Fading Hydrangeas

September 26, 2016

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Hydrangeas are maybe my favorite flower.  I love their colors, a changing palette — they age so beautifully.  And I love their round shape.  Even this late in the season, I see hydrangeas as fresh as the one above, which I photographed at the ocean in Bandon, Oregon.  But more common are those that are past their peak, fading, fading.

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Painting hydrangeas

Painting hydrangeas

Watercolor sketch of hydrangeas

Watercolor sketch of hydrangeas

 

 

Hula Hooping Pedestrian Sign

September 24, 2016

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Do you know the meaning of this traffic sign?

We saw this sign along the road to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.  I looked at it askance.  What could it possibly mean?  Be alert for hula-hooping pedestrians?

This is one of those times when the internet is your friend.  I found out that the hula hoop is a decal applied by vandals/pranksters.  Apparently they can be found all around the country.  It’s not an official warning sign.  Hah!

Green Lake, Seattle

Green Lake, Seattle

“The moon and the sun are travelers of a hundred generations.  The years, coming and going, are wanderers too.  Spending a lifetime adrift on boat decks, greeting old age while holding a horse by the mouth — for such a person, each day is a journey, and the journey itself becomes home.”
— Basho

We are all journeying through life, whether covering vast distances on the road or staying close to home.  I love hearing about where friends, family, and colleagues are going on their vacations, and sometimes I have trip envy.  I’ve never traveled for such extended periods that the road became my home.  All my life, I’ve had deadlines to return home and resume my job.

Perhaps these time limits are why I really love to travel when I get the chance.  While I appreciate my travels, I do like spending time at home, too.  I can rationalize the advantages of staying home and making a rich life of my ordinary days.  That’s why this poem by Billy Collins brings a smile of recognition to my face:

Consolation

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

 

I love that we have complex and sometimes competing rationales for traveling or staying put.  Here is another poem that asks whether we should have stayed at home:

Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
– For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
– Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
– A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.

– Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages
– Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
– And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

‘Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

 

I’m glad that there is room in my life for occasional big trips and also comfortable days at home.  I can find beauty and interesting things almost anywhere.

So here are a few photos from a local jaunt to Tacoma, just 40 minutes from Seattle:

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

 

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge

I find that art and nature make an almost irresistible combination, and the bayside gallery of sculptures in the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is particularly wonderful.  The outdoor art trail takes you past several sculptures in a natural setting.  Take a look:

Entrance to boardwalk

Entrance to boardwalk

Giant salmon bones

Giant salmon bones

Shorebird swirl

Shorebird swirl

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

Spinners along boardwalk

Spinners along boardwalk

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Tiny frog sculpture on boardwalk

Tiny frog sculpture on boardwalk

Feathers

Feathers

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Start of hillside climb trail

Start of hillside climb trail

Red-legged frog leap arcs

Red-legged frog leap arcs

 

 

Seagulls on the beach at Bandon, OR

Seagulls on the beach at Bandon, OR

The final stretch of our road trip took us along the Oregon Coast from Bandon to Astoria.  Every Pacific coast beach seems unique in some way — different from its neighbors near or far away.  Part of our drive took us through the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, giving us a taste of a landscape with high, wind-sculpted dunes.

Here are some photos from our drive along Highway 101 in Oregon:

Evening arrival in Bandon, Oregon -- fog banks and gray

Evening arrival in Bandon, Oregon — fog banks and gray

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Sunrise in Bandon, OR

Sunrise in Bandon, OR

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Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse

Bandon, Oregon mural

Bandon, Oregon mural

Logging country (One day we counted 24 logging trucks during our drive)

Logging country (One day we counted 24 logging trucks during our drive)

Reedsport, Oregon

Reedsport, Oregon

Conde B McCullough Memorial Bridge north of Coos Bay

Conde B McCullough Memorial Bridge north of Coos Bay

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Landscape near Dean Elk Viewing Station in Reedsport

