Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The Photograph

The Story

Once upon a time on the rocky Oregon Coast...

From afar it looks like just another hunk of the continent has floated off to be on it's own. Maybe it's dreaming of what it would be like, were it an iceberg. Or a ship. Or one of the whales that migrate past it each season free to roam as whales will (as free as can be while propelled by instinctual drive, that is). Maybe it's just getting it's feet wet, wanting no more than that. On closer inspection, it looks as though two brave explorers have tamed our bucking monolith and ponder the mechanics of taking it for a spin... Or a meander. I'm not sure how you'd go about steering that sort of granite barge. Perhaps they fail to move it, and simply stand, savoring the brilliant feel of their triumphant rise above the rest. As if a prize that may slip their grasp, they hold our rocky friend, grounded beneath tiny, transitory human feet.

It stands, Rock of Gibraltar-esque, unable to do anything but dream. Moved ever-so fractionally by occasional tectonic shivers, carved below by slow etching tides, and above by bare footed ambition. Anyone else feeling like a strong and everlasting rock trapped by an endless shore? :)

Side-note: What creative soul first saw muscles stuck fast to a salty rock and decided they looked like something fantastic to eat? I'd like to shake that man/woman/dog/child's hand.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Gates of the Mountains

The Photograph

The Story

Recently, I took a short road trip to Montana (helping a friend move). I managed to get one nice picture out of the handful I took before my camera battery died. My back up battery turned out to be for my other camera...oops...

I didn't know much about the area before the trip. Here are a few tid-bits I learned. First, huckleberries are awesome. Nothing beats fresh made fruit smoothies for breakfast (except, maybe huckleberry pie). Lightning can happen out of a clear blue sky. Rain can drop buckets when it's 82ยบ outside. Technically, it's considered high desert, so maybe that's normal. For years there was no upper speed limit in Montana. They just expected you to drive reasonably... whatever you decided that was. That had to change with the increasing size and power of most engines. Even so, most of the big roads are still 75 MPH, way higher than most of California. Also, a big chunk of Montana has names calling to mind the travels of Lewis and Clark and the expedition they undertook, led much of the way by Sacajawea. The photo above is a scene they named "The Gates of the Mountains". We took a cruise tour starting from Upper Holter Lake, puttering up Wolf Creek entering a long canyon, and exiting 6 miles up stream. At the far end, the boat spun slowly around so all could get a good view while our tour guide recited a line from the journal of Meriwether Lewis: "from the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the rocky mountains". Indeed, we watched as the gates seemed to open, then close before our eyes.

Next time, I will try to see with my own eyes some of the abundant Native American petroglyphs and pictographs there, including the learning center at First Peoples Buffalo Jump. Yes, that is what it sounds like. People herding buffalo towards the edge of a huge cliff, forcing them to jump into the mass meat harvest at ground level below....dun dun duuuunnnn

Friday, July 23, 2010

Never More Than 6 Feet Away From a Spider

The Photograph

The Story

It's been re-established recently that I like creep crawlies. Not all of them, but most of them. Worms: not a fan. Except the Mopane worms in Botswana. Those gave me colors to aspire to. Tasty bit of protein too... I had an exchange with a friend from Ireland recently regarding her daughter's bravery at the zoo. Python petting. Reminded me of the last time I played with snakes: Belize 2008. Boas curling round my neck. A few days ago Matt discovered I have a "pet" lizard living between the patio pots. I found it immobile and unresponsive with a dead wasp on it's back on my way to take out the recycling. I got really sad, then mad because I thought the neighbors cat's killed it. They tend to bring me...presents. I was too verklempt to move it from the walkway, so Matt went out to remove it, and my lil buddy startled Matt quite a lot by being alive, turning tail & scampering off. Turns out, he was either bee-stunned, or really really enjoying a sun bath.

Yesterday I realized that, usually, I have a system for when a fly is in the house. I open the door, say "go out". They fly out the door. Usually. I know...I grew up with a fly swatter, but don't have as much of a problem here now, & it's less mess when they listen. Yesterday, I found myself understanding the guys who thought that fleas spontaneously generated from piles of dirty rags. I had masses of flies to talk into leaving the room and no idea where they erupted from. In hind sight, although the trash was only a few days old and not smelly, somewhere in it's bowels Mrs. Fly must have laid bothersome her brood. Sorry Mrs., but your kids wouldn't listen, and the once clean dish towel made a handy swatter...

