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.

***

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?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Architecture

Jake from Manila is challenging bloggers to submit photographs of architecture this week. He has some interesting points to make about architecture, saying that architecture is to building as literature is to the printed word…that architectural structures are culturally significant and have aesthetic meaning:  architecture as social art.

Once more I can’t leave well enough alone, so I will color outside the lines a bit as I interpret the challenge.

First, an architectural gem that most anyone would agree has significance, whether they appreciate it aesthetically or not (I love it). Gehry’s IAC Building, with its subtle curves and softly banded exterior, as seen from the High Line in Manhattan:

Another Gehry building, the Experience Music Project is in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle. Its voluptuous, undulating curves below are, according to arcspace.com, inspired in part by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster. And the colors are real eye candy.

More curves, this time gracefully Italianate, are on a small building whose arched windows perfectly echo curves in the landscape around it.

The Lemon House at the Tuscan Garden, Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NYC:

Another New York City Botanical Garden building, in the Bronx (New York City) is the gorgeous Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, America’s largest glass house, 110 years old this year. As beautiful outside as it is inside.

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But what about vernacular architecture? I love that just as much.

On a roadside in northwestern Arkansas, a deceptively simple looking stone house begs shade from a hot day with a corrugated metal awning, whose angle reflects the building’s roof line.

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On St. Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina, Spanish moss lends atmosphere to a ruin built of tabby called the Chapel of Ease. Tabby is a mixture of oyster shells, sand and lime and was used extensively in the area. Built around 1740, the chapel served plantation owners who could not always get to church in Beaufort, on the mainland. It was deserted after 1861, when residents fled from Civil War strife, and later it was used by northerners to educate freedmen. In 1886 it burned in a forest fire but much of the building still stands today. Some history of this fascinating area can be found here:

http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/MPS/MPS033.pdf

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A barn in Adna, Washington, sports a series of angles that are dumbfounding. Why? Maybe no reason, I don’t know!

But when you view it from different sides you can appreciate the way it settles into the landscape and, I assume, fulfills its function.

and…(yes, it’s the same barn!)…

Another weathered example of vernacular architecture sits abandoned along a rural road in Wayne County, North Carolina, about halfway between Raleigh-Durham and the coast.

I think it still has a very graceful roof line.

Here’s a link to the Vernacular Architecture Forum: site http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/about/index.html

And examples of vernacular architecture are here: http://www.archdaily.com/155224/vernacular-architecture-and-the-21st-century/

Going further out on an architectural limb, sometimes temporary structures also show a strong aesthetic impulse:

On Whidbey Island in Washington, someone has built a shelter from driftwood and logs that washed up on the beach.

You can’t do much better at blending with the landscape.  And look at the view from the inside:

Another beach structure, on Camano Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, really works the angles and pays close attention to surface decoration:

Angles are featured in these buildings, too, but in a context that’s a little…shinier, shall we say?

This was taken last week, on another island, on another coast.

On the left is One World Trade Center, slowly rising up near the empty square beds of the World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed on 9/11 and now mark the memorial site.  I stood next to the building on the right, across the street from the building site, so it looks taller – but it’s not.

The antenna for One World Trade Center will rise 1776 feet. Needless to say, the structure is designed around strength and durability as much as aesthetics. It’s also said to be the most environmentally sustainable project of its size in the world, with LEED Gold Certification and energy performance that exceeds code requirements by 20%. I bet the beach structures exceed local codes too.

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So there you are, from a humble beach lean on a quiet island to a Manhattan skyscraper, with a few stops in between.

More entries are at:

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/sunday-post-architecture/