Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle

The grass is always green now at this former petroleum transfer facility, the views are always interesting, and the varied sculpture collection can be counted on to stimulate the imagination.


Richard Serra


On the bridge over the railroad tracks a glass walled walkway transforms the landscape, both above and below.


Teresita Fernandez


In the distance is Seattle’s skyline exclamation, the Space Needle. A huge Calder dominates the zigzag path through the park.


Alexander Calder


It’s free, so coming here to walk your dog makes sense, and once the clouds blow over, the Olympic Mountains will grace the view. Native trees and plants were used extensively in landscaping the nine acre, low maintenance, no pesticide park. Rolling in the grass is another good idea, but if weather threatens you can duck inside.


Ellsworth Kelly


A shop, reading materials, snacks, restrooms, and more great views are available at the Paccar Pavilion.

The Serra is my favorite.

Hearing all the Sounds

Forty years ago this month, I listened very carefully to all the sounds I heard one day and wrote them down in a notebook. The resulting 60 page work was later submitted as part of the requirements for a Fine Arts degree at what was then the wonderfully progressive School of Visual Arts, in New York City.

I have thought about my “Sounds Piece” many times since then, especially when the anniversary of that day rolls around.  Wherever I might be living, it always seems that my sound environment is far, far noisier and more complex than it was back then. I thought it would be interesting to do another sound piece twenty years later, but even in 1992, the world was so much noisier than it had been in 1972. It just didn’t seem possible.


I can’t share the whole piece here, but I have set below some pages from it. The first two list each sound I heard from the moment I awoke that morning until about two hours later. I had placed a small notebook & pencil next to the bed the night before, so I would be ready. (The “shower” wasn’t mine – someone else was in the bathroom and that was the first sound I was conscious of as I woke up).

I was already struggling with the question of how to identify and record the odd sounds we don’t normally think about, as well as the usual ones. I quickly realized that the best – or easiest – way to describe a sound was to simply name the thing that made the sound, a “once-removed” process I didn’t like, but felt forced to use, to lend consistency to the writing. Of course, writing rather than recording sounds directly is already a once-removed method of conveying auditory experience, but I liked the idea of translating the auditory sensations onto paper. I wanted to see what that would look like – like a peculiar diary? – and I was curious to see how this extra layer of activity would affect my day.

A page from mid-day:

I attended classes that day, and as soon as my friends got wind of what I was up to, they began making odd sounds that were very difficult to describe. I was so busy writing I hardly spoke all day. A few people bothered me, or followed me, or kissed me.

I was glad to get away from school, but all the noises outside – from the street to the subway – were hard to capture. Made me grind my teeth!

That night I scribbled with a worn out brain, but I was determined to complete the project.  I had produced a beautifully skewed record of one day – the perceptions of one of my five senses, filtered through my brain and crudely recorded on paper, had left an oddly complete, yet incomplete trail of clues to 16 hours of  everyday life.

Here, the final two pages of sounds (there’s a typo in there):


Since then there have been many nights when I couldn’t sleep because my son was crying in his crib, or it was summer and they were dredging the harbor, or people outside were yelling. I would long to live in a place where the last thing I heard at night could be my own breathing.


Has anyone else tried to list all the sounds they heard over the course of a day?  I don’t know, but today, unless you do this far away from cities, it will be very hard. Many more layers of sound litter our lives now compared with a few decades ago. We live in a sound and noise polluted world, just as we live in a world polluted by so much other extra stuff. Paring away some layers from time to time and allowing yourself to just be, in a less busy environment, becomes more and more attractive.

If it seems like a good thing to do, take a minute and listen to every sound, one by one. Just listen.







The Weekly Photo Challenge is a Foreign One…

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:


Weekly Photo Challenge: MINE!

What a loaded subject!  This week Sara Rosso asks us to Share a picture that means MINE to you! and posts a mouth-watering photograph of her morning cup of Joe. Food definitely springs to mind, especially that morning cuppa, not to mention the life-sustaining afternoon espresso, which I’m going to go out to find in about 15 minutes. Some people posted photos of their loved ones – another sure bet in the “mine” department. I don’t want to repeat those themes. Here are some thoughts:

Mine for a moment, a lovely Fritillary butterfly rests on my fingers (it was tricky to photograph it with the other hand) on a warm June afternoon in the Adirondack Mountains. Those magical times when a perfectly wild creature allows you into its world can be stunning reminders that the world gives and it takes away on a schedule you will never be privy to. I try to be ready and be aware.

An antique creamer once belonged to my maternal grandmother; now it is mine. Inside, a yellowed fragment of paper bears her writing: “This belonged to a tea set of mine when I was a little girl.”  Who did she think would find her note? My mother must have seen it, and after she died and the pretty pot came to me, I read that note in “Momar’s” distinctive hand with wonder. Who will call it mine next?

These old silver spoon handles (and other objects) “were removed from the stomach of a woman patient in a mental hospital” in New York. They’re on exhibit at a tiny museum in the basement of a private library in Pawling, NY. The label continues, “The woman appears to be in good condition and is still swallowing metal objects.”  It could be that her cravings were due to a lack of some nutritional element, but I doubt it. I wonder, what was her sense of  “mine”?

I love to wander and explore. Sometimes I find amazing things, like a stash of broken pottery, at least a hundred years old, washed up onto an industrial shoreline of Staten Island, NY (yes, I jumped the fence).  It’s a very long time since anyone called those pieces of crockery “mine”, but for now, I do.  I pick flowers when I wander too, and they are mine to admire for a few days. Sometimes I make a map of my wanderings; it’s very much “mine” but I get excited if I can share it with someone who also delights in odd peregrinations (you know who you are!).

But if “mine” is more about what’s unique to me than about what I posses, then the “most mine of all” is probably my artwork.

What are your thoughts – what’s the most mine of all in your world? More ideas can be found at: