Willow, weep for me

(Billie cries, plaintively)


Green-gold curtain

is stilled.

Sun-sharp November afternoon.


Frost persists in grass hollows.


Smudges of fog

obscure a jeweled path

through suburban woods.



Mallards suck on ice water.

The light dims.

A Chickadee overhead goes

about its business.


Last days of November.


Rain, fog, frost. Biting air. Then sun.


A season of quiet dread, as holidays and more darkness approach.

But adapt, and maybe – surely

it will be




(Adapting might mean hiding out in a coffee shop, sipping espresso, perusing the paper).


Browsing on Flickr over the weekend, I saw scans mixed in with photos on a member’s page. It reminded me that scanning is a great way to experiment with making images.  Back in the 80’s I worked at a copy shop near Columbia University for a year.  It was a busy store, but once in a while there was down time. Spending all day copying print, from flyers to graduate theses, I was drawn to experiment with the big Kodak machines. (Those copiers were temperamental and our repairman would fly in on a cocaine high and whip them into shape in no time, but that’s another story). Like many people, I first tried putting my hand on the glass, marveling at the detail. Quickly I moved on to other objects, including colorful patterned socks from the 50’s, and tiny shells that appeared as a galaxy of stars when I raised the lid up, making the background black.

Here are a few quick home grown experiments. My scanner/copier isn’t nearly as good as those old Kodaks. It doesn’t focus as well. But with processing in Lightroom and On1, I can add textures, change colors, drop borders in, and play to my heart’s content. And I never have to worry that the store owner will show up while I’m in the midst of it.


Many of you will recognize the ginkgo leaves. I pick them up now and then. They evoke my earliest days in New York, where many a city block is planted with the sturdy, pollution-resistant trees, and associations with Buddhism, because the species has been grown in Chinese temple gardens for almost a thousand years.  Long-lived as individual trees (scroll down to one that’s 2000 years old), ginkgoes may be the oldest living seed plants. They shared space with dinosaurs millions of years ago. The attractive leaf shape with its many variations on the fan theme, and the strong yellow fall color are appealing. I love this tree!

(One more fact about Ginkgoes – when I first learned about them, I read that they did not exist in the wild, and hadn’t been known to grow wild in historical times. But three years ago wild Ginkgo forests were “discovered” in southwestern China!  Scientists were able to determine, with DNA testing and other methods, that the trees weren’t put there by humans. Indigenous peoples’ taboos against planting or logging them apparently helped preserve a wild pocket or two of the trees.

The net-veined leaves are from a Magnolia tree at Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle. Insects eat the fleshier parts, skeletonizing the leaves. And who knew – you can buy them on the internet, and learn how to make your own.

The flower and leaf collections are from trips to Arizona. Old, water-stained paper that I saved is in the background.  I made the marbled paper in the last scan by floating and swirling oil paints on water in a roasting pan. I hope I threw that pan out…


Flowing slow and shallow in summer but regularly obliterating its borders in other seasons, the Snoqualmie River loops a curly path through rich farmland east of Seattle, not far from where I live.  Two weeks ago abundant rain caused its banks to overflow again and closed roads in the valley.  I went out to see what might be interesting to photograph that first weekend of November. It was the season of last leaves clinging to branches for one more day, fallen apples rotting in the grass, and damp, chill winds.

At a bend in the road where I could stand near the ever-expanding river’s edge, I saw a beautiful, tangled scene of leafy chaos.

(What beauty was there in the chaos of that theater in Paris yesterday? None.)

I tried to make an image that would convey the scene, but the scope was so much bigger than what I could get on a webpage.

(And how overwhelming does the flood of terrorism feel to Parisians today?)


The year has been dry here, sparse snowfall in the mountains last winter reducing some waterways down to trickles over the summer. So the heavy rain two weeks ago wasn’t a bad thing. As I type, another storm system floods the river again, but the valley will absorb this storm, as it has taken on countless storms for longer than we’ve known.

(And how many more storms of terrorism can we, must we, absorb?)

November – such a stunning ruin of a month. There is razor-sharp, dark beauty as nature takes its course, pruning and destroying.

(And what of the famous beauty of Paris today?)

Following the river south to Fall City, I turn back north on Fall City-Redmond Road, making a wide loop around the valley.  I spot a narrow lane heading down into a sea of lichen-covered branches and stop to investigate. The rain spits and falters as I wander down the road.

There’s nothing dramatic here. No mountain vista or wide sea impresses the eye. A sign indicates that this bit of wetland has been preserved for salmon, the soul animal of Puget Sound. These tough fish continue to live out their life-rhythm, tracking between fresh and salt water and back again, thanks to people who took note of this modest little piece of land and kept it safe.

(Does the future hold that for us? Sould we narrow our beloved cities and wildlands down into safe preserves for people to live without terrorism?)

Rain soaks the scene into a sweet blur.

I can’t stay out in this too much longer – it’s chilly and my camera’s getting wet.

On a rise an old apple tree holds memories of fruitful summers. That could be the last shot of the day.

(And when will we hear the last shot of terrorism?)


Late October, early November:

rain-gray skies play tag with gleaming sun-breaks.

Dark branches drop paper leaves:

life pares itself

to a skeletal essence.



P1150641 copy



These photos were taken at home, in parks, in a parking lot, and on the road, with my phone and my Lumix. I experimented with processing more than I usually do, using On1. The last photo was shot with my phone as I drove home from work one day last week. Moody skies are back…


I met Manuel by chance as I walked onto the grounds of La Posada hotel in Winslow, Arizona. He’s a groundskeeper there, so having a background in gardening and landscaping myself, I stopped to admire his work and talk. He’s originally from Mexico and returns to his ranch and family there every year. He takes equal pride in his gardening and his seven years sobriety from Tequila. When I asked to take his picture he backed into this juniper, squared his shoulders and looked me straight in the eye.



La Posada hotel wouldn’t have been built, back in 1929, if it weren’t for the railroad that stops conveniently right at the back gate. It was quite the destination in its heyday, with guests like Gary Cooper, President Franklin Roosevelt, Shirley Temple and others too numerous to list. With building costs topping a million dollars, it was an extravagant showcase for the Sante Fe Railroad and the imaginative architect, Mary Colter.  By the fifties it was shuttered, but four decades later, another twelve million dollars revived the hotel, thanks to an entrepreneur.

Had we known about this historical gem we would have reserved a room there, and if we return, we’ll do that.

If only to see Manuel again.


Last week we took another trip to Arizona. After flying from Seattle to Phoenix we picked up a bright red Chevy Trax SUV at Sixt Rentals and drove north towards Flagstaff, taking a scenic four lane highway (state Rt. 87).  It was a rainy day in Arizona – not what you bargain for when you’re visiting from the gray northwest, but the saguaros were beautiful in the misty blue air. We pulled over to the side of the road to take in the soft greens, tans and distant lavender blues.


Our plan was to spend a few days at Canyon de Chelly, a national monument comprised of two large canyons whose layers of rock go back 200 million years. In the middle of the Navajo Nation, the site is miles from any city and has been inhabited for thousands of years. Because of the remote location it’s not overrun with tourists. I was eager to spend time among the great sandstone cliffs with their ancient dwellings and petroglyphs.

It’s a long way from Phoenix, so we over-nighted en route at a Navajo-owned resort and casino, which turned out to be refreshingly light on glitz and strong on tasteful elegance. An odd introduction to Navajo ways – but it worked for us!

On to Chinle, the town on the Navajo Reservation that’s the base for visiting Canyon de Chelly (pronounced shay).  On the way we passed through charming Winslow, a small town made famous by the Eagles song from the 70’s, “Take it Easy” – which folks seem to do in Winslow. They’ve capitalized on the song and made their town a tourist destination. A German man of a certain age dressed in black leather asked us to take his picture by a statue that memorializes the song. It happens to be on the famous Route 66. He had rented a Harley (he rides a BMW at home, of course, but this is America!) for an epic ride across America’s Main Street highway. Leave it to the Germans to swallow American pop culture whole, and show us how to really enjoy it!

It WAS a lovely morning for soaking in the classic American small town atmosphere. It didn’t hurt that the old style sweet shoppe makes an excellent macchiato.


The town has a fascinating  small museum. It’s full of fabulous local memorabilia, from ancient cultural artifacts and dinosaur bones to cowboy culture, railroads, Hopi pottery and more.

What a rip-roaring town it was, back in the day.

And it remains an interesting place.

And on the outskirts – more to see.

We continued northeast, making a pit stop at Little Painted Desert, a county park. The Painted Desert covers a large swath of northern Arizona. As we ate sandwiches and took pictures, a stray dog and a raven were our only company.

The desert silence began to sink into our bones.

We were now in the Navajo Nation, whose boundaries extend deep into four states, encompassing over 27,000 square miles of land.  Within Navajo boundaries a separate nation, the Hopi reservation, is home to a people who are quite different than the Navajo. They have not been as successful at integrating into western culture and do not take to tourists and strangers as easily.

We drove onto the Hopi reservation but I took almost no pictures, as photography isn’t allowed and cameras can be confiscated. Parts of the reservation were rougher than places I’ve seen anywhere else. It truly felt separate from America.

We stopped at a home with a sign indicating silver jewelry was sold there. I knew Hopi craftspeople often sell their work from home, and prices, as long as you have cash, are likely to be better than at galleries or stores. We knocked on the door. The artist, Harry Nutumya, was there. He showed us his and his nephew’s work. A very soft spoken man, he told us quietly about going away to school and returning to live on the reservation. The Hopi have a long history and complex spiritual belief system that I wouldn’t dream of trying to describe. On a very basic level, our brief meeting with Harry seemed to exemplify how closely place and people are knit together in the desert – the high mesa with its open sky, sparse vegetation and expansive quiet matched Harry’s thoughtful persona. And yes, I was happy to contribute directly to supporting his work with a few purchases.

There’s our Trax, posing against the grasslands and distant mesas under that grand Arizona sky, with clouds all the way to the horizon.


As we rolled across the desert I photographed the grasslands and changing sky, sometimes with my phone, sometimes with my camera.  The views didn’t disappoint!

It really got interesting when we raced a rainstorm across the reservation, a rainstorm that produced double rainbows while keeping its center well away from us – perfect!  You can’t always stop when you want to, but maybe this conveys a taste of the drama of an Arizona desert storm.

The next day we spent all morning with a Navajo guide, bouncing across the bottom lands of Canyon de Chelly in his old jeep. Not ideal for photography, but a lot of fun. Outsiders can only enter the canyon with a Navajo guide and are admonished to respect the privacy of the few remaining people living in the canyon by not photographing them or their houses. It’s not a zoo after all.

It was a bit rough on the soft dirt canyon bottom lands – there aren’t roads exactly, just well worn tracks snaking through the canyons.

Below, one of many old Anasazi dwellings we saw. This one is called Antelope House. Most of the old places cling tight to the rocks high up the cliffs but this one is at the base of the canyon.


That rainstorm we passed through the day before left big puddles here and there. The guides take it in stride, plowing through the water to give tourists a closer look at petroglyphs on the canyon walls. Above and to the right of the jeep are drawings of people on horse, a common theme.

You can’t get very close to most petroglyphs or dwellings; many are high and out of reach. Our guide described climbing up with hand-made ladders in his younger days; the ladders used to be pulled up as you went, so no one could follow.  If you had plenty of time, a long lens, a tripod and good light I’m sure you could get great photos of the ruins.  As it was, I didn’t have the right mix of circumstances, but that’s the way it goes. It was rewarding just spending time with our guide on his turf.  Towards the end Dave, who was born and raised here and seemed to know everyone, talked a little about his clan, and how his mother blew corn pollen over him when he was a baby – an ancient practice that gave us a tantalizing glimpse into a culture that still thinks very differently from people I normally come into contact with.

Later we drove along the south rim to see places we had just driven through from far above. Water flows in the creek alongside the track.  A few people still raise a little corn down there, and peach trees grow near the native cottonwoods and willows.

The famous Spider Rock was half concealed in deep shade by the time we reached it.  The next day we drove the rim of the canyon in the morning, and again it was in shadow. But if the canyon didn’t cooperate, the ravens did.

Wild horses roam the bottom of Canyon de Chelly.

I’ll leave you with their gentle presence. There’s more to come on the Arizona trip…




Step back.

There’s our pretty, blue and white marbleworld, spinning and wobbling in the dark vastness.


We’re hovering just above it. More colors play across the surface.


Zero in on a small piece of land in the place called northeastern America, and

now zoom backwards in time, and here is a place called home.

A girl plays next to a big birch tree shaped like a willow.  The tree is Betula pendula, the European silver birch, or weeping birch.

It is known to the girl and her brothers as forbidden-to-climb.

She leans in to the pale bark with its crisp black markings, and reads them like a book page, a calligraphy of fissures and dashes.


She drinks in the bark and the thick old trunk that stretches up into an endless web of slender branches hung with papery, heart-shaped leaves that flit in response to every breeze.

The home place, and it’s sounds, smells and sights permeate the girl’s consciousness. As she grows up the big birch tree fades in memory, but when she sees birch trees her heart understands them. There is a congruence.

She thinks about a birch grove in a park near the new place where she lives now. The feeling of these trees is an old one. It calls her.

She drives to the park.

If again, you hover just above the land and look down, you see her scattered meanderings through the birch grove.

She has a black box in her hands.

Click. Step.

Click. Step.



This birch is native to Europe, where it has a long history, culturally and economically. It’s been used for everything from lumber to bread (Wiki says Scandinavians made emergency bread from the bark).  It is Finland’s national tree; whisks made of birch twigs are used there to awaken the skin during saunas.

Bundles of birch branches were used to push out the old year in Celtic lands, where mythology associates birch with renewal.  The yule log is birch, and bundles of twigs were used for beating the bounds – ceremoniously walking the parish boundaries – in old England.

It is said that many sacred texts were written on birch bark in India – perhaps a different species, but still birch.  In Russia there is a tradition of carving extraordinarily tiny, detailed scenes and designs in birch bark, which is fashioned into small boxes.

The girl’s ancestors lived in places where birch grew, places where it was perhaps revered. Europeans brought the trees, purposely or inadvertently, to the place called America when they immigrated. Gradually, birch trees took hold in new northern lands. When the girl’s parents bought a house for their family, a large and beautiful weeping birch dominated the front yard.

That was long ago. Now she lives in another place far away, and here too, Betula pendula finds a comfortable home. 

The girl with the black box watches as shreds of birch bark sway and dance in the cool September breeze.



She looks up into the places where branch meets sky.


The haze of green hearts, wiggling in the wind.

Leaves turn yellow and drift down onto the moss. They will decompose over the wet winter months, nourishing the soil. Their substance will change and evolve, providing energy to push life back out of the soil next spring.

Whether the girl returns to the birch grove or not, she will see white birch bark and weeping, sinewy branches in her dreams.




Nutrient-rich, productive waters are the draw at Sekiu (see’ kew), a fishing village on the bountiful Strait of Juan de Fuca.  In August we enjoyed a few days in the area, staying at Curley’s Resort, a very laid back, somewhat ramshackle hotel that caters to sport fishermen. The modest rooms and lack of pretension suited us – it didn’t feel like anyone was out to impress us. After all, the view speaks for itself.

The activity in Sekiu appeared to be about 99% devoted to fishing. We were the other one percent, hanging out, watching the scene, striking up conversations, and taking photos.

