On a cold January afternoon at sunset, I’m alone, but not alone – driftwood, rocks, fir trees, clouds, and seaweed, all sit with me. Diving ducks and soaring eagles turn my head, gently lapping waves quiet my mind. Separateness disappears.

1. January 31st, 5:00PM.
2. January 31st, 5:03PM.

On another day, Douglas fir trees and I share a wind-buffeted view of Deception Island, floating mirage-like in boundaryless waters.

3. January 8th, 3:52PM.

One afternoon we go in search of Snow geese. Tens of thousands of them – some say over 100,000 – spend the winter feeding on agricultural fields on the mainland, about 15 minutes from home. To find them we ply the angular roads that break the fields into neat rectangles. After about ten minutes I spot a thin white line in the distance. It looks like a river reflecting light back to the sky but I am almost certain the white line is a large flock of geese. We drive toward it – straight, right, then left. There they are, perhaps two thousand of them covering the brown, muddy fields. We pull over, roll down the car windows, and watch, transfixed. After a few minutes, a signal we don’t see causes a small group to break away and take to the air with high-pitched, nasal honks. Soon the sky is filled with them, flashing black and white across the gray clouds.

When it’s time they’ll fly back to Wrangle Island, in Arcitc Russia, to breed. For now, they brighten our winter.

4. January 25th, 3:56PM.
5. January 25th, 4:02PM .


By the end of January, buds are swelling on the Red-flowering currant bushes. Never indecisive, they know what to do. They pace themselves with the light, incrementally growing larger and softer. Not too fast, not too slow, strong yet gentle. Qualities we can aspire to as we go about the business of our day.

6. January 28th, 4:08PM. Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum).
7. Cold snap. January 29th, 4:39PM.

Lichens come into their own during the first month of the year. Soft and swollen with moisture, Lace lichen hangs in pendulous tangles. Foliose lichens like the one below look as though they could take flight.

8. January 1st, 4:59PM. Lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii).
9. January 7th, 4:17PM. I thought this was Hypogymnia canadensis. My lichen expert friend tells me it’s Hypogymnia physodes on the left and Parmelia sulcata on the right.
10. January 1st, 4:59PM.

Sunsets needn’t be spectacular. A quiet vantage point on a hilltop perch above a channel or a sheltered spot in a rocky cove is all I need to dream myself into a deep calm on a winter afternoon.

11. January 7th, 4:21PM.
12. January 20th, 5:16PM.

Winter windstorms stretch strands of Lace lichen tight across twig chasms.

13. January 1st, 4:58PM.
14. January 1st, 5:24PM.

Driftwood logs change positions over the winter, especially when a King tide coincides with onshore winds. The massive logs are dense with water but slide some waves under them and off they go. Maybe they’ll land on another beach or maybe they’ll drift back and sit down inches from the last resting spot. When I walk down to the beach the logs appear to have been there forever, as solid as houses. But out in the middle of the channel, I see giant logs riding waves. I know they move around. I just don’t know their itinerary…

15. January 23rd, 5:44PM.
16. January 23rd, 5:54PM.
17. January 23rd, 5:42PM.


The White Light of Winter


Like huge swaths of the US, the Pacific Northwest was walloped with a blast of arctic air this week. Where I live, snow fell for hours, leaving about 7″ (18cm) on the ground. The white light of winter was accompanied by days of round-the-clock below-freezing temperatures, which is unusual here, especially in December.

I may have grown up with plenty of snow but, after living in the Pacific Northwest for ten-plus years, I’m not used to it anymore! Determined to get some exercise, I set out on a short, cold walk in a park by open water one afternoon. Brisk winds whipped straight across the water, waves dashed the shoreline, fir trees moaned and my extremities went numb.

But as I said, I was determined to walk – and of course, I had a camera in hand. The rhythmic scissoring of my legs over crunchy snow felt good after several sedentary days. By alternately warming each hand in a pocket to regain movement in my fingers, I was able to make a few photographs. Near an empty bench, two round, dark bird blobs bounced across the snow, looking for stray bits of anything edible. I threw a handful of peanuts from my pocket onto the ground. The sparrows wrestled with the too-large morsels but it seemed to be worth the effort. Other than a handful of bundled-up walkers, two cross-country skiers, and five sparrows, nothing but wind and waves moved.

Despite the cold, I lingered over the beauty. It’s always that way, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what discomfort we feel in the moment, it’s all forgotten when something exciting catches our eye. What caught my eye that day were the sculpted curves of snow drifts in the sinking sunlight, a patch of almost-bare ground that the snow battered with such force that every blade of grass was outlined, and sunglow on the fir trees in the forest.

Bringing my scarf up over my face, I turned back and walked as briskly as I dared on the snowy lane that was unplowed and closed to vehicles because the island’s few snowplows were urgently needed in town. Christmas lights strung carelessly in a tree by the parking lot welcomed me with the warm charm that makes me grateful to live here, away from city sophistication. Heading home in my unglamorous but dependable Ford Focus, I looked forward to a warm house, brightened by the white light of winter at the windows.






The blanket of snow has brought many pleasures. Crossing the bridge to the mainland this week, we wondered at the beauty of a mackerel sky, clean, white fields, and the mirrored surface of the Swinomish Channel. I recorded the scene with my phone from the passenger window, closed tight against the frigid air. One day I drove around March Point and stopped for a minute to gaze over Padilla Bay, just north of the fields seen below. Ducks gathered in tight masses close to the shoreline. To the east, the clouds opened a narrow window onto snowy foothills. A skein of ducks flew silently over the bay, perhaps to spend the night huddled at the edge of a slough.




At home, a Dark-eyed junco huddled in the Redcedar tree that stands tall beside the house. The birds are so hungry this week that they only fly off at the last second when we step out of the house. It’s the briefest interruption in their all-day-meal at the suet and seed feeders. Stand still in the doorway for a few seconds and they flutter back down to the ground like autumn leaves, so close you can hear them alight. I treasure these intimate moments with wildlife. Making my way with big, soft steps into the snow, I walked back toward the woods and found a leaf that seemed to have been dipped in snow cream and rose hips with elfin snow caps. Even the deck fencing was transformed into a series of toques, ready for a bevy of chefs to place on their heads and get to work. What ingredients would they find? Perhaps cascara tree bark, rose hips, and wildflower seeds would be a start.

Reveling in the lovely, deep snowfall, I made a few more photographs before my fingers went numb again. Werner Herzog said, “The world reveals itself to those who walk.” And, I would add, to those who look. I hope your solstice holiday time, wherever you are, allows you time to walk and attend to the earth and its gifts. And speaking of gifts, thank you so much for the gift of your presence here this year.








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).


















On to 2017…


and creativity –


and more.


The Photos:

December fog settles into a stand of Douglas firs on the shores of Lake Washington

A rusty bolt holds fast on a footbridge near Seattle

Old willow, weep not…your reach is wider than we know

On the street, downtown Seattle: new construction

Winter ground: how beautiful are the fallen (a park near Seattle)

Calm waters on Lake Washington





A certain quiet takes hold in January in northern latitudes.



Plants don’t necessarily announce themselves with gusto, but instead offer subtle pleasures. It’s a good time to study texture and form.







Seed structures, even after all the seeds have scattered, are a constant source of wonder.


But color can still catch the eye too.



And when you come across an early bud you’re smitten once more with the promise of Spring.

Photos taken at the Soest Garden, University of Washington Botanical Gardens, Seattle.

Olympus OMD E-M1; 60mm macro lens; f 2.8 – 5.6; ISO 200.




Curling inward…


Winter solstice…pulling










Taken on Christmas Day, 2013, at Juanita Bay Park in Kirkland, WA.  The Olympic Mountains are just visible above the trees in the last shot.









Photos taken at Markworth State Forest, Carnation, Washington, and on Cherry Valley Road, Duvall, Washington, on two frosty, early January afternoons.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved: No Resolutions


nothing – my perennial urges

at “self” improvement (those vague

promises hovering just beyond daylight’s reach)

don’t correspond to calendars.

And it’s a problem of

time – twelve months stretch farther

than I can imagine: no,

there will be no New Years Resolutions here.


I can promise, though, that I will


to the spirit of the moment,

more and more.

And I can promise that I will

try harder

to show you

what I find.


Pretty –

or not.

Photo taken 1/3/2013, in a field off Cherry Valley Road, Duvall, Washington. This Canada goose was likely shot by hunters and then thrown away. There were hunters shooting in the field when I took the picture. Between mid-October and late January, four geese may taken a day, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, in King County.

To me, hunting is not a “good” or an “evil” activity.  I recognize that very few people – at least where I live – need to kill to eat.  So it’s tempting to make that grounds for refraining from hunting.  But of course we condone hunting of a sort when we eat meat.  A long tradition of hunting here is integrated with country life, and hunters have supported the land and wildlife in many ways, even as they take life.  So it’s complicated.  But nothing about this frozen Canada goose, carelessly tossed at the edge of a field along with another goose and a few ducks, seems  morally comfortable.


This post is part of the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, and more responses to “Resolved” can be found here:

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.

Everyday Life is Extraordinary – Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Photo Challenge is about showing people at their everyday activities. Here are some images of people in everyday situations (to them, I believe) which looked pretty cool (to me).

These men paused to talk in Manhattan, at the Staten Island Ferry plaza. Old friends who took different directions? Or strangers rehashing a Yankees game?

This man is painting an ad on the side of a building in lower Manhattan on a freezing cold day in January. His precision was amazing. He wore big headphones – blocking noise?  Listening to a song about mischief?

I don’t think they had any idea how beautiful their choreography looked from above. Taken from the High Line, NY.

A Buddhist nun and her friend buy flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle. Very possibly an everyday activity for them – but to my eye a delicious image. (Too bad it was taken on the run with the phone).

An ice storm closed Sea Tac Airport in Seattle. When it finally re-opened there was lots of work to do.  An ordinary day for them – just keeping us from falling through the air from an unacceptable height.

Everyday for them, joy for me. Street musicians in downtown Philadelphia.

Cutting stems for a bouquet at Pike Place Market. Another day for her, but for me – well, almost a Pre-Raphealite moment.