SOAKED & HAPPY

In last week’s post I wrote about the old ship La Merced, now used as an unconventional  breakwater for a shipyard on Fidalgo Island. We went to Fidalgo that day because I read about a fine park with expansive water views and easy trails. It sounded perfect for a day trip. We’d been to Fidalgo and Anacortes before but we hadn’t seen the northwest corner of the island.

To thoroughly explore Puget Sound’s islands you should travel by water, but a lot can be seen by bridge and ferry, too.  The region’s complex geography is a stew of wavy-edged shorelines, steep hills, hundreds of islands, deep basins, mountain watersheds and rich estuaries.  That means there are endless nooks and crannies to explore.  I’ve learned that whether I’m on Whidbey, Vashon, Bainbridge, Camano, Samish, or Fidalgo, each island has a unique atmosphere, and in spite of dozens of trips to different islands in the Sound, I’m barely familiar with them. Every time I browse a book, pour over a map or search online, I find more places to explore.

 

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Washington Park sits on a modest-sized peninsula with tranquil views of the sound and surrounding islands.  A one-way road traces the park’s edge; along the road are pull-outs for picnicking and walking along rocky beaches or through the woods.

The day we went to Fidalgo Island, a misty, intermittent rain kept the views from being picture postcard perfect, but the mist was welcome after two months of dry, sere days. I was in a relaxed, open mood as I traipsed around a rocky beach. Smooth, colorful stones clattered underfoot like weighty marbles. Seaweed, shells and driftwood invited scrutiny.  The last little Gumplant flower glowed yellow among withered brown stems. Song sparrows flitted in and out of the underbrush, gulls cried and cormorants plied the water for fish. Roots and rose hips dangled over the cliffs, weaving delicate patterns on the glacial till. A ferry dissolved into the horizonless gray mist, bound for the San Juan Islands.

I pulled my hood up and tucked my weather-resistant camera under my sweatshirt between shots, taking pictures quickly, then retreating under trees. I was getting wetter by the minute.

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A towering, long-dead Douglas fir perched at the edge of the eroding cliff and leaned precariously over the beach. Across the bay kids scampered on the rocks, oblivious to the rain. My feet were soaked through. It felt good.

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We continued along the road at the prescribed 10 mph speed limit, passing campers and people out for a walk. At the last pull-out, an ancient, twisted tree raised one steadfast, leafy branch above a grand view.  Across the pass, thickly forested Burrows Island rose darkly from the cold water.  A whale watching boat skidded back to port.  Did they see the resident pod of Orcas? Probably, but from my vantage point, only boats and gulls broke the water’s calm surface.  To my left, Whidbey Island lurked in the mist, and sixty miles south, Seattle sprawled a cacophony of metal and glass across another patch of land at the the water’s edge.

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I noticed a path leading down into a grove of Madrone trees (Arbutus menziesii). The madrone is one of my new favorites since moving west, with its smooth, brilliantly colored, peeling bark and curvy limbs. At my feet, Reindeer moss (really a lichen, Cladina portentosa) formed puffy clouds of the softest pale green, pierced by sharp grasses. I picked my way carefully across the wet earth, drinking in the color.

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The rain was picking up so we drove into town to Pelican Bay Books to dry off and warm up with an espresso. The bookstore, with its first-rate selection of new and used books, wood-burning stove, worn leather sofas, custom wood shelving and carefully crafted espresso bar, deserves a post of its own. But take my word for it – if you’re anywhere near Anacortes it’s worth a trip.

Enamored by Washington Park’s beauty and the old ship in Anacortes, we decided to return as soon as we could. Three days later we were back on Fidalgo island exploring another beautiful park (and returning to the bookstore!). More about that in another post.

 

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A STRANGE SIGHT

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The weather finally broke the other day in Western Washington, bringing cool, overcast skies and a smattering of rain. With Harvey and Irma in the news it may be hard to grasp the fact that there’s a serious drought on the west coast. Even worse, the dry conditions (with human “help”) spawned a tough wildfire season, bringing destruction and death, and a haze of sickening smoke and ash. So a wet forecast is a sweet relief these days, and it didn’t deter us from heading north to Fidalgo Island on Saturday. Our plan was to explore a small peninsula that overlooks the San Juan Islands.

