It’s time for change in America. Four years ago a man was elected to the American presidency who should have never been chosen to lead anything, let alone a free, democratic country. This man’s tenure has been an ugly, backward time when many norms we took for granted were destroyed. The foundations of our government have been undermined, our relationships with each other have suffered, and relationships with our partners across the globe have crumbled. It’s time to turn things around and get back on track.
This week, a news story in a local paper said that the old building you see pictured here is going to be torn down. It was built almost 130 years ago as a fish cannery. The building functioned well for a long time and was once even touted as one of the biggest fish processing plants in the world. It fell into serious disrepair in recent years, having been sold to an out-of-town developer who allowed it to fall apart become a hazard. It’s the kind of place people break into and hang out in, the kind of place whose present state is barely a shadow of what it once was. The owner has been told that he must erect a fence to keep people out – part of a wall collapsed last week. Soon the entire place will be torn down, once and for all.
The current president’s contempt for truth, fairness, science, and humanity itself has been mind-boggling. In only four years this administration has done serious damage to our country. It’s time to tear down what has no integrity, to clear away what’s broken, rotten and dangerous and replace it with something new.
In this time of renewal, it’s appropriate that the changes we need will be accomplished with the help of our first female, first Black, and first Asian-American vice president-elect. It’s going to be a lot of work. We’ll need to be patient, and we’ll need to try to work together. Let’s hope that what is constructed in place of the current structure will be created with integrity and strength. And maybe even a dash of beauty. We can dream.
In the spirit of working with what’s available, here is a group of photos I’ve tossed together from the road trip through Oregon and northern California that we took a few months ago. After days of being immersed in the randomness of my possessions – open a drawer, dig into a closet, unleash the chaos – my mind may be incapable of knitting together a coherent story or explanation for these images. Most were taken in small towns, and a few are from what used to be a small town. Perhaps there is a thread of nostalgia that connects them. Perhaps not. I’m OK either way. After all, like everything else, these images are part of the vast, beautiful, spacious world we live in where every thing is a world in itself, even as it plays a part in the greater mystery.
These photos were made at four locations in northern California: the picturesque agricultural town of Ferndale, the historic mountain mining town of Weaverville, the remote coastal hamlet of Shelter Cove, and a ghost town called Helena, near Weaverville. I made liberal use of effects when processing most of these images, primarily with Color Efex Pro.
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, with human “help” the dry conditions spawned a tough wildfire season, bringing destruction and death and a haze of sickening smoke and ash. A wet forecast is sweet relief these days and didn’t deter us from heading north to Fidalgo Island on Saturday. Our plan was to explore a small peninsula overlooking 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 something 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, with a cargo that appeared to be a forest, looming out of the mist?
Yes, it was an old wooden ship topped with a forest, growing like big hair gone completely wild.
We continued on to Washington Park, agreeing to check out the strange apparition later – I was pretty sure it wasn’t going anywhere. The sky was spitting a thin drizzle when we traced our route back, and I was soaked after our wander in the park, but the rain felt like renewal after two months of dry heat. Past the ferries to Canada and the San Juan islands we went, 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 thought we might be booted out at any time, but I couldn’t resist the prospect of getting closer to the mystery ship. With growing excitement, we parked next to a couple of junked trucks and jumped out. A narrow, overgrown isthmus led straight to the ship, looming silently overhead.
By that time we had figured out that this wasn’t a shipwreck, but instead, it was a rather unorthodox breakwater for the shipyard and marina.
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. Four years into service the ship was rammed by another boat while at anchor near Alcatraz. After repairs the ship 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 working as a boat repairman 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 survived 14 months of hard labor at Dachau. After he was released he studied naval architecture and worked in a Croatian shipyard, leaving for Italy in 1958 becuase he feared reprisal 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 hard work and resourcefulness he turned a former seafood processing business into Lovric’s Sea-Craft, a ship repair yard and marina.
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. Resting on the island’s edge, 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.
I doubt this old pulley was used for the 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, we saw the bottom of a barge being steam cleaned. There are two rather handsome old wooden buildings for storage and machining, and in the marina you can see boats of every size and shape, with at least one that appears to be a residence.
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, a volleyball net, a metal wall with a dark opening leading into the overgrown hillside…odd “stuff” is everywhere. Think of all the things you could do with that stuff! Not to mention the history that might be pried out of this site.
We wondered about the lumber used to build La Merced. Maybe loggers felled the timbers back in the early 1900’s in the mountains east of Fidalgo Island, mountains visible from the shipyard on a clear day. The logs could have been shipped to California (as many were) and milled into the long boards needed for the ship. The boards would have been nailed into place, caulked, pitched, painted, and finally, La Merced would float. She would sail the Pacific, awash in the waters of Australia, Hawaii, maybe Polynesia, Alaska…and finally she would come to rest on Fidalgo Island, where her hull full of sand would support the tiny plants that sprouted from seeds blown in or dropped by birds…plants that slowly would become a small forest, which in turn must support more life than I can imagine.
This post isn’t about a well-loved site 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, now trees sway in channel breezes. As the wood slowly rots it helps to keep a local business afloat. Those timbers support an ecosystem that’s part of the local flora and fauna, and this living breakwater can now catch the eyes and imagination of any curious passer by, on land or on water, sparking delight. *
Some of these photos are homages of sorts, to blogging friends whose work I admire. Al at burnt embers often works in film, inspring me to try film effects or film colors (the marina shot and the aqua-shuttered building photo). Linda at Romancing Reality takes masterful photos of dumpster surfaces and she 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 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.
