NINE DAYS in MARCH: Hints and Proclamations of Spring

As I write we’re closing in on the Spring Equinox, that earthpause when day and night have equal sway, before the brightness overtakes darkness. There’s no doubt that the tonic of perceiving new life around us with all our senses is especially needed this year. For me, seasonal glimmers of hope began in January as the days began to lengthen. Where I live, spring takes its time, arriving in measured increments that begin early in the year and continue well into May. Instead of explosions of color or a sudden blast of warmth there are hints and glimmers arising over the course of months. In February Osoberry bushes reach for the light in forest openings, sprouting leaves and flowers that brighten the somber, deep green coniferous woods. Anna’s hummingbirds, those brave little bundles of speed that somehow overwinter here, appear far from the feeders they relied on all winter, calling “tzzip, tzzip” from the early-flowering Salmonberry bushes festooning the forest edge. Bald eagles perch proudly by the huge, messy nests they use year after year. If you’re very lucky, as we were one mid-February day, you may see a pair of them lunge, rise, swoop, rise again and lock talons high in the air, tumbling toward the ground in an extraordinary spiral before letting go at the last minute. Joe, as amazed as I was and always creative with words, said it was like a wingnut dance. Whatever you call it, we were grateful to witness the display in person – and right by the highway, as we were driving home! It was truly a proclamation of spring.

The hints and proclamations that began in February are picking up speed. Sunrises are drenched with color, birds are singing and the Bitter cherry trees have opened their snow-white buds in a frothy redemption: spring is now.

1. Our native Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) blooms without fanfare in the woods at Kukutali Preserve. To stand under a cherry tree in full bloom is to feel a benediction from light itself.

Before the cherry trees began singing diaphanous melodies in March there were other hints. On the first of the month I climbed up Goose Rock at Deception Pass State Park. The short, sometimes steep climb through the woods winded me. Just as I stepped onto the glacier-scraped bald at the top I heard the happy “chirrup, churee” of an American robin. Perched high in a Madrone tree, he faced the sun with the world spread out under his feet. As I walked toward him he gave no sign of letting up – he had an important proclamation to make.

2. American robin

3. Lush moss at my feet overtaking the dark detritus of winter storms.

4. Sunset over the strait.

I lingered on Goose Rock for a long time, looking for hints of the wildflowers that will soon dot the meadows and admiring pillows of moss and reindeer lichen softened by spring rain. The air was cool, no one was around, and quiet pervaded. To the west, the sun began to set behind strips of clouds over the strait. I pointed the camera directly into the sun, thinking, why not try? Then I strode back into the forest and made my way back down to the bridge at Deception Pass in fading light. Pausing underneath the bridge, I made the same photo I’ve made any number of times, this time with an iphone. Those criss-crossed girders marching into the distance are irresistible. Seeing more trash on the ground than usual, I frowned. There was more erosion, too, from an increase in foot traffic brought by the pandemic. It’s a two-edged sword, this new popularity of the outdoors: there is less privacy and more wear on the trails but there is also the possibility that more people will begin caring deeply about protecting wild places.

5.

The next day I had an appointment in Kirkland, an hour and a half south. There was just enough time afterward for a brief walk in O.O. Denny Park, where Bigleaf maples rise from a deep ravine and a silver creek slides musically down the hill to Lake Washington. The sun was out and the air was fresh. Licorice fern fronds, firmly anchored on moss-covered tree trunks, shined acid green in the afternoon light. I didn’t have my camera but the phone worked well enough.

6.

It was all enough.

Spring is enough,

whether in glimpses

or proclamations.

7.

Saturday was cool and overcast, a good day to hike a favorite route at Little Cranberry Lake in Anacortes. Following the trail through Douglas fir and Redcedar, I rounded the south end of the lake and began climbing a fire-ravaged hill. It was unnaturally quiet. Perhaps the fire that tore through here five years ago still prevents the land from welcoming as many creatures as it did before. No birds sang to remind me that spring was near and only one person passed me on the trail. A glimpse of aquamarine-colored, thorny stems shook me out of my gloom and I recalled savoring three or four tasty black raspberries from that plant last summer; the birds got a few, too.

At the peak of the hill, where Madrones consort with Douglas firs, soft green pairs of leaves hugged the ground exactly where I photographed Rein orchids (Platanthera sp.) last July. The leaves will photosynthesize for the next four months, making fuel for the small flower stalks set with tiny orchid flowers that will bloom in mid-summer. It was reassuring to see them. Whatever mishegoss* is going on in this world, the seasons unfold on their own. The world is full of basic goodness just as it is full of the betrayal of innocence but orchids don’t care about that, nor do the seasons. Being amidst that great freedom from the mind’s constant business is why I return again and again to nature.

8. Picking my way back down through the forest to the north end of the lake, I turned right and traced a trail bordering the water, still as a mirror.

The next day I drove around March Point and pulled over to watch a flock of about 50 Common mergansers hunting together in a tight flock. Churning the choppy water of Padilla Bay in a long, thin line, they appeared to be herding schools of fish. Looking comically intent with their slicked-back crests, one bird took the lead while a few ducks dipped their heads under the water to see what was going on, then there must have been a signal I couldn’t see and they all dove at once. Seconds later they popped back up. I’ll never tire of watching that!

The setting sun turned a Bitter cherry tree’s blossoms yellow along the road and painted the dried grasses underneath it in graceful strokes. I dialed the light way down by using the camera’s spot metering mode and pointed at a bright spot in the grass. A few days earlier I had finally received a new camera that had been delayed from the Texas snowstorm. I was busy getting to know the feel of a different body in my hands and the locations of dials and buttons. It’s going to take a while!

9. Last year’s grass in a roadside ditch.

The light was almost gone when I got back home. I raced out to photograph our own Bitter cherry tree by an intermittent creek that runs past the house. Opening the shutter to f2.8, I could see the blue cast of the creek behind the sparsely flowered branches.

10.

11. Wild cherry blossom in black and white.

On Monday I met friends who drove up from Seattle to explore Pass Island, a small island in the middle of Deception Pass that can be accessed from a staircase midspan. The island’s sheer, rocky sides drop off to churning water as it rips through the pass. I’ve never felt comfortable walking far on the trails there by myself but on this day I was with friends who knew the island – and for once, I brought a trekking pole. We were quickly rewarded with a natural hillside garden of rich purple Satin flowers, aka Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii). I almost teared up, seeing so many of the delicate, transient beauties that would surely be gone in a few days. Harsh sunlight made photographing the groups of flowers impossible but I managed a few photos of individual flowers.

12. Satin flower.

At the end of the island we sat down for a quick snack and watched the spectacle of the rushing current grabbing passing logs and sliding them like toothpicks into a funnel of waves breaking against the rocks. Richard pointed out a yellow lichen (Polycauliona verruculifera) growing in a beautiful scallop pattern on a rock by the water. He’s been photographing that rock since 2003, recording the lichen’s slow crawl across the rock’s rough gray surface. This time he found tiny, orange cup-shaped apothecia on the lichen’s body. Apothecia are sexual reproductive structures; lichens mainly reproduce a asexually but sometimes will reproduce sexually.

We finished up the day at Sharpe Park, where my friends introduced me to a new (to me) fern, the Leathery polypody, Polypodium scouleri. I walked right by the little fern without noticing it The almost cartoonish charmer is a fern of the salt-spray zone on the Pacific coast from northern British Columbia south to Baja California. It “doesn’t belong” here, 90 miles from the coast, but maybe the fern feels at home near Fidalgo Island’s mix of fresh and Pacific Ocean water. Who knows? The island continues to surprise me. It was a good lesson, thanks to my friends, who know a thing or two.

13. Pacific, or Irregular polypody.

14. A view from Pass Island. Way in the distance are the snow-covered peaks of the North Cascade Range.

15. The Deception Pass Bridge towered above us.

The next day, invigorated by the discoveries on Monday’s outing, I decided to go down to the beach, Fidalgo Island-style. Tuesday brought a mix of sun and clouds and a very low tide at Bowman Bay. For once, the tide ebbed deeply in the late afternoon instead of the wee hours of the morning, which meant I could peer under rocks which are normally under water. I found snail eggs attached to a rock and delighted in interesting ripple patterns splashed across the sand. A brilliant Red-flowering currant bush (Ribes sanguineum) lit up the forest along the Lighthouse Point trail but I was disappointed to find that heavy foot traffic on the meadow had crushed the few Satin flowers that tried to bloom there this year. This made me all the more grateful to have seen them blooming unmolested at Pass Island. Finally, a lone Great blue heron fishing in the bay with studied elegance was a gift.

