WILD HOPE

I’m happy to share the news that a new magazine, Wild Hope, has published one of my photographs in their second issue.

Here’s the magazine:

 

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Here’s the spread with my photo – the detail of sword fern fiddleheads in the corner:

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Here’s the photo, taken nearby a few years ago. Sword fern fiddleheads have an amusing twisted way of unfurling in the spring. The fern is plentiful in the Pacific northwest.

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Wild Hope magazine’s emphasis is on hopeful stories about maintaining biodiversity on earth. The article my photo accompanied describes Dr. Emily Burns’ work with sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) in California redwood forests, where drought has affected sword fern growth. A Fern Watch Project is underway in California, and anyone can participate (Yes! to citizen science). Data is uploaded and shared on a website, iNaturalist.

The “Wild Hope” is that the sword fern, which responds faster to climate variations than the redwood, will help show which areas of redwood forest are most affected by drought.  If I were in California, I would join the effort. As it is, I’m honored to be included in the magazine.

 

Here are more photos of sword ferns (mostly under Douglas fir trees instead of California redwoods):

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A busy “day job” keeps me from marketing my work, but one of these days (OK, years) I’ll retire and get to work on that. Until then, being approached about publishing a photo falls into the realm of lucky breaks.  There was one more recently: a book publisher asked to print my photo of sprouting hostas in a textbook. It was taken five years ago. Now, I’d probably make a technically better image, but it has a nice energy.

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I haven’t seen the textbook and I don’t know the title – there’s no control over the outcome.

Of course one plus with blogs is that we have a good amount of control over how our photos appear. For now, I’ll concentrate on improving my photography and sharing it with you all online. And when serendipity happens, I’m ready!

Getting Away

That too-quick trip I took up north –

the slow climb to the high peaks, the road’s

twists, slopes and curves, revealing ever-prettier views –

a zippy swoosh

down the east side of the mountain, then

dry, rolling hills,

burnt timber scattered over the valley.

So many discoveries – it was all over

too soon.

I saw this – and more:

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Most of the photos above are from Newhalem, a tiny company town built for hydroelectric projects that supply about a quarter of Seattle’s electricity. Three dams were built here on the fast-running Skagit River.  One hundred and fifty miles long, the Skagit tumbles down from British Columbia, twenty-four miles to the north, through the mountains, past small towns and lowland farms and out to Puget Sound, where the river forms a rich, life-sustaining delta. Seattle is about 116 miles south and west of Newhalem; the road didn’t cut all the way through the North Cascades until 1972, when Washington’s most  northerly route to the “east side” was finally created, tracing a path used for thousands of years for trade by indigenous people.

Newhalem is a clean, orderly little dot on the map, a stopping-off place where tourists traveling over the North Cascades Highway learn about the hydroelectric project and stroll the beautiful Trail of the Cedars. Last year fires raged in the area, as seen in the fifth photo above, but this year’s fire season has been better…so far.

Skies were glaring the morning we passed through so I selected the “Dramatic tone” filter in the camera, and a sepia one. In the end, no matter what you do, pictures don’t convey the bulk and size and benevolent majesty of the old cedars, without question, my favorite Pacific northwest tree.

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Here’s the old Gorge powerhouse plant –

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…where you can learn about the history of this extraordinary project, which involved some nervy railroading feats. In the photo below you can see two local women on the car with an assortment of men in charge and project laborers.

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Back on the road, you’re soon in the heart of the scenic view territory, as one by one, shimmering turquoise blue lakes created by the three dams begin to distract you from the road.   The only question is which overlook to stop at.

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Waterfalls at the road’s edge are irresistible.

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Imagine the flow of these waterfalls and the river in Spring! The highway opens in April or May each year, then closes in November or early December. It takes the crew four to six weeks to clear snow and get the road open each year, and… Every spring, Tootsie Clark, the matriarch of Clark’s Skagit River Resort  (near Marblemount), drives her Cadillac up to the west-side closure gate near Diablo, opens the trunk and serves cinnamon (Tootsie!) rolls and coffee to those waiting in line for the gate to open. It’s a tradition she has been carrying on since the 1970s.” (from the Washington State Dept of Transportation website. I think she is still around but I doubt she’s still driving!)

