Tuesday, November 30, 2010

House Guests

We had a fair number of house guests this summer, friends and family who came here and stayed at our place for a day, a week, or two. Leah and I honestly enjoy sharing our home with those we’re close to, so we were fine with the revolving door of visitors, the constantly changing cast of characters who were sharing meals with us by day and sleeping in our guest room by night.

Having visitors who want to come hang out with you is pretty much part of the deal when you live in a place as wonderful as the Pacific Northwest. This is a vacation destination, what with the recreational possibilities to be had in our nearby mountains and at the Pacific Ocean beaches...and then there is also the lure of all there is to do in the uber-cool city of Seattle.

The funny thing is, however, that when folks visit Leah and me, they often don’t actually make it to the mountains or the ocean, or even to Seattle, though the city is less than an hour from our door. They hang out in our yard, napping on the hammock, or they sit under a tree reading. They spend time in the pasture, watching -- I’m absolutely not joking here -- our goat Pumpkin chew her cud.

The honest truth is that there’s not much “cool” to do at my house. We don’t have a big-screen TV, or video games, and thankfully, that seems fine with our guests. Watching Pumpkin chew her cud is what passes for Big Entertainment here.

And that’s the way we -- and our visitors -- like it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seeing Art

When I was a freshman at Ohio State and was taking one of my first photography classes -- the time was the hippie-dippy early 70’s, the class was in the School of Art, and weirdness was very cool, as will be obvious in a moment -- I remember the day one of my fellow students, a beautiful young hippie chick (a descriptive term she would have been more than fine with) brought to class a print she had made. It was a black and white image, archivally processed, matted, and signed.

It was Art. And it was a picture of a penis.

Yes, the hippie chick had turned in (for academic credit, mind you) a really close-up, every-detail-in-sharp-focus photograph of a penis. And even in those free-and-easy, antiestablishment days, in that anything-goes classroom, everyone in class (including the professor, a bearded, blue-jeaned, sandal-wearing type not much older than the students) was taken-aback.

“What are you trying to say with your photograph,?” the professor asked, hoping I suppose to, um, stimulate artistic dialog.

“Oh, I dunno,” the young woman said, “I just kinda felt like being weird.” To which I’m sure we all replied: “Far Out.”


The above story came to mind this morning, as I guess I was feeling weird about an image I had made, a photograph not normally my style. I was out for a walk down a country lane near our house and I came upon a scene: A yoga ball, for some reason left by someone near an abandoned, fallen-down building. I took the picture, thinking that later I'd do some funky stuff to the image color saturation in Photoshop...and, you know what? I kind of like the picture. (There are even a couple of patches of melting snow, remnants from our recent storm...melting snow that's normally kind of dead-snow-ugly, but I like it that those are in the scene too.) The image is not my typical thing, but I like it anyway.

Far out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Regional Fib

The wind is howling outside, the snow is blowing sideways, the lights are flickering, and there’s no telling how long my electricity-dependent Internet connection will last. I had better post these pictures before my link with the cyber-world gets cut.

Snow: It’s Big News in Seattle. When we moved here from Ohio 30 years ago, people we first met admitted that winters here are too rainy, dark, and depressing, but the locals added, a bit defensively, that at least it doesn’t snow very often. In fact I remember being told that the city only had a couple of snow plows.

I’m embarrassed to say that Leah and I bought into the regional weather fib. “It never snows here,” is what I think we told our family members back in Ohio, where winter can be brutal. We didn’t say “rarely,” or “seldom,” when talking about instances of snowfall, though that would been at least a tiny bit more accurate. We said “never.”

And so -- because Mother Nature is nothing if not a woman with a sense of wry humor -- our family lore is full of stories, instance upon instance, when Ohio relatives have traveled here to visit us, only to experience a record-setting Puget Sound snowstorm. My Mom came out last Christmas and it snowed a ton; this week Leah’s parents were here and the pictures I’m posting today are my chagrined chronicle of what we saw as we looked out our windows.

That first day, the snow fell gently and silently and everything was so very peaceful. Day number two brought nasty wind, ice on the roadways, trees falling on power lines. Friends of ours have been without power for two days now and they've had quite enough of life lived in down coats, down sleeping bags, and "winter camping."

Okay, I guess it does snow here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seeing Prayers

My Tibetan friends gathered last weekend at their monastery in Seattle to offer prayers for long life and good health for the Dalai Lama. I was there to honor the event, and to make photographs for my ongoing personal project on Tibetans in Seattle.

There was seriousness and solemnity in the air as the monk, Khenpo Jampa, began chanting prayers in Tibetan and the 75 or so people in attendance joined in. I worked quietly and respectfully from a distant corner of the room, my camera and a long lens on a tripod. Though my camera was set to “silent” mode, I nevertheless took only a limited number of photographs...and then only when I was sure the moment was right. I did not want to intrude.

