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№ 75 Posts

Inevitability training

Crescent Bay, November 2006

Oof, my scanner is down again. More literal snaps from the archives.

This was taken after a monumental (for us) 16″ snowfall several years ago. Not as much snow down at sea-level, but we are about 350 feet above this and got buried. This was a November just months after I finished building the 5×12 camera and one of the first hikes of significance I took it on. I was fortunate in finally finding a backpack where everything fit very well, with a decent harness for the 40+ lbs. Still, fully outfitted with boots and tripod I’m around 300lbs and tend to settle in the deeper stuff. It’s a 3 mile round-trip down to Crescent Beach and back. But it was a good way to stay warm, as out power was out most of that week.

Shoveling snow is of course another proven method. Earlier, I’d climbed up and shoveled off the roof instead of the driveway to the amusement of wife and neighbor alike. I was worried about 14-16 inches of snow half melting and turning to ice and collapsing the 4/12 pitch roof. Not much point in clearing the driveway as we wouldn’t start to see snow plows for a few days yet.

Yet another method to keep warm is sawing firewood from rock maple and oak woodscraps with a thin dozuki saw. As it was mostly too cold to sleep, I’d get up at 4 AM some mornings and dig out the firepit and build a fire with whatever scraps I could spare. I’m glad the camera was finished at that point or I might have been tempted to burn it.

All good prep for the upcoming… winter. I am attempting some preliminary leanness in good faith, but am irrevocably soft in spots. Which tends to take the poetry out of such withered optimism.

There’s always one that doesn’t want to go home

Lake Crescent, August 2008

I wonder how many pets get inadvertently left here on the peninsula after family vacations. Everyone seems to have a story, if not one strictly from here. I remember our ancient Scottish Terrier ‘Slash’ falling out of a moving van in the hills of Tennessee when I was young. We recovered him- although whether lucky or not wasn’t immediately apparent- the dog was a terror and promptly bit my dad. My wife’s and my newest dog Emily was a Clallam County Humane Society rescue, after being found wandering by the side of the highway in Sequim.

Our recent trip to Idaho and eastern WA involved two lost dogs- one was just a pickup slowing to ask if we had lost the dog they’d seen back down the highway. The other involved a friend’s border collie that disappeared in the Quincy Lakes Coulees. Blaze, a charge of our friends, was also a CCHS rescue, a sweet dog, if utterly inbred and nuts. The long trip in the back of our friend’s pickup with 2 other wound up dogs and a horse trailer clanging behind was enough to send him yipping off into the void when she arrived late that night to the campsite and dropped the tailgate. The unspoken assessment was that coyotes probably got him the first night, but I actually found the dog hiding in a draw by Dusty Lake two days later. Sadly, only a brief reprieve- Blaze ran off again a couple days ago on a horse ride in the lower Elwha area.

Anyway, all this reminded me of when I turned off 101 around Lake Crescent to take this shot last month. A camper across the street with a family I thought had stopped to enjoy the dramatic view was instead looking for a dog. The father trying to gather up the family, saying ‘There’s always one that doesn’t want to go home. Cmon let’s go.’

‘Die in a Happy City’

Ediz Hook, Spetember 2008

Walking the spit of Ediz, there is the sense of fringe decay, atrophy at the unattended frontier. There is a sense of depopulation, as if through plague or economic collapse. Looking back to the mainland, Port Angeles also slumps at the base of the Olympics like so much uncontested Brink. Only the grandeur of Miocene tumult saves the town from it’s true scale, and its own teetering references.

Camus comes to mind:
The town itself, let us admit, is ugly. *

Granted, I have a certain animosity towards the town, and vaguely towards the country beyond it. Its social conservatism, lack of culture, willing absorption into the harvesting combine of Walmart, Costco, and the big box socio-economic model make me feel a bitterness that is ultimately powerless against the futility of such a place, and such an era. I wonder about the level of inertia needed to introduce change into this place, and others like it. No one mentions sacrifice anymore. Am I prepared to sacrifice? Prepared, no. But willing…? I wonder.

To entertain thoughts of economic collapse and other such irrevocable devastation seems unpatriotic, anarchistic and probably even criminal to some. I can’t help it. The need for the populace to succumb to the first reassurances from candidates has so far outlined our doom, even if it’s a contented one. Maybe the violent cycles of regeneration found in nature are a good model to follow, something that will ‘Rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.’*

*Albert Camus The Plague

Twinnings

Rialto, September 2008

I spent the week in Eastern Washington, the Quincy Lakes region, and western Idaho. It was a marathon huff & scramble among the coulees and antelope brush and I immediately missed the icy afternoon fogs of the coast. My brain surrendered memory and actual tissue to the relentless sun and cloudless sky.

We left Idaho early yesterday morning, thinking we’d have a leisurely drive back, stopping in the Palouse and Washtucna Coulee to frolic. But as soon as the sun was out…well. We hung shirts on the rolled up windows and made a nine-hour tunnel of the drive home. Uncle.

To celebrate arriving home I scanned and fiddled with this image, because I’d been thinking about it off and on throughout the trip. Ironically, the treeline and spires remind me of the columnar basalt walls of the canyons in Quincy. Something of a twin in structure and loom, if a bit friendlier to the hiker with 50 pounds of gear. I’ll develop the actual trip negatives when my brain cools a bit.

‘Drifting White Race’

Rialto, September 2008

There must be ten ways to spell Quileute. The tribe seems to prefer the preceding, but the river is spelled Quillayute, and Edward S Curtis spelled it Quilliute, despite mentioning a historic spelling of Qiliyut. The first contact of the tribe with white men was with Spanish or French traders who washed in on boats. The tribe named them for their lack of land, color.. and perhaps resolve. Drifting White Race. With the staggeringly hysterical vitriol of the latest election race, I tend to agree. But I enjoy trips out here in ways that an atrophying and doughy white culture; cyclic history, exclusionary politics, unfathomable incompetence and hypocrisy can not invade. Ok, maybe just a little.

But where was I.. It’s thought that the present name of the town La Push came from the French la bouche, or mouth- perhaps in reference to the mouth of the Quillayute River.

More from Curtis:
“The Quilliute have fought with almost every salt-water tribe between the Columbia River and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but mostly with the Ozette Makah. The affairs were more often defensive on the part of the Quilliute: the usual method of attack was to lie in ambush in the woods and cut off the unwary, killing men and carrying off women and children, and are known in memories of men born as late as 1863.
“In death the body was wrapped in skins and pushed headlong into a hollow log and arranged so that it lay on its back with the head towards the east. “

-Edward S Curtis, from The North American Indian

A ghost of music

Creekbed, Kalaloch, March 2008

I wanted to capture the sounds of pouring rain, the ocean breaking and the alders mingling. I sought out a composition simply to be able to spend some time in this wonderful sound resonating up the creek bed. I respond to sound much as to light, and there are as many perfect sounds here as there are tones of light, and the scale of each describes the infinite.

Sound can be an achingly elusive thing to capture on film. It sounds odd, of course, but some images come so complete within their moment that the natural progression of appreciation gathers sounds, smell and memory in weightless ascension, almost like falling upward through an experience, finally bumping your head on epiphany. The heartbreak is that photography’s a visual medium, and there’s no hitting anyone over the head with it outright, and subtlety is usually an entirely conscripted event. So the sounds of rain look like a pale alder, and the music of the breeze looks like a ghosted branch, and the rest of the forest can be a tuning fork for all resonant concerns of tide and season.

Meanwhile, an interlude of literal snap(s)

Crescent Bay, November 2006

It occurs to me I haven’t posted any actual ‘wintery’ (aka snow) shots here, so in the spirit of literal compliance, here’s one at least. I’ll post some more if I can ever find them.

My scanner is down, so I’ve been raking the archives. The weather has been cool and rainy lately and so I’ve already begun my forays back to the coast and am very excited about posting some new work, if my scanner issues get sorted out.

