Odds & Endings

Here is a miscellaneous group of images taken this year that have not been posted. The emphasis this time is urban. I’m going to attempt to tie them together with a bit of whimsy.

So: out with the old, in with the new, as cranes of all colors tear out a concrete building in downtown Seattle, exposing the upside-down, curvy underside of its neighbor.



That’s a lot of work! I doubt those guys do anything exciting on their breaks, but if you’re setting up a silo for a new brewery at Pike Place Market, lucky you! You get to watch Mount Rainier bask in the glow of the setting sun.


Just to the south a jumble of vents atop a building creates yet another oddball urban composition.


Farther south in Seattle’s old Pioneer Square neighborhood, handsome brick buildings compose themselves against a clear blue sky – yes, blue sky happens in Seattle – in fact, the sky is blue here all summer long.


A museum staircase provides another opportunity to enjoy architectural design.


So does a 1929 Art Deco tower backed up by a newer building in downtown Seattle. In your eyes, the newer building may or may not have succeeded in taking its cues from the past. But like it or not, it’s fun to wander the city streets in search of patterns.


At some point you have to give it all a rest, go out to the back alley, sit a spell. The cigarette buts tell me someone’s been doing just that.


Maybe they daydream about the holidays and colorful toys from the past…



Or maybe their reveries center on sunny days running through candy-colored gardens….


And treats, yes, let’s not forget that. Here’s to all of you having as many treats as you want in the New Year!


Whether you prefer Christmas red and green, Hanukah blue and white,


or something else altogether,


I wish you oodles of cheer, and lets make it ordinary cheer, like this fellow spreads down at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Sure, he has dreads down to his knees, his scarf is awry and his jacket frayed, but that’s what ordinary looks like, and maybe we need a little more of it.



I thank you for your presence here. It’s meant a lot this year. I’ll see you again very soon, with photographs from a warmer place…pleasant dreams!


We have a joke that comes up a lot – in response to anything puzzling, or in situations containing contradictions, we just say, “It’s complex.”   Long before the brain storm that struck four weeks ago today this phrase was shorthand for the shared knowledge that when contradictions arise, you acknowledge them and find a way forward, through and with the discrepancies. Or, maybe you set aside the conundrum and return later for another look, but there’s no getting around it – complexity is all around us.

So here we are. I go out

with my camera.

I see

dark and sad things, and

I see

beauty, which itself

is overlaid with



somber films.



I have

no doubt,

light abides too.














1)  Home – a foggy Pacific northwest woodland morning.

2) Chewed and fallen, a Cottonwood leaf at Quitobaquito Spring in Organ Pipe NM, Arizona.

3) Hydrangea bloom from 2016, still gathering the light at Bellevue Botanical Garden, Bellevue, WA.Japanese wood Buddha, ca 1130, from Kyoto, now in the collections of Seattle Asian Art Museum, which will soon close for a major renovation.

4) Japanese wood Buddha, ca 1130, from Kyoto, now in the collections of Seattle Asian Art Museum, which will soon close for a major renovation.

5) Bamboo in the breeze, Bellevue Botanical Garden.

6) Camelia bud in black and white, Bellevue Botanical Garden.



There are works of art which many people with a Euro-centric background agree are masterpieces – the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, The Pieta, Starry Night, Guernica, etc.  It can be hard to view those works with fresh eyes after seeing them so many times.  Examining lesser-known works of art, especially from non-European cultures, can wake up our eyes, deepening our aesthetic experience and maybe even giving us a new perspective on the old masterpieces.

These art works that aren’t so well known but were made with great care and great skill might be called minor masterpieces.

And in fact, (according to Wikipedia) the original meaning of the term masterpiece had to do with a piece of work an apprentice in the guild system made to demonstrate mastery of the craft for admission into a guild. In that context the works photographed here might comfortably be called masterpieces.

This fascinating Indonesian ear ornament, a small gold piece from the 19th century on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,  shows “warriors clad in turbans and loincloths brandishing swords and shields as they stride boldly into battle, accompanied by smaller figures in attitudes of supplication.”  The expression on the faces and the hands in supplication are so expressive!

A small seated Buddha from the Rubin Museum in New York also has very expressive hands, which held in this mudra, (symbolic or ritual gesture) signify passing along the teaching.

Continuing with the theme of hands in minor masterpieces of craftsmanship, a wooden totem pole in Seattle adorned with an impromptu bouquet speaks volumes about technique and the possibilities of expression in the hands of a master carver.

Another figurative minor masterpiece, this one in stone, decorates a building near Philadelphia’s historic Rittenhouse Square. The artist created amazing liveliness while keeping within the boundaries of tradition and the limits of the decorative frieze.

This minor masterpiece, made of glass, doesn’t necessarily depict anything beyond the indomitable human spirit. It is pure joy as you look up into the whirling colors of Dale Chihuly’s huge installation, the Bridge of Glass, in Tacoma, Washington.

Iznik Ceramics by Mehmet Gursoy

A large hand-painted ceramic dish crafted by a Mehmet Gursoy, a renowned Turkish artist who received the “Living Treasure” prize from UNESCO a few years ago. He revived a lost technique of ceramic decoration, and as he explains here, he designs his pieces with harmony and balance in mind, forming them from natural materials, firing and shaping them himself,  and painting them with the brilliant cobalt, emerald, turquoise and garnet colors that give so much life to the work.

Though it doesn’t have the power of the works above, this is still a “minor masterpiece” for me because I drew it with care and love.  It was many years ago that I pulled the little violet plant from the soil somewhere in New York, brought it home, and drew it in pencil, and then in ink.  I was pleased to catch the lilting spirit of the little violet just as it was unfurling its leaves and lifting its head to the spring sky.

Bloggers have a lot of ideas about the word “Masterpiece” – check them out here – and maybe you’ll find a new perspective on the concept.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD, at 47.6 degrees latitude, the change of the seasons means short days in December. Walking around Seattle in mid afternoon, I see alleys are already dim…

…but shop windows shine with objects to buy.

Bypassing the shops, I continue on to the waterfront.

It’s a little after 4pm on December 7th and the stark beauty of the sunset draws me to this construction site. A crane looms and seed heads of butterfly bushes, gone wild along the edge of a parking lot, bend with the wind. In the distance across Puget Sound I can see the wild, snow-topped Olympic Mountains.

The shortest day of the year is a few weeks away. Gray skies will rule for several more months, but soon the days will slowly grow longer as winter pushes towards spring.

Bloggers from around the world are sharing photos of changing seasons – in all sorts of latitudes and longitudes:  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/weekly-photo-challenge-changing-seasons/

Weekly Photo Challenge

This is a very late weekly photo challenge, because I have been away, back in New York.  For two days we stayed in a house with no power. After that we had a hotel room, complete with electricity, but between the family events, my slow netbook and a desperate need to spend time revisiting some favorite places in the city, I didn’t post last week.

The Weekly Photo Challenge from WordPress is “Renewal” and Jakesprinter’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “Surroundings”. I have definitely been in unusual surroundings in the past week. And being in New York for the first time since moving west earlier this year, I experienced a renewal of my love for new York and a renewal of my intentions in moving out here. Yes, I miss the pleasures of the city, but the pleasures here are sweet, too.

We took off into the sunrise – a promising start. However, the NYC forecast called for a “significant storm” to hit the region just as we arrived. I was anxious.  Sure enough, just as we began our descent into JFK, the plane suddenly pulled up.  The monitor map traced a huge circle away from the airport, as ice flew by the shaking wing at my side.

But of course we made it, arriving at a messy airport still dealing with Hurricane Sandy clean-up. Many other flights were cancelled due to this second storm – we just made it in time.

The surroundings were chaotic. This we knew! We had called ahead to be sure our rental car had a full tank of gas because of the reports (all true) that people were waiting in long lines for 3-5 hours to fill their tanks. We drove onto the Belt, slushy with snow and snarled with traffic – what a welcome!

We were staying with family on Long Island. It was Day 9 without power for them, and it was plenty cold outside. “Surroundings” began to take on a new meaning.

We huddled around the fire and ate a simple meal of pasta – thank god the house has a gas stove. A picnic cooler outside kept perishable food cool. We turned in early, buried under quilts, tired but cozy.

The next morning we lent a hand in the yard. A telephone pole in the front yard had snapped in two and the transformer now dangled precariously, its wires weaving a complicated web through a prized plum tree, which had split down the middle. More wires traced a long arc across the driveway. We sawed off  limbs to free the wires, and hoped LIPA (the hated Long Island Power Authority) would get to our street soon.

Back inside, we warmed up around the fire again, stuffing our wet gloves with newspaper (enough stories of suffering!) and setting them by the fire to dry.

The village had power, so we drove down to a packed Starbucks to recharge phones and laptops (and recharge my brain with the daily double espresso). A thoughtful customer had plugged a power strip into the wall outlet – otherwise, we could have waited an hour or more to charge our phones. Later we went to a rehearsal dinner – this trip was in honor of a nephew’s wedding, taking place the next day at a catering hall, which happily had power. The surroundings were convivial, the food was incredible, and the wine flowed. I guess that was in the opposite order.

The next day we checked into a hotel. Our reservations were made months ago – lucky for us, because there were no hotel rooms available on Long Island. Our hotel was packed with line and tree workers from all over the country; a scrawled sign on the door read, “No Rooms”. The thought of getting ready for a wedding in the dark? Not too good. So we were glad to have the room. The wedding and reception went off without a hitch, and after another day spent with family, we finally had time to jump on the train to Manhattan.

As soon as I emerged from the subway I felt renewed. These surroundings – the crowds, the noise, the cabs and bikes and vendors – will always draw and energize me.

