morning meander, home edition

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These photos were all made early in the morning in my yard, on the last day of March. A nice fog had settled in. When the sun broke through the mist, tiny dew drops sparkled on spider webs, and lit up like diamonds in the grass. I wouldn’t have known those spider webs were there, had I not gone out and paid attention, and if I waited an hour, it would have been over. It can be difficult to let go of what you’re doing and switch gears, but it is so worth it sometimes. 

I used an Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, at f1.8 for most of the twig photos, at f2, f3.2 & f5.6 for the others, and f9 for the telephone pole. (That would be like a 90mm lens on most digital SLR’s, since I use a micro four thirds camera – an Olympus OM D EM-1, a model that’s now six years old, and eternity in technological terms.)

STALKING the WINTER FOG

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This is the eastern edge of the Stillwater Unit of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.  It’s about 450 acres of river valley habitat, bordered by farms, woods and a small town or two. Thirty miles from Seattle, this pretty lowland area is often flooded by the Snoqualmie River, which runs through it. The morning fog may not burn off until after noon.

Decades ago the Fish and Wildlife folks planted fields here, maintaining the land to attract wildlife. Pheasants bred on game farms are released every fall for a two month hunting season. Other wild birds and animals are hunted too, so I don’t venture too far from the road this time of year – hunting season could still be on for one bird or another. This week when I took these photos, I heard a pheasant in the field – a survivor! A flock of ducks rose from a pond out in the field and a kinglet flitted through the branches under mossy trees.

I appreciate the preservation of habitat that happens as a consequence of hunting but personally, I wouldn’t hunt unless I needed the food. The day job keeps enough money coming is so that I can buy all my food at stores. Once a vegetarian, these days I do eat meat, so you can call me a hypocrite, since I pay others to kill for me. In the “wisdom” that inheres in our times and keeps us separate from the land and our food sources, there is hunger for a stronger connection to the life force. So I go out stalking the wild photograph…

 

“THROUGH A FINE VEIL…”

“Always even-tempered, he spent most of his time out of doors, going on long expeditions

even in the worst of weather, or when it was fine sitting on a camp stool

somewhere near the house in his white smock, a straw hat on this head

painting watercolors. When he was thus engaged

he generally wore glasses with gray silk tissue in the lenses in the frames

so that the landscape appeared through a fine veil that muted its colours,

and the weight of the world dissolved before your eyes.”

From Austerlitz by W.G. Sebold

 

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Hovering between polarities, I am attracted to both the highly detailed, intimate close-up and the blurred, indistinct image with no focal point.

The quote seems to dwell at the fog-drenched end of the spectrum, but maybe not – those tissue-covered lenses may allow a few details to be picked out of the veil.

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Foggy Island Saturday

On a recent Saturday – a blue, high-ceiling day –

I rode the ferry to Whidbey Island, where

the main road traces a curvy spine –

climbing and dropping,

climbing and dropping.

With no views

of malls.

It’s a world apart.

On the island’s west shore, a narrow strip of land fronts Admiralty Bay

(a bay that connects Puget Sound and Seattle to the Salish Sea and the great Pacific Ocean beyond).

It drew me in for a look.

Where the rock-strewn beach hooks westward,

a ferry idled in the fog. Fishermen gazed into dark waters.

Behind the driftwood-littered shore,

a marshy lake: its wet, salty earth stained red with Glasswort (Salicornia).

Known as Pickleweed and Samphire, the odd little vegetable is harvested

and eaten

around the world.

 

Grasses criss-crossed in the field, like a finely etched engraver’s plate.

 

 

On the road to Ebey’s Landing, fog,

thick as cotton, smudged a hillock of Douglas fir

behind an old farmhouse.

Bicyclists stopped for pictures.

Round the curve, down the hill…

park the car, step onto the beach…

Breathe.

I walked alone up the beach.

I found another wetland there, shrouded

in fog rolling in

from the Salish sea,

softening the colors

so subtly.

 

 

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On the beach side, driftwood giants

rose up –

sky, land, sea,

wood, grass, rock –

all one.

Water is the common denominator –

mighty bull whip kelp sloshed

back and forth,

back and forth,

slowly washing up onto land.

Fog silvered the water.

 

It all left me

finally,

speechless.

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THE POETRY OF PLACE: FOG

I went for a walk

in the forest – it doesn’t matter

how I got there.

It was deep enough into January to sense

stillness

settled deep into the landscape – yet

a readiness was evident,

a quiet preparation for the green noise

that will soon fill the air.

I wandered down old paths,

camera in hand, drawn

to a wet poetry I sensed.

So:

photographs were taken – an appreciation

of stately cedar, still pond waters, lichen and fern,

the rusting, moss covered hulk of an old car

full of bullet holes.

And I returned with a picture poem of

place and time, filtered

through fog,

through water.

And

through the lenses of my

mind

eyes

and camera.

Dew

remembers Spider’s path…

water permeates

everywhere.

Photos taken on 1/19/14,  in Marckworth State Forest, near Duvall, Washington, with a Panasonic Lumix G3 camera, kit lens (14 – 42mm, f 3.5), processed in Lightroom and OnOne Perfect Effects 4.

The Light That Struggles to be Seen…

…can be a metaphor for difficult times. On Thanksgiving Day I needed some air so I went down to Kirkland’s waterfront. The fog was so heavy it laid on the water like a great dollop of heavy cream. Seattle’s skyline, just across the lake – nowhere to be seen. A cormorant fishing twenty yards off – barely visible. Foghorns – dimly heard.  And the figures at the end of the pier  – vague shadows…

As I began to walk back to the car the sun burned a hole through the fog, lighting up a child throwing rocks into the lake. I hadn’t brought a filter so I held my sunglasses in front of the camera for a final, strangely lit shot:

The Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge is to show light by featuring a light source, so I thought it appropriate that the light source, in these darkening days, was barely visible. Here are other interpretations of the challenge.

RIALTO BEACH

The goal was a wild, fog-smudged shoreline over 150 miles from Seattle…

We drove, ferried, and drove again, finally arriving in Forks, the small town made famous by the Twilight books & movie. It was a two day blitz – on the first day, the Olympic Mountains and Second Beach; on the second day, the Hoh Rainforest and Rialto Beach. (Even with all the water around Seattle and Puget Sound we are starved for the beach!)

Rialto Beach is an easy half hour drive from Forks, but first we wanted to explore the Hoh Rainforest.  Often mist-filled and rainy, the Hoh area was sunny that day, but even in sunny conditions it was dark inside the forest. Most of my photos of the rainforest didn’t turn out well – patience and a tripod would have worked better than our determined pace. Next time.

As we headed to the coast the fog returned and hovered just at the edge of the land. We parked and made our way through a patch of forest towards the pounding crash and boom of high tide. The powerful sound overtook me well before I saw the beach. Within the woods, even at water’s edge, dim light concealed details, and where thick forest confronted heavy surf, spindly fir tree skeletons stood tall, their future a tangled wreck at their feet.

It was all wet grays and diffuse light.

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The smooth, round rocks clattered as they rolled and tumbled under receding waves.

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A miscellany of sea life was scattered about the beach. It all made me wish we had a handy marine biologist along to grill with questions: What’s this? And that? Why this color? Who eats this stuff? And what does the other forest, the one that lies beneath the waves look like?

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A few enormous logs – the trademark of Pacific Northwest beaches – rolled around freely in the tide. We actually recognized one giant log from the first time we came here, two years ago.

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The softest, most subtle colors could be seen through the mist, whether you looked out to sea or back into the woods.

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The sun would hide behind thick clouds, then a vague, barely blue patch would form up the beach revealing tantalizing glimpses of rugged outcroppings and sea stacks. There’s a natural arch not far from here, but that would have to wait.  It was getting late. I wished I could stay another night – there are birds here, (last time we saw pelicans), killer whales, seals, and a whole other world out there at low tide.  Today all that was invisible to us, but we were well satisfied.

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Drift with me

along sea-sprayed shores…

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I discovered a gem – please take a second to listen to this recording of the rocks and surf at Rialto, and sounds inside a hollow log on the beach.  The recording was made by acoustic ecologist (acoustic ecologist – that idea alone makes me shiver with pleasure!) Gordon Hempton. He was interviewed by Krista Tippet, who produces a very good NPR show called “On Being.”

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.”

My 2012 in Images

I’m ambivalent about reviewing a whole year. I can’t possibly pare it down to a few images.

But I’ll do my best with the latest Weekly Photo Challenge. You can see what others are doing here:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/weekly-photo-challenge-my-2012-in-pictures/

(I can’t help thinking about what’s left out: how would a summary of the year look just from the vantage point of sound, or touch, or taste or smell? What about a summary of my feelings? They are all entirely relevant).

This is the first picture I took in 2011. It’s simplicity belies my state of mind at the time – absolute anxiety, frantic activity. In a month we would move across the country to a place we had been to only once, where we had no friends and just a handful of acquaintances. We would have no jobs waiting for us, and no family within thousands of miles. So many unknowns! No matter the worries and preoccupations – these shadows and shapes drew me in.

A quick overnight to Philadelphia in early January allowed me to say goodbye to some wonderful friends who had maintained my sanity while my son was deployed in Afghanistan the previous year. Was this statue telling me something about my future?

It was tough to say goodbye to these good people.

Soon after getting back home, I was on a plane to Seattle to find a place to live.  A generous acquaintance offered to put me up – I had a week to figure out where to live, but I had done the research and had good leads.  I secured an apartment within days, so I began exploring the area before the flight back home. One evening there was a spectacular sunset – maybe it was a portent, because the next day Seattle was hit with a big snowstorm – and in this part of the world, which doesn’t see a whole lot of snow, that meant everything stopped.

It sure was gorgeous though…

But planes were grounded and I waited nervously as flights were cancelled, and cancelled again. Finally I was good to go so I navigated the icy roads to the airport, turned my car in, and learned that once again, my flight was cancelled. I secured what appeared to be the last hotel room within miles, and the next morning the de-icers were out in force.

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I did manage to get home. There wasn’t much time left for goodbyes to favorite places – and people. A close friend from upstate came down and we had a great day hanging out in coffee shops and scouring a tag sale for finds (yes, a tag sale in Manhattan!) I walked the High Line in January cold and photographed my favorite Gehry building through a scrim of morning glory vines.

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And I was glad for sunny days. Oh, that skyline from the ferry. I didn’t know how I would live without it.

Two days before our lease was up, we muddled through a long day of watching and negotiating as movers packed our belongings and hit us with huge extra charges. We slept one last night on a couch we left for the landlord, and then turned our keys in and painstakingly wound our way through city traffic and out to JFK with our sedated sixteen-year-old cat and all the luggage we could carry. We climbed on board the plane and before long we were crossing the Rockies!

After one night in a hotel we took possession of our new apartment. I hung my beads at the window and we waited for our furniture, our clothes, our – everything – to arrive. For about ten days we slept on an air mattress and dined on an upturned box. Our netbooks became our lifelines at the local cafe. We slowly stocked the fridge and explored our neighborhood in a rental car while waiting for our own cars to make their way across the country. Yes! – we found a Trader Joe’s and plenty of good espresso joints nearby.

Eventually our furniture arrived – hardly anything broke!  Then one car, and eventually the other. The planning really paid off. One thing we could not control though, was our aging cat’s health. We found a good vet and they tried their best, but it was all too much, and we had to say goodbye to Pablo towards the end of the month.  It was a terrible blow, and we were dealing with it alone, in a strange place. The vet said his ashes would be spread at an apple orchard on the road into the mountains.  We were heartened by the thought of his body nourishing apples that might someday nourish us.  RIP Pabs.

We set about exploring the Pacific Northwest with a vengeance – rarely going more than two hours away – there were islands and mountains, a new city, interesting small towns, miles of shoreline and acres of farms.

Whether a distant view or a close-up, it was all looking good to me. And so different!

What are those weird things on the beach?

Bull whip kelp!  That’s like seaweed!  They grow everything so damn big out here!

When we weren’t exploring the countryside we poked around Seattle. Yes, there’s culture and yes, there’s art.

And MOSS. Moss everywhere! Even in the cold winter months it was brilliant green, coating branches like fur.

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And what a refreshing change the open space was. I discovered Duvall, a nearby town founded in 1913 (like that was a long time ago?) with a great sense of style.

 I found a conservatory that I could escape to on the endless gray days, as I waited for spring.

Eventually spring did start to peek around the corner, but it took forever to warm up.

I volunteered at a botanical garden to get closer to the plants I love.

In the woods there were wildflowers I hadn’t seen in years – trilliums seemed almost commonplace. Back east they’re picked clean, at least around metropolitan New York.

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I went up to see the fields of tulips and daffodils that are grown north of here. It was, of course, another gray day, but everyone promised that summer would be endlessly sunny.

I was getting tired of waiting for the sun.

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So I amused myself by joining a photography group and working harder on my photography.

Overcast days can make for lovely, even light, so I tried to understand how to take better advantage of the weather.

When we had time we drove into the mountains and hiked among the old growth – the giants – and I was humbled and full of love for them.

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Back in Seattle we discovered Georgetown, a photogenic neighborhood with an appealing funk quotient.

I volunteered for a court program that advocates for children. It was hard work but rewarding.

I read about a project that involves local people in making prints for the families of people killed on 9/11, and so I volunteered for that, too, and carved a block for a print.

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Summer finally came, and it was simply gorgeous – dry every day for months, never hot.

Up on the mountain passes there was beautiful fog to wander through, and plentiful berries in the fields.

Wherever I live I make it a point to find scraps of land with wildflowers that become my florists. Ten minutes from home I found an abandoned railroad track with butterfly bush, California poppies, fireweed, tansy, St. Johnswort…heaven!

We explored the working docks and shipyards of Seattle. Back in New York we used to watch tugs and container ships from our window, but here we can get close up to small crew fishing boats.

In August I began this blog with a brief post about a mid-summer day when I felt glum and uninspired, but after walking through fields and recording the amazing light on seed, flower, leaf and fruit, I was renewed. It was a good beginning to the blog that has become a rewarding way to express myself and be inspired by others all over the world who are doing the same thing.

In the fall we took a day trip back to Mount Rainier. When we visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time in 2011, our day at Mount Rainier was one of the most powerful experiences we had.  This time I felt sick all say but I didn’t let it stop me – there were plentiful wildflowers, and we saw bears!

A few weeks later we took an overnight trip to the Olympic Peninsula and caught a drizzly late afternoon chill on Hurricane Ridge. The infamous, quickly changing Pacific Northwest weather was demanding that we pay attention.

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In November we returned to New York for a wedding, a week after Sandy had devastated the region. We stayed with family on Long Island who had been out of power for a week already.  We tried to help untangle wires from the broken trees and huddled in front of a gas fire.

But oh, the food! And the pizza! The Pacific Northwest has great fresh food, but nowhere else, as far as we know, can you get anything like this slice, from an ordinary pizza place in Manhattan.

The wedding went off without a hitch. We had a day or so to see more family and revisit old haunts like the Rubin Museum, Battery Park and Financier Patisserie, and then suddenly the trip was over.

Back home, I talked myself into appreciating the drizzly gray days.

On  Thanksgiving Day those overcast skies cast a gorgeous silvery light on the sound.

I still scream “SUN!” when it peaks out from behind the clouds, but I’m more reconciled to the weather than I was the first few months. There is so much to enjoy here, and somehow, spending a week back in New York helped me feel more like this is my home.  We’re sure that the spirit of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest will engage our curiosity for a long time.

Whether expressed in something fashioned by human hands or embodied in a roadside field, I find a great respect for the land and nature here.

The other day we saw this:

a stretch of hundred-year-old brick road and

a lovely, eccentric woman

taking a walk with her miniature horse, named

“Surprise”.

We expect to enjoy many years of pleasant surprises in this corner of the country. We wish our families were closer, but we’ll try to rack up frequent flier miles for visits – New York and the east coast are great places to visit, aren’t they?