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№ 75 Posts

Tiny industry

Lake Crescent,  November 2008

Another from the same day, further along the trail. The trail is the Spruce Railroad trail, which connects Fairholm and the Discovery Trail along the northwest shore of Lake Crescent. All the abundant spruce was meant to be harvested for airplanes during WWI, but the railroad wasn’t completed until 1919, hindering it’s usefulness somewhat, and not a single log was ever run for the war effort.

Hard to imagine the scope of the project now. The ‘Milwaukee Road’ grade is now little more than a well worn foot path around such dramatic but very, very small tableaux; tiny coves, stunted trees and corkscrew trails, giving the illusion of a 1/4 scale enterprise, perhaps attended by Lilliputians and Rube Goldberg contraptions that run on steam and wishful thinking.

‘Your face is crap without shadows..’

Lake Crescent, November 2008

Only some short forays to the Lake so far this fall, for the spectacle of the big leaf maples, the mosses and the damp perpetual twilight of the Lake’s boundaries. I have a special hat for this trail; the rain under the canopy like a chronic condition, dripping well past sun and blue skies, grandfathered in somehow.

There is a density here like a warble in the manner of things, a buckle in the casualness of the moment, something that is difficult to portray except through failures; harsh light, flare and overbearing shadows. It somehow reminds me of misremembered conversations deep in drink late and early hours, fringed in numb poetry and practical impossibility, with people I once thought I would always know.

Useless gestures under a canopy of blue

Ediz Hook, October 2008

I feel my brain is still lagging behind my intent, so tired I be, but I did want to keep posting. Not sure if this is wise… I think I must be loosing some basic strings, because I’m feeling dumber than normal- I wonder if all the work and exercise is ratcheting up the testosterone or something and it’s blocking crucial beta waves. It’s fun to be manly, but it’s a hollow thrill, and the crash is predictable.
What’s happened?

There’s a man going around taking names

Ruby, September 2008

I’m finally back to work and listening to Johnny Cash again. I don’t know, the two seem inseparable, a kindred toil and * you for asking.  Whiskey will be along directly. I need a tee shirt with the image of Cash giving the bird, just letting it fly,  like he started uncoiling the gesture at birth. Oddly, the gesture has always seemed more confiding than confrontational, more welcoming than exclusionary.

It is really, really kicking my ass this time around. Work that is, not the Man in Black. There are two of us, both 40+, framing a 3000 sq ft house. I’ve lost 20  lbs in 2 weeks and I wasn’t fat to begin with. But it is truly a relief to be back to work. Sleep comes under a new gospel, a weightless deep grave that tips the elements and upends the cosmos. Life is simpler when you’re exhausted, and it’s all too easy to see salvation in the rafters.

Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.

It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks
In measured hundred weight and penny pound
When the Man comes around.

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


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.