FIRST MONTH

On a cold January afternoon at sunset, I’m alone, but not alone – driftwood, rocks, fir trees, clouds, and seaweed, all sit with me. Diving ducks and soaring eagles turn my head, gently lapping waves quiet my mind. Separateness disappears.

1. January 31st, 5:00PM.
2. January 31st, 5:03PM.

On another day, Douglas fir trees and I share a wind-buffeted view of Deception Island, floating mirage-like in boundaryless waters.

3. January 8th, 3:52PM.

One afternoon we go in search of Snow geese. Tens of thousands of them – some say over 100,000 – spend the winter feeding on agricultural fields on the mainland, about 15 minutes from home. To find them we ply the angular roads that break the fields into neat rectangles. After about ten minutes I spot a thin white line in the distance. It looks like a river reflecting light back to the sky but I am almost certain the white line is a large flock of geese. We drive toward it – straight, right, then left. There they are, perhaps two thousand of them covering the brown, muddy fields. We pull over, roll down the car windows, and watch, transfixed. After a few minutes, a signal we don’t see causes a small group to break away and take to the air with high-pitched, nasal honks. Soon the sky is filled with them, flashing black and white across the gray clouds.

When it’s time they’ll fly back to Wrangle Island, in Arcitc Russia, to breed. For now, they brighten our winter.

4. January 25th, 3:56PM.
5. January 25th, 4:02PM .

*

By the end of January, buds are swelling on the Red-flowering currant bushes. Never indecisive, they know what to do. They pace themselves with the light, incrementally growing larger and softer. Not too fast, not too slow, strong yet gentle. Qualities we can aspire to as we go about the business of our day.

6. January 28th, 4:08PM. Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum).
7. Cold snap. January 29th, 4:39PM.

Lichens come into their own during the first month of the year. Soft and swollen with moisture, Lace lichen hangs in pendulous tangles. Foliose lichens like the one below look as though they could take flight.

8. January 1st, 4:59PM. Lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii).
9. January 7th, 4:17PM. I thought this was Hypogymnia canadensis. My lichen expert friend tells me it’s Hypogymnia physodes on the left and Parmelia sulcata on the right.
10. January 1st, 4:59PM.

Sunsets needn’t be spectacular. A quiet vantage point on a hilltop perch above a channel or a sheltered spot in a rocky cove is all I need to dream myself into a deep calm on a winter afternoon.

11. January 7th, 4:21PM.
12. January 20th, 5:16PM.

Winter windstorms stretch strands of Lace lichen tight across twig chasms.

13. January 1st, 4:58PM.
14. January 1st, 5:24PM.

Driftwood logs change positions over the winter, especially when a King tide coincides with onshore winds. The massive logs are dense with water but slide some waves under them and off they go. Maybe they’ll land on another beach or maybe they’ll drift back and sit down inches from the last resting spot. When I walk down to the beach the logs appear to have been there forever, as solid as houses. But out in the middle of the channel, I see giant logs riding waves. I know they move around. I just don’t know their itinerary…

15. January 23rd, 5:44PM.
16. January 23rd, 5:54PM.
17. January 23rd, 5:42PM.

***


66 comments

    • Thank you, Mick, I like the idea of seeing this as diary entries. I think if I had set out with that in mind I would have been too constrained and might have forced myself to write text for every single photo. It feels better to leave some images without any text and it’s gratifying to know that the idea of a month of almost daily observations still comes across. Well, maybe that’s not clear – I hope you get what I’m saying. πŸ™‚

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  1. many oohs and aahs looking through your diary – especially the search for the snow geese (I remember the film of Gallico’s book in which he had made a Dunkirk story of it) I was struck by the icicles and what a well matched diptych they would make with the lace lichen or #13. It was the hanging leaves though that made the most impression – you have managed to convey so much in that photo

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    • Thank you for mentioning that book, Laura. I have a feeling it’s much better known in England than here, or maybe it’s just me. Anyway, it looks like a wonderful story. Thanks too for your idea about the icicles and lace lichen. The hanging leaves was a last-minute addition – very glad it works for you. πŸ™‚

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  2. Dear Lynn,
    really lovely pictures. We are very happy that you don’t show a picture of the so called spectacular sunsets. We blogged about it quite a while ago, they are okay in nature but unbearable as as a picture, just kitschy.
    Every evening thousands of brent geese and pink footed geese fly crying over our house. We really like this sound of winter. For weeks we have beautiful winter weather, freezing and bright sunshine every day. So Hanne is out photographing barn owls hunting in the fields behind our house.
    All the very best wishing you
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean about sunset photos. Sometimes I am very, very tempted but at least I try to be restrained when I process the photos. There’s just too much over-saturated, over-sharpened, overdone photography out there. You have Brant (we spell it differently but it’s basically the same bird)! Lucky you, I really like them. When we lived in NYC we would see small groups of them along the shoreline of Staten Island and if you’re close enough, you can hear this wonderful murmuring sound they make, as if they’re quietly talking among themselves. I look forward to seeing some Barn owl photos soon!
      Best to you!
      Lynn

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    • That’s great to hear. Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting. Winters aren’t terribly cold here and though the gray can get tedious, the light gets nicer and nicer, the grass is bright green, and solitude is easy to find.

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  3. The first paragraph and the first two images alone are worth the post. I really like this idea of ​​communion with nature and how its surroundings can fill our soul and senses.

    About Janeiro, still lonely, he is very well represented here … and certainly waiting for the friends who follow him!
    May it be a year of good walks and beautiful photographs!
    (the light in the last image is wonderful!)

