Lens-Artists Challenge #107 Winter

Lens-Artists Challenge #107 Winter

I like Winter.  I went to Minnesota to grad school in the early 1970s, and I quickly decided I much preferred winter to summer (98 degrees, 98% humidity-ugh!).  In Minnesota, winter is bitter cold, with temperatures as low as -45 at night, but the sun is shining most days.  There’s no more beautiful sight than the sun making the snowy scene sparkle like diamonds.  I regret that I have no photos from that time, but the memories linger.

In the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and raised, and live now, winters can be predictable-gray clouds, rain, and gloom most of the time.  But, as I heard somewhere, no one ever died shoveling two feet of “partly cloudy” off their doorstep!  In Minneapolis, we would hear regularly about people coming home, drunk, at 2AM, and falling asleep on their porch and freezing to death.

We do, however, get snow sometimes, and when we do, it turns our neighborhood, and our city, into a winter wonderland (and a driving nightmare).  I tend to go outside with my camera, starting with my own backyard.  2019 was actually a good year for snow.

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This avian visitor is a Varied Thrush, and he has an insect in his beak.  We have two pairs who visit the yard pretty much year-round, as they live in the mini-forest to the west of our house.

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Our Song Sparrows are also frequent visitors.  I end up refilling our bird feeder often in winter.

We can tell how much snow we get by checking out the stationary objects in the yard, and measuring the snowcaps.  We got the concrete pagoda for a wedding present, and it does hold quite a bit of snow.

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That’s a bird-bath in front, and our Japanese Maple on the right.  And out the front door:

Icicles

Those icicles are pretty, but an indication of trouble with the gutters.  We got that fixed earlier this year.  You can see that when it snows here, the sky stays normal, Pacific Northwest gray.  We natives are used to it, but our local university was a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Seattle Depression.

At least once a year, we try to get up to Leavenworth, just on the East side of the Cascades, for their weekend Tree Lighting ceremony.  Now Leavenworth, a “tourist trap” that made itself into Washington’s Bavarian Village, does things up proud in the winter, with all the buildings, and trees downtown, strung with colorful lights.  To get there, you head east on US Highway 2.

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And when you get there…

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Leavenworth Tree Lighting-Before

 

I also have my little camera in my work bag, just to capture unexpected beauty in mundane things.  On my way to work, I drive around the perimeter of Paine Field, the county airport.  Who would have thought that a simple concrete-block wall would look this interesting?

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And when I got to work, it was still snowing.  When I went out for lunch…

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In October of 2013, we drove to Las Vegas and back for a Ricochet meetup.  On the way back, we drove by the Grand Canyon, and Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  It was just gorgeous at Bryce.  Those red-rock features look majestic with their snow caps.

Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon NP
View from Rainbow Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
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“Natural Bridge”, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Mother Nature likes winter, too, and makes such beautiful landscapes for us to see and appreciate.

 

 

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Lens-Artists Challenge #106-Autumn

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  Warm weather does not agree with me, and I prefer the crisp air of autumn to heat and humidity.  Here on the West Coast, we don’t have the hardwood forests found on the East Coast, but we do get some of the fall colors.

We went to Victoria, BC for our honeymoon in October of 2003, and a friend gave us an idea of where to stay.  We booked a room at the Inn at Laurel Point, where we had a wonderful view of the famed Inner Harbour.  We could watch the little harbor-taxi boats plying their way across the water.

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Water taxi, and tall ship. Victoria Inner Harbour

And we were fortunate to be right over the pretty Japanese-style garden.

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Pond and Garden, Inn at Laurel Point

Dusk is a particularly peaceful time of day in this autumn environment.  We had the special treat of watching the float-planes land, right opposite our balcony.  That’s the only route from our Washington State home to Victoria that we haven’t taken yet.

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Harbour Air Plane landing at Sunset, Victoria Inner Harbour

Seattle’s Kenmore Air has regular service to Victoria, and we might just take it someday, if the border opens again.

In the morning, we often take a walk around the neighborhood of the hotel.  Not too far away is the Inner Harbour Marina, where there are all kinds of boats docked.  Some are day-sailers and power boats, and there ere even some houseboats. That wooden boat with the square stern is a houseboat.

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Boats at Marina, Victoria

On our honeymoon, part of our package tour was a trip to the famous Butchart Gardens.  The gorgeous fall colors are at their best, and we try to go there whenever we celebrate our anniversary in Victoria.  The gardens never fail to display their showy colors, and inspired design.