Each morning fog obscured the small boats as they motored out to the strait for a day of fishing. As fishermen returned with their plentiful catch, gulls, crows and eagles swirled and swam around the marina, loudly negotiating easy deals on fresh salmon. It was amazing to see how much fish the men threw out to the birds. Miles away an ocean canyon off the coast funnels nutrient-rich water that surges upwards and flows into the strait. The mixing of currents is thought to result in the unusually productive waters, full of phytoplankton and krill, which are key species in this environment.

Tangles of kelp and seaweed are evidence of the wealth of food in these waters. We watched as a young man received wisdom from an expert on filleting techniques.

On another pier, a disabled vet was slowly restoring himself by repairing large wood sculptures that he created years ago. He patiently worked the wood, plugging holes made by rough weather, an obvious metaphor for healing wounds from long ago in Vietnam.

The “resorts” here sell lures and flashers and whatever gear you might need, including rags at a nickel each. Our room came stocked with a plastic bag full of clean, torn toweling and signs encouraging us to use the rags, not the bath towels. We didn’t have the problem of having to clean fish – we left it to others, and had a fantastic meal one night of freshly caught salmon. We did lose a pair of shoes though, after walking through the muck at low tide at a nearby bay. The fun in this part of the world isn’t always clean.

On the store walls, old photos of the area hang askew. Outside, wildflower vines climb the deck and the scale hangs ready.

Sekiu (pronounced seek-yew) is a very good place to be a gull!

And that morning in August, it was just a great place to be.


Yesterday was cloudy with a spit of rain here and there, hardly enough to run the windshield wipers. It seemed a good day to head up to Skagit County, a place of open vistas, farms, plentiful water, and small towns.

Under moody skies Lummi Island hid its top across the estuary’s dark waters. Hidden among lapping waves, three loons dove and disappeared, their sleek heads reemerging closer, then farther out, in a mesmerizing rhythm older than we could imagine.

Fishing is good now on the Samish River, for catching salmon as well as quiet camaraderie.  The endless fields and marshes, distant blue hills, wet smells and gulls’ cries forge an atmosphere that can soak peace right into the bones.

Herons were busy yesterday, too. This one strutted his stuff to ward off an interloper from the perfect spot on the slough.

Salt-tolerant Douglas asters highlight the marsh with lavender splashes. September asters are flowers to be grateful for – soon there will be nothing in bloom out here.

Spiders are busy among the ripening rose hips, and colors are more vivid for the moisture in the air.

What is it about overcast skies that suits this land so well?

A farmer drew a line of sunflowers along the edge of a field.  It’s a horizontal landscape here: one long edge after another, piled up in subtle stripes, variations on a restful theme.

In the small town of Edison, hard by a slough-edged farm, a handful of laid back restaurants beckon. We chose an old favorite and tucked in to grits with curried sausage and shrimp, eggs with a big country biscuit, roasted tomatoes, arugula and orange slices. Our water was steeped with mint and lemon. The owner chatted with friends at the next table, tattooed cooks brought plate after plate heaped with local food out, and the blues drifted over, completing the picture.

Photos taken with a Lumix G3; 20mm prime and 80 mm macro lenses. The last two were taken with a Samsung phone.


To me, anyway.

The first time I spotted this old chicken barn outside Duvall, Washington (a rural town 25 miles east of Seattle), I was drawn to the severe lines and faded, mustard-colored siding. It backs into its site nicely. It hasn’t changed in the three years I’ve watched it – the grass is mowed every now and then and the barn remains unused. Ignoring the No Parking signs, I park on the side, step back, and compose shots around that sweet trapezoidal shape. I creep up close to shoot rusty nails in the siding, or a stray wildflower hidden among the grass in front.

This is the kind of prosaic building that might come down any minute. My breath probably settles the tiniest bit each time I round the corner and see it’s still there.

Lumix G3 with Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 lens; f/4.5 1600 sec. ISO 160