Tibetan families are close-knit, and parents often bring their little ones to prayers. A young boy (I’m sure he was not old enough to read) followed the example set by adults and held up a prayer book, but, in the end, it was a sucker that got his full attention.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pleasant Distractions

I go to our kitchen sink, thinking I’ll get water to make tea. I reach for the faucet but see something out of the corner of my eye.

There’s Light! Or Composition! The Christmas cactus is blooming and looks Amazing, or sun is shining through some wild bird feathers that Leah picked up outside and placed on the kitchen window sill.

A photograph has presented itself.

Making tea will have to wait till later.

Right now I have pictures to take.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coming Together

I’ve written here before about my growing involvement with the Seattle area Tibetan community, but something that should have been obvious dawned on me only recently: By no means is every individual in that “community” Tibetan.

It’s funny how circumstances bring human beings together.

Several years ago, two friends of mine who live in Seattle, one man an American, the other born in Tibet, got to talking. The American asked the Tibetan what he remembered of his boyhood in his home village. As the Tibetan reminisced, he eventually admitted that one day he’d like to go back to the village to visit his sister who still lives there, but that the airfare was very expensive. The American had always wanted to see Tibet, and so he offered to pay the airfare so that the two, together, could go to that village high on the Tibetan plateau, above 15,000 feet.

They went, and some of the pictures of what they experienced on their trip are posted here.

Though sanitation and hot water are “realities” we take for granted in the developed world, the village my friends visited does without. The two travelers decided to do what they could to bring clean, hot water to the village in that high, cold land.

And so, back in Seattle, my two friends organized a fundraiser. Last weekend members of the “Tibetan community” here came together for the benefit of a village half a world away. My two friends sold prints of their Tibetan pictures (I helped with some Photoshop work on the pictures, and also donated images of my own for sale.) Other people donated food, while those with musical talents contributed entertainment.

We shared an evening of singing and dancing, all in the hope that one community, ours, can help another.

Yes, it’s funny how circumstances bring human beings together.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life with Pumpkin

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I shot the picture you see above, but already, with the coming of autumn, the picture is beginning to feel like ancient history. Many of the leaves have fallen from the trees, and the goat, Pumpkin, has subsequently ambled along and gobbled them up, keeping her pasture neat and tidy, her tummy full.

Pumpkin loves to eat leaves, though I must add that there isn’t much that a goat won’t eat. Yesterday I was in our chicken house, emptying a 40-pound paper sack of corn into the feeder bin. Walking through Pumpkin’s part of our barn a few minutes later with the empty bag under my arm, the goat stole a mouthful of the brown paper and then stood munching her sack snack, a look of great contentment on her goofy, lovable face.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Leah, our friend Jimi, and I have gotten into sending what we call “email postcards” to one-another. We take pictures of everyday happenings in our lives (Leah and Jimi tend to use the cameras in their phones to do these pictures, while I use a conventional digital camera) and then we email the resulting images to one-another.

Yesterday I took some friends for a walk on a beach in Port Townsend and I shot the photograph you see above. Earlier this week Leah was on a ferry headed to work in Seattle and she made the email postcard photo you see below of water drops on the ferry window at sunrise.

"It's a nice day here. Love to you," we'll write. The email postcards are a way we three good buds can stay in close contact and let one-another know that we’re thinking about them.

Kinda fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy

Because she’s experienced vision problems in the past few years and my mother can no longer drive her car, a visit back home for me now means I do my “Driving Miss Daisy” thing, taking Mom to some of the places she enjoys but can no longer visit on her own.

I was in Ohio last week and my agenda for the trip was to rake leaves in Mom’s yard and do other fall/pre-winter home maintenance jobs, but Mom had other plans in mind. She’d allow me to rake for an hour or so, then she’d stand in front of me in the yard and say: “I don’t want you to work all the time you’re here. Let’s go someplace fun.”

So, as we nearly always do when I’m back home, we got in the car and drove to Holmes County, Ohio’s “Amish Country.” We poked around in a store that caters to the Amish -- the store is full of candles, oil lamps, wood stoves, and other non-electrical items the Amish use -- and we had lunch at our usual spot, a little country diner that serves big, working-person plates of food for small, middle-America prices (check total for two lunches: $5.)

Another day we visited Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music, one of the schools where Mom studied. I took photographs of amazing fall colors outside the Conservatory building, and, as students strolled by, I joked with Mom that I could remember a time when I was in high school and Oberlin students seemed mature, sophisticated, and artist-fringe-intellectual to me. All the students I saw last week, however, looked so very young... my joke’s unstated punch line being that either I’ve gotten much older and my perceptions have changed, or Oberlin College now has a student body comprised of 13-year-olds.