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Valley Garden
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Japanese Garden Path
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Fountain

Literally, beauty wherever you look.

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Walls of Garden

In our own Cascade Mountains, we get some fall colors, even with our preponderance of evergreen trees (not for nothing is Washington called the Evergreen State).  Just over Stevens Pass, in Chelan County, is the Tumwater Canyon, on US Highway 2.  We drive this way many times during the year, because we love to go to Leavenworth on a day trip.  Along the Wenatchee River, if you get there at exactly the right time, you can see the brightly-colored trees reflected in the water.

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Fall Colors on the Wenatchee River, west of Leavenworth, WA

I am happiest when the autumn air is crisp, the leaves on the trees turn yellow and red, and I can be out in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Even right near my home, autumn makes its appearance.  This beautiful red-leafed tree was found in the parking lot of our local Costco store!

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And every year, I notice this line of trees right behind our house, on the property of the Silver Lake Water District.

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Autumn-I can hardly wait until it gets here again.  Simple pleasures, close to home.

 

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Tubers

Tater

NO, not That Kind!

This kind!

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On Saturday, Hubby and I took a drive from our home in Everett, over to the East Side of Lake Washington, and up to the town of Snoqualmie, via Fall City.  In July, the Snoqualmie River there is about three feet deep and pretty slow-moving.  The kids put their inner-tubes in the water upstream, and just leisurely float downstream.  It was a cool, gray day, but they were making the most of it.

It’s pretty hard to believe that, just a short distance upstream, you find this:

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls.

 

 

Tulips, and more Tulips

In a normal year, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival takes place during the entire month of April.  Washington State’s Skagit Valley is the world’s second largest producer of tulips and bulbs, outside of The Netherlands.  There are a couple of large growers who open their fields for the festival; they charge for parking across the street, and tourists are allowed to walk between the rows of flowers, taking pictures and just admiring the beautiful colors of the flowers.  They also sell bulbs, cut flowers, and other festival merchandise (there is a new t-shirt design by a local artist each year, and they get to be collectors’ items).

This year of 2020, the Festival was cancelled, due to the State Shelter-in-Place Order to stop the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus.  And to make doubly sure that no one got in their cars and drove up anyway, the farmers (probably directed by Festival officials) turned off the “Tulip Cams” that show how the fields are doing, so people can see the flowers at their best full bloom.  Double-whammy for all those who look forward to a trip to see the flowers.

Hubby and I go most years, and I try to get new photos each year.  So here are many of the photos I have taken in previous years.  I hope you enjoy them.

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2017

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Tulip Fields near Mount Vernon, WA

The farmers in the Skagit also grow daffodils, and they bloom before the tulips.

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Skagit Daffodils

2019 was an exceptional year for the tulips.

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It’s a crying shame that the state government dictated that the tulip-growers of the Skagit Valley were unable to sell their crop this year.  So unnecessary, and so depressing for those of us who need those brightly-colored flowers to show us that Spring has arrived.  We fervently hope that the growers will be back next year.

 

 

 

 

South Dakota Sights

For all you Ricochet members who are planning to go to the SD Meetup in September, I thought I’d do a little post with some of the photos I took when we visited on our way to Hillsdale Hostel in 2010.  We didn’t visit all the places Randy has found, but we did catch a few.  One place we visited then, that nobody knows about or wants to visit this year, is the Music Museum at the University of South Dakota in the town of Vermilion.  Get out your map, and try to find Vermilion.  You haven’t seen “off the beaten path” until you have been there.

Anyway, here are pictures of some of the places on Randy’s list.

That’s Devil’s Tower National Monument.  We spent half a day there, and walked the entire trail around the base.

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Obviously, Mount Rushmore.  And for you geology buffs, on the back side of Rushmore:

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I was fascinated by the layers of this rock, and their out-of-kilter appearance.  The power of Nature.

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This is only a small taste of the aircraft found at the Air and Space Museum.

Some more flying things at the museum!

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #105-Spring

Spring.  The first sign is the gradually, gradually, lengthening days.  Still awaking in the dark, but driving home from work in daylight.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, Spring is normally pretty rainy (yeah, the  cliche about April showers bringing May flowers that we all know and love).  But we actually love the rain here, because that means Mother Nature waters our yards instead of us doing it.

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Our Japanese Maple trees leaf out, and the grasses are green again.  The rain fills the bird-bath, and sometimes our resident squirrel comes in for a drink.

