prose that moved me, the internal monologue that was both personal and universal.

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    • It’s gratifying to see you pick up that sentence, and to hear what you have to say about the text. Wonderful, thank you! (And as for the flowers, they compose themselves, don’t they? Lately I see SO many gorgeous garden compositions in the wild, such grace in the ways the wild plants arrange themselves, often with supporting casts of rock, wood, etc. – as in garden design!).

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  13. Such a nice hike, Lynn. A place in which we could easily lose ourselves.. The path to Lighthouse Point is so inviting and the colors and textures of the rock in number 9 could keep one busy for a long time.

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    • Yes, I go there and lose myself again and again….and these photos were taken in just a little corner of this part of the park. The path around Lighthouse Point is a whole ‘nother thing. 🙂 That cliff fascinats me – it’s full of small wildflowers and lichens, and the rocks are beautiful by themselves….I have been photographing it a lot, not quite my Mt. Monadnock but you get the idea.

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      • I am not much for traveling and especially flying. Steve S. has been inviting me to Texas for a while and maybe someday I’ll get there to visit him and Linda Leinen. I think it would be part of a wider visit including California for my brother and Michael Scandling and possibly a visit up your way. Were that to happen I’d love to visit Lighthouse Point. I have to say I am enthusiastic about the visits but not the traveling. 🙂

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      • That would be a regular odyssey, but I know, travel just gets worse and worse. If it’s any consolation, I bet the flight from TX to CA would be quick and easy. From CA to Seattle it’s only 2 or 3 hours, and there are many flights to choose from, as it’s a well-traveled route. But then there’s the trip home…..well, by then you’d be tired enough to sleep on the plane. It would be fun to show you around. 🙂

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        • I’ll see if I can make it happen. For someone who doesn’t do much traveling that would be a big challenge. I’d need a good month.The only time I’ve flown was in the late 80’s to the SF area to visit my brother. We went to Yosemite for one night. One cannot visit anywhere for one night. Well, afternoon, night and day then back.

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  14. I followed the post simultaneously with a look at google maps, which made the reading much more real.
    Spectacular trunks scattered across the bays!
    Very beautiful details, as well as your photos, whether with fog and certainly without it too!
    I really enjoyed the tour!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, that is exciting! I love using google maps, and the area is so full of curves that it’s hard to describe. The trees that wash up around here are always pretty amazing. The soil is thin so the trees have shallow roots and they often fall over (they grow fast so new trees replace them). Then some of them might drift down a river and out into the sound, and come back again onto a beach. Who knows where they have been?
      Thank you so much for your generous attention. 🙂

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  15. Wonderful images (as usual)! What really pulled me in this time was your black and white shots. They impart a very peaceful and ‘old time’ feel to me, particularly the one with the boat. I want to be there……

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    • Lighthouse Point isn’t a long walk, and it’s nicely varied. There are great views too, of the bridge, and then the islands (including your of course!). There’s no lighthouse, just a small lamp perched on a difficult to access cliff. I hope you can get back to the area on a day when there aren’t too may people around! The other day I was there and there was a group of kayaking campers and a rescue training (all the way from up near Birch Bay) going on. Getting busy!

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    • It’s the same flower in both photos you mention, a Queen Anne’s lace relative, but much bigger. They’ve all gone to seed now so they’re showing their similarity to fennel and celery too – all in the carrot family. But some here – another big white lacy flower – are poisonous so one has to be careful about the identity. 🙂 Thank you Scott!

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  16. Catching up 😉 Fine series, Lynn. 1. I would have taken myself.., for what it’s worth.. 3. Subtle against that background 9. Hard to describe why; but appeals to me.. complexity; colors; dark rectangle in the upper right corner; horizontal layers at the bottom; all in balance… 12. Somehow love the diagonal.. 15. Well framed; down to the essence of the plant 16. Thank God it’s not plastic.. See you!

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    • You’re back! I ‘m looking forward to seeing what you were up to – I remember some great photos from Spain in previous years, and I think that’s where you went again…I can see you taking a photo like #1, bending down, framing it…. 🙂 I was happy with #3 because I thought there was just enough detail in the dock in the background to see what it is, so I’m glad you approve. #9 appeals to you becasue it’s a good photo, Harrie! 😉 Seriously, it is a really beautiful rock, and I’ve taken photos like that a number of times – I keep trying! The B&W fern – that plant is very common here so I have lots of opportunities to get to know it, and to photograph it. I will do a post just on that fern one day. And yes, thank god that was not plastic caught on the tree. It would be if I was in New York, probably. There is hardly any plastic trash on the beaches here, thankfully!

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  17. Pingback: LOCAL WALKS: Kukutali Preserve « bluebrightly


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