WITHIN THE BOUNDS

…of a five-mile radius. That is where the shutter button clicked for the images below.

Real travel still seems risky but we are so weary of the restrictions we’ve had to adapt to this year! A release, a reprieve, a relief – that’s what we need. Getting outside works for me. Sometimes I don’t feel inspired but I make myself walk and in the end, there is much to be found that keeps me going, even close to home. So I continue my local forays with a curious mind and a grateful heart.

1.

Here on Fidalgo Island seasonal changes are drawn out and subtle; summer into fall is no exception. Instead of brilliant Sugar maple fire there is a quiet, golden glow in the grasses and leaves; in place of crisp, blue-sky days there is moody morning fog. The delights of freshly-opened flowers are gone but there is pleasure to be had in the following the sinuous curves of drying leaves. The slow permutations of autumn in the Pacific northwest unfold without hindrance, like a meandering waltz spreading limbs through time and space.

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2.

These images were made between mid-September and mid October on Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. The terroir, as the French say, is strongly influenced by water, mild in temperature, thin of soil, and resplendent with natural beauty.

I “beat the bounds” of my own small place on this planet, walking a ragged perimeter of well-worn paths, absorbing the lessons I’m open to, exploring the limits of “my” territory. In England, Scotland and Wales, before maps were readily available, boundary memories were periodically refreshed by walking along and defining them. Beating the bounds and practices like it have probably been around for thousands of years and may be rooted in a similar Roman custom which Wikipedia says honored Terminus, the god of landmarks. But why is it called “beating” the bounds? Because willow or birch branches were slapped on the ground and on the old stone boundary markers, helping to fix parish borders in residents’ minds. Children were brought along to learn the boundaries by whatever means suited those in charge – maybe a firm knock on the child’s head when they arrived at a stone marker could cement the memory. And afterwards the bonds of the community were strengthened by celebrating with food and drink. According to Wikipedia, the custom still exists in some locations, including sites in Germany, France, and even the U.S. Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire have statutes requiring that certain boundaries are periodically reaffirmed. However, apparently some contemporary versions of beating the bounds don’t include actual walking. Too bad.

Though I’m not necessarily a fan of practices that strengthen the idea of ownership over land, I find much to like in the idea of beating the bounds. It seems to be a way to recognize and celebrate one’s connection to the earth, specifically to one’s locality. We are rooted in the local, nourished by the soil under our feet and the air about us. It’s good to remember that.

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3. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) in repose.

4. My bounds include shorelines; on this beach golden leaves were scattered on the sand and tiny shell fragments piled up behind when the tide went out.

5. Madrone trees play a prominent role in my environment. As summer wanes and windy rainstorms appear they fling berries onto the ground. Douglas fir needles make a nice backdrop.

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7. A Douglas fir skeleton at the feet of thriving relatives looks mysterious in the morning fog.

8. Twined Douglas fir trees. They’re the most common tree species within the bounds of my island.

9. A fragile piece of Madrone bark hangs from a twig encircled by a honeysuckle vine. The slow collapse of autumn is indeed a beautiful thing, even in its most mundane details

*

*

12. The single, ruined train car that shares a field with half a dozen cattle looked straight out of an old movie when the smoke settled around it. This is one of the stranger sights seen in my travels.

13. On this October morning my world was smudged by fog instead of smoke.

14. With a little help from the camera, golden Bracken ferns wave in the wind, saying goodbye to chlorophyll-green summer days and hello to the somber tones of decomposition.

15. I thought these were gooseberries but found out they’re Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) berries. This Pacific northwest native is grown in temperate gardens world-wide for it’s beautiful spring flowers.

16. Back at the beach the receding tide left a message written in eelgrass.

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18. Horsetails (Equisetum arvense) are leaning closer to the earth now.