Landscape near Dean Elk Viewing Station in Reedsport

Queen Anne's Lace along roadside

Queen Anne’s Lace along roadside

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

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Biker at viewpoint along Hwy 101

Biker at viewpoint along Hwy 101

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Old House Dahlia Farm in the Tillamook Valley

Old House Dahlia Farm in the Tillamook Valley

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

“. . . I think anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around — you’re traveling in order to be moved.”
— Pico Iyer

By this stage in our vacation, I was experiencing moments of exhaustion.  Our whirlwind tour of the Pacific Northwest national parks was rewarding us with some peak experiences, but there was a lot of driving.  I was beginning to yearn for a stopping place, time to sit and do nothing.

“Speed diminishes the gifts that a journey can give you, the gift, for instance, of moving through a landscape slowly enough to be able to watch it, take in its characteristics, observe the land’s relationship to the sky, the patterning made by boundaries, whether of hedge or stone, the way that trees, banks in the lanes signal changes in the underpinning of the landscape: limestone turning to chalk, clay to sandy loam.  Traveling fast . . . there is not enough time to clear away the mental baggage you have brought with you from the ordinary and make a space in your mind for the extraordinary.”
— Anna Pavord, Landskipping:  Painters, Ploughmen and Places

Umpqua River along Oregon Hwy 138

Umpqua River along Oregon Hwy 138

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The drive up to Crater Lake along Oregon’s Highway 138 was itself a scenic route following the Umpqua River.  While everyone else was snoozing in their seats, I was following the long and winding road, and I have to admit, beautiful as it was, it also felt endless!

And yet, the first view of Crater Lake refreshed my soul.  I was reminded that the effort to get out to our national parks is always worth it.

First view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

First view of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

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Have you ever seen such a blue blue?

“The deeper the blue becomes, the more urgently it summons man toward the infinite, the more it arouses in him a longing for purity, and, ultimately, for the supersensual.”
— Wassily Kandinsky

“The world is blue at its edges and in its depths.  This blue is the light that got lost.  Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us.  It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water.  Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this unscattered light, the purer the light, the purer the water the deeper the blue.  The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.”
— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Reflections at the edges of Crater Lake

Reflections at the edges of Crater Lake

View from the rim road, Crater Lake National Park

View from the rim road, Crater Lake National Park

I could have sat for hours on the rocking chairs lining the porch at Crater Lake Lodge!  But we stopped there only to “smell the coffee” as we took a coffee break and soaked in the magnificent view.

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Sunrise at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

Sunrise at Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park

We continued our exploration of national parks with a road trip to Mount Rainier.  We had to hit the road at 4:30 a.m. in order to arrive at Sunrise for the sunrise at 6:50 a.m.  Our timing was perfect, and we pulled into the Sunrise viewpoint with two minutes to spare!

Sunrise at Sunrise

Sunrise at Sunrise

View of Mount Adams in the distance

View of Mount Adams in the distance

We breakfasted with a picnic in the brisk, clear air — hard-boiled eggs, small tomatoes, pre-cooked bacon, cheese slices, rice crackers, mango juice.  Snow-capped Mount Rainier loomed over our picnic table.  Then we drove to the Naches Peak Loop Trailhead where we stepped out for an early morning hike.

“I could walk forever with beauty.  Our steps are not measured in miles but in the amount of time we are pulled forward by awe.”
— Terry Tempest Williams, The Hour of Land

Here are some photos from the trail:

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Reflection of Mount Rainier in Tipsoo Lake

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Dewey Lake in the distance

Dewey Lake in the distance

And finally, we ended our visit to Mount Rainier with a gondola ride up Crystal Mountain where we had lunch at the Summit Restaurant.  We sat on the outside patio in the blazing sun so that we could enjoy the view.

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Summit of Crystal Mountain

Summit of Crystal Mountain

Gray jays

Gray jays

Mount Rainier from the Summit Restaurant at Crystal Mountain

Mount Rainier from the Summit Restaurant at Crystal Mountain

Our visit to Mount Rainier National Park was about as perfect as we could have wished.