LOCAL WALKS: In the Middle

Summer, gloriously spent, is leaning toward rest

as fall peeks round the corner, making tentative changes

in the order of things –

but let’s not assume we’re on the edge of summer or the verge of autumn.

I think we’re always in the middle.

This precise and muddled middle where

we stand now

is where sunlight heats dried grasses

to sweet fragrance and a cool tongue of wind surprises

your cheek. This infinitely generous middle is where barefoot toddlers

delight in beach sand and a slice of hard blue hovers just

over the horizon. It’s all here, the pain of dying things,

the joy of hope, the exquisite indifference to our opinions, all

here,

all mixed in the middle.

***

1.
2. A calm oasis at 5:30 in the afternoon.

*

Summer’s bright blooms have faded and the heat is intense: it must be August, the month that puts patience to the test as each day drags into the next and a trance-like sameness descends on us. Here at 48.51N, 122.61W, significant rainfall hasn’t occurred for months. The landscape looks dull and tired, the birds have gone silent, and any hints of autumn are brief whispers at best. Knowing that summer is ending and fresh, cool, autumn days are near creates a liminal feeling: we are in between. And though it may feel like we’re treading in the margins, the pause between seasons is spacious.

*

3. A glacier-scoured, lichen-spotted rock shines in forest-filtered August sunlight.
4. Spores are ripe on the backs of a Sword fern frond (Polystichum munitum).
5. Madrone trees (Arbutus menziesii) shed their bark in August.
6.
7. This year’s discarded Madrone leaves lay atop those from previous years.

*

This spring and summer I was propelled into a frenzy of activity. Which wildflowers were currently blooming and where were my favorites, the orchids and harebells? Could I go up to Sugarloaf to look for flowers or was I needed down at Tugboat Beach to help protect the Northern elephant seal? She had returned to the island to molt in mid-May. The only elephant seal ever known to haul up on Fidalgo Island, she has molted here each spring and gave birth to her first pup at a local park last winter. She chooses busy beaches for her land activities, so a great deal of effort goes into protecting her and educating the public. I was part of that this year, along with a small band of like-minded people. She kept us very busy, especially when the weather warmed and the crowds grew at the beach where she rested while slowly shedding her old fur coat. Every day I was outside, either photographing wildflowers or at the beach, seal sitting. Sharply focused on the life around me, I reveled in the graceful blooms of wildflowers, gazed into the soulful eyes of a pinniped, and responded to curious park visitors.

*

By late June Elsie Mae’s annual molt was complete. One morning she swam back out to the Salish Sea, bent on replacing the weight she’d lost from spending six weeks on land. She’s probably far out in the Pacific Ocean now, deep-diving and feasting – she’s tagged but has no radio or chip so once she’s in the water, humans don’t know where she is. We seal sitters were both relieved and bereft when she left. I never thought I’d bond with a marine mammal but spending so much time with her (and with her pup earlier this year), I found myself invested in the little family.

But I was also grateful to be free to concentrate on the local flora and eventually, my orchid quest was satisfied. I knew where each of our three kinds of Rein orchids grew and could tell them apart. The green machine was slowing to a crawl.

What was next? I kept going out because it’s good to be outdoors and I need the exercise but without a particular focus, I was at loose ends photographically. Quite a few boring images flew off the SD card! To get a spark going I experimented with intentional camera movement, different angles, and different lenses. A few compositions that seem interesting emerged. Except for the photos of Elsie Mae above, all of the photos are from the last few weeks.

*

9. Intentional camera movement in a meadow.
10.
11. Grasses take center stage in August.
12. Wildflower seedheads reward a close look.
13. A lake in the distance lights up a patch of wild grasses.
14. Made with a vintage Super-Takumar 50mm lens and adapter.
15. Pine needles dance across a rock atop Goose Rock.
16. A root and moss collaboration.
17. This feather is probably from a molting bird of prey, perhaps a young Bald eagle. Photo was made with the vintage Takumar lens.
18. Late summer is spider time here.
19. The forest stays green despite the lack of rain. Fallen logs are common on this thin-soiled island. Many layers are supportedof life as they decompose.
20. Seaside juni[per (Juniperus maritima) bark.
21. A Great blue heron stands on the old dock at Bowman Bay. Made with the vintage Takumar lens.

***


51 comments

  1. Im very much enjoying following your stories and photos.
    I have a request. I like to promote blogs and try to build networks off of the social media ecosystem.
    I was going to post about your blog on my own page (shojiwax.com), and was wondering if I might be able to copy one of your photos as a headder for the post?
    Regards, Ian.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “exquisite indifference to our opinions” 👌☯

    beautiful contemplations and images, Lynn.

    ▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪
    ▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫▪◾◼◾▪▫◽◻◽▫

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Where do I start? A wonderful post! From the opening poem that sums up this season so perfectly, through the waving grasses, photos of Elsie May and account of your seal sitting activities (well done on those!) to that final beautiful shot of the heron on the dock. I loved it all ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great, I’m glad you like the grass photos – a favorite subject. I was unhappy when my favorite park access was closed for months this winter because she chose that very spot to have her pup, but I slowly came around as I observed the little guy and mom and learned about these fascinating creatures. Now I’m totally hooked. I appreciate you mentioning the heron, too, as the bird is awfully small in the frame, not the usual way birds are portrayed. But I like context, too. Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It is one thing to write beautiful prose and another to take wonderful photos, but a third is the ability to identify what would make a fine photo; and, Miss Blue, you have the art to do all three. Your entire blog is once again a calm oasis.
    I await the return of Elsie Mae.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You have mastered intentional camera movement shots. They are wonderful. I have several thousand shots of unintentional camera movement and they are completely disposable. Also, the shots of the Madrone tree’s bark and leaves are outstanding. A fine post, Lynn. Fine post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kem, thank you very much. I don’t know what it is about intentional camera movement, it certainly results in lots of discards and you never know what you’re going to get, but with the Oly 60m macro and just a small amount of movement in the “right” direction, sometimes with a little jerky stop as well, I’ve had some nice results. Sometimes. 😉 (Processing them is really fun, too, I guess because I’ve already moved away from representation, making the possibilities more open-ended). Madrones have enchanted me since the first time I saw them. They’re abundant here, especially in one place. This time of year, with huge pieces of bark peeling off, they’re inspiring. I think I”m going to have to do another madrone post! 😉

      Like

  6. I love the light in your pictures, wonderful! The weed (or grasses?) are so delightful, all of them. #16 – sometimes we share the motives 🙂 The colors of the madrone tree are so beautiful and your photos even more. Love it! #12 looks like Armeria maritima, but I could be mistaken. I took a picture once and it looked similar. So nice, these little flowers and they look so paperlike. The seals are cute again. I think no one sleeps as relaxed as the seals! Your wood like in #19 looks still humid. I can feel the atmosphere, magic. I would love to take a walk with you there. Loose ends? Not for me. I am glad about it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • A late reply, sorry. More than sometimes we share an interest in certain subjects! I think you’re right about #12, it’s probably A. maritima because that plant does grow there. It’s a great seedhead, right? I love papery seedheads, too, like some that you see on plants in the onion family – I was looking at that just the other day. I don’t think I would say the forests are humid exactly (but they are very wet in winter!). Certain places build up moisture in the early morning – dew – and that keeps them looking green even in the driest times, like now. It would be so nice to show you that section of forest – it’s a nice one that I just learned about this summer. Some places, like southwest-facing, open hillsides, are parched by July. There’s quite a range of habitats here for such a small place (the island is 106.6 square km). Thanks Almuth! Enjoy your weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, these papery seedheads are great! Mosses can look green even when it is dry. I was astonished how green some of them still look overhere, but as we both know they can keep moisture for a long time. Anyway, it really looks wet in your picture 🙂 Have a good week!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A lovely poem and another excellent set of objective and experimental photos marking this “middle time” as you so well writes. This waiting time…
    Around here, we just want it to rain and water to feed so much dryness. In several locals in the country there is almost no water, so it is being distributed by fire engines. Terrible and scary.
    The drought is no longer punctual and localized, but spread to many countries in Europe, something that has never happened.
    Let Autumn come, fast and wet!

    (Two questions: How long does Elsie Mae’s annual moult take? And is she always quiet?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard about the drought across so much of Europe, it’s awful. These extreme weather events are going to come more and more frequently until we get together and make big changes. Some days it seems like it will never happen.
      But we keep looking for and making beauty, and that keeps us from losing hope completely. Thank you, Dulce.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A fine walk in the middle, Lynn! I like:’In the middle’.. A rainbow is usually shown as red; orange; yellow; green; blue; indigo; violet; strips next to each other. But the real rainbow is a gradient, going from one color to the other; and what happens in between (in the middle..) is equally important to the ‘main colors’.. In fact, the ‘main colors’ are theoretically chosen by the human mind, to categorize the endless possibilities around us. That makes it easier to talk about color. And to my immodest opinion.. the time is right for us humans to stop fitting everything in the invented categories; and to start looking what is in between them. A rich continuum of gradients; open for absorption.. What I don’t know is: am I thinking this because I have grown older and wiser; or am I thinking this because the universe has grown to a point that human consciousness is able to become aware of this… 🙂 By the way: those Madrones are amazing! and the intentionally moved grass shots as well. See you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I do love your opening poem. The word liminal came to mind during the poem before you mentioned it. And it does feel like a liminal time – not yet autumn, but not still summer either. And as if I can’t get enough of it we’re going to Oz late Nov for 2.5 months and I’m already looking forward to it 😂
    Seal sitting must have been a wonderful experience. I’m glad she birthed and molted safely.
    My fave photos are the camera-movement grasses. And #5. Beautiful.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back to Oz, and for a long trip, that’s great! You’ll have time to catch up with lots of friends and family and I suspect you two have some adventures planned, too. So you’ll skip winter this year, sounds good to me. 😉
      It’s good to know you appreciate the poem – poems just come or they don’t and more often they don’t, so it means something to hear that other people enjoy them. The elephant seal situation is fascinating – the more I learned and the more I watched them, the more interested I became. And the human/wildlife interface is every bit as interesting when you think about it. I haven’t figured out how to write about it yet but I will eventually.
      The intentional camera movement that I do is almost always with that 60mm macro lens – try it sometime! You’re likely to get lots of misses but usually, there are a few good surprises. Often the image is very bright (using shutter priority at around 1/3 sec) but once you darken it in processing, it comes alive. Thanks, have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I always enjoy your posts Lynn. I just love the mix of photos. Beautiful nature! How adept you are at showing it! And that madrone bark .. gosh it’s wonderful. Ah, I would say that Elsie Mae was so lucky to have you as a seal sitter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I appreciate this post, Lynn, for lots of reasons. I’ll name just a few. The middle seems to be a forgotten concept; you (and harrie) have reminded us of its value as a way of thinking. I’m a believer, discovered in my middle age. I love the grasses with the icm: #1, #9, and #10. I agree with Ken, you have found the right balance, in the middle, between not enough and too much movement. And then the last one, a lovely black & white taken with that old Takumar lens and with a blue heron!…how can I not like that one? 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Harrie’s comment is interesting, isn’t it? Three and a half years ago, Joe and I spent an afternoon with him in Leiden – I’d love to do it again. It was clever of you to learn to appreciate the middle in middle age. 😉 I don’t have to tell you that you can never be confident with ICM but I was happy with these and I’m glad you like them, too. For me, a big, sweeping motion results in almost total blur, which isn’t interesting.
      The Takumar! The adapter that used to fit on my old (broken) camera doesn’t want to screw onto the new one even though they’re both Oly EM-1’s. So I sprang for a new adapter (K&F Concept). It fits perfectly but the images aren’t quite as nice. Many are out of focus but that’s always the case. The ones that are in focus enough are where I want to see that extra something – but I don’t see it. I’ll play with it some more. Thanks for being here, Mic!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You do well for someone who isn’t motivated. (I haven’t, lately.) I like quite a few of these: A calm oasis, lichen-spotted rock, spores, madrone, juniper, and heron.

    Looking forward to some rain…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, where are the September rains? Maybe we need to think of that phenomenon as late September and October rains. Thanks for picking out the black and white (Calm Oasis). With the juniper bark and heron on the dock, you’re in a black-and-white mood.
      Have a good weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Your poem is thought-provoking and beautifully worded! I like the variety of dried grasses, so appropriate for this time in the middle. I like the silhouetted design of #2 and the beautiful light in #4. I always enjoy your unique way of seeing and how well you combine your compositions in a series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great, thanks for commenting on the poem. Design is the right word for #2, isn’t it? 😉 Light like you see in #4 is typical here for spring and fall, perhaps because the multitude of dense evergreen trees only allows shards to enter the forest. Thanks for the kind words, Denise, I always appreciate your practiced eye! Have a great weekend….

      Like

  14. As ever ..a beautiful read Lynn with thought provoking sentiments I love to ponder over … aswell as your photographs !
    Elsie Mae had a lovely protective seal sitting admirers by the sound of it , witnessing the big moult must have been quite a hightlight over that time .
    ICM is SO unpredictable isn’t it but perserverance with timings and techniques can pay off as your grasses show so well . Thank you for lots of inspiration Lynn to just get out there …I’ve enjoyed you sharing your ‘muddled middle’ 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great to hear from you! Elsie Mae had her first pup here on Fidalgo Island, on 31st January. We had to watch him for months so, between that and her molting, she has quite a loyal retinue. 😉
      Let’s face it, experimenting with the unpredictable is lots more fun than trying to master a formula. I’m very happy that you stopped by and shared this with me. And I hope all’s well!

      Like

  15. Jan-Thank you for sharing your passions and depth of connection with the world around us, especially that gal, Elsie Mae. I am honored and humble to be your friend and colleague as well. Thank you so very much. Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Good question, dear Lynn: do we live in the middle or on the edge or even both at the same time?  “The strangest creatures always lie on the border,” wrote Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 – 1799), German author, philosopher and brilliant aphorist.
    When I try to answer this question for you based on your photos, I immediately think of your favorite habitat, the beach, the classic border between different biotopes, and this is what I think of spontaneously when I read Lichtenberg’s quote.

    But your second photo world, the forest, symbolizes your existence in the middle, in the middle of a green, shady shell.  And there, too, there are strange creatures (and beautiful ones, anyway).

    In time, we may be moving towards the edge in, but I only mean that when I think about it rationally.  In daily life, everything feels very much like the middle.  In the circle of the course of the year and when looking at your photos, I’m still on the edge.  The autumn rain makes the meadow smack and spring with every step.  We no longer darken the house against the heat, but gratefully let the sunshine warm it.

    Your pictures show it all: grasses sunburnt and already bent in the wind, the sun paints the warm tone of the flatter sky arch on the plants.
    Your poetic introductory text tells me all that and much more.
    This time, for me, the most beautiful photo No.2 includes the middle and the edge in an admirable composition that tells us: it is always both at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Long ago I read a novel whose name and author I don’t recall. What stayed with me from the book was the idea that “things happen on the edges” – that there is more variety, activity, etc. on the edges (the book was set in Los Angeles!). Lichtenberg’s quote fits perfectly with that. I think the closer you get to the middle of habitats, the less variety there is, in terms of environments.
      For the post I was thinking mainly about the season, being between summer and fall, but it’s interesting to take that idea and play with it. which you have done here. I love that, thank you.
      And you have had rain, great! Your description of walking in the meadow is very nice. We haven’t had any rain for 3 months, other than a tiny sprinkle of drops barely visible on the cars one morning and a little bit in early July. There’s no rain in the forecast either. It’s normal to be very dry here all summer but not THIS dry. Luckily we had a wet winter & spring so that helps.
      Your interpretation of the second photo is just wonderful, perfect. (I like that one, too!) Thank you, Ule!

      Like

  17. You write so well, Lynn. Your poems and prose can be earthy, ethereal, hard, and easy. The same can be said for your photography. It’s all there. If I were able to visit the northwest my first reason would be to spend time with you and Joe. My second would be to carefully hug a Madrone and then, of course, photograph it until my camera caught on fire. 🙂
    And your title and theme brought this to mind. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Your poetry is a wonderful way to start, Lynn. The imagery you paint with your words – “barefoot toddlers
    delight in beach sand”, and “the exquisite indifference to our opinions”… so good. One visual thread I noticed are the graceful curves you’ve captured in many of these images. They invite my eye to wander. Love that graphic B&W to start and the ICMs are soft and ethereal. You nailed it in 14 with your vintage lens- the focus on the grasses and that creamy background. A wonderful post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does me good to see you comment on the poem as well as the photos, Jane. Regarding curves, I’ve been conscious of having a predilection for them for a long time. At some point, I began using “curve” as a LR keyword. Some day I’ll do a post exploring curves. I’m glad you like the black and white – I was happy with it. The old lens either misses or does something wonderful. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Jane, I appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s