Saturday, December 29, 2012
One of our neighbors went out to her sheep shed on Christmas Day and discovered a newborn lamb. When my neighbor told me about the lamb, I thought: “What a COOL Christmas gift!”
The neighbor invited Leah and me to come over and visit the little fella. Leah got to hold the lamb -- I sensed that was special for her -- and I took a picture that, as I view it now, pleases me because of its simple sweetness.
I thought I’d post the image today as a way of passing along the gift of the Christmas lamb: From mama sheep to our neighbor; from our neighbor to Leah and me; from Leah and me to you.
I take the liberty of speaking for all of us in saying: “We hope you are having a good holiday!”
Thursday, December 20, 2012
We moved to this home in the rural Washington woods 17 years ago, and, though it might sound counterintuitive, one of the first things I did as we settled in was to begin to plant more trees.
Granted, there were towering trees already on the land: Two huge cedars frame my office window as I sit and type these words, and those two trees have many stately brethren nearby. There is an expansive tree farm to the south of our place, and there is also State Forest land about a half-mile away and the quiet trails there are part of my route when I go running. A neighbor who lives down the road recently told me she’s thinking about naming her place “Heavenly Grove Farm.”
In short, there are a lot of trees around here. Nevertheless, it seemed altogether logical to me that I plant even more...so I did.
The local Conservation District has a plant sale every spring, and one can get a bundle of ten doug fir seedlings for $10. The plants that I bought when we first moved here were cute-as-heck babies, most about 10-inches high when I put them in the ground. Today some of those doug firs are taller than our two-story house, and fruit trees we planted have now become quite a productive little orchard. I suspect that, over the years, we've probably planted over 200 trees.
Anyway, it snowed yesterday morning, and the trees looked amazing. I ran around with my camera taking pictures of my tree babies, now well on their way to being grown-ups, and I felt like a bit like a proud parent. I think I might put a bumper sticker on my car that says: “My trees are cooler than your honor student.”
If you click on the images, you can see the trees at a size befitting their swell-ness.
Friday, December 14, 2012
This is a very sad and difficult time for my friends in the Seattle Tibetan community, and also for the Tibetan diaspora throughout the world. Tibetans living in Tibet are lighting themselves on fire -- self-immolating -- in desperate demonstrations against Chinese oppression and human rights abuses.
Despite the tightly-controlled news atmosphere in China, reports have leaked out that, this month alone, 25 Tibetans have set themselves on fire. Most of these individuals are said to be in their late teens and early 20s, with the youngest, a nun named Sangay Dolma, just 17 years old. Eighty-seven Tibetans have now self-immolated in the past several months -- this in a land with a Buddhist culture that values, perhaps above all else, what Tibetans refer to as “the gift of precious human life.”
I did photographs (above) this week as my friends gathered in Seattle to offer prayers for their spiritual brothers and sisters in Tibet. And I traveled with them to the Chinese embassy in Vancouver, British Columbia (photos below) where the Tibetans prayed, sang, and raised their voices for human rights and freedom in their homeland.
The Chinese government, meanwhile, announced that any Tibetan who survived a self-immolation would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of Chinese law.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Sometimes we human beings meet a creature that is new to us and wonderful, but common sense tells us that it would not be right or proper to get too close emotionally. Even middle-aged males like me usually know better than to give our hearts to some winsome, pretty young thing, simply because she awakens in us the possibilities of fun and frolic.
I should hasten to point out: The "creatures" I’m referring to here are of the four-legged variety: Canines. Dogs. Man’s best friend.
What did you think I was talking about?
Leah and I are baby-sitting our grand-dog this weekend, a sweet girl named Pax, and boy do I hafta watch myself. Pax is our son’s girl, and last night, Paxie’s first evening with us, she sat on my lap and I petted her on her head and I had to keep thinking: “Watch your heart, man, watch your heart.”
Leah and I already have a dog of our own, a 14-year-old Australian Shepherd named Minnie who is a swell companion and beloved member of our household, but she has old girl health issues. Minnie is mostly deaf, and she sleeps most of the time. She can’t run with me, or even go along on anything but the shortest of walks.
Pax would be a swell hiking partner.
But Pax is our son’s pack-mate, and, come Sunday night, she’ll be back with him. I can tell you already that Leah and I will miss having Pax around.
I’m trying hard not to get too attached to another man’s girl.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
When I’m in the mountains and behold something beautiful -- a venerable, moss-covered silver snag, perhaps, cloaked in the first snowfall of the season; or a wintery high country valley, as picturesque as any Christmas card -- I wish I could report that eloquence fills my brain and poetry tumbles from my lips. I wish I could report that, I really do.
The reality, however, is that I usually exclaim something like: “Oh, Wow!” or “Oh My!” or even “Holy Shit!” Even if I am alone, I speak these words out loud, and if a friend is with me, he/she usually just nods.
I’ve decided that it’s not that my friends and I are not smart enough or verbal enough to say something worthy when we view nature’s incredible artistry... it is that there are times when words -- any words -- are pretty much unnecessary.
Friends and I were recently tromping through fresh, powder snow, hiking a route six miles in length, toward a pass at six thousand feet. We walked below the tree you see in the photograph above. I looked up, realized that the tree was something special, and pointed skyward, so that my friends too would see. We all quietly pulled out cameras and took pictures.
Today I post photographs, my way of sharing a bit of the hike with you.
As far as a verbal representation of the day, I’m afraid I can’t get beyond “Oh Wow!”
Friday, November 23, 2012
The word “bounty” seems to get used quite a bit in our country during this, our Thanksgiving holiday. Today I thought I’d post two simple images I made of produce from our garden: Beans, and tomatillos that we grew ourselves.
If you are like me, your email in-basket is full-to-overflowing today because it is Black Friday and lots of businesses want us to buy lots of stuff. Only yesterday we Americans came together at family gatherings (or at meals with good friends) and we gave thanks for the bountiful fall harvest and for all we have...but today we’re hearing sophisticated and seductive drumbeats of marketing and advertising, telling us that life yesterday might have been good, but will be better tomorrow if we acquire this, that, or another thing.
Our national sense of thankful well-being only lasted a day -- it is now so yesterday -- and today we begin a month-long rush, counting down the number of shopping days till December 25.
Please don’t get me wrong. While I understand that some of what I’ve written above might sound like I’m a radical supporter of the “Buy Nothing” concept of the Christmas season and that I’m a cranky, anti-business kind of guy, the truth is that I’m merely saying that here at our house we're kind of turning down the volume on the ads and allowing ourselves a few more days -- maybe just through this weekend -- to feel contentment.
We also need to think of ways to make proper use of beans and tomatillos.
Friday, November 16, 2012
These days it seems to me that everybody is a photographer. When I’m out and about in the world -- whether I'm taking a ferry across Puget Sound, or hiking a remote trail in the Cascade Mountains -- it’s common for me to encounter folks toting a Santa-size bag-full of top-of-the-line digital camera gear, thousands and thousands of dollars worth of stuff.
As a fella who has, for nearly 40 years now, made his living by making photographs, I get the passion that other folks have for photography. Taking pictures is more fun than anything we typically think of as "work."
And, take it from me: Making photographs is certainly more enjoyable than cleaning out the gutters.
It rained and rained here in the Seattle area last week. There was strong wind too, which blew the last remaining leaves from the trees and onto our roof, filling the gutters. When the sun finally made an appearance one morning, I knew it was time to get out the ladder and do some gutter cleanout. As I walked toward the barn where the ladder is stored, I was stopped in my tracks, brought up short. Raindrops on our clotheslines were shining like jewels in the sunlight.
I had me some pictures to take.
The cleanup chores could wait.
Friday, November 9, 2012
When I’m loading gear into my daypack before heading up into the mountains for a hike, there’s a funny memory that often pops into my head: The recollection of a conversation I had with a reporter colleague 20-some years ago when I was a photographer at the morning newspaper in Seattle. The reporter, a smart-as-a-whip young woman, had grown up on the East Coast, graduated from an Ivy League college, and was a recent transplant to the Pacific Northwest. We were talking about our away-from-work lives, and Pam was telling me that she was a runner and was training for a 10k. I, of course, bent Pam's ear about hikes and climbs my friends and I did. Most of my hiking pals were also journalists, and Pam knew many of them.
Pam had a kind of quizzical look on her face as I talked about a hike several of us had done the previous weekend, and it seemed to me that she might appreciate an invite to take part in one of our adventures. “You should join us sometime,” I said; and Pam’s response, delivered with a mock-East Coast Snob/Broadway theater deadpan, was worthy of a Tony Award nomination:
“I don’t put things on my back and go walking,” she declared flatly, and I cracked up.
It turned out, though, that Pam was serious. She never joined our group for a hike...which was too bad, because her dry wit would have fit right in.
Anyway, I think of Pam’s wisecrack when I’m about to sling my pack on my back go for a walk, as happened last weekend. Her humor was a good beginning to my day as I rambled in one of my favorite places in the state, a Central Washington valley that was positively glowing in the colors of fall.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
We’ve been talking for some time, my mate and I, about taking off and going someplace....a road trip through the Southwest, perhaps, or even a drive across America. A lyric to one of Paul Simon’s songs says: “Everybody hears the sound of the train in the distance,” and that sound has been calling to us, teasing us, tempting us to travel, to see and experience something different or new.
We had us a bad case of wanderlust, but, unfortunately, not much vacation time available. Plus gas is so damn expensive -- and even if we had all the money in the world to spend on fuel, neither Leah nor I felt right about putting a ton of polluting car emissions into the air by making a long roadtrip simply because we had ants in our pants.
We came up with a travel compromise, of sorts, and decided to drive to neighboring Oregon, to a part of that state we’d never really explored. Friends told us about a secluded valley that sounded appealing. There were wineries we could visit. I suspected we’d see beautiful fall color.
We hired a friend to come and take care of our home and critters, and last week Leah and I headed south.
We were only away for four days, but we filled them to the brim. I had a chance to go for a run in Eugene, “Tracktown USA.” We took in a play in Ashland. And yes, we drank a glass or two of Oregon wine. As is my habit, I took photographs of our travels, and today I’ll share three images that reflect a bit of what we saw.
Our trip might not have been the epic journey we once envisioned, but I guess it was enough because we are both happy to be home, and today neither of us is hearing the sound of a train in the distance.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Our aged gentleman sheep Smokey enjoyed what, to my human eyes at least, seemed to be a pretty perfect sheepsummer. There was lots of lush pasture grass for Smokey and his goat companion, Pumpkin, and our summer-long string of cloudless days made for many hours of napping and contented cud chewing in spots of warm sunshine. There are a number of large trees in our pastures, so, if the sunshine got to be too much for a fellow who always wears a black wool coat, there was plenty of shade available.
Smokey is 14 -- that’s fairly old for a sheep -- and he has arthritis. He moves slowly and his joints creak audibly, so our farm vet prescribed medication which Smokey gets twice a day. This medication schedule meant that, though the summer weather beckoned and Smokey’s humans might have liked to be off riding bikes or hiking in the mountains, either Leah or I had to be home at the beginning and end of the day when it was time for Smokey to get his pills.
Still, whatever playtime Leah and I might sacrifice is more than made up for when we hang out in the barn or pasture with our longtime four-legged friend, a gentleman of such dignity and peace.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Summer is winding down, and if you ask anyone who lives here in the Pacific Northwest, they’d probably say: It’s about time!
For day after day this summer the sky has been a cloudless, Robin’s Egg Blue, and 60-some days have passed since the last significant rainfall -- this in a corner of the country where, in some of our wet, winter months, it feels like it rains every hour of every day. The dry summer was good for a while but eventually overstayed its welcome. "Perfect" weather morphed into drought that led to wildfires in Central Washington that burned tens of thousands of acres of forests and grassland...but now, finally, there is rain in the weather forecast. We’re told that in fact we can expect rain all weekend long, and this afternoon I plan on getting up on the roof to clean out the gutters in preparation for blessed precipitation.
I might do a little Happy Dance while I’m up there.
Rain will feel SO good.
I thought I’d post three photographs today to bid farewell to summer: A portrait I shot earlier in the season of a sweet little friend of mine; a picture of Indian Paintbrush that I shot on a hike in the mountains about a month ago; and an image I made yesterday of fall color in trees outside the post office. All three photographs have one thing in common: The color red. Bright. Vibrant. Fiery.
Here’s hoping for a wonderfully wet and drab winter!
Thursday, October 4, 2012
I feel fortunate to know lots of very interesting people, individuals who inspire and energize me to live life fully, and to be -- if I might paraphrase an old TV ad -- more than I might otherwise be.
One friend spent nearly a month this summer backpacking with very minimal, ultralight gear, hiking mostly off-trail in the Olympic National Park. His pack weighed less than 30 pounds, about half what my backpack weighs when I go out for a night or two... and for my friend to go that light for that long meant that he was most certainly existing without the “comforts of home,” perhaps living a little on the edge, arguably experiencing nature more intimately than one might if geared-up for every outdoor uncertainty.
Someone else I know is headed off for a medical mission in Guatemala, while yet another friend who lives in Seattle has rented her house to some folks, rented another place for herself across town, and is making these moves, she says, simply “to shake things up a bit.”
I also know a woman, a creative soul, who fashions art from pop cans, runs a foundation that serves families with sick children, and still finds time to take friends (like me) into the woods and teach us how to identify and gather mushrooms.
This weekend my friends in the Seattle Tibetan community will gather at their Buddhist monastery and offer prayers for their brothers and sisters who remain in Tibet and who live under Chinese occupation.
Finally, I know a young couple who are about to have their first child, and I wonder whether parenthood might not be the most exciting -- but also the scariest -- adventure humans might undertake.
Come to think of it, nearly everyone I know has something to teach me that'll get me to keep my eyes and mind open, to see things in a new or different way.
The images I’m posting today are a little bit of a stylistic departure for me, just a tiny bit out-there. Hanging out recently near the harbor on Bainbridge Island, my eye was taken by the patterns that a pier and sailboat masts created on the water.
I post these pictures to suggest that each day perhaps we can all find ways, large or small, that we can “shake things up a bit.”
Friday, September 28, 2012
It’s an interesting thing about fall...the way the sun sets earlier and earlier with each passing day, but, as the days seem to get shorter, the evening shadows become longer. Mother Nature taketh away hours of light, but she giveth quality of light. Such is life for a photographer.
Oblivious to my artistic epiphanies, Pumpkin the goat comes to the pasture gate each evening and bleats loudly to remind me that it is time for her grain, and the light is golden then.
The pasture is dry and looks in places like wheat because we’ve had so little rain this summer. No wonder Pumpkin yells for her grain. The pasture grass must be quite unappealing to a princess who knows there is better fare in a can in the barn, if only I would only get my act together and do evening barn chores.
The light is so wonderful that, before I go to the barn, I simply must take a few pictures...which of course causes Pumpkin to raise the volume of her bleating.
Okay Pumpkin, okay. I’ll be right there. Just this one last frame.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
As I hiker and a climber in this, the 21st century, I tip my fleece stocking cap to those who traveled before me in the mountains and wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. Native Americans first hunted, made homes, and seem to have lived in harmony with nature in what today we call "the back-country." Later, white settlers, trappers and traders came along; and still later appeared adventurers like me.
I camped last weekend in the North Cascades at the edge of a glacier at an elevation of 7200 feet, and my tent occupied the most amazing “View Property” ever. A fairly strenuous day-and-a-half of hiking had been necessary to deliver my hiking partner and me to that spot. While we cooked dinner on a light backpacking stove, I looked out at the sea of peaks that went on as far as my eyes could see...and then I laughed.
I laughed because so many of the peaks I could recognize have names given them by my Johnny-come-lately brethren, and a lot of those names suggest fear and intimidation. There are peaks named Mt. Challenger and Mt. Formidable, for example, while others are called Fury, Sinister, Damnation, Perdition, and Torment.
Scary-sounding names, yes... though anyone who has ever spent time in the North Cascades will also tell you about the lonesome tranquility and peace one can experience there. Consider these place-names: Peach and Pear Lakes; Foggy Dew Creek; Poodle Dog Pass; and Meander Meadow.
The picture above is of the Triplets during the “magic hour” of sunrise, and below are other images that presented themselves during the weekend. The last photograph is sunrise light over Mt. Goode, a jet trail adding a man-made visual element to the otherwise natural scene.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
There is a Photo Warning light in my head, and its bright red bulb flashes -- horns sound too -- when a human being wearing a hat enters my field of view. If I’m doing a wedding shoot and there is a woman in the crowd wearing a hat (or maybe she just has a cool scarf over her head,) my camera lens spins in her direction like a willow switch in the hands of a water witch who has stumbled upon H2O.
It’s a little freaky actually.
I’m not sure where my Hat Lust comes from. Maybe I like hats because I grew up in the 50’s and all my heroes on television, from Marshall Dillon to Yogi Bear, wore hats. More likely, though, I suspect I like hats simply because I’m a photographer and I react visually to the way a head covering frames a human face...not to mention the panache, style, and even personality suggested by jaunty chapeau.
The three photographs I’m posting today are of folks I encountered in my travels this summer, individuals whose picture I was moved to do simply because they looked so darned beautiful, or sweet, or interesting.
I also post the pictures with an appreciative tip of my own hat to Yogi and the Marshall.
Friday, September 7, 2012
I did a hike recently up to Lake Ann -- a place in the North Cascades that hiking guidebooks often refer to as an "alpine jewel" -- and my intention was to make a photograph of the stunning, towering mass of nearby Mt. Shuksan reflected in the lake. It is a scene that others have photographed, and a trip to Lake Ann has been on my hiking To-Do list for years now but I’ve never gotten around to it.
Well, now I have been to Lake Ann...but I can't report that I have seen her because the day I hiked there Lake Ann was still covered in last winter’s lingering snow. I was dumbfounded by the landscape: SNOW!... in LATE AUGUST!!... at a measly 4800 feet!!! All this on a day when it was 90-degrees in Seattle!
Then two words came to mind: Late Spring.
I remembered that well into June (and even July) we had had rain and cooler than normal temps in the Seattle area, which meant that snow was falling in the mountains. Hikers who have been venturing into the high country this summer have been reporting that the mountain snowpack is about a month behind its typical melt, but somehow that info didn't make the necessary connection in my brain as I planned the hike to Lake Ann.
The upshot that day was this: After several hours of hiking, I stood on a little rise above the "lake," looking down at a flat expanse of snow. My hiking friend, Joelle, took a picture of me, and all I could do was grin sheepishly and then laugh...laugh at myself for not listening to what other hikers had been reporting, and for relying instead on my 30-some years of experience, which, this year, is a mental mountain calendar out-of-sync.
But there was also this: Though the landscape we found that day was not at all what I had imagined beforehand in my mind's eye, it was, in reality, quite wonderful. The edges of the lake were beginning to melt and there were pools of blue beginning to form, though ice lingered both above and below the emerging water. The color and shapes were otherworldly and elemental, and the ice below the water looked like clouds. Joelle napped in the sun while I poked around for some time with my camera, giddy over the making of images.
It was a good day to play outside...and to relearn humility.
Friday, August 31, 2012
...Am I a lucky man, or what?
I woke up this morning and went downstairs for my breakfast and I found this: Leah had gotten up early and picked fresh blueberries from our garden and had arranged them on an amazing leaf as a morning surprise for me. I assumed that Leah picked the berries for me to put on granola, but before that could happen I felt I needed to take a photo diary picture. I moved the leaf and berries into several different spots but I didn't labor too long over the set-up because I didn't want the making of the photo to become too big of a deal. A simple, sketchbook-like picture seemed appropriate.
Looking at the resulting image, I am reminded of this: The important things in life are not things, but gestures of human kindness.
I AM a lucky man!
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
This post is for Diane, a sweet friend who works in the bank here in town. Whenever I go into the bank, Diane enthusiastically tells me “I read your blog!” and she says something complementary about the pictures I posted of our farm animals, or what I wrote about my trip to see my Mom, and Diane makes me feel famous, though for all I know Diane might be my only loyal reader.
I never check blog “hits,” because I don’t do these posts to sell anything, or get famous, so numbers don’t matter to me. If Diane (and, okay, maybe a few other people like her out there in the world) read my posts, that’s good enough for me.
Diane told me this morning that she’s moving to another bank branch in the region, so I’ll no longer see her when I do my banking. That’s kind of sad... but also okay, because Diane and her husband and Leah and I have developed an away-from-work friendship.
So: What pictures to post today for Diane? As I sat down and began typing these few paragraphs, I really hadn’t decided what photographs I’d share, but then the images you see here came to mind. They’ve been sitting on my computer desktop since Spring, but I haven’t posted them. These pictures feel like good offerings for today -- photos I think Diane will enjoy (she’s a pretty easy audience.)
The pictures were shot at our community’s Food Shed, a farm-to-table sustainable food enterprise that is becoming a kind of town meeting-place. An ever-widening circle of locals finds their way to Food Shed where we buy eggs or milk or produce, or we just hang out and talk. Kids play on the tree swing. We visit the cute-as-heck baby goats.
See you at Food Shed, Diane! Let’s go pet us some cute goats!