Forty-two miles down the road is Washington Pass, after which we would descend the mountains along the eastern slope to the Methow Valley. The Pass was our last stop in the mountains, and a fitting one. There is a profound charge to the atmosphere there. Walk away from the parking lot, wander over rocky, moss-strewn ledges, inhale the sweet air and look across to the high peaks. You’re rooted and lighter than air at the same time. Your whole being quiets.

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By the time we dragged ourselves away from the pass it was 6 pm. Our destination, the little town of Winthrop down in the Methow Valley, was only a half hour away. Set in the beautiful, dry hills of central Washington, Winthrop is a Western town offering a main street with old, false-fronted wooden buildings and a sprinkling of lively restaurants with good food.  The day satisfied!

(But sometimes WordPress does not. I have fixed the alignment over and over, and nothing I do will make the photos all align left or centered, so please forgive that some are on the left margin and others aren’t. Likewise with the uneven spaces between the photos).

 

 

 

Small Town Satisfaction

On the first morning of a long weekend road trip last week, we veered off Highway 20 to follow a local road that connects forgotten small towns dotted along the loopy Skagit River. It was serendipity because almost instantly, we stumbled on a classic car show in the small town of Lyman, population 438 in 2010. Mostly local people – men and a few women – were lining up their rides in neat diagonal rows along tiny South Main street, bordered by weather-beaten wooden buildings and framed by picturesque views of the North Cascade mountains.

As we headed east, cottony fragments of cloud hung onto the mountain foothills:

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As we drove into Lyman my eyes kept flitting back and forth between classic cars and equally classic buildings.

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Oh, that stylish ’57 gray T’bird convertible with the cream interior! There was plenty to drool over and covet in Lyman, but we had more places to go, and things to see…

An hour down the road in Newhalem, old growth cedars reminded me how small I am…

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An overlook at majestic Gorge Lake had its own classical beauty:

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***

I used various vintage-style processing tools on most of these photos. In the coming days I’ll post more from the North Cascades and beyond.

 

 

How a Phone is Changing Me

The phone camera provides a very different experience than a digital camera does. It has far fewer opportunities for control – no aperture or ISO setting, no special lenses to choose – just that oddly flat rectangle to hold up to a scene, turn this way and that, and lightly touch.

It’s less calculated. I find I’m more spontaneous when I use it. This adaptation to the technology at hand – it’s almost Darwinian!

Here we are, in the car-wash again, floating in a colorworld…

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A few days later, during a brief respite between appointments. Downtown Seattle:

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I’m not going to switch from digital to a phone camera, but I’m glad I have the phone with me all the time. It opens up other paths.

Life is busy lately so I’m looking forward to getting away next weekend for a road trip I’ve been wanting to do ever since I moved here: a big loop east on Washington Rt. 20 (north of Seattle) through and over the Cascades. This very scenic road is closed much of the year because of the snow and avalanches. We’ll turn south at the little town of Twisp on the dry, eastern Cascade slope. Finally, we’ll head back west on Rt. 2 or I 90, depending on our energy levels come Sunday. There will be two overnights, one at a countryside airbnb north of here, the other at a rather pedestrian hotel in Winthrop – one of the last rooms available in the area when I booked the other day. Hopefully I won’t forget the SD card or the battery charger!

 

RESPITE

Outside a major hospital in Seattle, a cop corrals a disorderly, screaming man wearing a backpack away from the busy front doors. The men catch my attention and I slow to a stop as I exit the building – how dangerous is this? Will the angry man turn and come back? Is the policeman radioing for help or is he confident that he has this?

They disappear down Broadway and I beeline for the curb. There, beds of oddly mixed perennials, banana trees, cabbage palms and annuals draw me in. In these days of hyper-vigilance to violent encounters and the stark polarities of class division, there is respite in nature.

I’m here for a day-long training on suicide prevention; maybe that’s another reason that plants look especially good today. I spend breaks outdoors examining juxtapositions of leaf and branch, color and pattern. I’m glad I can freeze these arrangements with my phone. It’s very satisfying work and the rest is left behind.

 

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Even the ground under the banana trees offers up interesting compositions in the textured twists and curls of dried plant leavings.

It was centering to lose myself in the intricacies of the foliage after the endless statistics and probabilities, what if’s and worries, advice and reminders about tough conversations. It’s been a decade since I sat in the hospital at the bedside of a client after an attempt, but when/if I’m confronted with another person who might be suicidal, I hope I remember to ask that simple question: “Have you thought about killing yourself?” No? Good (move on). Maybe? Yes? Let’s talk (deep breath).

 

Oh that “dull light!”

No

sunlight, it’s overcast, I

don’t

see interesting

shadows, or

highlights, it all looks

so

muddy.

*

How

to work

with what

you have?

 

***

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Shake things up.

 

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***

 

Remember

you’re not

separate.

 

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***

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***

Find your way.

 

Photos taken with two second exposures and intentional blur, i.e. jiggling and shaking of the camera. Processed to add contrast and depth in LR, and Color Efex.

 

ORDER AND CHAOS

Gardeners may create order briefly out of chaos, but nature always gets the last word, and what it says is usually untidy by human standards. But I find all states of nature beautiful, and because I want to delight in my garden, not rule it, I just accept my yen to tame the chaos on one day and let the Japanese beetles run riot on the next.       Diane Ackerman

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An early Spring spell of very warm weather followed by weeks of cool, overcast skies and misty rains has encouraged riotous growth here. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers, and gardens brim over with joyful color.

The vine-covered old willow above graces a public park nearby that is really more nature reserve than park. Bald eagles, herons, hummingbirds, rabbits, turtles and many others find homes within its bounds. This year’s weather resulted in extra lush growth of ferns, vines, and all manner of greenery.

For years volunteers have been at work slowly eradicating the non-natives here, bringing the land closer to what it might have been before white people imposed their own chaos. I wonder if they’re working overtime?

Taming the overgrowth is best left for the iron-willed and long-suffering among us. I used to spend hours taming my garden – on warm summer evenings I would plop down and painstakingly pull bits of grass out of a huge moss garden I had. It was great after-work therapy. I’d be out there pulling weeds now if I had a garden, but these days I’m limited to a little deck. That does allow a certain freedom to marvel and gawk in wonder at this lush, bountiful season.

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Drive back up in the Cascades and it’s the same thing – layer upon layer of green among the old forest giants.

Spring was good to the flower growers out in the valley, too. These photos were taken during our long string of overcast days in May. Rows and rows of delphiniums, ready for the picking, stretch comfortably back towards misty hills.

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When you stop and look closely, there is pleasing structure amidst the growing chaos.

The Large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), is a Pacific northwest native. Lupines are very familiar to gardeners – this species, taken to England almost two hundred years ago, formed the foundation of the hybrid garden lupines you see today, in multiple shades of purples, blues and pinks.

What happens when a flower becomes popular with gardeners and is grown all over the world? It escapes. Now this lupine is considered invasive in countries as far apart as New Zealand and Finland. But not here.

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Here’s another northwest native (Tolmiea menziesii, or Piggyback plant) sometimes sold as a house plant for its foliage. The tiny flowers warrant bending down for a close look:

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Another bonus of prime growing conditions is watching all the wildlife, which can also be rewarding close up. A Goldenrod Crab spider is stashing the catch of the day in the flower cluster of an Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) shrub, another native plant sold in nurseries.

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A Tiger Swallowtail works the mud for minerals at a Seattle wetland. The need must have been keen because it let me inch the camera quite close. I was happy I could hold the camera with one hand with the LCD screen tilted up so I could see what I was doing (sort of). Not perfect, but getting down at the butterfly’s level provides a feeling of immediacy that’s lacking in shots from above.

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Below, a lovely Spring azure – those are the sweet little blue butterflies that flit among the grasses at your feet, whether you live in the east or west (or Britain and elsewhere, I believe).

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In a public garden a sea of irises floats across a low-lying wetland.

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Not only are there abundant subjects to choose from these days, but there are many choices that can be made for processing.  Color, sepia, black and white? Vintage maybe?

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Back to the first photo – the overgrown willow at the park. I like it in color, I like in black and white.

Abundance. Order. Chaos. I’ll take them all.