16. A favorite declaration of spring, the Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum).

17. Laid bare by the pull of the tide: tiny, glistening snail egg cases.

18.

20.

21.

22. A new tide dancer has washed up on the beach at Bowman Bay.

23.

24. The rocky point near the three walkers is normally under water, necessitating a climb over the cliff on a well-worn trail to reach the part of the beach where I stood to take this photo. The tide is only low enough to walk around the rocks at certain times. The firm sand felt good under my feet.

25.

26. A companionable pair of Canada geese waddles out of the water. I can see a hint of spring in the turn of their heads.

*

I planned to cover the first two weeks of March here but there are already more photos than I think I should include. Flocks of Snow geese, more cherry blossoms and other early spring pleasures will have to wait. Whatever the state of the season is where you live, I hope it feels like enough. Even for a moment.

*

*mishegoss is a wonderfully expressive word I learned when I moved to New York City at the age of 18. It’s Yiddish slang for craziness – the kind of senselessness that’s hard to comprehend or digest.

***


62 comments

  1. Absolutely gorgeous photos Lynn…the little flowers so delicate and the sand oh just so wonderful…I love what you see and your narrative adventures…I love them…sending you joy and make more art…smiles hedy โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never having heard the phrase “hints and proclamations” (at least not that I recall), I thought you might be unique in using it. However, an online search turned up instances of it. Likewise for “tide dancer.” For me it was the adjective meshugga rather than the noun mishegoss that I assimilated as a child growing up in New York. English spellings of those words vary widely.

    I like all the crinkles around the rock in #21, and more abstractly in #20. Inorganic beach forms like those in #19 always look vegetative to me. I guess we can’t talk about convergent evolution when one of the things isn’t even alive. What you showed in #17 is new to me: snail egg cases. Your native cherry tree blossoms look so much like those in other Prunus species. You probably know that Kirkland is Costco’s house brand. In #26, how does a turn of the birds’ heads hint at spring?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There you go again, checking on me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m not surprised by hints, etc. but I’m disappointed to know tide dancer has been used – believe me, it just sprung to mind when I looked at the photo.
      I miss hearing all those great Yiddish expressions…and I came to love prune hamentashen, too. Can’t get that around here!
      Vegetative, yes, maybe sand swirl patterns and vines and leaves obey similar laws of physics – that probably works better than convergent evolution.
      I’m glad I was able to show you something new! I was amazed the first time I saw the snail eggs (with snails on them), in the same place, same time, 2 yrs ago.
      The native cherry up here is lovely, often a little sparse, which is very pretty, especially in the bare, wintery-looking woods.
      I thought the geese looked as though they were confiding in one another, a kind of closeness indicating a pair bond, as opposed to flocks of geese in the off-season. Thanks, Steve, I hope you have a productive weekend – and I’m sorry I’ve been absent – life’s been busy…

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  3. Nice walk, Lynn, thanks! Fine shots; the simple beauty in nr20 is my favorite. We had our elections overhere. My Green-Left Party lost a lot… So it’s gonna be Centre-Right once more for the coming four years.. pfff.. So, Keep walking and posting those beautiful shots; my life depends on them.. ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ; see you!

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    • Thank you Harrie…I was excited when I saw that rock with the sand and water around it – all untouched by any footprints, perfect. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I read about the elections and the Green Party and I thought of you. Somehow we got through 4 years of Trump over here, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I’m sorry people are so scared and reactionary these days. Yes, we have to take shelter in our art. Thank god for that.

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  4. To your introduction:
    Spring has taken a break with us. There was already some life in the bushes at the end of February. After that, around March 10th, everything was in decline.
    But I think that in just over a week it will look a lot different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I bet it will! I certainly hope so. The water surrounding us seems to reduce the variability in temperatures here, so we don’t get very warm spells or sudden drops in temperature – or at least, not as often as places that are inland. That’s why it feels very slow and steady.