Which brings us to spiders. When I was little, I had a spider (I assumed it was always the same one) who seemed to live in the corner of the ceiling in my room. I called him (again, assumption) Wolfy. Original, I know...I thought it was a wolf spider. Really, I have no idea. But I never worried about it falling on my head while I slept because he was always up there in the morning. Sometimes he'd wander off elsewhere, but the presence of fuzzy dime sized Wolfy gave me a reliable constant. I'd worry about him if I didn't see him for a few days. There were others around our country abode. Particularly in the barn, where evidence usually came in the form of delicate wafting webs stretched like sun catchers across the lofty heights above towering bails of alfalfa. Such lovely by products from such creepy crawly, unappreciated little wonders.

The first web pictured is from a few years back camping in the redwoods at Big Basin. It caught the light so perfectly in the foggy forest that I stopped my trek to look around for the fairy tale creatures that must live nearby. The second lacy web is from a perfect frozen moment in the Netherlands. Amstelveen by De Poel, specifically. The whole day limned in ice, everything rendered with the cold crisp echo of a surrealist painting. Look around...are you even 6 feet away from a spider?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rodos Roof Line

The Photograph

The Story

Rhodes, Greece. November 2007. Good times.

Matt and I stepped off the ship, found a taxi with a cardboard sign reading "Allen" and buoyant under a beautiful bright sky, we sauntered over. Leaning next to an open taxi door, a balding man with glasses and a cardigan stood smoking and chatting to another driver. They both glanced up briefly as we neared them, gave a distracted greeting and went back to what must have been an engrossing conversation. When we got closer to the passenger side of the car with our name on it, the balding driver looked over a little confused, and a bit bothered at having his debate interrupted again. After some small talk we got across that we in fact were the Allen's shown on his sign. He shared a laugh with the other driver, gestured towards the disembarking cruisers filing past us, showing surprise at us being the fare. They had both assumed we were part of the ship's staff getting a break for the day because we seemed to be 30 years younger than most of the other travelers. Suddenly all smiles and excitement at having "young" people to tote around the island, he settled right in to "tour guide extraordinaire".

We told him the only must see things on our to do list were the Palace of the Grand Masters (once home to the Knights of St John), The Acropolis at Lindos, and a glimpse of the place where the Colossus of Rhodes fell. The rest we left up to him. He showed us all, from modern life to ancient relics, and their combination that makes a Rodos he was proud of. When our time with him was up, he left us in the shopping center nearest our ship, suggesting favorite tavernas & boutiques. The picture above shows the last of a blue sky before it turned to rain above the patchwork bay windows and roof tops lining the alley we took back to our floating hotel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dog Sitter

The Photograph

The Story

One cool late afternoon, Matt & I headed into town, to our customary tourist stop off, Leidseplein- a favorite because of the bazillions of places to choose from for date night fun. We settled on a slim graffiti marked lane leading to a petite 15th century church at the entrance of the historic Begijnhof, or Beguine Court. Once home to the Begijntjes (a Catholic nun-like sisterhood, sans vows) and still occupied by single, quiet-living women, these ancient homes, include the oldest wooden house still standing in Amsterdam, Het Houten Huis, built circa 1420. Crouched around a small green, the inviting courtyard lies just out of reach, closing out non-residents with a diminutive fence with a sign requesting your respect of their wish to be left in peace (that means you, tourists).

On the walk from tourist-land to the protected court, we passed a few cafes, and needing some warmth, walked into what became on of our true favorites, Tomaz. They introduced me to a favorite Dutch novelty, Mustard Soup, served with Tomaz's personal touch, smoked salmon strips on top. We were encouraged to play a board game as we sipped our Mc Chouffe's, or discuss the literature stacked table side as we waited for our meals. Across from the cafe's few outdoor tables, sat the dog sitter, clearly at home in his cafe borrowed chair, steaming cup in hand. His mutt, almost as big as he is small, sniffs and pulls toward each passer by as the old gent struggles not to spill or be spilled out of his seat despite Mutt forcible scooting his chair an inch or two towards each new passing face.

I wish the lighting had been enough to show his grin. Cheap entertainment, watching tourists...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lace Leaf

The Photograph

The Story

It's getting to be warm enough weather that my mind keeps wandering to camping and hiking whenever I walk outside. The hills around us sit lush and green, after our latest spring showers, but in a month or so most of that color will fade to become the dry grass we lovingly call the Golden Hills of California. My husband and I have taken a trip to Yosemite backpacking every fall for the last few years. It's never the same. The landmarks remain, but the place is alive. The details change dramatically from season to season. One year, breaking a trail through heavy underbrush in search of an ancient grinding stone called the"Indian Kitchen" supposedly just yards from our campsite, I came across this perfectly fallen leaf. Fall summed up in a single five fingered oak leaf. Dessicated and frail, beautiful still, bug trails show like lace. The once bright green crisped to a warm color embodying nature itself. Almost time to get out our packs....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Laundry Day

The Photograph

The Story
One day in Malta is not enough. Walking back to the ship, watching the late afternoon sun lowering in the sky, Matt and I wandered through parts of Valletta, the capital city, that we had not yet seen, and had no time left to see. Looking up this perfect ancient alley at steps rather than a slope, seeing the Grand Harbour Hotel sign lean invitingly into the light, I wanted to stay. At least over night and see more of this beautiful and welcoming place. Seeing colorful laundry drying in the fresh sea breeze draped from some industrious resident's balcony I wished that instead of walking away we could sit at that little folding table and enjoy the end of the day with a two-finger tumbler of red wine, chatting, or in perfect silence. We could be residents too. If only for a time.

Alas, the ship awaits, ready to set sail for Tunisia. Another adventure awaits...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pink Snow

Now that we're home again, I am going to continue culling my catalog of photographs to share my favorites and tell their tales.

Also, Matt has been helping me start up a "store" if anyone would like to check out some of the things you can make with these pictures. You may have already noticed the link on this blog I added recently. It's a great site that pays the artist (me) a wee commission. My favorites are the shoes & the ties... If you'd like me to upload a particular photo there that I haven't gotten to yet, give me a shout. Thanks for your support!

The Photograph

The Story
For a few years there, we made an annual Labor Day pilgrimage to Yosemite backpacking with friends. This photo is from our first, and still, most memorable trip going 8 miles straight up from Tualame Meadows to Vogelsang High Sierra camp. Wandering above 10,000 feet, on a day trek up Vogelsang Peak we came upon untouched primordial looking pink snow. Quite literally, pink hued snow clinging to the sunbathed rocks in September. We speculated on what freak combination of natural events created this Wonka-esque scene, and ended up agreeing that the safest course of action would be a pink snow ball fight. So, quickly desecrating months of serenity, cupping hands around cold pink globs, we hurled them at each other, into the bright sky, and out across the mountain as far as our arms could manage.

Later, two of our crew talked with some rangers while dinning at the High Sierra restaurant telling them about our unique discovery. Turns out pink is the warning color of a particularly deadly toxic mold that grows on old snow. They hoped we were smart enough to stay clear... I'm not sure if the snow ball fight came up after that, but we didn't have anymore pink snowball fights, and I lived to tell the tale.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Elephants Can't Jump

Third country on our African adventure: Botswana.

The Photograph

The Story
I rode an elephant once as a kid. I think it might have been at the Cincinnati Zoo. Since then, I've seen elephants from time to time, other zoos, other fairs. And yet, my heart sped and my breath caught when I laid eyes on my first up close free roaming elephant in Botswana's Chobe National Park. Stately, sedate and graceful, elephantine society fascinates. That such enormous creatures can be so gentle makes it easy to forget the power they hold. The resounding sound of two young bulls knocking tusks in playful challenge brings that fact back immediately. As does the way my heart suddenly jumped to my throat at seeing two bulls charge between two small safari trucks loaded with friends. They meant no harm, only wanting a clear path from the river to the trees. But had the wanted more, what recourse would there be? From solitary bulls to playful calves, every movement a testament to the wonder that is African Safari. Of some 70,000 elephants who make Chobe home, we may have seen a hundred. Somehow I don't think I'd ever tire of watching their stately movements, and mischievous interactions.