Quiet at the Turn of the Year

To close the door on a year – or a decade – is really a pretty abstract concept. It’s essentially a numbers game that relies on a somewhat arbitrary system of calendar organization. I’m a sensual person and I prefer to think of this time of year in sensory terms, so that’s what I’ll talk about here.

There’s a quiet cast to the light these days. You could say the sun has gotten rather introspective: less likely to light up every little corner, more apt to hide its brilliance. Almost all of December was cloudy here. The sky spat out rain now and then, and kept referring back to itself in a gray-on-gray kind of way. On a few days, towards sunset, rogue openings appeared in the cloud cover, and yielded brief but welcome drama. If the clouds thinned to reveal bits of blue, the sunlight was weak but appealingly gentle. The punch has disappeared from color, textures are flat, and a sheen of moisture-soaked air has smoothed over the worn surfaces of wood and rock.

Wet air encouraged the verdure of lichens and ferns; many are as green as Springtime. Tiny plants sprout on the forest floor too. I don’t know what species they are, but I notice two, four or more tiny leaves climbing on fragile stems toward what light there is, with great determination. Will the little plants survive? Surely the ground will freeze sometime in the next few months. We’ll see. There’s always more to learn about, much of it right at my feet.

I’m drawn these days to the edges of the island, places where I can weave in and out of the forest as I walk, investigating the detritus washed up at the last high tide, gazing out over the water to look for birds, and picking my way along forest paths among the evergreen giants. Woods and water make a fine pair for this quiet time of year.

1. A bit of rain falls towards uninhabited Deception Island.

2. Countless wave cycles have worn this old mass of roots down to a tough bundle of bumps, knobs, holes and craters.

3. Raindrops fall on the rocks at West Beach, Deception Pass. This is the time of year I’m glad I have a “splash-proof” camera and lenses, not to mention warm socks.

4. People love to balance rocks. The cairns don’t last too long at the beaches I frequent so I usually don’t mind them. In some environments, like deserts, animals depend on rocks for shelter so moving rocks around can make life difficult them. And leaving a cairn in an otherwise pristine place can subtract from the experience of being in the wild for other people. At the same time, rock-balancing requires focus, attention and creativity, which are qualities I wouldn’t want to deny anyone from expressing.

5. Another view of the rock pile seen above, in sepia.

6. The tides create numberless small compositions with rocks and sand.

7. A rare December blue-sky day at North Beach, Deception Pass State Park.

8. Water deepens the colors of this amazing pile of plants torn from from the Salish Sea seen after high tide. Washington Park, Fidalgo Island.

9. A large rock at the edge of the water stays damp on this gray day; its wrinkled surface and blue-green color elicit my admiration.
10. Ever-present moisture along the island’s margins nourishes lichens, moss, fungi and ferns, as well as the trees and understory plants. We don’t realize how much we benefit from all of this, however indirectly. Lighthouse Point, Deception Pass.

11. A large percentage of life – perhaps forty percent here – relies on downed wood for habitat. So far these fallen trees support moss, lichens and mushrooms. In time, ferns and seed plants will appear. The wood teems with insect life too, and birds and four-legged creatures will engage with the logs one way or another. This two-legged creature with a little black box stopped to look one afternoon.

12. A lichen, one of the Usnea genus, cradles valuable moisture on a damp afternoon. With no roots, it pays for the lichen to be able to hold onto raindrops.

13. Two old Western Redcedars grow tall next to Heart Lake on Fidalgo Island. This species thrives on abundant moisture. Drier summers and droughts here on the island have coincided with a notable increase in dying Redcedars and hemlocks. Arborists are studying the trees and weather, trying to determine if the drier summers are causing the die-off or not.
14. One day this old Redcedar will probably slip in the water, which is just to the left in this photo. Washington Park, Fidalgo Island.
15. The root worked its way into the rock, and now Licorice fern is taking advantage of the resulting cool, damp micro-climate. North Beach, Deception Pass.

16. Bark shed by Madrone trees fell onto this bed of moss (probably Oregon Beaked moss – Kindbergia oregana) in Washington Park, near the edge of the island.