19. I found fall color on a small scale in the forest – Western starflower (Trientalis latifolia) in a bed of moss.

20. Another Western starflower plant rides out autumn in a soft sea of reindeer lichen (Cladonia sp.).

21. Fog, not smoke. Bliss.

***


74 comments

  1. I always learn something new from your posts, Lynn – a great fact like “beating the bounds” or the identification of a plant. This collection really celebrates nature’s compositional beauty. The small wonders of the pine on the leaves, the madrone and needles, the abstract of the eel grass (wonderful!) and your atmospheric landscapes are thoughtfully created. The train is quite strangely beautiful. Thanks for taking me there. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • “Nature’s compositional beauty” – I like that. I wasn’t sure the train fit, being the only human-made subject, but a certain someone said go for it and you have reinforced that. It just sits there in that fenced-in field, year after year, begging to be photographed. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you, Jane.

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  2. Beautiful autumnal mood, dear Lynn. Your mist photographs are mysterious, even the ones that are due to smokey air. But I understand, that it doesn’t feel right to you finding the effects of such destructive powers beautiful.
    All the small plants change their look while preparing for winter and even so, there is a faint resonance of their looks in spring in the way you create the images.
    You inspired me to plan an autumnal walk today, too. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s difficult to convey the whole feeling of those smoky days and of course, the air was hard to breathe so there was no question that what we were seeing wasn’t right. I don’t need any more of that kind of beauty. That’s very interesting, what you said about the “faint resonance” plants have now to their spring selves. I can see it now that you mention it but I never thought of it, so thank you for that.
      I hope the sheep are out and the fields are pretty for your walk, and I have a feeling there might be interesting things happening with the falling leaves around that little creek….not to mention around your garden.

      Liked by 1 person

    • How nice, Jo, and I know this is a very different environment from the one you find yourself in now. We have far less light, for example, and what light we have has a different quality. Thank you for coming along. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Thank you, as always, for sharing such beauty! Such gentle and simple wisdom! Indeed, you blog is one I so look foreword to, because it reminds us all that no matter where we wander in the natural world, we can fill our cup with endless visual lessons and bountiful love from Mother Earth! Thank you thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for such nourishing words, Emily. What you’ve said about Mother Earth is a message I believe in and try to convey. It’s gratifying to know that maybe I haven’t muddied the waters too much. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  4. #2 is kinda where I live in my head.

    I love the idea of the ritual, โ€œBeating The Boundsโ€ – though it doesnโ€™t seem to make any sense in my over-developed habitat. Makes more sense to maybe โ€œPiss On The Fences!โ€ ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In #15, it’s interesting how the surfaces of the currant fruits have darker flecks on them. I wonder why, and whether they serve any purpose. Did you know that currant derives from Corinth, where a species grew? Speaking of words, in #16, you neglected to tell us the meaning of the message written in Eelgrass. I tried Google Translate but it doesn’t offer Eelgrass as one of its languages. And the caption to #14 raises the question of what kind of composition you could use to photograph decomposition.

    The dark background color in #5 contrasts well with the fallen madrone fruit. In #7, the fallen tree, which seems to be walking toward the left, looks like a cross between a stick insect and an alligator. In #6, “circles on sticks” is a good way to describe late-stage fireweed. I had my first happy encounters with fireweed in 2017, and in doing a little research on it afterwards I discovered botanists have updated the genus to Chamaenerion.

    The ruined train in #12 is quite a sight. Do you know how it came to be there? Someone should incorporate it (or already has?) into a photoshoot with a model, or into a movie.

    Your first photograph in #11 reminded me of one I took in the Philippines last December. The sun through the fog in #21 is hopeful indeed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Steve, thank you for keeping me entertained. Eelgrass is there, between Dutch and English, but you have to close one eye and squint to see it.
      The specks on the Red-flowering currant are what drew me, too, plus the hanging clusters. Of course, I didn’t know the word derivation, thank you. Strange.
      That fallen tree seems to be walking when you see it in person, too – I’ve noticed that. It’s a cool one. It’s also cool that you understand what I mean by the Fireweed description. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for correcting me on the genus – another one I forgot about – if I’d look them up online instead of in a field guide, this wouldn’t happen. But it’s nice to leaf through a book with pictures, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰
      The train’s story is unknown to me. That fenced-in property is on a peninsula that Shell Oil and others have mostly taken over for refinery work. This place is one of a handful of private property holdouts (they won’t sell) near the refineries. The whole peninsula is a strange collage of industry, obscure small homes, and cattle and sheep grazing in the fields. Personally, I hope no one does use the train car for a photoshoot and I doubt the owner would allow anyone on their property. Just a feeling I get.
      Thanks again, Steve, and enjoy your weekend.
      .