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  4. Your contentedness shames me, Lynn. As close as I come is watching very much smaller flights of homing pigeons swoop overhead as I do t’ai chi. Engaging but not so poetic. I wish I had nature’s lack of indecision. I love your musings πŸ€—πŸ’—

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    • Well Jo, good for you for doing t’ai chi – I’m sure that plays a part in keeping you strong enough for those long walks. Thinking about flights of pigeons brings back memories of living in NYC. Poetic in a different way.
      Isn’t the good side of indecisiveness the ability to see many sides to things? πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for appreciating my musings, that is really nice to hear.

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    • Thank you, Ken. When the tide goes out I love walking along that small beach (called a pocket beach by some) to see what’s been left behind. I don’t know why the piece of seaweed in the first photo ended up like that, with one end sticking up. Those are the times when one is grateful for fully articulating LCD screens! That building was built by the CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps. It is solid! It’s open on one side and is used for picnics. I’ve photographed the sunset behind those trees and rocks many times and it’s cool to do it from inside the shelter with a little light shining on the table.

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  5. #4 encourages so much anticipation for spring! The bright golden color of the foreground grasses with little hints of green, the wet fields, the geese in the fields but especially in the air, and the breaks in the cloudiness all make for a wonderful image for January.

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  6. I only see snow geese passing through once or twice a year, always a thrill. And they seem to have an amazing skill that I totally lack, staying snowy white even in a muddy cornfield. I’ll have to take a couple of them out for a spaghetti dinner and watch how they keep so clean.
    I like seeing that driftwood log in 15 warmed by a setting sun, almost like it’s hinting how it could be warm and glowing in a campfire. And the final picture (a picnic shelter?) just needs bowl of fruit and a bottle of wine to look like one of those old Dutch Baroque paintings with their wonderful shadowy scenes. Thanks for sharing your calming walks and reflections.

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    • πŸ™‚ Thousands of Trumpeter swans feed in the fields all winter, too, but I do see that telltale ring around the neck if I’m close enough. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, the Snow geese would be wise to you and would bring bibs, I’m sure. In #15 that’s exactly what was happening – well, figuratively. The sun hit the log at a very acute angle and it was very cool. When I uploaded the photo the colors were surprising, with those deep blue shadows. One can certainly sit in the shelter with a bottle of wine and a hunk of meat and enjoy the view….
      Thanks, Robert!

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  7. What a beautiful series! I like your entry about being not alone out there. Nature brings us back to ourselves. All these geese, wow, thousands would already be impressive, but I can’t imagine 100000 of them! I think we had this before: I would get goosebumps πŸ™‚ It must be wonderful. I love 15, the light on the logs!!!

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    • Thank you, Almuth. The geese are spread out in several very large flocks that move around from field to field. I’ve hear that they were endangered at one point but now, they’re almost doing too well. There are also many thousands of Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) that use the same fields in the winter – I love seeing them fly with their outstretched necks. (You’re right, I posted about the geese last winter or the winter before.)

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      • I agree, it is wonderful to watch them πŸ™‚ I would love to see Trumpeter swans! It must be so nice. I enjoy the sound of the wings from our typical swans here when they are flying low. Sounds of nature – they go to the heart πŸ™‚ I wish you more of these beautiful encounters!

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  8. Lovely as always. They mention that sunsets don’t need to be spectacular with explanation of winter evening calm settled me in a gentle way. I took a deep breath and could feel that special feeling of being outside on those cold evenings of serenity. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Beautifully photographed snippets of nature. I love the last shot of the sunset through the windows.

    I always think photos (especially in this digital age when we can make hundreds or thousands of images in a few days) make a wonderful diary of one’s life and when one is unable to go out walking in nature, one can always browse photo library walks of the past to bring back the memories.

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    • Thank you. Vicki, good to hear from you . The visual diary is so precious, isn’t it? I love seeing photos of things I haven’t thought about for a long time and I’ve often wondered how different it would be if I didn’t have those images to jog my memory and bring pleasure. I hope you have a good weekend!

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  10. Snow Geese, that must have been nice to see. About the closest I’ve seen around here are flocks of Canadian Geese causing air traffic and honking at each other.

    The small stuff is almost always worth it, and in winter you don’t even have to sweat it.

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    • Our county has a thriving agricultural sector (on the mainland) and for the most part, the farmers appreciate all the fertilizer that comes along with the huge flocks of Snow geese and Trumpeter swans – but recently the Snow geese are doing a little too well and farmers are trying to figure out how to live with them without losing too much. And speaking of small stuff, yesterday I saw the first of the really special spring wildflowers so I’m psyched!

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  11. Calming reflections, Lynn, paired with your thoughtfully composed images. The snow geese must’ve been a thrill to see – your photos of the scene are lovely. The sand closeups to start have a great texture and your lichens caught my eye – the first is flowing and graceful. The driftwood mimicking the shoreline in your landscape is terrific as is your frame in a frame sunset as a finale. πŸ€—

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jane, thanks. We enjoy seeing the Snow geese, especially when they all fly up – what a sight. Winter is the best time for lichens, too, because there’s so much moisture. But the spring wildflower show is about to begin….and I can’t wait. πŸ™‚ Glad you liked the post!

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  12. As I just mentioned in your previous post, you do find beauty. You find it everywhere. You find it in so many things the majority of us would pass by. It is obvious to me that you have all that beauty within you and what you find in your images is a reflection of that within.

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  13. Observing the light! 4. of January is my favorite. One in a beautifully compiled series of sensitive and insightful pictures. You are not searching for cheap effects and overly romanticized subjects. This ist the intriguing part of your photography. Regards – Karl

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