Not Done with My Changes

April 19, 2016

Ribbons of tulips, layers of colors

Ribbons of tulips, layers of colors

Cascade Mountains

Cascade Mountains

Layers of blue fabric

Layers of blue fabric

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz, from Bill Moyers Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel in heavy wings.
Oh, I have made a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.



Spring has come early to the Pacific Northwest this year, and the Skagit Valley tulips are well into their blooming.  It felt to me that there were fewer tulip fields than usual, and we speculated that perhaps some of the fields had already been topped because they bloomed early.  In a more normal year, you can spot bright patches of color dotting the landscape as you traverse the country roads.  This year, we saw just a couple of distant fields apart from the ones of the two big attractions — Roozengaarde and Tulip Town.  But these big fields were simply spectacular.






We arrived way too early for the Roozengaarde display gardens to be open.  But we enjoyed seeing and photographing the tulip beds near the road outside the gate.  Such variety and color!







The annual Tulip Festival runs throughout the month of April, but I’d recommend going sooner than later this year.

Daybreak Over Tulips

April 11, 2016

“Distinctive realms appear to us when we look and hear by poem-light.”
— Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows:  How Great Poems Transform the World

Daybreak with fog, Skagit Valley, Washington

Daybreak with fog, Skagit Valley, Washington

Dawn in the Skagit Valley

Dawn in the Skagit Valley

My niece and I drove to the Skagit Valley this weekend to see the tulip fields in bloom.  She is a photographer, like me, and therefore was willing to hit the road in the dark hours of early morning so that we could be in place as the sun rose over the farms of this region.  We had lovely weather, and the beauty of the breaking day was just awesome.  Knowing that these golden minutes were fleeting heightened their beauty.  I think that Jane Hirshfield’s word, “poem-light,” perfectly captures the dawning day.







“A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn.
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.”
— Emily Dickinson

Be Glad, Don’t Wait

April 7, 2015





Another Spring
by Christina Rossetti

If I might see another Spring
I’d not plant summer flowers and wait:
I’d have my crocuses at once
My leafless pink mezereons,
My chill-veined snow-drops, choicer yet
My white or azure violet,
Leaf-nested primrose; anything
To blow at once, not late.

If I might see another Spring
I’d listen to the daylight birds
That build their nests and pair and sing,
Nor wait for mateless nightingale;
I’d listen to the lusty herds,
The ewes with lambs as white as snow,
I’d find out music in the hail
And all the winds that blow.

If I might see another Spring –
Oh stinging comment on my past
That all my past results in ‘if’ –
If I might see another Spring
I’d laugh today, today is brief
I would not wait for anything:
I’d use today that cannot last,
Be glad today and sing.

























“Spring is the awaited season. . . . Not a season at all but a longing.  At my age it is natural to ask:  how many more times shall I witness this waiting?  The waiting is for a new beginning.  It is not a question of the year being young but of the offer of choices again.  In the winter of discontent, there are not choices.”
— John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket

Tulip field, Skagit Valley

Tulip field, Skagit Valley

Last year in April I was in the Netherlands seeking the elusive tulip — elusive because unseasonably cold weather delayed the blooms until the very end of the month.  This year I was content to travel closer to home.  The Skagit Valley, about an hour’s drive north of Seattle, hosts a month-long Tulip Festival every April.  And many fields are in peak bloom right now.  I never tire of the spectacular, jewel-toned flower fields, so different from the corn and oats and soy bean fields of my Midwest childhood.

Here are some photos from the 2014 growing season:












Double tulip

Double tulip

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again.  It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill.  Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
— Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels with Herodotus

I have reached my doorstep again after nearly a month away.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of my experiences with you.  I took almost 2,000 photos and my mind is still reeling from an almost overwhelming archive of images, scents, sounds, and thoughts about the destinations — Iceland, the Netherlands, Israel, and France.  It will take some time for my memories to settle.

