Seen on the Ferry

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And on the island…

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It was a quick day trip across Puget Sound to Marrowstone and Indian Islands, near Port Townsend. We hadn’t been there before and had an urge to check out the area.  The rather dark, cold and blustery day was like many other winter days in the Pacific Northwest, so that didn’t keep us from going out.

The ferry views are always pleasant if you can take the cold on deck! You could sit at a window, but the crossing is only a half hour, so I typically roam the ferry to see what I can see. I never sit down, though it would be satisfying with a good book – or good friends.

I enjoy the ferry itself – the heavy ropes, the nets to keep people off the deck, the safety signs, the solid build. Even the brooms were poised for a picture, so I clicked. The last shot is taken from behind the reinforced glass door towards the bow. I focused on the metal in the glass so the rest blurred. I like the effect.

The beach scenes are from Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island.  A strategic coastal defense fort that is now a park, it was built in the 1890’s and was active during both World Wars and the Korean War. This spot and two others nearby were a “Triangle of Fire” that defended Puget Sound. By 1953 it was deactivated. The park has lovely views of the water and the Olympic Mountains (above).  And guess what – you can spend the night in the restored Engineer’s house, or how about the century-old Hospital Steward’s house?  That one comes with pressed tin ceilings in the bathroom, a claw foot tub, and of course a porch.  Prices are reasonable….

Finally,  in the tiny town of Nordland on Marrowstone Island, shellfish is still serious business:

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We should get back here next summer.

For now, eagerly looking forward to a few days in the desert this week, in a remote corner of Arizona.

DEPARTURE

Having departed from Bainbridge Island a half hour earlier, the M/V Tacoma, a 460 foot ferry capable of carrying over 200 cars and 2000 passengers, is about to arrive in Seattle. I’m watching from the sidewalk next to the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, a few blocks from Pike Place Market.

It’s spitting rain out there. The sky is changeable today, morphing through rain and sun-break, and back to rain again. I don’t mind – it’s a nice departure from the blank, featureless grays that typify northwest winters. I’ve just been to the Seattle Art Museum and I’m headed to Pike Place for coffee at Le Panier, with a stop along the way to take in the view.

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Looking at art can have the effect of making the most mundane objects around you look new. Museum and gallery walls expand to encompass the street, and everyday objects take on the guise of “art.”  Recognizing patterns, color and form in new ways, you interact differently with the world. Neurologists might say this phenomenon is an opening up of neural pathways that, once activated, start to repeat themselves in grooved loops of pleasure.  OK, that’s fuzzy science, but whatever the explanation, spending time with painting and sculpture can energize the way you look at the world.

 

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No doubt many people would recognize the sculptural quality of this construction site near the waterfront, but after studying a beautiful steel and glass Christopher Wilmarth piece at the museum, I find the industrial duct work alive with formal possibilities.

Wilmarth, a minimalist sculptor who died in 1987, bent heavy sheets of roughly finished steel and thick slabs of plate glass like you might fold a piece of cardboard, juxtaposing their contrasting properties with apparent ease. His work caught my eye at a 1970 Whitney Museum sculpture exhibit – I still have the catalog. I’d forgotten about him, so it was exciting to see his sculpture commanding the floor in a museum show about Light and Space.

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Another work that stayed with me the rest of the day was a large white painting by an artist I wasn’t familiar with, Mary Corse. Her minimalist work, especially the all white painting series, doesn’t reproduce well, but it’s very intriguing to be around. Corse uses the tiny glass beads that make road signs reflective to lend a changeable quality to the light that hits and emanates from her paintings. As I walked around her paintings the surface shifted, a pleasant, meditative experience.

One painting brought to mind a Puget Sound fog, though she would reject that characterization. For her, the paintings don’t reference landscapes or anything else in the outer world. Rather, they’re perceptual tools to make us understand reality in a new way, generating new meaning, or presence, or state of being.”

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On to the market. The press of tourists is intense even in January, so we don’t dally too long. But yes, the espresso and baguette sandwich were great. Sorry you weren’t there!