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  5. The bridge is exciting!
    8.: Very nice!
    9. Last yearโ€™s grass in a roadside ditch.: The amazing coulors, usually uninspected! I like that very much.
    19 and 20: Very nice.The ramifications are purely physical, as our physicist Joachim Schlichting explained on WordPress.

    21. Wow! What a picture!
    22, 23, 24 : Superb!
    25 and 26: Awesome!
    25: Even the presence of a goose (?) doesnt take anaything away.

    Wonderful! Many thanks
    Gerhard

    Liked by 1 person

    • The bridge connected our island to another one in 1934. It’s a fantastic sight – the structure is wonderful to look at and the water is very far below so it’s very dramatic. The sand patterns – I can see they follow the laws of physics but I know nothing about those laws. I took an extra year of Biology in school so I could avoid taking Physics! ๐Ÿ™‚
      The photos from #17 to the end are all from the same place, a beautiful park that is “around the corner” from the bridge. What you said about the geese (yes, two geese) made me laugh. This kind of goose can be a pest sometimes when there are too many of them – so much shit on the ground you can’t walk – but for some reason, in that spot I only see two, which is OK. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you, Gerhard, I’m very glad that you enjoyed the photos – have a great weekend.

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  6. I really like how you describe spring’s approach, that it is arriving in measured increments. Because that’s exactly how it is – in these parts of the world, whether in the Northwest or in Norway. As always, you show excellent imagery. My favourite this time is the tryptic nr. 19.

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    • That’s great to hear, Otto, because I know you understand. People tend to comment more about the photos, understandably, but I’m always curious to know if the writing is working, too. I’m glad you like the abstract sand patterns. It was such a pleasure to be there just as the tide went out, before anyone spoiled the sand with footprints.:-) Are you beginning to think about when you might get back here? Maybe later this year?

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  7. We are all waiting for the spring but it will stil take some time. Unless a lot of plants are sowing the first sings of live. The pictures of the sand on the beach are realy great. Art created by nature ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. I’ll be honest: being tired tonight I only gave a look at the photos, did not read the text which I’ll read tomorrow, sorry!
    Absolutely love # 19 because of the almost abstract look and #24 because of such a gorgeous landscape with the three human being soooo smaaaalll !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you…I was tired yesterday, too. Some days are like that, right? I appreciate your comment very much, especially regarding the landscape with people in it because that’s something I’m still not used to doing. Have a good weekend, Robert! –

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  9. We too have been ever vigilant for signs of spring – new leaves here, flower buds there. I watch it slowly unfold every year but this year more than ever.
    “It was all enough. Spring is enough, whether in glimpses or proclamations.” This!
    What a richness of spring this post is. And we’ve only just begun.
    Alison

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    • It’s always interesting to see what gets to you – sometimes I can guess, sometimes I can’t. My Oly EM-1 died and had so many shutter clicks already, plus the cost of just looking at it, let alone repairing it, that I decided to scrap that idea and get something “new.” I made a slight switch to the Pen-F, not a huge difference. And I bought an excellent condition used one at that. Even with the similarities, it’s taking time to get a feel for it. One feature I hope to make good use of is a monochrome setting, or choice of settings, that are better than what most cameras offer.

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  10. Your text breathes, hums and sings spring in all its nuances, dear Lynn, a real festival equinoxis.
    And your photographs are playing along. I can hear the sound of your renewed freedom ringing along. Meeting spring together with friends is such great happiness we took for granted for all our lives. Now we know: it is not.

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    • You’ve left such a wonderful comment, Ule, thank you. Yes, and two years ago you and I wandered through spring together…we didn’t exactly take that for granted but nothing would have led us to imagine what happened the next year. I’m happy to report that over here, it’s possible to hike and with friends and only put a mask on when you pass other people on a narrow trail. Things do seem to be getting better. I hope your garden brings you delight this week!

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  11. This text is a prose-poem dedicated to spring and all its nuances.
    Spring peeks, get closer little by little and then manifests itself here and there … in the diaphanous melody of the cherry trees … in the musicality of a creek that runs down the hill … or even in the dancer that the seas sent to the Lynn’s eyes.
    Spring is music, the beautiful music of nature.
    I loved the walks, and the spring energy that inspires both the text and the images.
    Thank you for sharing and I wish the best spring for Lynn… and for all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Dulce, for reading closely. I know you have a deep appreciation for walks in spring, too. Spring comes very gradually here, which allows me to savor it for longer. Let’s hope the season brings some respite from the pandemic along with joy. Have a great week!

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  12. It seems like spring has been running a couple weeks late down here. Or maybe I’m just missing it; we haven’t gotten out much. I particularly like the sand abstracts and the sunsets, and of course the bridge shot is a classic – well suited to b/w.

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  13. Hi Lynn, I enjoyed how you framed the theme in nine days of spring emerging. Your passages are splendid- the robin, the cartoonish fern, the underbelly of the bridge. They all come together in a story of the promise of spring. Your images of the tide patterns are wonderful and your closing sunset pier and geese end it perfectly. I share your hopeful attitude of better days ahead. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Better days…it feels like they are already here, at least compared to last fall and winter. Maybe there will be another nine days, or nineteen…we’ll see. Meanwhile, thanks for your comment, and here’s to another week of exploring.

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  14. The bridge was an interesting inclusion as I scrolled through all the nature, Lynn. I enjoyed all the abstracts and sand patterns. Seeing the Cascades in the distance was a treat and, of course, who isn’t’ thrilled by the first view of a robin harking the arrival of spring. Wonderful collection of the signs you saw that it’s that time of year we all anticipate after a long winter.

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  15. I’ve lost track of how many snowstorms we’ve had in the last two weeks and while it is warmer, signs of spring are yet to come. That’s why I so appreciate that you have shared your spring with us here. All lovely compositions as always I have picked out a few favorites to mention. I really like #2 a lot … the American Robin … I like the angle and size of the bird and tree and the space dedicated to the clouds, which have a nice soft and even pattern. #15 is a really nice composition and in this setting the figure walking into the scene is a plus. Another favorite is #19, the sand patterns. Keep enjoying spring and sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • You guys have really been hit hard this year – I’ve been seeing the stories on the news. Spring will be that much sweeter, right? It’s really nice to read your comment about the robin – what you see is what I hoped would come across. Not all bird photos have to be close up, hopefully. And you know I don’t photograph people much so it’s nice to see you mention a figure-in-the-landscape image. Thank you, Denise!

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  16. You are lucky that you can enjoy spring step by step dear Lynn. Here it is going so fast I always wish I could see it in slow motion ๐Ÿ™‚ Your text is very poetical, especially your introduction. You describe nature so well it is a special joy to walk with you. That is the way your words feel to me. And again you found so many beautiful impressions. I love the bridge (things we miss these times, something the brain has to work on, right ๐Ÿ˜‰ The light is mine and so are the grasses in #9 one of my favorite pictures. The polypody, funny name!, is special and looks a bit primeval, don’t you think? I love Ribes sanguineum and I am surprised that it is already blooming in your area. I believe it is much later here, if I am not mistaken. I just wrote something about Sanguisorba minor, which I sow on my balcony, and I ask myself, if Ribes sanguineum has a styptic effect like the small burnet or if the word is related to the color red? #19 – 21 are extraordinary pictures. Fascinating the way the water has worked here! And your photos are great! And 17 – I never saw that before. Great find! Good that you always have a look for the tiny things. By the way mishegoss is wonderful! Until now I only new meshugge ๐Ÿ™‚ That is the way the world is right now, right. Enjoy your spring!

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    • Spring comes fast on the east coast, too. It was always frustrating but so beautiful. We can enjoy it for longer but we don’t have all the cultivated trees and flowers that one finds in cities, just pink cherry trees and daffodils, mainly. Where are the crocuses?
      Thank you very much for appreciating the text. I think you know that I work hard on it. Polypodium is from Latin, which you probably know, for many feet (I guess). I think the roots have lots of little “feet.” It’s so interesting to me that this fern grows mostly on the coast near saltwater, but we have a few of them here.
      I saw a photo of R. sanguineum blooming on the balcony of Irene, the blogger in Belgium. But maybe her plant is pampered. I think the name just refers to the color. Everyone calls it red – no, it’s pink. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Whatever!
      The snail egg cases are something I found in the same place last year, my first time seeing them. I love days when the tide is very low and there’s lots of sand to see. As the days get longer there are more chances to experience very low tides in daylight.
      Glad I had another new word for you! Thanks for paying such close attention…and Happy Spring!!

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      • The few Polypodies are renegades ๐Ÿ˜‰ Apparently some plants have adapted to a less salty ground, that is what I would suppose. Hm, maybe I thought of another plant similar to Sanguineum – Currants maybe ๐Ÿ˜‰ I envy you that you have this big variety of “landscapes” around you. It must be so nice at the see and you have so much other plants and animals and everything ๐Ÿ™‚ – Your writing often has this poetic sense and it sounds quite natural for me, as if it is just your way of expressing yourself – not working hard on it. Sorry, I can’t describe it better. Happy Spring to you too. It is starting here now!

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    • Hi Julie, thanks so much…the sunset spot is less than 10 minutes from home and always beautiful, whether there’s a perfect sunset or not. And yes, why can’t sand patterns be a sign of spring, too? ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope you’re relaxing these days, or maybe you’re in the midst of the harvest and busier than ever…

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  17. Love coming across such wonderful places through blogs. Goose Rock looks so enchanting and beautiful to view. The wildflowers, bitter cherry blossoms, spring flowers, patterns on the sand, the brilliant blue skyโ€ฆ all the pictures are refreshing and amazing.

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    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Monica, I appreciate it. It’s great to hear that you enjoyed the post. It looks like you’re in Dubai – you could hardly imagine two more different paces than an island in the Pacific northwest of America and a bustling city in the Middle East – but we’re both near sea level! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have a great week and thanks again!

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  18. I’m almost speechless over here. So many impressions. Nature is massive and so beautiful. At least I want to say Thank you for this beautifully guided tour. I’ve always enjoyed the “travelling” one can make through blogging, but perhaps the gratitude is even greater after this last year. Not that I normally travel much, but it’s been reduced to a bare minimum. Our eyes are getting hungry for other views, if not starving!

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    • Yes, hungry for other views over here as well, even though I have plenty to choose from nearby. We went to the other side of the mountains, where it is very dry, this week. It’s a totally different ecosystem and it was fun to be there. That’s the first trip (but only one night) we’ve taken in well over a year. I hope things ease up for you and you can do a nice road trip too, but meanwhile, I’m very gratified to read your enthusiastic comment. It makes me feel great! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you so much.

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  19. Oh, the first photograph: delicate, etherial, with your signature focus and soft colors. Just wonderful. Your bridge photo captures the visual complexity of that engineering feat. It also seems to place me in the air: pretty exciting. I agree about your phone working well enough for this photo and the next. Itโ€™s amazing how good these phones are.
    I love last yearโ€™s grassโ€”and your photograph of it. The black background is perfect for this shot. The sand patterns are so cool. Itโ€™s fun to see in #21 the reason for #20. Your GBH gift is part of ours in this landscape whose enormity is accentuated by the bird.

    So many days of taking photographs in such a short time span. Iโ€™m impressed, envious, andโ€”I hopeโ€”motivated to get out there more often. As always, your narrative enriches your already rich collection. Itโ€™s fun to recognize the place names from earlier posts.

    Thank you for introducing us to the work of Richard Droker. His lichens are fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great to read your thoughts and reactions, Linda…March was really beautiful here, no complaints at all! Now April is bringing it all on and I can hardly catch my breath. Even though the temps continue to be quite cool, it seems that new wildflowers are opening up all the time. I probably post less than a tenth of the wildflower photos I take – way less. Going out with Richard and his gang has been a gift – I see things I wouldn’t have seen and they’re happy to move at a photographer’s pace. Go back to his Flickr site and look at some of his other subjects, too, like construction cranes and container ships in Seattle. There’s a wealth of material there. And get out there! (But I bet you have). ๐Ÿ™‚

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