Like most journeys, this one began with an invitation.  About five or six years ago, my sister, who lives in Israel, invited me to visit her.  I began making tentative plans to go, but then was derailed by the economic crisis that hit the country and, because my husband works in construction, our family.  With so much financial uncertainty, my trip was postponed.  I suppose it is a sign of gradually increasing optimism that I finally pulled off the trip this year.  This time, along with the invitation to visit her in Israel, my sister wondered if we could also travel together to Holland to see the tulips in bloom.

So my trip began to take shape, starting with my booking roundtrip airfare from Seattle to Amsterdam, April 2 – 28th.  These were the bookends.  Within their constraints, my sister and I would find the best times for me to fly to Israel to stay with her and to spend a few days vacationing together in the Netherlands.

At the time I booked my airfare to Europe, Icelandair offered the best price.  And this airlines allows its passengers to disembark in Iceland for a short stopover at no additional cost.  I’d never been to Iceland, so I decided to spend two nights there on my way to Amsterdam.

Eventually my sister and I decided that I would fly to Israel on April 8th, stay with her family until April 16th, when we would both fly to Amsterdam for five days together.  That meant I had two additional nights in Europe before my flight to the Middle East, and I decided to stay in Haarlem which is not too far from the Amsterdam airport.  After my sister flew back home on April 21st, I had about a week of uncommitted time in Europe, so I cast about for something to do.

I had on my life’s “List of Things to Do Before I Die” hiking a special trail in southern France along which are installed the largest collection of works by the land artist, Andy Goldsworthy.  Serendipitously, a local guide, Jean-Pierre Brovelli, was offering a six-day guided hike that fit my timeframe perfectly.  That experience now anchored my trip plans.

I will be sharing my impressions from my journey in the days ahead.

“. . . travel provides not confirmations, but surprises.”
— Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations

I traveled with open eyes, trying to be receptive to what these many and varied destinations offered.  And yet, I suppose I had certain expectations as well.  For example, I thought I would see tulips in bloom in the Netherlands in April.  But Holland was caught in an unseasonably cold Spring, just like much of this country, and the tulip bloom was late.  When I passed through on April 5th and 6th, I saw only a few daffodils and crocuses; nary a tulip in sight.  When my sister and I returned to the Netherlands on April 16th, everyone was still waiting for the tulip fields to show color.  We went to the famous Keukenhoff gardens on April 19th, and while the estate had much to offer, the beds of tulips still showed just sword-like green leaves and no flowers.

Still, the demonstration beds in the Willem-Alexander pavilion, indoors, displayed an exuberant array of tulips in full bloom.  And it was a photographer’s paradise.  Here are some photos of my favorite tulip at Keukenhof, the double parrot, truly a most photogenic flower:

IMAGE_EE8A4C4F-F1FA-4BA7-A75A-1E773EFE6D0AIMAGE_C3DFB2E4-DE87-47FC-910B-C9AF259C98B1IMAGE_12F41F58-D963-4D48-B78E-14029AD56CA5IMAGE_49500A3E-272F-4EB3-A6EF-2A7A73E27BADIMAGE_05EFA76E-C858-4AB8-B2CE-75CFE8684C10And then, a lovely send-off on my journey back home — looking out of the airplane window as we took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, I saw (finally) ribbons of color in the tulip fields below.

Tulip fields in the Netherlands, April 28, 2013

Tulip fields in the Netherlands, April 28, 2013



Holland America Bulb Farm in Woodland, WA

Barbed-wire fence and tulip fields

One of the volunteers at the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland advised us to drive about two more miles down the road to see the tulip fields in bloom.  I hadn’t realized that there were tulip farms in southern Washington.  This one was owned by the  Holland America Bulb Farm.  In contrast with the many tulip fields in the Skagit Valley north of Seattle, this operation was much smaller.  Instead of big fields planted in one color, the Holland America Bulb Farm planted just a few rows of each color, side by side, so the fields were a riot of bright colors. 

Mailboxes mimic the colors in the tulip fields

Patch of pink tulips

I particularly enjoyed watching workers cut fresh tulips in the field and gather them in baskets for sale.  What a beautiful setting for their labors!

Worker carrying her basket of cut tulips

Another basket of fresh-cut tulips

Fresh-cut tulips for sale