Monday, September 29, 2008

First Light

Early morning, first light.

When sounds of the nighttime mix with those of the approaching day.
Birdsong from the woods, a Barred Owl’s questioning call in the distance—and persistent chattering and fussing from the yard below.
Our bedroom door, open, to the upstairs porch and the sounds of the waking fields and woods.
Our narrow road, close below, between them.

For quite some time it continued, as we lay warm beneath blankets, a disturbing, unsettling call that we decided must be a raccoon. One of many in this rural area.

Becoming pests in greater numbers to be sure, though I smile when I see the small hand-prints so like mine, left after a night’s diddling in the mud at the edge of the pond.

I fussed about inside, preparing for a day’s work.
The sound outside my door, now quiet.
Gone with the darkness.

Pulling slowly onto the narrow road, a few feet from our drive, a small someone lay still on the pavement.
How Mama must have fussed over her here, confused and scared.

While we slept beneath warm blankets.
Listening to the sounds of first light.

Unmarred by her accident,
this baby raccoon was beautiful.
Soft and small.

Click to enlarge
participating in Camera Critters

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kitchen Fixin's

Back wall of kitchen

I’m the first to admit, I do things a little differently than most.
Take, for example, our kitchen windows.

When September arrives and others are shedding summer’s customs for the buttoned-up look of fall, I drag the screens out of the garage, hose them off, and get ready to put them up.
It’s all part of the plan--and goes hand in hand with feeding and watching the birds in the woods adjacent to our kitchen.

Ohio Valley summers are moist and muggy—hovering close to the 90-degree mark for weeks at a time.
And although air conditioning would not be my choice, mildew and mold grow faster than we can contain it, were we to use only screens and fans.
In fact, the windows remain closed for most of the summer, open only a crack in the evening, if the night air promises to be cool.
Screens seem unnecessary, and darken the already shaded kitchen—just feet from a large, leafy hickory.

With more bird activity in the burgeoning fields, we take the seed feeders down, too.
By the first week of April, hummingbird feeders fill the empty spaces.
And hang, well-visited, until September arrives, once again.

So, why drag the screens out now?
As the days are already showing signs of autumn’s chill?

Window strike 2007

They’re for the birds--our system of window strike prevention, over those that receive the greatest traffic and number of hits in previous years.
Those within feet of the feeders, and facing the hickory woods.
A sort of “airbag” to cushion the impact of a strike.

Now, doesn’t that look better?

In trying to photograph the kitchen window screens, I found I caught much more!
From the reflected images in the glass directly behind it, to what can be seen inside and through the window on the other side!

Daddy Long Legs on screen

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Inside the Hoh Rain Forest

I've been saving the best for last.
Or, more honestly, putting off an attempt to describe a place I cannot find words for.
A place that is felt from the inside, out—sensed, more than merely seen.

A place with which, though printed images and words abound, the first real encounter steals your breath--
and leaves awe where imagination had been.
I’ve been waiting for words to find me.

As if closing a door to the rest of the world, the space within is quiet--
with a stillness that aches in your ears.
And sounds of great time’s passing.
The dense ground drinks all in,
hushed by centuries’ collection of needles.
Mosses woven together.
The rich tapestry rolled, unending, from one end of this evergreen forest to the other.

Softly shaded by curtains, rich tones of gold and green,
the only scattered spots of light, small gaps at the extreme reach of the treetops, 250 feet above.
As with light cast through the small stained-glass windows of a cathedral,
the eye is drawn upward into vastness.
Each trunk, tall and straight, many with bare branches below,
only distinguishable from each other by the textures of their bark,
or shape of their broadly reaching roots.
Many wide with age,
others barely born.

The tallest trees, their roots broad but shallow,
fed by the abundant rains of almost 150 inches each year, easily toppled—
yield life to the next generation.
Mounds of ferns cascade from pockets of dark soil held between the roots of the large fallen giants.
Each rootwad, a wall quickly filled
by the small plants eagerly nosing their way into the smallest vulnerable crevice.

Mosses crawl, in greens of a million descriptions,
to cover the long fallen trunks, their spreading fingers in textures furry and soft, jagged and spiky.
The seeds caught beneath them from the trees above, seeking shelter in the deeply furrowed bark. Establishing their beginnings upon the fallen giant, then buttressing themselves against time, anchoring beyond to the forest floor.
Until in long rows they stand, colonnades clearly recounting this history,
towering reverently over the crumbling forms having given them life,
years before.

A narrow path winds on,
between the massive rootwads,
spanning pools of dark water.
Heavy slabs of cedar, a footpath protecting sacred ground.
Beyond the tops of sword fern, the forest unfolds,
interrupted only by sheets of hanging moss draped majestically from the otherwise barren branches.
Foxglove and clusters of horsetail fill the occasional sunlit spot.

To stand within such a place,
be lifted high by the roots of a thousand-year trees,
as they brace themselves on the shore of the sea.
To look up at the sky through their branches, and behold--
golden wings!
This is the Hoh Rain Forest.

This 48-slide presentation includes:
Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
Deer Fern, Blechnum spicant
Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menzieseii
Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea
Horsetail, Equisetum arvense
Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum sp.
Methuselah's Beard, Usnea longissima
Red Huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium
Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis
Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum
Trefoil Foamflower, Tiarella trifoliata
Vine Maple, Acer circinatum
Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla
Western Redcedar, Thuja plicata

To view static, labeled images, visit my Flickr site.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Beauty Behind the Curtain

We arrived in the dark to Lake Quinault Lodge, unsure of much of what we might find in the daylight of the next morning. Sure, only, that we were still in the land of the very tall trees, their towering dark forms following us down the coast from Kalaloch, inland —a narrow, untraveled road winding between them.

By morning, the expected fog had settled into the valley, leaving us looking out upon nothing but white. The chairs on the sloping lawn beyond the dining room, arranged as if in a theatre, facing the curtain—a lake, unseen, beyond.
Certainly there must be some beauty here--some reason people are drawn to look out.
But what upon?

Breakfast passed.
Sweet Potato Pancakes with hazelnut butter,
Applewood chicken sausage
and Starbucks coffee.
Then a stroll down the hill to the water’s edge, the lake still waiting behind fog.

canoes and kayaks on the shore on a foggy morning
Lake Quinault

Wilson's Warbler gleaning insects from spider webs on shore

pretty purple at water's edge

rowboat in fog

In a green Old Town canoe much like ours at home, we paddled out across the glassy surface. Almost like a skater’s blade on an icy pond--effortless. In the quiet stillness of evergreen mountains, a loon's call through the mist from the opposite shore.
The curtain was lifting.

From every side we were surrounded, in dense hemlock, spruce and fir, some a thousand years old, the world's giants. Gravel arms reached out from hidden coves where small streams fed clean, clear water beneath us, before dropping deeply into the glacier-carved basin.
A blue sky, now, transparent above as the water below.

At the far end of the lake we came upon colored sands, of pumpkin, rust and deep red. Indeed, every thing that touched upon the water here, had been tinted in warm, glowing tones.

Iron (?) deposits on sand and stones near inlet of Quinault River

rust-colored sand bubbling on banks

Western Sandpiper feeding on sandy shore

And to the north, stands of Red Alder, like birch, their white bark bright in the evergreen woods.
A landscape painted in blues, dressed in lively shades of green.

We stopped for our lunch on a clean gravel bank, and pulled the canoe just far enough onto the shore to not lose it.
The faintest breeze, welcome.
The day now, warm, as we peeked out from under shady branches.

Then crossed the 2-mile width, back to the base of Quinault Lodge.
The chairs on the sloping lawn, full of spectators in this theatre of wild, natural beauty.

looking east toward Colonel Bob Wilderness

Lake Quinault from Hwy 101

sitting in the lap of the world's largest spruce tree
Lake Quinault, Washington

all photos click to enlarge

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Such a place, is an ocean,

Late afternoon at Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Whose massive monuments,
Part minuscule grains of sand,

Second Beach, Olympic National Park

stones on sand

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, low tide

Where waves of unbridled strength carve stone,
Then gently lay shells upon it,

beach between Cape Alava and Sand Point, Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

shells on sand

Where life for so many begins,
And the harshness of death is softened,

Second Beach, Olympic National Park

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

drift logs on sand

Sand Point, Olympic National Park

An expanse of unruly roughness,
Hides a single, smoothed round stone.

between Cape Alava and Sand Point, Olympic National Park

Such a place, is an ocean.

skipping stones on Ruby Beach

trail to Third Beach, Olympic National Park
sea stacks between trees

all photos click to enlarge

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Tripping over Jellyfish

It’s a dangerous combination, intrigue in the natural world and the pursuit of something beautiful.
For, the more I explore, the more I find I must capture.

The simplest walk around the block, the most ordinary drive to the store can become an adventure, often taking me hours to complete and sometimes, leading me so far from my originally intended destination, that I trade in my plans for the day and slip into the world of the naturalist/photographer, once again.

Often, I’m alone in my adventuring—around the trails on our property and out to the local preserves.
It’s no one’s time but my own.
And I return, pleased to have found what I’m after.

But in journeying further, we adventure together.
And much is given in order that I may spend time.
A day’s drive consists of many stops.
Patient waiting.
Will we ever get where we’re going?

Last week, we took the Edmonds Kingston ferry from Seattle, across to the Olympic Peninsula. In the 62-mile drive from there to the Park’s entrance, we stopped for 60 photos.

Bright orange flowers scattered through the brown roadside grasses.
Trees with smooth red bark, that peeled to reveal silky green beneath.
And a very large pink Jellyfish--washed onto the pebble beach, and caught in lapping waves.

And beautiful.
And found along the way.

California Poppies

pebble beach, Sequim

Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii

Lion's Mane Jellyfish

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