 

 

UNRAVELED

Solstice time –

unravel your gray self

yes,

hang it

out

in the sun.

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These were taken Saturday, 6/19/16 at the Center for Urban Horticulture’s Soest Garden in Seattle. The lovely white flowers are tall (over my head) Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri). They’re being blown about in the sun after last night’s downpours.

Three years ago I saw these beauties for the first time, and photographed fresher specimens, here.

The ground was littered with petals today.

The grass is a tall ornamental whose name I don’t know. It sparkles and twinkles with every passing breeze.

Olympus OM D-1 with Oly Zuiko 60mm macro lens. The grass photos are mostly f 3.5, 1/2500s. The flowers are mostly f3.5 – f.5, 1/500 –  1/2500s. Some are processed in Lightroom, some with Color Efex or Silver Efex.

HAPPY SOLSTICE TO YOU!

TAKE TWO: NY/LA

A miscellany of things that caught my eye in New York and LA.

 

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Ah, New York pizza, how we missed it!  And the streets.

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At the Whitney, an employee replaces wicks in a huge wax sculpture, telling the onlookers, “You know, this is not a performance.” Right, just a gal doin’ her job…

The 8 foot sculpture of Julian Schnabel is by Urs Fischer, who often works with materials that decay and change with time. I wonder how much of the cast wax sculpture has melted since I was there a month ago.

Fischer says, “You could see an artwork as an offering. If you are ready to take something out of it, or if you reject it, it’s up to you. It’s there anyway. That’s what I like about art.” 

 

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Puzzling it out inside a Serra sculpture at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. The exhibit is up until July 29th. Go see it, and maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to have your assumptions about space and physicality skewed, or at least, enriched.

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From the notebooks of June Leaf, at an exhibition titled “Thought is Infinite” at the Whitney through July 17th.

Born in 1929, Leaf has worked and shown in New York for many decades. If it wasn’t for this exhibition of her work at the Whitney I’d still be ignorant of her. She said in an interview: “You can make something and you see it. But then you have to spend your life to get the world to see it.”

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A table top -sized sculpture by Leaf, above, and part of another sculpture, below.

When asked if she thinks of herself as a painter or sculptor, Leaf said she thinks she’s an inventor.

When asked when she knows a piece is finished: “The image has to hit you back, for all of your gesticulating and fighting and stabbing and jabbing, being courageous or weak, or soft or hard. Something tells you when you’ve told the truth. It is a little like falling in love, not that it is equal to that. But, it is a similar moment, where you can’t argue with it; you can’t fake being in love. “

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A companion show at Thorp Gallery in Chelsea closed a few days ago, but Thorp regularly shows her work. Highly recommended.

Another show I enjoyed was Sigmar Polke at David Zwirner in Chelsea. Here is one painting from it, poorly shot with my phone:

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Coffee break under the Highline.

On the other coast, my eye was caught by this palm growing next to a fence. The dizzying angle was surely a reflection of my state of mind.

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At LACMA – the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  An installation of antique lamp posts by Chris Burden contrasts new and old and repeats the verticality of a nearby high rise and the ever present palms.

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Detail from the kitchen of a private home in Hollywood Hills.

Below, an extraordinary tree at the Huntington Botanical Garden in LA. The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), called palo borracho (drunken stick) in Spanish, grows in South American tropics and sub-tropics. Covered with sharp little spears to keep animals away, its pods produce fluff used like kapok, which it’s related to. Who could resist that figure?

 

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Beside a bonsai exhibit at the Huntington Botanical Garden, a guard began to quietly balance rocks on sculpture pedestals. He had an intense presence. He was heavyset with long, dark hair, and he wore Southwest Native American jewelry. Three young women watched him work, fascinated. It seemed to be something he would just do from time to time. One of women talked briefly and quietly to the guard. He was a man of few words. We heard snatches of the conversation: she was struggling with grief over a family member’s cancer, he offered to help her balance rocks; it would help her heal.

He showed her how, with almost no words – just 100 % concentration. After balancing a heavy rock on its narrow end herself, the woman broke into a smile and tears of joy.

It was one of those serendipitous moments that leave you breathless and without words.

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Framed in LA, above; frames in LA, below.

