Friday, February 27, 2009

Springus Interruptus

A couple of nights ago Leah and I stood out on our front porch in the dark, listening to a pond-full of frogs croaking off in the distance. We hear this serenade every year at this time, part of a ritual froggy mating dance that eventually leads to frog mamas filling our pond with a b’zillion spring peepers.

We humans are ready for spring. Our frog neighbors are ready for spring. Mother Nature, however, had other plans for our spot on the planet.

Yesterday morning we woke up to find that snow had fallen during the night. I pulled on insulated work boots -- in my eagerness to welcome spring, I had already packed them away -- and walked around outside, looking for snow pictures and sending silent but sympathetic condolences to my male frog friends out there whose amorous intentions have probably been put on hold.

Brother Frog Dudes, I feel your pain. Dig into the mud and wait a few days. The forecast for the weekend is for warmer weather. Perfect for courtship.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back Home

It could be that somewhere on our planet there is someone who is a bigger fan of calla lilies than my mother, but I wouldn’t bet on it. My Mom’s childhood was all about flowers. Her father owned a greenhouse where there were snap dragons and mums and pansies and just about every flower you can think of, but Mom remembers loving calla lilies best.

I just returned from a week in Ohio with Mom. As I look through the personal photos I shot on my trip, I see that many of the images have two common elements: Mom’s calla lily-inspired glassware collection, and some wonderful, made-for-photography morning light.

I don’t remember there being light like this when I was a kid living back home, but I guess at the time I was more interested in Boy Things -- bb guns and bicycles -- than light.

It feels now like a gift of great, good fortune that my passion for photography affords me a personal way of seeing and chronicling my mother’s lifelong love of flowers and the beauty of the natural world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Country Music

Can't hike this weekend.

I'm missin' me my mountains.

Got a dawg and a truck and they ain't goin' nowhere neither.

So sad to be stuck in the city.

I'm missin' me my mountains.

Somebody say hello to 'em fer me.

High on Mountains

I suppose I could live a happy life if I didn’t own snowshoes, but I’m not sure I’d want to try.

A friend and I traveled up into the Olympic Mountains yesterday and snowshoed out an exposed, windswept ridge in nosehair-freezing temperatures, the trees around us absolutely plastered with the most beautiful snow and ice. The conditions were what outdoor enthusiasts with a penchant for understatement like to call “sporty.” City Folks would call it freeze-you-ass-off cold.

But you know what? My friend and I had just the best day, and as I write this, 24-hours after the hike, my brain is still juiced on endorphins and my soul is doing the Happy Dance of a fellow who is high on Life, Nature, and all the rest of that Granola-Head/Hiker kind of blahblahblah.

Not to belittle the blahblahblah. I’m down with it. Or high on it. Or whatever...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seeing Light

Today the umbrella that we use during the rainy winter months for trips to the barn is out drying on the front porch. The four-leggeds and I have our many fingers and paw-toes crossed that we’ve made it through the Dark Months without public displays of insanity -- none of us has been spotted walking down the street mumbling, growling or meowing aloud to himself -- and the cat, dogs, and I are seeing light at the end of the long, dark, drippy tunnel that is a Pacific Northwest winter.

Not that winters in this corner of the country are all that bad, mind you, particularly when compared with the weather woes folks have in other parts of the country. My mother lives in Ohio and I talk with her on the phone nearly every day. Mom and I had a three-week stretch of conversations recently when she reported day after day after day that it was 8-degrees (F) in the Buckeye State. It might be dark and wet here in the Pacific Northwest, but I’ll take life with a flashlight and umbrella over life with frostbite and hypothermia any time.

It’s just a little depressing here in the winter is all I’m saying. But once Mister Sun begins showing himself again, whoo-wee! We do get happy!

I saw a wonderful moment last night at sunset when my son’s dog, Buddha, was looking out a small window near our front door. Incredible light was shining in through another window, bouncing off a mirror in the front hallway, finally coming to rest, beautifully, on a wall. It was quite a scene, and indicative of why we mossbacks do love-us-our-sunshine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I guess I’ve watched the movie “Caddy Shack” one too many times. There’s a plant blooming in our back yard, and, in my mind’s eye, I can picture Bill Murray having a nonsensical conversation the plant, playing with the words:

“You’re such a witch, Hazel.”
“Hazel, you are such a witch.”
“Hazel, you monkey woman, what a witch vixen you are.”

And, in his charming and goofy way, Bill Murray would have it right. Showing off her bloom months before anything else on our property, the witch hazel is in fact a vixen, tempting me, teasing me, making me think it’s spring, long before the calendar says it’s time.

Yesterday, Hazel’s act was exposed for the seasonal charade that it is: We got a dusting of snow, and, though the white stuff melted quickly, I think witchy woman’s perky blossoms shivered just a bit.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Mountain, Considered

I suspect you’ve read or heard that often-quoted philosophy attributed to Socrates?...his declaration that “the unexamined life is not worth living”?
Well I’m pretty sure my life is worth living this week, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and self-examining.
Among the things I’ve been considering are the mountains I’ve climbed, and one that I haven’t.

We do that here in the Pacific Northwest: We look at mountains, and we think about them.
I swear I’m not the only one who does this. Those of us who own hiking boots and backpacks sometimes visit mountains, and I have a friend who talks to them.

If Socrates lived here, I’m pretty sure he too would gaze upon mountains and feel their kinship.

Several evenings ago I was on a ferry on Puget Sound, returning home after a day of business appointments in Seattle. The sunset light over the Olympic Mountains was quite nice. As the ferry headed toward the harbor in the little town where I live, a peak called The Brothers did an amazing evening-sky curtain call in a way that caused the hearts of even the most fatigued end-of-workday ferry riders to skip a beat.

Since that evening, I’ve been thinking about climbing -- or not climbing -- The Brothers. I know the route. I could do the climb as a long, strenuous day-trip, or take camping gear and make an over-nighter of it. I could do it.

But there’s something also to be said in favor of just seeing a mountain, even from afar. Would my appreciation of The Brothers be greater if I stood on its summit?

I wish Socrates was around, so we could examine this matter together.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Photographic Riddle

The grape arbor needed to come down. The supporting posts had rotted at the ground so that the structure was wobbly. Plus, in the 15 years we've lived on this property, Leah and I have learned that the trees are so big here, there's too much shade to grow halfway-decent grapes.

As I loosened the bolts and began the process of taking the arbor apart, my mind wandered. I began seeing patterns and shapes. Our cat Basil made a game of tightrope walking on the boards and posts; I saw that Basil’s movement was going one way, the lines of the arbor boards were flowing another. I put aside the wrench and pulled a small camera from my pocket.

Leah was standing nearby and seemed surprisingly accepting of the scenario. Though the taking-down of the arbor was a project she really wanted me to do, I guess she realized the job would get done...eventually. She accepts that her husband is a photographer: If he’s taking down an arbor, he’s probably also seeing pictures; if he’s riding a bike, he’s seeing pictures; if he’s sleeping, he’s seeing pictures.

Q: How many photographers does it take to take down an arbor?
A: Two. One to do the actual work. Another to stand around with a dreamy look on his face, seeing patterns and shapes.