The coast of winter

Ruby Beach, April 2008

“And God prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah…

If you get the chance, see Orson Welles deliver Mapple’s sermon in Moby Dick. I don’t know why this slightly dazed picture reminds me of the parable, except of course for a dazed Jonah ‘vomited out on dry land, ears like two seashells, still multitudinously murmuring of the ocean‘. The eyes of the rock almost like a vicarious warning before falling back to the sea. It has a hum of a rung bell, a periphery of destination where familiar icons do not reign.

I guess I am here to see the ocean at it’s most ceaseless, the sum of all apportioned time amid such perdurable fantasy of symbol and motif, and the actual leviathan of the cosmos in weight and liquid and light, and to see the infinite reach exactly this far now, if never beyond.

‘Oh Father, mortal or immortal, here I die. I have driven to be thine, more than to be this world’s or mine own, yet this is nothing I leave eternity to Thee. For what is man that he should live out the lifetime of his God?

-Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Devolution

Ediz Bay, December 2007

The infrastructure is regressing around here. Dams are scheduled for disassembly, the lower Elwha Bridge has been demolished, and this pier is no more. It would be refreshing, but the genetic drift of commercial structures is never what it seems, and I can’t be sure that this pier didn’t just disintegrate in a storm. And there may be something in the works to take it’s place.

Recessions are always interesting in a small town. I’m an early casualty, getting terminated as residential and smaller commercial construction takes the first wave. Large projects on the state or federal level fare somewhat better. But it’s a little irritating to see a guard rail project begun for the length of 101 in this economy. We must be protected from blackberry thickets, soft shoulders, ourselves. Our drunken driving and falling asleep at the wheel. The contractor appears to be from out of state.

Blessings, though. I get to work on my stuff, which is nice. I’ve never drawn unemployment before, so it’s been an learning experience. I’ve paid into it for around thirty years, and I have 8 months’ worth if I need it. It’s odd to reduce 28 years of full-time toil into an eight month stipend. All the injury, swollen knuckles and collateral damage that comes with learning how to deliver newspapers, stock shelves, bag groceries, wash dishes and make Béchamel, pour a perfect B-52, toss a drunk out on his ass, stick frame a Dutch gable roof or cut crown molding…I feel the indignation simmering, but the fact is I’m nothing special.

Monday I went to unemployment class, got a refresher course in bureaucratic comedy and personal uncertainty. The instructor was nice but had developed a dark almost desperate sense of humor. She joked as she showed us how to make a resume on the overhead projector. Everyone was distracted. Some seemed almost peripherally appalled at the levity, but few had the confidence to be offended outright.

Thinking about starting over at my age is chilling. I’m only 41, but the thought of building pole barns piece rate in Quilcene isn’t appealing. I used to love building, building anything, but the thought of getting up at 4 am some anonymous February morning to drive around the Olympics so I can run along icy purlins by 7 am…Build a barn in 3 days or be consigned to minimum wage… Gee, my mind almost sound made up! Think I’d rather go back to kindergarten and just start over.

Naming conventions

Bridge over the Clallam River, October 2007

This is a sort of bridge to nowhere shot, though I wouldn’t dream of giving it so precious a name. It’s bad enough admitting that’s what I saw and felt at the time.

Visiting Clallam Bay is a mixed bag. It’s a profoundly depressed area with all the usual afflictions- meth labs, no industry and packs of feral cats roaming vacant lots. A maximum security prison sits atop the hill and surveys the Strait and Seiku headland like Elsinore. The only grocery store closed several years ago. But the local bar has three pool tables and there is an interesting new gallery down the street.

I sometimes feel like I should give these important social elements consideration, but political notions make me flounder horribly in thoughts of exploitation, intrusion and general brinkmanship.

The construction outfit I used to work for did the repairs to the bridge after a particularly hard winter, and also repairs to the prison roof. After work I would often come down to sit a spell before the drive home. Some autumn afternoons the fog, light and icy breezes mix for wonderfully ethereal lapses into nowhere.