We’re less familiar with this part of the state and we are ever curious, so we kept sharp eyes out for anything unusual as we drove across the island. On the way to the park I glimpsed a vision that was beyond unusual. Only briefly visible from the road, the strange sight appeared, then quickly disappeared. I flashed on some elaborate Hollywood film set. Did I really see a huge, dark hulk of a wooden ship on the shore with a cargo that appeared to be a forest?

Yes, it was an old wooden ship topped with a forest, growing like big hair gone completely wild.

 

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We continued to the park and agreed to check out the strange apparition later – I was pretty sure it wasn’t going anywhere.  I was soaked through after wandering along the shore, but the rain felt good, like renewal after two months of dry heat.

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The sky was still spitting a thin drizzle when we traced our route back along the shoreline, past the ferries to Canada and the San Juan islands, searching for a way to get closer to the mysterious specter.

We found it – a narrow, gravel road leading down a hill to a shipyard. We knew we might be kicked out at any minute but we drove on anyway. With growing excitement, we parked next to a couple of junked trucks and jumped out. A narrow, overgrown isthmus led straight to the ship, which loomed silently overhead.

By that time we had figured out that this wasn’t a shipwreck, but it was an unorthodox breakwater for the shipyard and marina.

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La Merced looks old because it is – it was built one hundred years ago in California. A four-masted schooner with auxiliary power, it sailed up, down and across the Pacific, delivering case oil for Standard Oil and other companies. Just four years into service, the ship was rammed by another boat while at anchor near Alcatraz. It was repaired though, and sailed the Pacific for a few more years before it became a floating fish cannery, working the salmon catch in Alaska. (The link is to an old photo showing La Merced’s four masts behind some cannery buildings).

Meanwhile, an enterprising man from Croatia named Anton Lovric was repairing boats in Anacortes, Washington, 1,572 nautical miles away. Tony Lovric had a colorful life. Born in 1924, he was captured by the Germans during WWII and spent 14 long months in hard labor at Dachau. After he was released, he studied naval architecture and worked in a Croatian shipyard. According to his obituary, he left for Italy in 1958, fearing punishment for his outspoken political views. From Italy he emigrated to the US, eventually arriving in Anacortes, a small northwest port town where he had friends. The place suited him. He married, had five children, and with much hard work and resourcefulness, turned a former seafood processing business into Lovric’s Sea-Craft, a ship repair yard and marina.

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Repurposing was second nature to Tony Lovric. In 1966 he bought the 232-foot ship La Merced, to use as a breakwater for his marina. Stripped of its masts, engines, bowsprit and other accouterments, the old ship was brought to Anacortes to begin another chapter in its long life. Set in place, filled with sand and surrounded with rocks, it remains there today. La Merced has now spent half its life out of the water. Not quite on land, but not floating either, she’s like a great beached whale, her skin rough with peeling paint instead of barnacles, her rusted hawse holes keeping watch over the shipyard.

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I doubt this old pulley was used for Lovric’s breakwater project, but who knows what it lifted into place over the years?  Lovric’s shipyard is still in the family. About ninety percent of their work is done on working boats, not pleasure craft. I like that. On that Saturday afternoon the bottom of a barge was being steam cleaned. Two rather handsome old wooden buildings are used for storage and machining. Boats of every size and shape are docked here, and at least one appears to be lived in.

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A tangle of rope, an old winch engine, trucks in various states of disrepair, wild blackberries running through it all…a ladder, a toilet bowl and a volleyball net propped against a metal wall with a dark opening into the overgrown hillside…there is “stuff” everywhere. It makes you drool, to think of all the things you could do with that stuff! Not to mention all the history that might be pried out of this site.

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We wondered about the lumber used to build La Merced. Maybe loggers felled those timbers back in the early 1900’s in the mountains just east of Fidalgo Island, mountains visible from the shipyard on a clear day. The logs could have been shipped to California and milled into the long boards needed for La Merced. The boards would have been nailed into place, caulked and pitched and painted, and finally, La Merced would float. She would sail the Pacific, awash in the waters of Australia, Hawaii, Alaska…and finally she would come to rest on Fidalgo Island, where her hull full of sand would support little plants grown from seeds blown in and dropped by birds…and slowly the little plants would become another forest, in an endless round of life.

This post isn’t about a classically scenic place like Mount Rainier, and the photos may leave something to be desired, given the rain that day.  But what a sight that massive, century-old ship is! Where once four tall masts held sails that caught distant ocean winds, trees sway in channel breezes. The wood used to build the ship may be slowly rotting, but it’s helping to keep a boat business afloat, it supports an ecosystem that adds to the local flora and fauna, and catches the eyes and imaginations of curious passers by, like me.

 

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Some of these photos are homages of sorts to blogging friends whose work I am always studying.  A few people who might be inspirations for these photos are: Al at burnt embers. He often works in film and inspires me to try film effects/colors, like those in the marina shot and the aqua-shuttered building photo. Also Linda at Romancing Reality, who takes masterful photos of dumpster surfaces – she surely inspired the rusty, scratched metal surface photo.  Louis, who is accomplished at graphic work and often shoots in maritime locations, inspired the rope photo.  Adrian nudges me to make an occasional darker, gutsier image (like the ladder) and experiment with film effects.  Otto, whose Instagrams also push me to experiment with effects, probably inspired the silhouetted, smudgy pulley photo. Many others I haven’t named this time (Lisa, “Chill” Adrian, Alan, Hedy, Denise, Ken, Jane, Gunta, Uli, Joshi, Pierre, 125tel, Patti, Dina, etc!) are pushing boundaries and perfecting their visions, inspiring me to do the same. And Linda at The Task at Hand, a far better storyteller than I am, inspires me to try weaving a written tale through my photographs, at least once in a while.

The Close Inspection

I used to have a job in surveillance. It wasn’t anything sinister – it involved inspecting state-funded programs for adults who had brain injuries and needed help to live independently.  Wading through records, interviewing participants, observing facilities and talking with administrators, I would carefully ferret out the details. I looked for faulty provision of services, but also for exemplary work on behalf of people who couldn’t advocate well for themselves. I surveyed, I cited, I educated, always paying close attention to the details.

Well before that, I lived in a zen monastery. Close attention to detail was valued there, too. Whether meditating, washing dishes or selling the cakes that supported our community, we made an effort to attend to and act in our environment with clear, detailed attention.  At the same time we sensed a vast spaciousness in the interstices. When we were at our best, recognizing that spaciousness helped us to challenge habitual boundaries, a process that opened our minds and freed our actions.

Going back even further in time, as a child I spent a lot of time carefully inspecting my surroundings, slowly falling in love with the world as it is. I’m lucky to have had a childhood free enough from want and strife that I could spend endless hours observing my environment.  I believe there is value in paying close attention to your surroundings, value in developing a sense of where you are grounded on the earth, and value in acting on that in a positive way. The actions we take vary according to our predilections, abilities and background, but each of us can benefit others in more ways than we imagine, especially when we get out of our own way.  Even with photography.

Here are 20 photographs that began taking shape on recent forays. On better days I made quick adjustments to that little black box in my hands and aimed the lens with an open mind and attention to detail.  The images were refined back at home with more close observation, and hopefully, with some measure of freedom from habitual ways of thinking.

 

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The photos were taken in and around Seattle, most with an Olympus OM D1, a few with an older model Samsung smartphone, processed using Lightroom, Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro.

 

 

 

 

To the Mountain!

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“The Mountain” in this case, is Mt. Rainier.  A powerful presence in the Seattle area, Mt. Rainier has an elegant silhouette that always turns my head. It rises on the horizon like a grandly elegant queen dressed in pale silk and dark velvet. Even for those who only see a huge dome of ice and rock, it’s a commanding feature of the the local landscape. Below, Rainier on clear days in June and November from Seattle.

 

The destination most people visit when going to the mountain is called Paradise, and for good reason. Paradise is stunning. It offers scenic trails that accommodate everyone; families, serious hikers, and people in wheelchairs can all wander together through mountain meadows and gape at breathtaking vistas.

But Paradise gets crowded.

Arrive after 10 am on a summer day and you’re probably going to park in a distant lot and then trudge uphill to the trailheads and lodge. We went to Sunrise, on the southeastern side of the mountain. It’s not as crowded, it offers plenty of spectacle, and at 6400 feet, it’s the highest place you can go on the mountain in a vehicle.  Rainier’s icy summit is much higher – over 14,400 feet – and getting up there is a whole different matter, best left to those in top physical condition.

As you switchback your way up the mountain towards Sunrise, Rainier is a formidable white beast looming overhead.

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Partly due to its abrupt rise from the foothills below, Mt. Rainer makes its own weather.  Air warmed by the sun rises up the slopes, then it cools and clouds are created. When viewed from Seattle and the suburbs, the mountain is often graced with a frothy, cumulus cloud necklace around its middle. Sometimes Rainier sports a stylish white cap of clouds, and once in a while a curvy lenticular (lens shaped) cloud parks over the summit. The mountain has many faces, many moods.

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When we arrived this time, the top of the mountain was draped in clouds.  I enjoyed watching them continually coalesce, dissolve and re-form in a mesmerizing, vaporous dance.

It’s all part of the pageantry.

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Above, Emmons Glacier (the largest in the continental US) can be seen coming down the flank of the cloud-covered mountain, with the White River at its base and Frozen Lake to the side of the river. Little Tahoma, a satellite volcanic remnant of Rainer, is the craggy peak to the left.  Tahoma was the native name for Mount Rainier before British Captain George Vancouver named it for a friend, Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. I won’t go into my opinion of naming places after powerful friends instead of choosing a name that describes the place itself. Or how about honoring the name already given to the place by earlier inhabitants? You can guess my feelings on the matter.

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Above, the White River braids through the valley. Originating from the Emmons glacier, the river flows 75 miles before meeting the Puyallup River, which empties into Puget Sound. The sound’s tidal water flows through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which empties into the Pacific Ocean.

I imagine that a fist full of ice on Rainer’s summit at 14,400 feet might eventually become water deep in Puget Sound, perhaps 900 feet below sea level. The locations are only 75 miles apart as the crow (or raven) flies: over 23,000 feet difference in elevation, in just 75 miles.  Imagine Pacific Ocean water evaporating into clouds that drift east and eventually fall as snow somewhere up on Mt. Rainier: the circle is complete.

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For a moment the clouds drift away and the summit emerges. The air is crisp with breezes that seem to emanate from the purest places. Butterflies float across my path and sip from lavender alpine asters. I hear a raven croak, it appears overhead a minute later, then disappears in silence. I peer at the mountain’s surface, fascinated by the glacier’s curved fissures and cracks. They look tiny from where I stand, like wrinkles, but these are the deep crevasses that form as glacial ice glides over the mountain’s rough surface, and they claim lives. Just days before we came to gaze at this glacier a climber fell into a crevasse while descending from his summit climb, and was killed.

Great beauty, great power.

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The Silver Forest Trail at Sunrise is well named. The area saw a serious fire years ago; now, tree skeletons are scattered about the terrain like giant beasts and sculptures, some still upright, others long since collapsed. Each one nourishes the flora and fauna here, as it slowly decomposes.

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It’s sad to see the mountain disappear in the rear view mirror. I want to go right back up! Until next time……..

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When Sun Masquerades as Moon

It’s been an exciting day across America, with millions of people seeing a solar eclipse. (Please though, can we just call it the solar eclipse? Spare me “The Great American Eclipse”).

We decided not to travel to any of the packed cities, towns and campsites in Oregon, a few hundred miles to our south. We could have seen the total eclipse there (along with tens of thousands of other people), but we figured it wasn’t worth the risk of getting stuck without gas or spending many hours in a giant traffic jam. We may have been wrong. The jury’s out on that until we hear the travel stories.

The Seattle area had a respectable 92% coverage, so we went to a local park where we could observe wildlife and have enough open space to experience the light dimming. I had been trying to find out how dark it would get. I hoped that with the moon covering almost all of the sun, it would turn quite dark outside.

In fact, there was actually plenty of light. It was as if you were seeing through a filter, but you could still see everything well. That was disappointing, but it just shows how extraordinarily powerful the sun is – shade out 92% of it on a summer morning, and it’s still daylight!  The air did get very cool though.

Since we couldn’t acquire glasses or a solar camera filter in time and weren’t in the path of totality, I focused on one fascinating effect: the crescent “shadows” that are cast through trees during a solar eclipse.   It was as if the sun was masquerading as the crescent moon, and it was delightful.

