Seeing Through

Though clear waters range to the vast autumn sky

How can they compare with the hazy moon on a Spring night!

Most people want to have pure clarity

But sweep as you will, you cannot empty the mind.

Keizan Zenji

from The Hazy Moon of Enlightenment by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman

pub. Zen Center of Los Angeles, 1977

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Clarity is a fine thing, but the haze,

the haze, such

beauty in the haze.

Walk with me.

We’re going back outside the greenhouse,

round the corner.

We’re looking for the place where life pushes

against hazy windows.

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Photographs from the WW Seymour Conservatory in Tacoma, WA and the greenhouse at the Kruckeberg Garden, Seattle, WA.

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Happy Earth Day!

and

here’s to a successful March for Science.

 

Gray Day, Greenhouse

These photos were taken at the University of Washington Greenhouse, a facility primarily used for research. A local photography club I belong to made an arrangement with the manager, and we had a few hours amidst the collections on Sunday. The actual research areas were off limits.

The orchid on the top is Epidendrum nocturnum. The bottom orchid is a Bulbophyllum orchid; I don’t know which one. And the third photo is Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, an epiphytic plant that anyone who’s spent time in America’s southeast knows well. I intentionally moved the camera on a long shutter speed for the second shot.

It was good to let gray skies disappear and lose myself in the tropics…a poor person’s vacation.

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I can’t resist adding a few more – the greenhouse door from the inside;

a water lily (Nymphaea caerulea);

intertwined tropical leaves;

one of many hungry Nepenthes, a carnivorous plant fed with leftover caterpillars from research projects;

a posy of candy-colored Passionflowers floated in a bowl of water (like what my grandmother used to do with her rhodos!);

and a large tropical leaf shot from underneath (yes, the black dot is a bug). They maintain a very delicate balance in the greenhouse. Hopefully there are not so many pests that plants are destroyed, but not so few that bugs are absent. Natural pest control, not the sterile conditions that heavy use of chemical pest deterrents would create, is the goal.

What a Difference a Year Can Make

This week I will celebrate my first 365 days in the Pacific Northwest. These images, photographs of places I frequented in my old home town and places I’m been exploring here on my new home ground, bookend the year.

Last week I drove up Cougar Mountain, outside Seattle, to the so-called “Million Dollar View”.  We had been stuck in a weather inversion that produced nothing but thick fog day and night. It’s easy to rise above it though – a thousand or so feet up and I was out of the mist. Foggy cloud banks rested gracefully across the valleys and Douglas firs cast soft lavender blue reflections on the lake below. Over a hundred miles north of where I stood, sunlight graced the flanks of Mount Baker, one of the snowiest places in the world and the site of extensive volcanic research.

Exactly a year before that day I met old friends for coffee at Think Coffee near New York University. Walking past an alley in Soho later that afternoon I came across this softly lit and surprisingly quiet scene:

A few days later I took a break from packing to spend an hour in one of my favorite places – the Conservatory at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden. A Bird of Paradise flower provided all the scrumptious candy color I craved on that cold, dark New York winter afternoon.

Exactly a year later I was looking for a diversion from winter’s dreariness again. This time a  handsome horse named Diamond trotted over to see what I was up to as I walked beside a fenced field where she boards. Realizing I had no treats for her, she turned and broke into a wild gallop in the mud with another horse. She’s clearly well cared for, and what nice digs she has in the foothills of the Cascades. (How do I know her name? Because a guy on a four wheeler zoomed over to tell me I shouldn’t be trespassing. Before walking back to the road I asked about the horse, who he said was Diamond,  “a real show-off.”)

The next day, I was watching the sun set along a back road that follows a meandering river ten miles east of my house.  I had spotted a Great Blue Heron in a wet field a mile down the road, but here the only sign of life was a lone, out of season frog calling from its hiding spot in the tangle of grass. I wondered how old that barn is, and what they grow here, and I was glad for the small farms that somehow manage to survive so close to my new home.

Just a year ago I was on the water in New York Harbor, taking this photograph of the MOL Endurance, a container ship making its way towards port. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, spanned sparkling blue harbor waters that morning. On a good day the light and spaciousness of New York Harbor trigger ideas and possibilities in my mind – where did that ship come from, what’s in those containers, and what adventure awaits me in a few minutes, when I walk off the ferry to Manhattan?

Two late January sunsets complete my coastal seesaw – one taken a year ago from my old apartment above New York Harbor, looking over snowy rooftops to the soft glow of lights at a container terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. The other sunset is over the Snoqualmie River, just outside the little town of Duvall, Washington:

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Themes seem to repeat on both sides of the country: landscapes seen through the filigree of tangled grasses or branches, colors and textures that make me want to reach out and touch, and foregrounds giving way to distant views. A lot has changed in a year, but my central concerns in photography – the love of nature and of ordinary, everyday life – have just shifted their expression a few thousand miles to the west.

ILLUMINATING AURAS and PINPRICKS of LIGHT: WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

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This week, The Daily Post at WordPress challenged readers to post photographs on the subject of illumination. Here are  illuminations of scenes that brightened my day: subtle auras surrounding hothouse orchids, a crescent moon rising over New York harbor and twinkling lights screening a landmark building in the making.

The first two pictures were taken at Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle. It’s warm, humid conditions contrasted sharply with dry, frosty January air, and it felt good being surrounded by orchids and tropical plants, basking in radiant sunlight that’s in scarce supply during the Northwest winter. Our winter color palette plays the deep greens of Douglas firs and sword ferns off soft grays and browns, but inside the greenhouse, hot colors soaked up the sunlight, casting tropical candy auras around the voluptuous flowers.

At Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, a November sunset created an unusually quiet moment at the edge of the city that never sleeps.  The street lamps, reproductions of posts dating back about a hundred years, seem to tilt because of the wide angle lens, leaning in towards the distant Statue of Liberty. Smudgy gray clouds almost conceal a crescent moon and a plane heading up the Hudson River.

On a cool fall evening in Lower Manhattan, tiny lights threaded through the trees of Zuccotti Park cast pinpricks of light against the still incomplete One World Trade Center.  Over ten years ago this park and surrounding blocks were severely damaged by the 9/11 attacks. New York politics has prevented timely completion of the Twin Towers replacement – you can see a construction crew elevator ascending the corner of the building –  but it is almost finished.  Zuccotti Park also was the site of the recent Occupy Wall Street Movement; on this night, the delicate filigree of honey locust tree leaves against a soft blue sky belied the unrest of the past.

Illumination, along with those light bulbs constantly popping with ideas behind my eyes, allows me to create photographs that I can share with you. Thanks for visiting!

The challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/lights/

Surprises Everywhere – Weekly Photo Challenge

There are all kinds of surprises…

Distraction

Six years ago today I took this picture, and some thing never change.

But the upside to being distractable is that I notice a lot. And a  lot that I see interests and surprises me.

These men – one in Seattle, one in Manhattan – found creative ways to enjoy themselves in the city.

Sometimes though, the city has surprises that are not so appealing.

This rusted out car was abandoned in a park in New York City. And surprisingly, I saw this butterfly nectaring on a wildflower nearby on the same day.

People who are naturally curious find surprises everywhere.  The other day as dusk fell and fog settled over the fields, the lights went on in the greenhouses nearby, captivating me with their eerie glow.

And this afternoon amid the gloom of a cold gray rain, I found fuchsias blooming in Seattle:

And what’s more, I did not burn my toast today. Or my napkin. Surprise!

The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge subject this week is “Surprise”.  I could have posted an empty frame – “Surprise!” –  but I think that has limited appeal.  I’m hoping you enjoyed the photographs of just a few surprising things I’ve seen, and you’ll find more at:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/weekly-photo-challenge-surprise/