On my drive to work in the morning, I travel the roads on the perimeter of Paine Field, the Snohomish County Airport.  There are five of these flowering cherry trees, which are actually pretty old.  This year, the flowers were so heavy, the branches were dipping almost to the ground.

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This year, to spite the Government lockdown, I got in the car and drove up to the Skagit Valley in March to take a look at the tulip fields.  It was too early for tulips, but the blueberry vines were just about to start budding.

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Last year, the tulips were in full bloom in April.  It’s a wonder, being able to get out of your car, and walk through the fields of brightly-colored flowers.  Tiptoe through the Tulips, indeed!

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A bit farther west of the tulip fields is the town of LaConner, on the Swinomish Slough.  Salmon swim up the channel, and local sculptors have captured some.

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And Life flows on, within you and without you…  George Harrison

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Lens-Artists Challenge #104-Summer

First, a little musical introduction.

For some reason, this song plays pretty often on my internal tape.

In the summer of 2010, Hubby and I took a three-week vacation, and drove from our home in Washington State to Michigan and back, for a Hillsdale Hostel.  We took the Southern Route to get there, through Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Iowa, to get to Hillsdale. and we took the Northers route home, through Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, northern Montana, and Idaho.

The trip to Hillsdale took us by some very beautiful scenery, and the weather was excellent. Well, most of the time it was excellent.  On the first day of driving, we crossed Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and Montana, and spent the night in Missoula.  The next day, we drove through a corner of Yellowstone National Park.

This formation is called “Devil’s Slide”, for obvious reasons!  Sometimes I wished I had a geologist along to explain how those layers of rock, which start out horizontal, got tilted to be vertical!  We do know that those rocks started out as layers of sand at the bottom of an ancient body of water.  That’s the Yellowstone River just visible in the foreground.

Next, our journey took us through Wyoming.  On another hot day, we visited another “devil”, the Devil’s Tower National Monument.

Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Boy, that Devil sure gets around!  I have always loved that columnar basalt, created when layers of hot volcanic rock cool quickly, into lengths of hexagonal rock.  Washington State has extensive bluffs of that same rock, along the Columbia River.

Next, we drove across South Dakota.  2010 was a pretty wet year, and we saw fields of tall green grass, and cows belly-deep in it.  We stopped at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, which has a number of old warplanes on the field outside.  I captured this pair of house-finches enjoying the sunshine.

When we crossed the Missouri River into Iowa, the weather changed.  Dramatically. We did our best to outrun a big thunderstorm across much of the state.  This picture was taken through the windshield of the car barreling down the highway.  It was pretty spectacular, and the outside temperature was in the 80s.

We made it to DesMoines just in time!

On the last day before we got to Hillsdale, we drove through Indiana, and made a pleasant stop in the town of Elkhart.  Now, some of you might know what Elkhart was famous for many years ago, and that is brass band instruments.  More than one manufacturer of horns was based in Elkhart, and we found a really fun outdoor art exhibit that celebrates that history.

My internal tape was playing 76 Trombones all afternoon!

We had a great time at Hillsdale, taking classes taught by Hillsdale faculty, meeting people from all over the country, and sightseeing around the area.

On our way home, we took the Northern Route.  We knew we were back in Eastern Washington, when we saw this.  That Devil must have been following us all the way!

Dust devil, wheat field in Eastern Washington

In the Good Old Summertime

 

 

Lens-Artists Challenge #103-Surprise

A surprise is something unexpected, exciting, thrilling.

Animals

On our Hillsdale College cruise to Hawaii in 2018, we had a few hours in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We were taking a rest in a pleasant little shopping center, deciding where to go next, when I happened to glance at a tree behind me, and saw the big snail.  I got out my camera to take his picture, when I noticed, on the opposite side of his tree, a little green lizard!  I never would have noticed him if I hadn’t been zooming in on the snail.  And I’m pretty sure neither knew the other was there!

I also got a big kick out of this sign we saw in a coffee shop right by the dock where the cruise ship’s boat let us off.  How many places do you know where kids who misbehave are offered this?

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Mongoose?  Someone at that coffee-shop has a great sense of humor.

 

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Photos

I have not had nearly enough opportunity these days to get outside with my camera.  So I thought I’d go back to the archive and find some of the photos that I’m fondest of.  Here are some.

Potholes Reservoir, Eastern Washington
Potholes Reservoir, Eastern Washington-site of ancient flood

For some reason, this photo of the Potholes Reservoir has been the most popular photo I have ever posted on my blog.  In my stats, list of “views”, this one comes up the most often.  I remember taking this, when I stopped there on my way to the Tri-Cities for a Pacific Northwest Purchasing Conference.  I went by myself, and gave myself enough time for stops whenever I found something picturesque.

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Thirteen Common Bushtits on our Suet Feeder, January 2012

In the “lucky break” category, I was fortunate to capture this one, out my back door during a snowy period, which is fairly rare around here.  Bushtits normally travel in flocks, and they just loved that suet.

Mount Rainier over Puget Sound

I have always loved this one, which captures the natural beauty of Puget Sound.  It was taken from the deck of a Washington State Ferry on our way back from Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula.  I always thought that Mount Rainier looked like it was floating in the sky.

Tranquil bench, Seattle Japanese Garden
Leafy glade with bench, Seattle Japanese Garden

The Seattle Japanese Garden is nearly 100 years old now, and extremely popular all year round.  It is very peaceful, with lots of nice benches where visitors can sit and contemplate the trees and shadows.  So many different shades of green!

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Cliff, with signs of an arch forming. Zion National Park, Utah.

Just spectacular rock formations at Zion National Park.

Cactus-they look like space aliens!
A bunch of different kinds of barrel cactus.

I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Some of the cacti they have there look almost sinister, like they could break formation and attack you.

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Sunset above the clouds

This one speaks for itself.

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I learned recently that Rush Limbaugh’s favorite bird is the pelican, so I immediately sent him this one that I took in 2018 in San Francisco Bay from the deck of the Crystal Symphony cruise ship.  Flying in a perfect “V” formation!

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Boats at Marina, Victoria

Taken at 7AM on a Sunday morning, with the calm water, and the boats at the marina inVictoria, BC, Canada.  No two boats are alike.

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Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, when it was erupting.  We spent an hour off the coast of the Island of Hawaii, watching and listening as the lava flowed into the Pacific.  Real Fire and Brimstone-the power of Nature.

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Walls of Garden

Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  You can lose yourself in there.  We first went there on our honeymoon in 2003, and we try to go back as often as we can.

I think the July 4 Holiday weekend will be a good time to get out and drive around our beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Lens-Artists Challenge #102 – A Quiet Place

In this very noisy world, where you are always surrounded by man-made sounds, it can take a long search to find a really quiet place.  It also depends on how you define “quiet”. Can a quiet place have people in it, or do you have to be alone to have quiet?  Can you be indoors, or must you be outdoors?  As my friend Hank Barr says, the answer to nearly any question is, “It depends”.  It’s my opinion that the reason 20th Century music can be discordant or atonal is due in part to the increasing noise in the man-made environment, including automobiles, machinery, and recordings that can be played at ear-splitting volume.  Horse-drawn wagons and carriages didn’t make much noise, but that big cement truck sure makes a lot of noise!

Back in October of 2012, Hubby and I traveled to the East Coast, and we got to spend part of a day on the beach at Cape May, New Jersey.  Cape May is a big tourist destination, and during the summer months the beaches are crowded with throngs of vacationers taking up every square foot of sand.  In October, however, all the crowds have gone, the streets are empty (you can even find a parking place on the street!), and the beach is empty of swimmers and sunbathers.  We were fortunate to get excellent weather, too, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s.  It felt really weird to have the broad expanse of beach almost entirely to ourselves.

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It was almost eerily quiet, except for the sound of the Atlantic Ocean waves breaking. The constant sound of ocean waves is very calming, and contributes to the sense of quiet.

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Now, the beach wasn’t entirely empty.  We did have some avian company.

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Birds, Cape May, NJ

We enjoyed watching the mixed flock of Skimmers, Terns, and Gulls.

Back from the beach, behind the dunes, is a quiet pond, with swans and ducks swimming. Here’s a trio of Shoveler Ducks, one in a most undignified position.

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Cape May is a very popular vacation destination.  On the East Coast, there is a tradition of people taking vacation lodgings for the summer season, and the town is filled with big houses where dozens of families rent for weeks or the whole summer.  In October, those houses were mostly empty and quiet.

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The street was lined with these big, beautiful houses, which just had to be vacation rentals.  You could imagine the sounds of summer, with children running around and calling to each other, and cars going by.  But at this time, it was almost eerily quiet.

It’s almost hard to believe that this vacation destination could actually ever be this subdued, but with the people gone back to their cities, it’s a nice place to visit for some peace and quiet.  We were very lucky that we went when we did.  A few days later, Superstorm Sandy hit, and this beach wasn’t quite so peaceful or quiet.

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