In winter, Yellow Twig dogwood brightens the landscape, lending a haze of sunny warmth to the cool gray woodlands. I exaggerated the hazy effect above by using a soft focus effect in my camera and reducing clarity in post processing. In the version below I increased clarity, lightened the highlights and darkened the shadows, to emphasize the bare twigs’ linearity.

Over time I’ve come to accept my tendency to be attracted to opposite qualities in things. Never one to focus tightly in a single area for long, I take a lot in and enjoy shifting back and forth between opposites. It’s a both-and stance when it works, instead of either-or.

These photos were taken at a preserve near Seattle. Below, the highly invasive Reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) drapes as elegantly as a couturier’s ballgown as it slowly decomposes.

Hoar frost grows thickly on fallen grass and willow leaves. As I stood on the boardwalk that crosses the preserve’s wetland and focused my camera on the frosty leaves, a photographer carrying a camera with a huge lens for birds and a tripod walked by. He gave a dismissive look and scowled, “What are you focusing on, dead leaves?”

I simply said, “Yes.”

It’s 4 pm and the sun has set. The temperature is only a few degrees above freezing and my fingers and toes are completely numb. One last shot – the odd white berries of a native shrub, the Snowberry, as they pick up a final glint of sunlight.

A hint of what’s to come –

I took a winter garden stroll through the Soest Garden, part of the University of Washington’s Botanic Garden and Arboretum complex in Seattle. Above is a type of pampas grass. Like the Yellow Twig dogwood, it glows warmly in winter sun, offering respite from gray and brown.

Left to Their Own Devices

No gardener worked to create the strange song of the blues this leaf sings, alone on the wind.

No one designed this quiet intermingling of clinging lichens and springing moss, sharing secrets on a damp branch.

Ravaged to their core, grasses still bow and send soft arabesques into the cold.

And stalks of fireweed wind their wacky way to the sky, innocent of human intention.

I have no argument with gardeners or human intent though. I know –

with or without our intervening helping hands,

there’s beauty out there,


along with us

on the precipice

of the darkest day

of the year.

Photos taken recently at Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland, Washington.