The internet is already full of videos of crescent shadows from the eclipse today, so here is my contribution, before it’s REALLY old news:

 

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As people gazed upward, the ground put on a show too, with a maze of intersecting and overlapping crescent-shapes under the trees.

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Even a bench was covered with crescents.

 

 

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And the boardwalk railing was decorated with intertwining crescents. Anywhere there were trees, the eclipsed light filtering through them had big chunks taken out of it. The photo below was taken six minutes before we reached 92% coverage.  As time wore on and the eclipse faded, the crescent shapes began to look more like a gibbous moon.The photos below on the white background were taken 15 – 20 minutes after the ones of the bench and railing – you can see the difference in the shapes.

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I decided to try making images that were more abstract:

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There’s my backpack and the white board I used for the three photos above. We brought the cardboard and a sheet of paper with a pinhole in it to project an image of the eclipse, since we couldn’t look directly at it. When we’d had enough of the tiny, fuzzy, indirect image, I grabbed the white board and started placing it on the boardwalk and photographing. It was amazing how different leaves and different angles created different shapes and patterns – but of course, it didn’t last long.

I’m sorry there wasn’t more drama. It’s obvious you need to be in the path of totality for that. Maybe next time. Still, the eerie, dimmed light, the distinct chill in the air, the birds’ atypical chatter, the shared conversations, and those crazy crescent shadows were all a nice diversion.

 

 

 

 

FIVE YEARS

Five years ago today I began this blog.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that my subject that day was summer’s “impending dispersion into fall” – a similar theme to my last post, about the “slow morph” that takes place as summer fades away. Nature is usually my subject matter but I do still love the city.  Here’s a shot from another August day, six years ago, before I moved to Washington. That’s the Freedom Tower going up two blocks from the office where I worked. It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon and I was taking a walk to de-stress before going home.

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Now I live in a different city that is much smaller, and closer to the country. I take advantage of that proximity, as anyone who regularly visits this blog knows. I also take advantage of the proximity of people here on the web, where digital magic brings images and narratives from Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia right to my desk.

There is a community here, which I deeply appreciate. The relationships that materialize from what I’ll call the cloud of internet ether space, enrich my life. Because of those relationships, I work harder. I try to put my best foot forward each time I post here, and that means my photography and writing skills keep growing. I’m inspired by what I see happening on your blogs, and by a variety of websites, like Flickr for example. Museum shows, books, and of course nature – there are so many sources of inspiration. But what happens here, between my blog and yours, is singular. It’s a continuous spiral of growth.

This photo of swirling water was taken on another August day, five years ago, on the shore of an island here in Puget Sound.

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Below is a photo from November, 2012 of a magical, moss-draped Pacific Northwest forest. Its not a dramatic mountaintop or an exquisite orchid. It’s not a fascinating portrait either. Just a spot in the woods which for a moment, glowed with meaning. Maybe that’s what we find here on the better days: a spot on the web that glows, for a moment, with meaning. Or with pleasure – that will do too!

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Whatever we may say about needing to unplug, it is good, being plugged in to this ever-expanding community. Thank you for being here, and for the work you do.

Between Seasons

The slow morph already evident

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leaves curl,

fall,

tear and crumple.

 

 

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All but one of these photos were taken in Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, Washington, in early August. In this lush wetland preserve, six different kinds of willow grow, and though native species outnumber non-natives, the majestic willow in the fourth photograph is one that must have been planted long ago. The old weeping willow vies for space with bracken fern and Creeping buttercup, cattails, cleavers and Cooley’s hedge nettle, bindweed, horsetails, blackberries and many other plants, native and non-native. This time of year the crisp definition of spring gives way to a tangled mass of leaves, stems, seeds, flowers, spores, sepals, twigs…all falling over each other as they begin to disintegrate.

Centuries ago a band of the Duwamish tribe made their winter home nearby. Salmon were plentiful in Lake Washington, and in season, berries could be gathered, roots pulled, bark peeled. Then whites came along, and smallpox silenced the stories of a people we know little of.  White people prospered here, and a hundred years ago the rich wetland was filled for a golf course. The golfers are gone now though, and the wetland slowly reasserts itself, encouraged by the good stewardship of area residents.

Locals make good use of the park’s trials and boardwalks. The gentleman pictured above was making his way to the end of the boardwalk, a platform on the bay. The bay is an inlet on Lake Washington, a long, glacier-formed ribbon of fresh, clean water surrounded by cities and towns; one of them is Seattle. On the quiet little inlet called Juanita Bay, turtles sun themselves amidst ducks and herons, lily pads and dragonflies.

It was hot that day. I exchanged a few words about the weather with the man as he pushed his walker over the rough wooden planks. I don’t know what he saw, because I know we see differently. I trust that we both felt refreshed by our time in the park. My photography that day was an act of love, a way to remember and share one view of a particular space/time configuration here on earth. So, what I saw: the jumbling tumble of plants as they begin their decline, the busy ant, the old man walking.

Off to the Woods!

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The Pacific Northwest has been feeling the heat lately, as a very persistent block of high pressure is parked over the West Coast. At the same time, over the border to our north, British Columbia is experiencing its worst wildfire season in 60 years. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes and the province is under a state of emergency that now looks like it will stretch to a month. Almost 900 wildfires have been reported since April 1st, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that smoke drifted down here early last week. Our air quality has been worse than Beijing’s! A swirl of cleaner air came through on Saturday, but overall we’re smothering in hot, stagnant, unhealthy air.

To add to the extremes, we are about to surpass the record for the most consecutive days without measurable rain.  At 51 dry days and counting, there is no precipitation in the forecast. My admittedly cynical prediction is that the clouds will come rolling back just in time to obscure the solar eclipse, two weeks hence. (I should say that summers are always dry and sunny here, and due to a very wet Spring, we aren’t in bad shape as far as moisture goes.)

Yesterday we tried a quick trip to the woods for some relief, but little comfort was to be had. Smoke lay heavy to the horizon and the sun was relentless.  To top it off, road work made traffic a trial.

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So I was happy to discover that I had some decent photographs after all that. I had begun taking photographs before we arrived at our destination, shooting from the passenger seat as we slowly worked our way up a dusty, gravel forest service road. Spada Lake is a reservoir in the central Cascades foothills with day use recreation areas scattered around its perimeter. A pretty place to picnic, the lake is surrounded by thick, still-green forest. Sunlight sparkled on the alder leaves and little waterfalls still carried trickles of water, but views across the lake were very hazy.

For the in-motion shots I used a 45mm fixed lens and tried to focus on a tree (using auto focus) while panning the camera, with the window rolled down. The shutter speed that worked best was 1/6th; apertures ranged from f11 – f22.  It’s a hit or miss technique – you have to check to be sure you’re not getting just a white blur, and even as you adjust settings to find the best shutter speed and aperture, you’re still leaving much to chance, hoping for something useful. You don’t really know what you’re getting until you see the images on a bigger screen.  Processing often requires a significant amount of sliding up and down the contrast, clarity and other scales. It may sound like a lot of uncertainly and effort, but when it works you get very interesting results.

“Smokezilla” is easing today – we’ve slithered out of the unhealthy category and are back in the moderate zone. The air cooled overnight, and maybe I really cannot complain. The local botanical garden is ripe with the fruits of the gardeners’ work, I understand plenty of wildflowers are in bloom up on Mount Rainier, and closer to home, the beginning of fall’s photogenic decline can be seen. I am not lacking for subjects!

SCATTER

What does “scatter” bring to mind? An image of objects thrown about chaotically? Someone being called scatter-brained?

That’s never a good thing.

But look around. The world tends to fall out of order, scattering is everywhere.

And often, the disorder is beautiful.

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Wildflowers and grasses scatter across summer fields.

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Shadows and reflections scatter over the water’s surface.

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Paint peels, leaving old things looking scattered and tattered.

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Rocks are scattered over riverbeds, trees topple and scatter through forests and fields.

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Petals scatter when they fall to the ground, reminding us how close we are to earth.

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Clouds and shadows scatter among the mountain tops.

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Maybe even mountains scatter when they’re thrust up over the earth’s crust.

The tumbling horizon that carries our thoughts away may seem orderly, but isn’t it a scattered path?

Unpredictable energy.

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We try to contain the disorder, but our efforts are only temporarily successful.

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Sometimes we invite chaos, we entertain disorder.

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Above, a shelter at a public garden with a scattered pattern of colored glass panes, being overtaken by equally scattered vines.  Below, a pair of flower part “scatterings” I threw together from bouquet leavings.

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No doubt there is satisfaction in ordering one’s world, but the act of scattering, whether it happens in nature, in the built environment or in our minds, brings unexpected relationships forward. That in turn, offers an opportunity to see the world (and maybe the self) differently.

The next time you’re compelled to put your environment in order, taking a minute to find something interesting in the scattered disarray might be worth your while.

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From the Cambridge dictionary:

scatter                                                                                                                                                    

verb                                                                                                                                                                                             to move apart in many directions, or to throw something in different directions:
We grew up in a small town, but now we’re scattered all over the country.

scattered                                                                                                                                 

adjective                                                                                                                                                                                    There will be scattered showers throughout the afternoon.

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The West is East of Here

 

Here are images from my recent trip east, where I roamed around the West.

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Confused? Well… Washington is geographically in the western United States, but only parts of the state look like our idea of the “West.”  The Cascade Mountain Range divides the state in two: western/coastal Washington and central/eastern Washington. The western side of the mountains, where I live, has a wet, temperate climate. Industry and technology drive the economy, especially in and around Seattle. On the eastern side the weather is much drier, the population more sparse, and agriculture takes precedence over technology or industry.  That’s where I expect to find remnants of America’s “Wild West”  – but I have to travel east to get there.

 

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The Govan Schoolhouse. Photo taken with a film camera and processed in Silver Efex.

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The shingles are loose, the floor is rotten, and birds scatter and cry foul if you get too close.

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The schoolhouse roof has seen better days.

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More old buildings in Govan that seem to embody a life of hard work and practical values.

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A deserted home welcomes plants more than people these days. Photo taken with a film camera, processed in Silver Efex.

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The town of Curlew still has a false-fronted saloon and a general store, but miners no longer come looking for moonshine.  Around the corner…

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An old Seagrave fire truck from about 1949 gathers dust and dirt. 

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The Curlew bridge. It hasn’t been altered since it was built in 1908, and still features a wooden roadbed. Center your wheels!

 

 

Sadly, Riverside’s Detro’s Western Store is going out of business after 71 years. Western boots are on sale, along with saddles, hats, and rodeo equipment.

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Down the street from Detro’s Western store, a weathered building has an aura of neglect.

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Another anonymous building in Riverside.

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The stretch of small town shadows and summer afternoons is mighty long.

 

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A bike in front of the store has been left out a little too long, but it sure adds to the charm.

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A cigar store  Indian stands guard at the grocery store in Riverside.

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A life-size, sculpted Indian on horseback gazes into the distance. He’s part of an extensive Wild West collection at the Black Bear Motel in Davenport.

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In Metaline Falls, architectural details recall a more prosperous past.

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There’s plenty of room to spread out, here among the rolling hills.

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It seems that everywhere I look, whether at an old storefront in town or a grassy field outside of town, colors are subtly weathered, from the harshness of the elements.

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An unidentified wildflower, past bloom but still beautiful, graces a vacant lot.

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A barbed wire fence, a bullet-ridden old can, and utter quiet in Lincoln County.

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This pretty Mariposa lily hosts an insect convention.

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One lone tree stands vigil amid grasses and wildflowers.

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Glacial erratics are scattered over the earth in Douglas County. A National Natural Landmark, the area was on the edge of an ice sheet several million years ago; these giants were left behind.

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The empty road reminds me of all the people who have come west, looking for freedom and a new life.

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Why do we take photographs when we travel? To remember. In the emotional rush that is the excitement of new places, there often isn’t much consideration given to the best angle, the best settings, or how to compose a picture that tells the story – we aren’t even sure what the story is sometimes. We just want to record, and sometimes that means less than optimal images. But each time we travel we get a little better at remembering to work the image, to make it more than a snapshot. There’s another factor that motivates me – I’m looking for patterns. Not just patterns within a particular frame, but patterns across time that are connections to other images from other places.

This post is presented as a visual narrative of a particular trip, but also carries forward ideas I have about beauty and loss, the intrigue of form and shadow, and maybe, an expression of the fullness of spirit that sometimes finds me, in the best moments of forgetting.

 

 

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