Another family get together was planned for midtown, so we wandered through Central Park. We had to leave downtown – my preference – for another day.

The park looked surprisingly intact – I only saw one large tree lost to the hurricane. But the Central Park Conservancy website says over 800 of its 20,000 trees were lost in the storm.

That night we ate at John’s Shanghai in midtown with my sister-in-law, who’s from Shanghai. She ordered of course, and it was funny to hear how she and the waiter began speaking English, then added a few Chinese words, and gradually morphed into full Chinese as they negotiated the details. Their famous soup dumplings were delicious.

The next day we were able to spend a few hours downtown.

First, the Rubin Museum, which always renews me:

Then a train down to the World Trade Center area, where I worked.

One World Trade Center is looking good. There are lights on in my old office building, on the right. It felt good to touch base, but it feels great not to be working here anymore. Talk about stressful surroundings – constant worries about security, never ending construction – we even had to put up with snipers on our roof one day when Obama visited.

Over in Battery Park, which took the brunt of the storm surge, it looked like nothing had ever happened. I suspect that had we walked the length of the park, down to the ferry terminal, it would have been another story.

Here though, boats were safely tied up and lights sparkled across the Hudson River as evening fell. I used to come over here after work to walk and be renewed by my surroundings. Now, they inspired me again. But inside, I felt disoriented – perfectly relaxed, alert and at home in New York, and yet not. I was a tourist now, this was not my home any more. Sill, I felt more attached to the city than to my new home in the west.

I wished I had more time in the city, but this was our last day. We topped it off with Kobe burgers at Zaitzeff and headed over to Financier, where I bought as many of their outrageous pastries as I could tuck into my bag for the plane ride back. Chocolate eclair, Madelaines, Apple Gallette, Macaroon…umm.

Our plane took off at dusk the next day and the moon was new so the skies were bright with stars. I nodded off after a glass of wine and woke up over Montana to see a mysterious glowing curtain hanging below the Big Dipper – I stared and stared at this weird shape shifter, and finally I was convinced that this really was the Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights. Of course I tried to get a picture, but it’s just a green blob. What are the chances of waking up from a nap on a six hour flight just as your plane flies by the Northern Lights? What rare surroundings!

The next day was quiet, and I didn’t get out of the house until almost dark. I drove over to the waterfront and watched a beautiful sunset. The ducks were content. The surroundings were lovely. I felt pretty content, too.

And yesterday morning, a foggy dawn gave way to clear skies. I had just enough time after taking care of business for a walk on the Coal Creek Falls trail on Cougar Mountain.

The surroundings were magical.

Moss glowed on cedars, aspens and maples.

Mushrooms sprouted.

Lichens dripped with moisture.

Leaves dangled, caught by branches as they fell to the ground.

The sun set.

I felt renewed.

More information about these Weekly Photo Challenges, and many more submissions, can be found here:




A few days ago I downloaded an Android app called Photogrid. It puts your phone photos into collages.

A shake of the phone produces a new arrangement (you pick frame styles & colors) –

Here’s a grid of road trips in the Pacific Northwest:

Here’s another arrangement of the same images:

This one is a mash-up of



rain on the car window (near Seattle of course)

a hand,

and street shots in New York & Seattle:

I don’t think you can change the placement of the images by dragging them around – that would be even better.

But sometimes random choices produce juxtapositions you wouldn’t have thought of, and they’re really nice –

(yes, John Cage figured that out long ago).

I think I like this one best:

And the app is free!

BIG Weekly Photo Challenge…

“BIG. It’s larger than life, it’s unexpected, it’s the protagonist in a scene…”   The Daily Post has spoken. So, some ideas:

Oh Darlin’, you are ONE BIG MESS!  I love how you embody the essence of haughty disregard for my opinions. (And what big eyelashes you have!)

At the opposite end of the clean and pure spectrum, an oversize buddha stands tall at Dia Tang Temple in Lynnwood, WA.  At this temple, they make some pretty BIG PROMISES:

Number 11? Not so keen on that.  But I’ll burn incense all day for number #27.  Oh, and I could use some #21, too.

Ko-kwal-al-wwoot, the Maiden of Deception Pass, is 24 feet tall. She looks out for the Samish Tribe. Pictures of her being carved and installed are here:


Cedars like the one she was carved from used to reach truly amazing size in the Pacific Northwest. The “Old Grandmother” below was torn from the forest many years ago, but the wound still seems fresh, doesn’t it?

There is loss and there is gain.  A BIG HEART must have been behind this project:

What’s this? Two dollars, given to us by a stranger on a street corner, performing an experiment in Anonymous Kindness,  in a small town in Washington. The card instructs the owner to do the same, leave the card behind, and keep the spirit going!  The experience created some BIG SMILES…and I think it’s going to keep on creating them. I haven’t decided how I’m going to give my dollar away and reach out with an anonymous act of kindness yet. Any ideas?

More BIG solutions to the Weekly Photo Challenge at: