The Pacific Northwest is known for rainy, moody weather – but peel back a few layers and you’ll find that it’s more nuanced than that. It’s not all rain and clouds, in fact, the weather varies widely from season to season and from place to place. Summers are dry, sunny, and cool in contrast to autumn, winter, and spring when gray skies predominate. Seattle is often drizzly but fragrant lavender farms color the landscape to the north, where mountains prevent the clouds from releasing moisture. Out on the Olympic Peninsula, an extraordinary rainfall total of 140 inches/year (355 cm) supports temperate rainforests. Whether it’s dry like the Mediterranean, soaking wet, or somewhere in between, it’s still the Pacific Northwest.

1. Water, sky, rock, fir trees create a typical Pacific Northwest quartet.

Does the idea of a place marked by abundant rain conjure up dramatic downpours? Oddly enough, that picture is wrong. The Pacific Northwest doesn’t experience many sudden, violent turns in weather. Tornadoes and hurricanes are infrequent to non-existent. Lightning storms, dangerous heat waves, and deep freezes aren’t likely to crop up in the local forecast. Changes here tend to come gradually like the slow turn of a dial when you’re looking for a radio station. Weeks often go by with temperatures hovering within a small range. Granted, the region’s winter windstorms can toss trees around like matchsticks but most weather transitions are relatively quiet. Even the heavy rains brought by atmospheric rivers from far out in the Pacific may take days to release all their moisture. Seattle, the city with a reputation for rain, has an annual precipitation of only 37 inches (94 cm) compared to over 49 inches in parts of New York City and Houston.

2. PNW-style rain.

Long-time residents might disagree with my observations but a decade of living in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime spent in the Northeast gives me a certain perspective. Visitors who’ve heard “It always rains in Seattle” are surprised to find almost no umbrellas on the streets. Why? Because the rain usually eases in almost imperceptibly, then fades in and out all day. People wear shorts and sandals all year, just adding a hoodie in winter. The locals are hardy! And there are sunbreaks. I hadn’t heard of sunbreaks until I moved here. They splash the landscape with cheer during winter months and interrupt the long, wet springs with welcome warmth. We have sunbreaks because outside of the summer, the skies are cloudy most of the time. Summer is what everyone waits for but it takes its time; Seattleites don’t expect to see consistently blue skies and warm temperatures until after July Fourth. Most of June is cool and gray, which is why we have “June Gloom.” That may sound dreary but the steady, gray tones and cool temperatures can get under your skin in a good way. Or you could move to Nevada.

3. Shrouds of Lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) screen the view into the forest.

It’s not only the weather that sets the stage for Pacific Northwest moods. The prevalence of tall, dense, Douglas fir trees in the landscape plays a major role. Looming conifers may inject year-round green into the landscape (hence Seattle’s nickname, “Emerald City”) but they also reduce the amount of available light. Thick evergreen forests impart a mysterious, even foreboding quality to the landscape. Topography plays a role, too: the hilly, mountainous terrain limits views. Wide-open vistas are relegated to mountaintops or places with open water. Nothing seems clear and straightforward in this enigmatic region.

Last but hardly least, water is a crucial element in the Pacific Northwest. The region I’m talking about, loosely speaking everything west of the Cascade Range, north of California, and south of Alaska is profoundly affected by the presence of water. Because expanses of salt water have a moderating effect on temperatures, snowstorms are short-lived and heat waves are nothing compared to what the east coast experiences. Temperatures around Puget Sound seem to want to go back to where they were. Paradoxically, salt water evens out temperature extremes but it is the embodiment of change. Landmasses are steady presences; water is all about movement. From coastal waters to Puget Sound, to inland lakes and streams, the presence of water adds mutability to the landscape. With constantly changing colors and textures, bodies of water influence and define the moods of the Pacific Northwest.

4. On the coast, sea stacks, surf, and fitful skies.

Maybe I’ve been thinking about Pacific Northwest moods because we’ve just entered the rainy season. Days are shorter, skies are cloudy again and temperatures have cooled. This season seems to reflect the essence of the Pacific Northwest, though I know many locals would say it’s the beautifully clear, cool summers that make the region special. I think fall weather suits this landscape. Trees brood darkly, water seeps around every corner, and there’s a damp chill in the air. I think these photos convey that feeling.

6. Dry grasses persisting through fall soften the landscape. (This photo uses slight intentional camera movement).





8. Cormorants gather on an old pier off Q’elech’ilhch Park on Fidalgo Island.



9. Bullwhip kelp afloat in the Salish Sea.
10. Snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus) gleam in a dark recess of the forest edge.
11. Seeding next year’s fields of wildflowers.
12. In the mountains rivers run wild after fall rains.
13. Douglas fir trees cast shadows over lakes.
14. Ninety miles from the ocean, the waves at this saltwater beach don’t normally pack much of a punch but their incessant rhythm soothes the soul.


Was it all a dream –

I mean those old bygone days –

were they what they seemed?

All night long I lie awake

listening to autumn rain.



From Almost Paradise, translated by Sam Hamill. Shambhala Publications, 2005.


LOCAL WALKS: A Lake and a Forest in the Quiet Season

The lake is Heart Lake, a small, roughly heart-shaped lake on Fidalgo Island. The forest surrounds it. For a time the trees there were logged – but not all of them. Somehow a handful of giants missed the cut. The area was designated a state park but even so, a proposal to build condos around the lake was brought forward. That idea frightened the right people and finally, the lake and surrounding land received protection from the city of Anacortes. Now, this lush, precious green dot on the globe is preserved as community forest land.

That’s the story of what European-American culture has done here, but in no way is that the whole story. I invite you to enter into this landscape and recognize that part of you, a part that isn’t identified with any particular culture, knows this place. The plants and animals of Heart Lake breathe air and utilize water that travels ’round the earth. So do you. This isn’t a strange, exotic place. It isn’t “other” than you.

Give it a little time and this place will tell you a story beyond culture and words.

1. Feathery Western hemlock tree branches (Tsuga heterophylla) drift above a tangle of Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). February.

I delved into Heart Lake last year in a Local Walks post. This time I’m looking at the lake and forest between October and February, the quiet season.


2. A subtle winter sunset over the lake. February.

3. Evening on the edge of the lake. February.

4. Ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris). November.

5. Dried Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilimum). January.

6. A lichen-covered branch tip. January.

7. Picking my way through old-growth Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees near the lake. The biggest trees were growing here long before Europeans arrived. February.

8. Towering Western Redcedars (Thuja plicata). December.

9. It’s impossible to convey the size of some of these tress in a photograph. This redcedar has a hole big enough to crawl into, but its branches are green, growing high in the canopy. I can barely see them. February.

10. The tip of a Western Redcedar branch on the forest floor. How did that twig weave through it? February.



12. Tiny lichens colonize the bark of a tree that fell long ago. February.

13. Old growth Douglas fir has thick, deeply furrowed bark with its own community of lichens, fungi, insects, spiders and other beings. February.

14. A lush undergrowth of Sword fern carpets the ground under a moss-covered Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) tree. The forest here is damp and remains green all year. February.

15. Berries cling to an Orange honeysuckle vine (Lonicera ciliosa). November.



17. Snow on a Redcedar branch. February.

18. Snow shrinks from the margins of Salal leaves, flecks the hemlock branches, and weighs heavily on little arcs of spiderwebs in the tree bark. February.

19. Red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) loses its leaves gradually. November.

20. Young trees, old trees, and heaps of old wood on the ground create a healthy forest. February.

21. By November there’s very little left of the Yellow pond-lily (Nuphor lutea). The dark stem holds a chewed-up leaf.

22. Pond lily leaves and Douglas fir reflections at dusk. November.

23. Douglas firs stitch fine black lace edges across water and sky. February.


“More powerful than any industrial plant, communities of photosynthetic creatures rearrange the elements on a planetary scale. They know how to compose liveable, breathable, nourishing worlds. As they exhale, they compose the atmosphere; as they decompose, they matter the compost and feed the soil. Holding the earth down and the sky up, they sing in nearly audible ultrasonic frequencies as they transpire, moving massive volumes of water from the depths of the earth up to the highest clouds. They cleanse the waters and nourish all other life…

To say that forests and marine microbes form the “lungs of the earth” is an understatement. They literally breathe us into being. All cultures turn around plants’ metabolic rhythms. Plants are the substance, substrate, scaffolding, symbol, sign and sustenance…”

Natasha Myers: How to grow livable worlds: Ten (not so easy) steps for life in the Planthroposcene. From ABC Religion and Ethics, an Australian website for religious and ethics journalism and discussion.




Cascadia* quietly

gathers itself close. Shadows hide

summer’s disintegrating

dreams. Water swallows

a tangle of broken reeds.

Last season’s


pulls back

to center.

















































The Photos:

  1. It’s 3:00 pm on December 11th at 47° 78′ North latitude. We’re walking a trail at the Paradise Valley Conservation Area, a park purchased by the county 17 years ago from the Lloyds, a Welsh family that homesteaded here back in 1887.  Western hemlock, Douglas fir, Red cedar, Cottonwood and Red alder are common in this second growth woodland, which is reverting back to a wild state after earlier use for timber production and livestock. Trees grow tall and thick and evening comes early.
  2. A disintegrating alder leaf has caught on a small branch along the trail. I find leaves caught on branches and foliage frequently. The transience of leaves stopped mid-fall is a subject I like to frame, photograph, and carry home as memory.
  3. Gunnera (G. tinctoria), a perennial related to rhubarb that’s gardeners love for its dramatic foliage. The leaves have been neatly mounded and “put to bed” for the winter next to a conservatory in Seattle.
  4. A maple leaf caught on a Sword fern (Polystichum munitum).  The Sword fern is an abundant evergreen understory fern found from Alaska to California. Notice how the maple leaf’s lobes are tucked under the fern leaflets. How long will it stay there?
  5. A Western hemlock has taken root on an old stump, probably a cedar, a common occurrence in these woods. The damp, temperate Pacific northwest is famous for its nursery logs and stumps. Eventually the stump will rot away and the roots will fill in. You can see this process at all stages in the woods here.
  6. Another leaf has come to rest on a Sword fern.
  7. Vegetation slowly disintegrates into the shallow waters at the north end of Lake Sammamish, in Marymoor Park. The park is heavily used for recreation, with a hugely popular off-leash dog run, frequent concerts, model plane flying, soccer, you name it. Even so, the river feeding Lake Sammamish supports a beaver lodge. An active Great Blue heron rookery is perched high in the Cottonwoods above the river, right next to a busy “dog beach.”  Minutes after I took this photo I watched a River otter sinuously swimming down the river. Several times it stuck its little whiskered muzzle up to look around and sniff the air, then curved back underwater with a fluid swoosh of its fat, muscular tail. The park has three million annual visitors and River otters, beavers and herons live here. That fact testifies to a deep respect for the environment that is characteristic of Pacific northwest culture.
  8. Gentle waves interrupt reflections on placid Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, just east of Seattle. In the distance are mixed flocks of American coot, Green-winged teal, American wigeon, and Wood ducks. And Mallards, always Mallards! Bald eagles are nearby, ready to take advantage of any lapse in attention. The eagles prefer fish, but they will take waterfowl.
  9. A winter scene at Juanita Bay. The shapes and negative space created by the trees’ trunks and branches drew my attention. The bones of winter laid bare.
  10. Juanita Bay park is plagued with invasive species like this Reed canary grass, a problem throughout the county. To me, it has an interesting look as it collapses and decays, a process our wet climate encourages.
  11. The last reeds bend towards the water at Marymoor and fallen leaves dissolve into a rich muck on the bottom. This photo was taken with a new lens I’m getting used to. A polarizing filter would have reduced the glare off the water’s surface. I just ordered one – yes, it’s easy to accumulate gear!
  12. A single red berry, probably Red elderberry, dangles from a twig at Paradise Valley. Deer and elk like these but the nearest elk herd is miles away, so maybe a deer will nibble this one.
  13. The bay from the boardwalk at Juanita Bay on Christmas. We had snow on Christmas, a rarity here. Supposedly Seattle has only a 7% chance for a White Christmas. A few inches of good packing snow was great fun for the kids, not so slick that it caused accidents, and then gone three days later. Good for us! I’m sorry about the extreme cold eastern and Midwestern Americans and Canadians have been dealing with though!
  14. A group of Silver birch trees at Juanita Bay.
  15. A stand of Douglas firs and Western hemlocks at Paradise Valley.
  16. An old, non-native willow at Juanita Bay. Volunteers, some from local companies like Expedia, are helping to restore the native flora and remove the non-natives. The property used to be a golf course and has a number of ornamental trees like this that probably will not be removed. It can be a very fine balance to begin bringing a place back to its wild state.
  17. A snow-capped bird’s nest at Marymoor.
  18. Another old willow arches over a Juanita Bay boardwalk.
  19. Dried willow leaves cling to a branch at Juanita Bay. The branches hang down, but I I prefer this image on its side.
  20. An alder leaf is stuck in a tangle of twigs, Paradise Valley.
  21. Buds hold the promise of Spring, Paradise Valley.
  22. Grasses and fallen leaves slowly decay and enrich the soil at Juanita Beach Park. Taken on 1/1/18.
  23. Sunset over a field on West Snoqualmie River Road in Duvall, Washington. Taken at 4:05pm on 12/30/17; 47° 45′ N, 121° 57′ W.

* Cascadia is another name for the Pacific northwest, but it’s more than that. It refers to our “land of falling waters”  – the bioregion – and “a geographic terrain and a terrain of consciousness” (see Wikipedia).






I’m glad I moved west.  Open space

suits me.

I’m closer

to a land of many shapes,


to a sky whose blue-domed clarity and

mysterious talent for manifesting

a grand mountain,

only to shut it away

for weeks,

enchants me.



In this western land

I’m learning to think differently

about trees.

They are holy.

They are a resource.

And sometimes, they impede


and become like




Nails in fences,

knots of barbed wire.

Wood, metal,

water and sky –

sing songs of working

the land.




Old soul-face



Mount Rainier floats serenely in the distance at a sod farm in the Sammamish Valley, 15 miles east of Seattle and a stone’s throw from the Cascade foothills.  The rail line that ran up the east side of the valley is defunct. Rusted irrigation lines sit gracefully at the edge of the fields, unused. There is great beauty here.


Douglas fir, the ubiquitous evergreen that draws its jagged silhouette across so many Pacific northwest horizons, is being cleared from a Botanic Garden outside Seattle to make room for “a new visitor center, expansion of the current parking lot, and landscape improvements.”  It’s hard to wrap my head around that load of logs, but I’m trying.


Ambling down a path built on an old rail bed in the Snoqualmie Valley, I feel grounded and refreshed. The way cuts a straight path alongside wet fields dotted with sagging barns, tall trees, cattle, and swallows. Old fences hem quiet pastures where wild ducks hide in the puddles and mountain vistas command the horizon.  The marks we leave on the land out here seem lighter, more reasonable.  I cruise a narrow farm road that dead-ends in wide fields. It’s quiet on a weekday afternoon, touched with lambent light and sweet, earthy odors.


A garden Buddha smiles at a local nursery, where most of the thousands of flowers, trees and vegetables are grown on site. It’s good to live in a place where all I have to do is take short drive to see some of the products on view in city markets growing in the ground.


This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge – In the Details – is about the difference between capturing a whole scene – say a big view landscape – and its details.  Moss is everywhere here in the Pacific Northwest, making for fantastic Dr. Seuss trees, enchanting mystical rain forest scenes, and, when you look closely, amazing textures and colors.

These trees are on the side of a road, somewhere within 25 miles or so of Seattle – I don’t remember exactly where because it’s not uncommon to see trees completely covered with moss. Our moist, cool weather creates ideal conditions for it. People think of Seattle being on the West coast, but actually there’s a mountain range between us and the coast, and that, plus another one to our east, traps lots of moist air. And BTW, it does NOT rain all the time here – it’s cloudy and it drizzles intermittently. Real Seattlites go without umbrellas.

The strange mossy tree stump graces the Quinault Rain Forest, whose location down-slope from the Olympic Mountains and close to the coast means it receives about 140 inches of rain a year.

This is a Juniper haircap moss, Polytrichum juniperum, on Echo Mountain, a 900 ‘  rocky outcrop near suburban Seattle that harbors a bog and some rare wildflowers. These spore capsules are on female plants – the male plants are separate. This common moss grows on every continent, and has been used as a diuretic (that’s what Wiki says).

Take a step back…

I think this is Juniper haircap again, in the Quinault Rain Forest, a place that’s supposed to be too wet for it. Maybe I’m wrong. Mosses are complicated – the Seattle area has easily a hundred species or more, and you’d need a microscope to identify some of them.

Moss intermingles with lichens on every inch of these trees in Wallace Falls State Park, in the Central Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

Back on Echo Mountain, moss takes on brilliant colors and supports an unusual spring wildflower, Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta).

At Bellevue Botanic Garden, across the lake from Seattle, ivy finds a comfortable place to anchor on a mossy tree trunk.

At a park nearby, looking up – instead of ivy, licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) has found a foothold in a lush bed of moss.

Speaking of lush beds of moss- this roof supports quite a load, and I bet there’s some inside, too! (On Whidbey Island).

More images that get Lost in the Details can be found here.

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:


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.

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:

(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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?


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:

Misty Pass – a Short Hike on the Pacific Crest Trail at Snoqualmie

As we headed east on I-90 towards Snoqualmie Pass, the fog and mist grew heavier and I wondered if I would regret going up into the mountains today. Back home, morning clouds had already given way to sun, and lately I’ve been focussed – OK,  obsessed, with getting out into every sunny day I can here in Seattle, where summer is stunningly gorgeous but all too short.

The doubts disappeared as soon as we started on the trail though – mists rolled down the mountainside from some notch above like giant puffs, and it was really cool to walk in the midst of the clouds that are usually high above you.

We were  hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada.  Most of the people we saw on the trail were through hikers – going all the way, or close to it. They were from Indiana, Ottawa, Rochester, and elsewhere. Their faces beamed under layers of dust as they spoke of elk, bear and coyote. Zack, the first hiker we met, was a lovely shade of dusty brown from his dread-locked hair to his boots. As he leaned in to show us a cache of ripe huckleberries he’d just picked, the smell was powerful!  I wish I’d taken his photo, but I did record some of my favorite sights on the trail:

Here’s the Pacific Crest Trail register. We pulled it out of its waterproof housing to read the  most recent entries. The PCT is  2,663 miles long and typical through hikers do about 20 miles a day, re-supplying at the nearest towns when possible. Our friend Zack was heading off trail for real food, and then hoped to meet up with a friend who was rock-climbing up near Leavenworth. He looked at our map so he could figure out which roads to hitch-hike on.  It was probably a good 90 miles, but after hiking up from the Sierra Nevada I’m guessing that was a minor challenge.

By the way, the fastest through hiker, Scott Williamson, set a record of 64 days, 11 hours, 19 min.  From Mexico to Canada. And all the through hikers we met were young, and most had school or a  job to go back to. Reminds me that it’s a luxury. Even our hike required a car, some free time, and decent health, all of which we’re lucky to have.

If you click on the open book photo you can read notes people left in the register – NOBO means northbound.

For us the turn-around point was just a few miles south at Lodge Lake. My guidebook said it reflects the surroundings mountains, but today we were content to sit on logs at the lake’s edge, snacking on Cliff bars and watching the mist roll over the lake. There were hundreds of waterstriders – pretty big ones – and as they jumped across the surface, swifts zipped around overhead.

In certain parts of the forest, hemlocks and Doug firs collect the mist. When it drops off the needles everything underneath glistens.

   The meadows were speckled with red, yellow, purple and white wildflowers – and best of all, berries! I sampled blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries and tiny wild strawberries.

    I blurred the image above a little to convey the dreamy, seamless beauty of the meadow and misty treeline.

Only four miles for us – not forty a day, like the guy who set the speed record.

And now it’s time for ice cream…