Blog

T’is a Gift to be Simple

Walla Walla, WA

If you’re unable to see my pinhole photos now displayed at Pendleton Center for the Arts, Pendleton, OR, here’s a shortcut. I’ve created a new page on the website to share them. Just click on the heading “Pinhole Photos” to view the web gallery.

Horse’s Tale

Lee Vining, CA

The delicate spikes you see here that look a little like stars strung on a stem is Equisetem, commonly called horsetail. Early settlers knew it as scouring reeds because they used it like a scouring pad to clean pans. They probably didn’t know the plant’s property that caused its utility – a structure partly made of silica, or sand, hence its abrasive characteristics. Equisetem is a “living fossil,” a species present on this planet for more than a hundred million years. Whenever I encounter it or other ancient plants, I am deeply awed to be in the presence of these botanical elders.

Stand Still

Kalispell, Montana

It tells us something about our society that the word “standstill” is synonymous with “impasse.” Yet, to¬† stand still can be one of our most productive moments. Making photographs enforces standing still, and I see it as reciprocal with nature’s own pace. The insightful photographer Minor White said, “Spirit stands still for the photographer it has chosen.” Often, in seeking a good photograph, I do feel chosen. At a certain moment, in a certain place, a gift is given. One that I now share with you.

Awake!

Dixie, WA

From beneath the shattered debris of winter, new life emerges. Perhaps we have seasons because we need persistent reminders that life is a great wheel that turns round and round. Washington is the only state in the nation where seasonal temperatures have been below normal, so this weekend’s warm weather sent me in search of signs of spring. I was not disappointed.

Singular beauty

Wallowa Lake, OR

We respond immediately when we happen upon a field of wildflowers blooming en masse, but the thrill is just as great when we stumble upon a single, radiant blossom on the forest floor. Our reaction is immediate and heartfelt in both cases, not subject to intermediate parsing by the brain. This says to me we are hard-wired for beauty. Clearly, it is a survival mechanism when we recoil from a snake, but doesn’t our reaction to beauty suggest a similar, but positive survival mechanism? We DO need beauty to survive and thrive, and humankind always has.

In Place

Flathead Lake, Montana

I’m a devotee of Instagram where I follow the work of more than 350 photographers from around the world. I deliberately choose photographers from all across the globe, and it’s much different than viewing travel photography. From Turkey, from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Iran, Scandinavia, everywhere people are offering glimpses of their lives. I see their favorite coffee shops, their families, the paths they choose through nearby woods. In turn, I share photos like this one — new leaves glowing in the spring light of a place I visit regularly. Over this vast planet we are each in a place where we find intimacy, delight and wonder. This quiet preponderance of beauty and appreciation is what really makes the world go ’round.

Brave New Shoots

Yellow Bay, Montana

It’s not yet spring, but in anticipation, let’s consider first arrivals. Given the unpredictability of seasons in transition, isn’t it strange that Nature’s opening gambit is not the massive or heavily-armored, but the delicate and vulnerable? All I have studied of evolution has not explained why this is so. Year after year, despite temperature swings, in snow or sleet or sudden heat, the catkins shrug off their casings, the leaves unfurl, and the spring beauties appear like fallen stars on the forest floor. Perhaps there is a reasoned explanation, but unquestioning delight is enough for me.

Silent Record

Wallowa, OR

As much as anyone, I get caught up in news — the latest pronouncement, the newest scandal — but some of the most profound reports are silent. This fallen log, split along its length, is a record of good times and bad times. Times of moisture, times of drought. The slow building up of strength and the stealthy invasion of predators. While the life cycle of the tree played out, smaller scenes in the lives of borers were etched in darkness, revealed only when the tree split to its core. I’m not for tuning out our own life histories shaped each day in the news, but let’s leave some band-width for the silent changes happening all around us.

Resilience

Kalispell, MT

Your forgiveness, gentle readers, for my absence. Chaos reigned, but, out of chaos, new growth. Here you see the blossom of a walking iris, so-called, because this flower is the first step in the formation of a new plantlet. As it grows on the end of a leaf, its weight eventually bears down the leaf until it touches the ground. The plantlet takes root and grows into a new free-standing plant, extending the perimeter of the original plant. Thus, the iris “walks,” finding new conditions in which to thrive. We are walking into new territory now, and we must grow to expand our reach and our voices. Nature’s response to uncertain conditions is breath-taking. May it inspire our own creativity.

Silent Teaching

Malheur Forest, OR

On this first day of 2017, snow falls, transforming the world with peace and stillness. All that is dingy and desolate is now adorned with radiance. Isn’t this why we turn to Nature for its wordless lessons of renewal and unbidden grace? May we understand that we are not separate from universal grace and claim our own beauty and transcendence.