17. Tree trunk slices are welcome stepping stones on forest paths in the wet months. Heart Lake forest, Fidalgo Island.

18. Light bouncing off Heart Lake brightens the forest. The large Douglas fir tree on the left has seen hundreds of Decembers and it just might see hundreds more.

19. I was amazed to glance down and see this delicate little Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata) by the trail, still blooming in late December. Kukatali Preserve.

20. This foggy place is several miles from the shoreline but because it’s the highest place on the island, clouds collect here and stick around. Mt. Erie, Fidalgo Island.

21. It’s 3:07pm on December 18th. Soon the sun will set, but not before breaking through a thick cloud cover and gracing the snow-covered Olympic Mountains, across the Salish Sea and more than 50 miles away as the crow flies.

***


82 comments

  1. Actually, in the words of an article at space.com, “Earth’s closest approach to the sun, called perihelion, comes in early January and is about 91 million miles (146 million km), just shy of 1 AU. The farthest from the sun Earth gets is called aphelion. It comes in early July and is about 94.5 million miles (152 million km), just over 1 AU.” We just think the sun is farther away during our northern winter because the weather is cold.

    Till I read your caption for #3, I thought I was seeing a speckled bird’s egg.

    In one scenic area that I visited in the west a few years ago so many people had piled up stones that, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t take a natural picture of the place.

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    • I’m glad you corrected me, Steve – I knew that but I forgot! I’ll have to think of some other poetic justification for the weak sunlight now…. πŸ˜‰ I’m curious to know if you thought all the cairns in the place you mentioned were overkill. And, Happy New Year!

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      • Yes, I definitely felt all the cairns were overkill. It frustrated me that I couldn’t get a single natural picture of the site. I think it was somewhere else a couple of years ago that I saw a guy kick down a bunch of stacked stones because he felt they interfered with nature.

        Happy New Year indeed: may our picture-taking prosper.

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    • It may not be really nice outside but if you keep going out and walking around, some decent photos will usually be the result. πŸ™‚ Thanks Harrie, and my very best wishes to you and your family for 2020.

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  2. Love all your images…,impossible to choose a fave. And I love your words. β€œYou could say the sun has gotten rather introspective” . Love it.

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    • Oh good, I’m glad you liked the text, Howard. Steve (above) pointed out my mistake writing that the sun was far away, so I’ll go correct that, but it still seems rather introspective, compared to June. I hope you’re enjoying some good time off, Howard – have a great, creative New Year.

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  3. definitely you are a sensuous person with lines like these – a photopoet to boot
    “The sky spat out rain now and then, and kept referring back to itself in a gray-on-gray kind of way”

    so much eye-candy here but the lichen topped it for me – such fragile fronds of emerald
    And for all the number magic of New Years, I wish you a 2020 full of more of these gorgeous photos

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    • The lichen is a poetic image, isn’t it? Not quite in focus, which can be OK sometimes. I’m glad you like that one – and I so appreciate the comment on the text. Photopoet, sure, I can go for that. πŸ™‚ Thanks for being here, and I wish you a creative, fresh and interesting 2020.

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  4. I’ve had a fascination with cairns for quite a while. Aside from the beauty of them, they showed the way for travelers before signs were posted. I think now people just want others to know “I was here” but the actual cairns are still beautiful.

    I find the light on #17, #18 and #29 very nice, especially. Nice work, Lynn.

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    • They used to show the way, but now, because so many people make them just for Insta posts of FB, that has been lost. It’s too bad. But I agree, they’re wonderful in their portrayal of care and attention to small things we don’t normally notice. Thanks Ken – I always appreciate hearing what you have to say. πŸ™‚

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  5. Lovely words & photos to begin the new year. Start as you mean to be going on.
    Quietness is often an underrated and neglected quality, but both at work, with the phone ringing with questions and demands, and at home, it does come to mind pretty much daily. As a condition for, to step toward, a sense of peacefulness. I live in a city now – across the street is a river and greenbelt, but around the corner is also a noisy thoroughfare. So now I appreciate even more the infusion of quiet and beauty in these thoughtful posts of yours. Best wishes for the new year, Lynn!

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    • The steady hum of assorted human-made noise is so prevalent – until you get to a truly quiet place you don’t realize how much noise you live with. I’m glad I brought at least an illusion – oh, infusion! – of quiet to your day. I hope you can keep finding islands of quiet along the way in 2020, Robert. Thanks for being here!

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    • The light in #4 worked out OK…and now I can’t remember if the tones in #2 are selenium or blue, but it seemed to work with that image. There is a sense of the magical in this area – all the water, the immense evergreens with their mysterious darkness, the lush ferns. Thank you for being present here – and elsewhere in your life! – this past year. Wishing you more of the same in 2020.

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  6. Oh my dear, I read your first paragraph and >>> we are travelling along the same road!!!!! Maybe of all the words there, abstract, arbitrary and sensual are the ones that really hit me most. Our calendar system is totally arbitrary, why not too long back we changed calendars, from the Julian to the Gregorian (if I remember correctly … not that I was there at the time you understand …). And our dates are based on a religious event, which is something we have to have faith in, faith being an unreasoning belief, to recognise as fact. And the sensual, in our case the visually sensual – oh yes!!!

    Love these pictures, esp 3, 6, 7, 17 and 20. But the ones that really blow my cassock up (well, we were on a religious theme …) are 5, 11 and 15 – which looks like a snake with leaves!!! Good stuff!!! A πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    • What a fun comment…I was thinking you were around for that calendar change, no? πŸ˜‰ It was about power and politics, I imagine, and not about yoking our lives to natural cycles. We just have to do that on our own, and we certainly can, we’ve made that clear. That can be a spiritual practice, keeping close to the earth, respecting it. I’d like to get more senses involved here – maybe someday I’ll make some short videos, and sound can enter the picture. Smell and touch are good ones too, and as you must be thinking right now, taste. πŸ˜‰ I’m pleased that so many images got to you here…#6 and #7 have a feeling I like too. #5 is another of those Adrian-type images, to my mind. The snake/root is a very common phenomenon here – ah, roots are incredible, aren’t they? I should do a root post. Thank you, Adrian, and hold on to that cassock, it’s still winter! πŸ˜‰

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    • The forest floor has much to offer, doesn’t it? I have a slew of images tagged “ground” in the Lr archives. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Stay warm, enjoy the New Year, and here’s wishing you a very creative 2020.

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  7. Beautiful impressions, I love it! A Happy New Year to you dear Lynn (also it is just a new week that has started, right πŸ˜‰ I would speak of “walden” when I see your lovely pictures from your walks in the woods πŸ™‚

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  8. 1. you’ve captured that delicious misty, rosy light so beautifully and delicately.
    8&9. catching that wet water-shine – sweet.
    12. that soggy fuzziness
    You’re capturing the essence of the coastal PNW.

    Then your words weave the spell.
    If I haven’t already sent a wish here’s one (& one for Joe) to a very happy and productive 2020.

    There’s just something about that repeat twenty-twenty that makes me cheerful and gives me hope. πŸ˜€

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    • I like that sheen on the driftwood, don’t you? “Soggy fuzziness” describes that one image well! And that’s often how it is around here these days. Oh well, we need the rain. Glad you enjoyed the text, too. I enjoy composing it. And 2020 – yes, I hadn’t thought of that. OK, let’s go for it! Sending twenty times twenty good wishes for you and Eric! πŸ˜‰

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      • Yes I do love the shine on the driftwood… especially the stuff that’s been out there, tossed and polished to a mirror finish. All outstanding stuff in just the right light.
        Heh! I tend to find all the soggy fuzziness refreshing after a long dry summer… though I have to say with some distinct amazement that the weather has been close to ideal. The soggy days hover in the 50s both day and night. We have a few of them, then along comes the sun and opens up the sky… and that’s when it turns colder and can even hit close to 30ΒΊ at night (not often).
        Eric tends to get cabin fever quicker than I do. It seems I just hunker down and take it easy, mostly drifting… still feeding the nuthatches. Oddly enough they seem to come in closer when it’s overcast of slightly drizzly. The chickadees still eye me caught between apprehension and desire. (Seems a bit of cheating to take down their other feeder.)
        My “hope” mentioned in my opening comment was typed before the latest fiasco. Sigh… Seems we need to share the beauty around us as much as ever.

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  9. Well I knew when I sat down to visit your blog post today it would rock 😍 stunning 😍you create a feeling of wanting to be there but I feel there…the tones and colours so fine…and yes winter a time to be inward πŸ€“β˜ΊοΈ have another creative and magical year Lynn…I’m going to the coast later this month to see the sea and the wee one ☺️ happy 2020 to you and your loved ones β˜ΊοΈπŸ€—β£οΈ hugs Hedy πŸ€—

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    • Good, I’m glad you’ll be getting to the coast – it may be rainy, but probably not below freezing! πŸ˜‰ Thanks for your good wishes and compliments, I appreciate it. Best wishes to you and your family – and the Four-legged One too – for the New Year. πŸ™‚

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  10. What could be better than a beautiful walk and wonderful photographs to mark the passage of a year / decade?
    The essence of life is in every step and look we share with nature!
    I wish you a peaceful, healthy and tender year! And with a lot of lovely walks!

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    • Yes, a beautiful walk is good medicine and a good ritual for the turning of the year. The pleasure is mine, especially in sharing it. I wish you many lovely walks this year too, by the sea, in the forest, through the fields, in towns, everywhere! πŸ˜‰

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  11. Hello dear Lynn .. every time I log on to WP and see your posts I realise what I’ve been missing . Truly lovely post . You engage so naturally with your surroundings and reach out so well to everyone who reads what you think and feel . Wonderful ..
    Perhaps I’ve reached a turning point and ready to climb back on that horse that seems to have moved and jiggered away from me the past year .. let’s just see how it goes .
    EEEK πŸ˜‰
    Wishing you health happiness and more wanderings in the coming year .
    Love Poppy x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, it ‘s so good to hear from you. I do miss your presence – your blog was like no other, that’s for sure. I don’t think that horse is too far away, or too high up, it’s just a pony, really. πŸ™‚
      And thank you for the kind, perceptive words. You seem to get where I’m coming from. I wish you many happy wanderings, whether outdoors or within the four walls – for 2020 and beyond.

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      • Aah thank you so much Lynn . It’s not too hard at all to see how much the natural world around you has a connection you impart to others x
        You made me smile re *pony … getting there putting on my spurs Lol

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  12. That #2 looks like it has become a dragon sitting by the shore. Like you, although with a reservoir and not an ocean, I like to wander the edge, weaving in and out of the wooded periphery and alternately along the water’s edge. It’s man made so has a different feel to it. But there are similarities with weathered driftwood, wave creations in the sand and around the beach grasses, and washed rocks although spread around rather than gathered. Your walk seems the perfect way to reflect on passing time.

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    • Just a reminder – as much as it may appear ocean-like, this is many miles from the ocean. It would take about five hours of ferry-riding and driving to get there. But the Salish Sea, as it’s now called, is large and open to the ocean at the other end so we get tides, saltwater, and waves – albeit small ones. Reservoirs can be pretty big too, and are usually protected well, so they provide good opportunities for us, right? Happy hunting!

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    • Knowing you’re someone who pays close attention to writing, I really appreciate your words here. And I have to admit, I was happy with some of those phrases. πŸ˜‰ The images must look pretty familiar to you, in a general way. I’m glad you enjoyed – thanks, Alison!

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  13. Well, talk about the right time at the right place, not to mention fortune favoring the prepared eye. All I can say about #1 is wow; you deserve that treat. What a photograph. Another favorite is #6, beautifully composed. Look at all the variety in shapes and colors in #8, which of course your camera has arranged just so. And you elicit my admiration for admiring the wrinkled surface and blue-green color of the rock in #9. I like how you’ve caught the parallel slopes in #10. Oh, and the matching slant of the pine (if it’s a pine)! The intense greens among the dark browns in #11 make me swoon. You found a particularly nice S-shape composition in #15, where the color contrasts lend a helping hand. The foggy place of #20 looks like a film setting; I expect something/somebody to wend up the pathβ€”with symphonic music accompanying. But it’s a striking photograph without all that. Thank you for another wonderful visit. I hope the new year will bring you many more delights to share with us. Your workβ€”words and photographsβ€”are simultaneously comforting and exciting. May you blog for many new years to come.

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    • Do you know I was thinking about you when I photographed that rock, and when I processed it, and again when I decided to include it here? It’s a really cool rock, on a beach I go to frequently, but it’s at an end where you’re not really supposed to be because there are private homes there. On a damp, dreary winter weekday though, no one cares about me walking over there. The rock might be serpentine – it was quite green. With #8 (seaweeds) I was floored by the variety – usually, that doesn’t happen. In #6 (sand & rocks) I made many compositions that day. It was just like beach-combing except I didn’t pick anything up. So much fun. #10, with the pine, is a phone photo. Actually it’s one of our common Douglas firs, growing that way because it’s at the edge of the island where lots of wind comes in from the strait – the west. The wind molds everything along the slope so it all hugs the land. I agree with you about the cinematic feeling of #20, the fog up there is great. The town maintains a winding, steep 2-lane all the way up and saved the whole little mountain from the ax. The views are expansive but in my mind, equally compelling in the fog. Thank you for your support, once again. Comforting and exciting sounds good to me. πŸ™‚

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  14. A lovely winter set and thoughts! Aren’t we lucky that the changing seasons give us new material to ponder and play with? I especially like your composition and tones in #2, with its great use of a foreground object. I am also drawn to the close-up compositions #6 and #17.

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    • We are lucky to have changing seasons – and you must have beautiful snow, and tons of it, now. I need to get up into the mountains one of these days to see some snow – I think I could be high enough in well under two hours, but my car isn’t suited for anything unplowed, which limits where I can go. If I lived where you did, that wouldn’t work out too well! Thanks for mentioning composition – I have tried framing photos with large pieces of driftwood in the foreground a number of times. I have to keep at it because often, it doesn’t work, and I know it “should.” I think #2 was a decent try, but for some reason, it needed to be in monochrome before it really worked. Thank you for stopping by – I see you just posted and I will check that out soon. πŸ™‚

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  15. No. 6 and No. 9 are compositions of abstract artwork that are going to stay with me for a long time. I am going to borrow your pursuit of walking where forest meets water for 2020. It’s a boundary between two landscapes I deeply love and want to immerse myself in.
    Wishing you the most happiest of New Years and hoping 2020 will find you in the most beautiful entanglements of nature. Thank you for your motivational creativity and your dedication to your art. It’s been such encouragement to me.

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    • It’s good to hear from you. You left such a nice comment, I do appreciate it! Is it dedication or obsession? I guess maybe it’s dedication. πŸ™‚ It seems that rocks are appealing to you today, so I hope you find many beautiful rocks as you weave in and out of those shoreline spaces in the months ahead. I hope your year is full of delight.

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  16. Happy New Year, Lynn. Thank you for this quiet and beautiful walk. You capture nature’s details with a tender and appreciative eye. The worn tree stump commanding the foreground, the reflecting water between the tree trunk slices, the walking path near Heart Lake….so many beauties. The cairn shots are well composed, but I agree, these rock piles are looked down upon by environmentalists. Looking forward to the interesting scenes you will photograph in the new year. Wishing you many creative and inspiring moments!

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  17. Wonderful shots and thoughts, Lynn. There’s something about January light isn’t there, it’s interesting to see that here too, similar to as we have at home. It’s a humble seeming kind of light..I’ve often wondered if it was just the contrast to all the bright colours of Christmas, but I think it is just its quality at this time of year.

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    • That’s an interesting take on the light. We certainly bring our subjective reactions, attitudes, feelings, etc. to everything, including the way we perceive light, and it makes sense that after the ebullience of the holidays, even the light might seem more subdued. Hmmm. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by and commenting – it’s always good to hear from you. I hope you’re doing well, and yes, Happy New Year to you as well.

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  18. Many lovely photographs here, but these two are clear favorites: Lichens (#12)…Foggy Place (#20)

    (You’ve had a number of other images during the last few months that are much in the spirit of those lichens. Good work Lynn!)

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