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  6. Beauty is also in places, but it is essentially in the attentive and aesthetic look of the photographer, wherever he goes. It is this look that makes the apparently banal in something special.
    Lynn is a specialist in it, and photos 3, 4 and 5 are a good example, as they form a beautiful set.
    I like them all, but I only mention these!
    Thank you for sharing your look and feelings during those explorations near … or away from home!
    Have a nice weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Or is beauty somewhere in between the object and the attentive photographer? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I appreciate your kind words, Dulce. Yes, #3, 4, and 5 work together nicely. I often tell myself to pare the post down and show fewer pictures but even after I take some away there are still so many. It’s not a bad problem to have, right? I hope you have a lovely Sunday – thanks for being here.

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  7. Your photos within five miles of home make me wonder why you’d ever go anywhere else! Re. bounds, even though my natural instinct is to rebel against them as human and arbitrary, exploring them can lead one to interesting places one might not find otherwise. I’ve got a slow-burning notion that I eventually want to photograph the corners and center of my county, at least more or less. And I might extend that notion to neighboring counties eventually too. There’s something fascinating in the tension between political and natural boundaries and the way they can be harmonious or dissonant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting – the harmony or dissonance of geographical vs. political boundaries. Some borders adhere so closely to natural landscape features – shorelines, obviously – and others, like the 49th parallel, are contrived, very human-made. I really like the idea of photographing the corners and center of your county. Our county is a long, thin rectangle that reaches into the mountains; I’d have to climb halfway up Sinister Peak (seriously! It’s 8440′ and would require “many miles of trail, challenging route-finding to avoid heinous brush and massive elevation gain”). I’d have to get to the top of Azurite Peak (8400′ and a 25-mile hike) for the northeast corner. This has been a fascinating detour and I’ve learned something, Thanks for stopping by, and especially for sharing your thoughts.

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      • Yeah, Whitman County is a lot friendlier for such a project! Still, the southwest corner might be a little tricky, since it’s private property on the wrong side of the Snake and Palouse, with no real public road access. I expect I’ll be shooting across the river for that one, but that might be the better view anyway. But I’m not really after literal photos ON the corner, rather the broader views OF the place. Same for your big peaks – I’ve definitely learned over the years that the best images don’t come from climbing the giants, but rather from the slopes of their little siblings nearby.

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  8. The photos are excellent as ever when you become absorbed in the natural environment..
    In response to your last post I commented on the value framing to sharpen focus. The theme and pictures in Within the Bounds make the point well

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s always a nice experience to go through your photos, like walking with you. And specially in these difficult times it is even nicer. The one I appreciate very much is #3 (fern lover here!) with such interesting colours.
    And each time I read your post I learn something, today was this “beat the bound” which is something to think about. Maybe I should do it around my table but I’m afraid my wife could think I’m getting crazy, too crazy even in these weird days ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for this good post !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, these times are just so frustrating! We have to keep our sense of humor, which It looks like you’re doing. I’m really pleased to see you mention the pile of ferns – it’s something I would not have photographed at all, some years ago. But now, when I see these random-looking piles of foliage I try to make sense out of them. You’re right, the colors in that pile were interesting and really brought the composition together. Thanks for commenting, and have a good week, one way or another. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  10. Oh, boy, another gallery of BB goodies! 1 โ€“ A simple, elegant, and eloquent tribute to autumn. 2 โ€“ Take me there and turn me free with my tiny kayak. 5 โ€“ It looks like this one bent over backward to pose for you. 7 โ€“ My imagination sees a reptile or a spider on tippy-toe, hyper-alert for something just out of the frame at the left. 10 โ€“ The spiderโ€™s a beautiful orb-weaver. Iโ€™d love to see an enlargement, but the click does not provide one. Are you using the dread block editor? 12 โ€“ I had the same thought as Steve about the old train carโ€™s chance at a new life as a player in a movie or at least a photo shoot. 16 โ€“ my mindโ€™s eye sees a sketch of a ballet dancer here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kayaks are seen regularly in the vicinity of #2 – they just have to watch the intense tidal rush that sweeps through the pass (just beyond those rocks). The animated-looking tree in #5 was taken just a few minutes later – it’s an amazing spot. I’m not sure why individual gallery photos won’t enlarge – are you implying that it’s because I”m using the block editor – because I am. Thanks for your enthusiasm about this pile of autumn goodies. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. Another beautiful collection, some of it familiar here a bit further north, some not. I loved the story of beating the bounds. So many expressions in our language have an interesting historic past. Apparently “falling off to sleep” comes from the days of stage coaches in England. The cheapest fare was on top with the luggage. You didn’t want to sleep or you might fall off.
    My faves this time round are definitely the two fireweed pics.
    Alison

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    • Thank you, Alison. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos and reading about that interesting old custom with a very catchy name. I sure didn’t know about falling off to sleep – funny! I think there may be another Fireweed photo coming up, but even more abstract. Have a great weekend! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  12. Beating the bounds, really a funny tradition or better a funny name for an old tradition. I see milestones of this kind from time to time, but I never thought that people walked their property (and knocked children on the head ;-). Very interesting and it reminds me of something else, of the Aborigines and how they “sing” their country. I read about it in Bruce Chatwins book Songlines – have you heard of it? It is fascinating. So you walked your lines or your area and brought so many beautiful pictures with you ๐Ÿ™‚ You are so lucky about the fog (not smoke anymore, I hope). It is so atmospheric, together with the nice douglas fir trees and the water. We have so seldom fog here, it is a pity. What I like most (beside the fog images) are the photos with plants, structures and autum colors, e.g. #1, 5, 6 and 9. I love the yellow marks nature left and you framed so well. #10 is so tangent with the ladybug in its nestlike grave (sounds like birth and death at the same time right) and the spider with its seed pod castle ๐Ÿ™‚ Great word! The structures from # 16, 17 and 18 in monochrome are inspiring. Did you process the photos? The madrone tree looks almost like painted and the grass is so clear. I love the “message” from #16, the eelgrass. A very nice motive to put it on the wall! Your eye for art comes through in so many pictures. I think 5 and 6 are my favorites. I love the fireweed – very poetic – and the yellow madron tree branch – what a color in autumn. I love all ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was really fascinated when I found out about beating the bounds, and the more I read, the more interesting it was. Yes, I know a little about the Songlines of the indigenous people in Australia but I never read Chatrwi’s book – I should. Songlines is another fascinating way of knowing the land, and that custom doesn’t seem to be so involved with ownership over the land. There are interesting Navaho customs about teaching people ethical lessons with specific stories that are powerfully tied to particular places. Another way of knowing your environment!
      That foggy morning I congratulated myself for getting out of the house in time (wow! before 3pm!) and was rewarded with such beauty. Your idea of the nestlike grave is brilliant. ๐Ÿ™‚ The monotones were definitely processed. I always do lots of processing because – I enjoy that part of it.
      #16 didn’t require much work. For black and whites, I often begin in SilverEfex, then finish in Lightroom, or I may do it all in LR.
      You pointed out what I was trying to do – emphasize softness for the Madrone and the sharpness in the grasses. For the Madrone, I began with a preset that Lightroom offered for free recently, called Berkely. The preset has kind of a pale, black and white look. Then I made lots more changes. For the grasses, I worked with clarity, texture, contrast, tone curve, saturation, and sharpening.
      In #5 I was happy with the way the Douglas fir needles were scattered so evenly on the road and the colors went so well with the Madrone berries. Actually those berries are normally red. Sometimes they fall off before they ripen. It’s the golden time of year! Thank you for paying such close attention, Almuth, I appreciate it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • It is interesting in which ways indigeneous people connect to the land. A topic I would like to know more about. A pity the modern human being left almost all of it behind including the connection to nature. – You did a very good job with your processed pictures! Not only your well chosen motifs(?), but your sense for picture editing as well, which is very skillful! There is something special about these photos. – Really, the berries are red? I love the yellow here. Yes, it is the golden october, as we say too. Very nice ๐Ÿ™‚

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        • I think processing can be a lot like drawing or painting – you use many of the same skills. I know what you mean by motif but a US English speaker probably would use another word. Maybe style or effect. Tricky, this translation business! Madrones, like lots of plants, had a really good year. There seem to be lots of berries – when you see a tree with its evergreen, leathery leaves and it’s loaded down with red berries, it’s a pretty sight. Especially here because we don’t have trees with leaves that turn red or orange in autumn (like New England has), just yellow and brown. Today I’m working on another autumn post – but I think the images are overall, much less golden. I hope it meets your approval! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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        • Lost in translation ๐Ÿ˜‰ I know what you mean about the red berries. I love them too. It is just a nice sight in the sinister grey autumn daylight ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way: you wrote 3 pm – that is in the afternoon, right? You went out really early ๐Ÿ˜‰ Congratulations! – I am sure that your new photos will meet my approval ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t think of any that didn’t!

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        • Right, I should have said 15:00 hours. ๐Ÿ™‚ My favorite coffee place, a bookstore with a cafe, closes at 16:00h. Sometimes I get there at 15:58. They joke that their day isn’t complete until I wander in for my espresso. They’re very nice!

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  13. One of these days, I want to visit this universe you live in ๐Ÿ™‚ Your photographs really do transport me elsewhere, and I do like your introduction to ‘beating the bounds’ as it is what has kept me sane this year exploring new areas and trails…something I would not have been doing if things were back to normal, so this is one thing I am grateful for. Take care, Lynn, and thanks for sharing such beauty with us.

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    • Well, I know you’ve done your fair share of PNW exploration, but I have an idea that your meaning was more than that. My universe is indeed full of beauty and possibility, but it can be a bit disorganized at times. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sanity has been in short supply this year, right? Unless we do something like making art or getting outdoors a lot. I’m glad these crazy times forced you onto the trails more than usual. I’m thinking that down the road, there will be some changes coming from this that we can’t imagine now, changes that the next generation might put into place. We can only hope. Thanks for being here, Dalo, and stay safe and creative!

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    • Thanks, Sara, I’m so glad you stopped by. We live in very different parts of the world and making connections across different environments and cultures is one of the wonderful qualities of blogging. There are more Fall ramblings coming soon…

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  14. Great observations as usual Lynn. I like your curly fireweed diptych … as seen here. There is a lot of positives to working close to home as in the saying ‘write about what you know’ and maybe photograph what you know too. When visiting a place it is hard to immerse ourselves in the same way. I hear you and here we are both wary and weary of COVID, but the alternatives leave no choice but caution.

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    • It’s true – when traveling, you don’t have time to get under the skin of a place the way you can when you’ve seen it many times. Wary and weary, that sums it up. And what lies ahead? At least we know that if things go south, we can console ourselves on home ground. Thanks, Denise.

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    • Thank you – I had trouble with #11. The smoke did such weird things, I felt like I couldn’t get it right, and it was the sunlight on the water that I wanted to emphasize. Maybe it works a little better than I thought. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have no idea why that train car is there and often there are cattle feeding nearby, which makes it even more bizarre. The field is fenced in and you can’t get close at all. I’ve photographed it a number of times and it’s challenging. I will keep studying it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  15. As you know, I do most of my photography within a few miles of home. Most often the farthest I go is 20 miles but usually here in town. Hampshire College has a wooded area behind our house and although kind of messy (lots of fallen trees and the occasional pile of trash) there are wonders to discover back there as well.

    My bounds get beaten occasionally. My neighbor made a couple of raised flower beds on our property. We don’t mind but make sure to renew our claim every once in a while. ๐Ÿ™‚

    My two favorites are the Bracken Fern and the Fireweed curls. The horsetails and foggies as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wonders to discover close at hand….funny about your neighbors and renewing your claim…I’m happy you liked the Bracken – it was so nice to photograph a true mess and have it look somewhat coherent. Thank you, Steve!

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