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More from the Melrose Flea market, a favorite LA Sunday shopping destination.

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Parting LA shot: a spindly cactus reaches for a better view at LACMA.

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Back home, the ubiquitous Doug firs, shot this time through a small pane of blue glass in a frame, balanced on a window. Sometimes the view from home is enough. Sometimes you need to fly somewhere, switch it up.  I’m thankful that I have both options.

 

 

 

 

 

CROSS POLLINATION

Cross pollination – that seems like an appropriately seasonal term for what happened when I met Patti Kuche, a fellow blogger, in New York last month.

I’ve always loved Patti’s blog, and I had a hunch that meeting with her would be fortuitous. With basically no planning, we got in touch and agreed to meet up at the Rubin Museum cafe, a good place to relax, talk, and get a bite to eat without feeling pressured to move on. (Was our meeting subtly influenced by the Himalayan Buddhist art only steps away? Maybe).

I liked Patti instantly – there was none of that dissonance that sometimes happens when you “know” someone in the digital world and then meet them in person. We had a terrific time talking…and talking. But what was special that day was that I came away inspired. Really inspired. When she picked up my camera, turned it over in her hands, flipped a switch and started shooting, it was like some bubble burst and grew inside me – it’s hard to describe, but something about her approach and ease with the camera revealed the potential for other ways into my relationship with that tricky black box.

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Patti was curious about the Art filters in the camera, so she dialed around through a few of them and shot what we saw from our table. The shots above and below haven’t been processed at all.

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We covered cameras, processing, blogging, tumblr, flickr and the rest. It’s too bad we couldn’t spend more time together – I would love to roam the streets with her. But no reason to complain. It was good just as it was (yes, the Rubin Buddhism influence is seeping in).

I started using the art filters again. I had tried them out when I first got the camera, but then reverted back to aperture priority.

It was one of those days when the light was all wrong and few interesting scenes presented themselves. I walked with an off-center kind of feeling, questioning of my own approach. Here and there, I found a few opportunities.  The green tables ready to be set up for an event under the green foliage of Union Square, and the snaking fence with its yellow caution tape were nice. Three stools in a coffee shop begged to be shot with the Dramatic Tone filter, and Sycamore tree shadows reaching around the corner of a building seemed right for the sepia filter.

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Sometimes you get lucky! In the subway I pressed the shutter just as the train left the 14th Street station, resulting in a layered double exposure look that I couldn’t have planned.

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If you like speeding trains, take a look at Patti’s latest shot of one – it’s fantastic.

***
After I got back home, we emailed. I sent Patti the photos she took and asked her which were her favorites.
“Great fun playing with your camera.  My preferences are 555 and 556 as whole shots – the setting seems to suit the filters and while I like the 558 & 559 filters I want to move the chair from the bottom R corner. Plus they have hands in funny places.
One question, are you able to change filters in-camera post shooting?”
You can’t change filters once you’ve taken the shot, but no need! I like what she did.

 

Here’s another one:

 

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There’s that intrusive chair!

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Let’s do something about it:

 

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Not quite successful, but it’s all about experimenting, and learning.

And learn I did.

In the cafe, Patti shot what she saw – people. It’s something I rarely do because it makes me uncomfortable. Patti has a knack for disarming people. She can walk up to people and get the most wonderful expressions.  She has a way of seeing – and revealing – the humanity in any given moment.

We all have our strengths as artists and we want to develop them, which includes trying out new things, however uncomfortable. But taking photos of strangers? That’s tough for me.

Yesterday we drove up into the mountains to a tiny town called Index. It’s a center for whitewater rafting and rock climbing. The Outdoor Adventure Center there operates a cafe where they serve up bratwurst hot off the grill alongside a slew of local beers. We stopped for a bite. As we sat down, I noticed two tired-looking men at a table with taped-up hands. The dirty, worn tape across their knuckles spoke volumes. Before they could start cutting it off, I bravely walked over and asked if I could photograph their hands.

I thought of Patti. (“Patti would have no trouble with this. Just do it!”).

They obliged.

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So here’s to meeting new friends and being inspired. Many of you have gotten together with other bloggers when traveling. It’s just one aspect of the cross pollination that is happening all the time. Cheers to that!