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One way to deal with the crowds is to go down an alley behind the buildings, across from the main market. It’s only slightly quieter, but at least I can admire the bulging brick walls and generous windows at the old buildings’ backs.

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On the way home I take the camera out again when rain-slicked skies turn the street lights into compositions of intense, luscious color.

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It’s been a departure for me today – no images of leaves or trees, buds or branches. A refreshing change of pace.

 

VASHON ISLAND

We took the ferry over to Vashon Island the other day.

This big island near Seattle (37 sq. mi.) has no bridges, so it has retained a good bit of charm. Lining up to wait for the ferry, we relaxed and watched the sun struggle to break through thick morning fog.

While we waited, I got out of the car and gazed into clouds of fog. The blending of one tone into another was so subtle, it was mesmerizing.

We boarded and began the short ride to Vashon Island, with just enough time to get out of the car and walk briskly around the deck.  I looked in vain for Orcas (killer whales, regularly seen here), but instead, another ferry slowly appeared through the fog.

There are no big towns on Vashon Island, and only one stop light.  This old wood building which may have been a feed store but now stands empty caught my eye. I’m always drawn to this kind vernacular architecture.

We parked in town to check out the Farmers Market, first stopping at the island’s only supermarket for a bottle of water, which I had forgotten to bring in the rush to leave that morning. In front of the supermarket was a “Scone Wagon” – go figure!  As local residents caught up with each other I took a photograph. This is a typical look on Vashon – relaxed, ready to pull up a weed or two, with a bit of whimsy at one’s side.

The Farmers Market was full of beautiful veggies, many of them organic and all grown on the island. No bargains here though!

Exuberant bunches of dahlias added to the celebration of fall color at the market.

And these root vegetables are ?  I’m not sure…

A huge mural painted on the wall of an old bank next to the market features local history. This is just a portion of it.

We stopped for espresso at a roadside cafe that has a nice front porch. You could help yourself to coffee from carafes left on a table outside (and oh, how I love the easy availability of good espresso in rural places here in the northwest).

Inside there were old Danish coffee grinders on display:

It’s an island, so of course we explored the shore in various places…

The water is so clear!

The sturdy Pt. Robinson Lighthouse is an island attraction – there were at least 4 or 5 other people there!  This lighthouse was built in 1915 and the old keeper’s houses next to it (below) can be rented ($225/night on the off season; about $1500/wk in the summer).

The charming keepers’ houses are situated beautifully along the shore, facing east. There’s a stunning view of Mt. Rainier, wildlife on the water, and plenty of driftwood for building impromptu sculptures. Making interesting piles of driftwood is a common past time in the Pacific Northwest.  A sign reminds you not to take any driftwood from the beach, just in case you could be rude enough to contemplate that…

This was my favorite sculpture:

And here’s that spectacular view of Mt. Rainier, complete with a fishing boat and a loon. We sat on a log, basked in the sun, and watched the loon dive for fish. Perfect.

Back inland we walked a short trail through typical northwest woodland. There were feathery cedar boughs, abundant sword ferns, plentiful mushrooms and moss, and a slant of sunlight brightening up a spot where someone cut down a cedar.

Bright red-orange berries growing in a tangle along the shore were attractive.  I think this plant is poisonous though.  I couldn’t remember its name but I’m pretty sure it’s in the same family as tomatoes.

Back at the ferry dock, the Cascades tore a ragged edge along the horizon and gulls sliced the air over calm waters.

On the ride over to Vashon that morning, fog had completely obscured Mt. Rainier, but now the grand lady’s snowy flanks were resplendent in the late afternoon sunlight.

I feel very lucky to live in a part of the world that so readily offers up treasures of land, water and sky.

MORNING,

sometimes,

will allow

you

a few moments of no-you:

moments when the self is

almost

silent…

Saturday, 10/05/13, 8:59 AM. Aboard the Fauntleroy/ Vashon Island ferry.

Fog on the Sound:

erasing

enough.

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The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge is “Good Morning.”