I’ve been invited to join a 5 Day Black and White Photography challenge. Though I haven’t joined a photo challenge in months, preferring to define my own path, the challenge is timely. A recent trip to the desert in Arizona inspired several black and white treatments of shots I took there, and I’ve been watching as the new Monochromia blog, a group black and white effort, develops.
Many good photographers have joined this 5 Day Black and White challenge, including another favorite of mine, Adrian of Cornwall Photographic, who is currently doing beautiful work with film.
Here are the rules for the challenge:
For 5 days, create a post using any past or present photo in black and white. (My days aren’t likely to be consecutive but I will do five!)
Each day, invite a new photographer to join the fun. (Wow, this thing grows fast!)
sherijkennedyriverside tagged me; I thank her and appreciate her kind comments. Today I’m tagging my favorite black and white photographer (who also does great color work), 125tel / Fotogalerie. He’s from Germany, he does excellent street photography, and I am sorry to say I don’t know his actual name. I linked rather arbitrarily to a post I think is representative of his street work. (And I understand if he’s not inclined to participate -whatever works!)
Here’ the first of my five black and white photographs:
The photo was taken about a hundred miles southeast of Tucson along Rt. 186, in the hamlet of Dos Cabezas. Weary from a stimulating day in the Chiricahua Mountains, we were on the way to the small agricultural city of Willcox for dinner when I spotted the building. This stretch of road is called a ghost town, but people live there still. Named Dos Cabezas (two heads) for a nearby two-peaked mountain range (glimpsed above behind the building), the area has seen its share of drama in bygone days. Gold and silver were mined in the mountains and the Butterfield Overland Mail route passed through here – when it made it past the Apaches. They took paying customers but warned them that, though paying the equivalent of thousands of dollars in today’s money, they
“will be traveling through Indian country and the safety of your person cannot be vouchsafed by anyone except God.” A few hundred people lived here then, along with the usual assortment of hotels and saloons. The post office closed over 50 years ago and little remains of the other old buildings.
I knew nothing of this history when we stopped – I just knew I liked what I saw and I wanted to photograph it. An angry dog barked from the yard to my right, which was strewn with abandoned vehicles. Across the road a sign identified a dirt lane as “S. Gold Rush Rd.” It was hard to predict how a flag-flying local resident might react to my wandering about the abandoned building taking pictures. We were hungry, too, so we didn’t stay very long. How old is the building? Was it once the general store? Decay is slow in the desert and clues are scarce – but I imagine someone around here knows the story.
The tough life of the gold prospector brings to mind my grandfather. One of 10 children, he emigrated from Germany at the age of 15 to join two siblings in New York. Not long after arriving in the states he made his way to Bodie, California, a gold mining town (now a National Historical Landmark) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I can’t imagine what life was like for him there – nights are so cold that no month is free of frost, and winds blow mercilessly across the exposed, treeless plateau. My grandfather didn’t stay more than a year and certainly didn’t strike it rich. He returned to New York to marry and settle down, working as a blacksmith, running a movie theater in Brooklyn until it failed, and tending bar on Chambers Street in lower Manhattan.
Yesterday I met a thirty-something man from Ohio who wondered aloud about what he missed because he didn’t move west until five years ago. The urge to go west and reinvent yourself is still strong here in America. My own move was recent, and though I can’t say I followed in my grandfather’s footsteps, when I stopped by the side of Rt. 186 I think I glimpsed his shadow.
A second abandoned, overgrown small building by the side of the road, this time in the opposite corner of the country: Florida. The header photo above is of a controlled burn along the road to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples, Florida.
Somewhere along Washington State’s Mountain Loop Highway, in the foothills of the Cascade Range, a little shack sits off the side of the road, abandoned and VERY overgrown.
Travel east, north or south from Seattle and you’re sure to come across abandoned structures and vehicles. The region’s abundant rainfall and temperate climate keep the green machine running, quickly enveloping abandoned buildings, cars or trucks in thick layers of moss, fungus and ferns.
This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is to post a photo of something abandoned. More here!
Such an evocative word, foreign. Lately I’ve been taking it personally – feeling foreign myself. Scratching my head and wondering how a non-native fits in around here.
I’ll never be one, even if I try to insert myself into that picture:
I must come to terms with – no, I must get over feeling like a foreigner.
After all, if I were in this situation, I bet my feelings of being foreign would be more troubling, more complex:
(Photo taken by a Marine in Afghanistan last year – that’s my son on the right)
It’s tricky though – the nomads below would seem like foreigners to most people I know, but the Buddhist prayer wheel and the text resonate with me strongly enough to think that these people would not feel foreign to me:
(Screen capture from a TV program, 2004)
Some people have trouble connecting to anyone and are lifelong foreigners in their own land. I suspect that’s the case with the maker of some sculptures J. and I stumbled on two years ago, in a remote corner of New York City –
off a busy industrial road, through a gate,
beyond an abandoned trailer,
along the edge of a polluted marsh:
We went back several times. The place appeared to have been deserted for a long time. We wondered what foreign ideas and feelings gripped this person’s mind, and we hoped that making sculpture eased the strangeness. We delighted in the inventiveness, we respected the artistic choices, and wondered at the wonder of it all. But undeniably, a feeling of foreignness hovered over this place.
More posts on the theme of foreign can be found here: