April Dawn

Early morning is a wonderful time of day. The air is fresh and brisk. Dew is on the grass. The colors in the sky can be dazzling. I seldom experience any of this beauty. I sleep through that magical time of day. Most of the time. If I happen to be up at that hour, it’s usually involuntary, having to get up for some reason, no noisy neighbors this time. Maybe it was a dream which I’ve forgotten that woke me. Usually, I sleep through dawn. If I happen to be up, and circumstances permit, I go back to bed.

This morning I happened to be up just as the sun was rising. I may have been half asleep, but I was awake enough to grab my camera when I saw the sun peeking over the top of the Cascade Mountains. I always keep the blinds to my slider open for that very reason. Sometimes the moon peeks in; sometimes the sun peeks in. I keep my camera handy for just such moments.

The last time I photographed a magnificent sunrise, the day turned drab. Today lived up to the promise of dawn.

This is the scene that caught my eye as I shuffled into the living area.
A few seconds later.
These photos were taken within the space of a minute or so.

I hadn’t put a robe on when I crawled out of bed. I hardly noticed the chill morning air as I concentrated on taking photos, but I had to open the slider to get some decent exposures. It was around 40F (4.4 C) so I didn’t linger very long.

Sometimes you get so busy taking pictures that you don’t even notice what your camera is seeing. I didn’t see the halo effect around the tree until I uploaded my photos.

After I photographed the rising sun, I turned southeast and made a couple of exposures of Rainier.

Our magnificent, eternally snow-covered monarch.

Some people feel closed in by mountains. I feel protected, even though I know this is a volcano that could erupt. Life if full of perils wherever you happen to live. There’s no point in worrying about what may happen in the hundred years. Just enjoy the splendor.

Invitation to Follow My Blog

Cheeky, huh?

You may ask, Why should I?

I reply, Why not? It’s free. And, as in the photo, you may find something fun, interesting, or informative if you follow the trail. A different point of view.

Focusing on just one or two interests has always been a challenge for me. I have too many of them. Reading. Writing, which includes blogging. Knitting. Photography. Art. Architecture. Baking. Cooking. My Latvian heritage. Life in the Great Northwest. The list is too long to include here. That’s why I decided to change the name of my blog. I don’t have that much to say about chocolate, except that I love it. I haven’t tried enough varieties or recipes to make recommendations. Books. I was an English major. I’ve been reading since I was a small kid, so I’ve read many, many books. I have plenty of opinions and prejudices, but I’d rather read books and write books than write about them. though I plan to do that from time to time, too. Life. It’s a broad topic. Overwhelming. A catch all. The new title is, too, but it seems less intimidating.

“Follow My Blog” is an invitation to explore. To see what’s down that path and around the bend. What might pop out of the underbrush of my mind. It seems friendlier.

I took this photo at a local nature center called Snake Lake. I took the picture of this woman because I liked her sweater. The photo suggests mystery.

What’s at Snake Lake? Snakes, of course. A pretty garter snake with blue racing stripes. A golden tree frog. Salamanders. Ducks. Herons. Turtles, which like to sun themselves on logs. Flowers and shrubs–daffodils, bluebells, ocean spray, yellow flag irises. Salal. Oregon grape. Snow berries. Mushrooms. And much more. Things and creatures I haven’t seen yet. No matter the season, it’s a fine place to walk. 

Come walk down the trail of imagination with me.

Autumn is here. The trees haven’t started changing colors yet, but soon will.
The trail leads to three bridges. This is the first one.
The Lake
After crossing the bridge, you come to stairs, which lead to a hillside trail
Nurse log. They’re not just litter. They’re left in place because they decay, they provide nutrition, water, and shade to seedlings, and protect them from pathogens. I think they also make beautiful subjects for photos.

John Donne: National Poetry Month

The Sun Rising
Busy old fool, unruly sun,
               Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
               Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
               Late school boys and sour prentices,
         Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
         Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

               Thy beams, so reverend and strong
               Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
               If her eyes have not blinded thine,
               Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
         Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
         Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

               She's all states, and all princes, I,
               Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
               Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
               In that the world's contracted thus.
         Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
         To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

“Outlander:” Not an Endearment

Outlander. Foreigner. Sassenach

Definition of sassenach (Merriam-Webster)

: a typical Englishman or something considered typical of England —often used disparagingly by Scots and Irish

My second reading of The Outlander, the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s the Outlander series, is far more critical than the first. The first time around I was too caught up in the story to pay attention to errors that I now find irritating. I’m not going to dwell on minor glitches, instead, I’ll focus on the one that bugs me most because it’s the one that shows up most often and strikes too close to home.

It’s clear that Gabaldon has never been a foreigner, not in the real sense. Not as someone who has lived in another country. No doubt she’s been a tourist and she probably traveled to Scotland to do research. On her website, she says that her husband is a foreigner, but gives no details. Is he a “foreigner” from another state than Arizona, their home, or is he a foreigner to the USA? I wonder if she calls him Sassenach? Or perhaps Outlander? But in the Outlander books, Scotsman Jamie Fraser refers to his beloved, English wife, Claire, as Sassenach. Affectionately, of course, almost as if the word meant darling and were not considered a disparaging term.

Having been an actual foreigner and being too often reminded that I am “other” (You have an accent, where is your accent from? Are you English?) I can assure you that “outlander,” “foreigner,” “Sassenach” don’t come across as endearments. Not even in Latvian, my native language, which has many diminutive suffixes, the word Ārzemniecīte would not come across as loving, no matter how gently said or softly whispered in the most intimate of circumstances.

Who needs to be constantly reminded that they’re an outsider, that they do not belong? Imagine yourself in that situation, in this country, or any other you may have emigrated to.

Gabaldon was obviously reaching for something original. Something Scottish and did not give the matter enough thought.

How does this sound to you?

Husband comes home from work and kisses wife. “How are you, Foreigner?”

Wife to husband, “I adore you. Let’s make love, Foreigner.”

Does that seem endearing? Loving? Or does that sound like grounds for divorce, especially after having heard it for the five thousandth time?

National Poetry Month

William Butler Yates (1865 – 1939)

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


John Donne:

National Poetry Month

John Donne is one of my favorite poets. I didn’t like his poetry very much in high school English, but I learned to love his work in my college lit. class. I’ve loved his poetry ever since.
Break of Day

‘Tis true, ‘tis day, what though it be?
O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because ‘tis light?
Did we lie down because ‘twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.

Light hath no tongue, but is all eye;
If it could speak as well as spy,
This were the worst that it could say,
That being well I fain would stay,
And that I loved my heart and honour so,
That I would not from him, that had them, go.

Must business thee from hence remove?
Oh, that’s the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.

Fading Tulip: Portraits

Today I felt as faded as the tulip in my vase.

Creativity can be a real pain. Editing my manuscript was going pretty well, until I discovered that Google Drive saves documents not just to the docs file, but also to the Drive file. Something I’d never known before. I only found out when I was editing my story and came across a sentence that I’d already deleted. What’s going on? Two copies of the same document, one with edits, one without. That wouldn’t have been so bad, if I hadn’t been editing the wrong document. Searching Drive by the title of the document apparently resulted in the wrong document popping up at random. Since I didn’t know about the two copies, I wasn’t paying attention to what it said at the top of the toolbar, which would have told me which copy I was editing. Curses on Google!

That’s why it’s good to have more than one creative outlet. When one fails you, you can turn to the other. When I got fed up with editing, I picked up my camera. Justifiably, or not, I’m sometimes in love with my own photography.

When we take a picture, what we’re photographing is light. Not just the light reflected by the subject, but also the ambient light.
This is the same tulip photographed in a different room with different light. The wall is actually white, but the ambient light comes from electric bulbs, so the camera captures that golden light and turns the wall yellow. If I’d waiting until daytime, my camera would have captured bluish daylight. think this tulip is beautiful even as it fades away. The petals look like silk, a woman’s skirt blowing in the wind.
The artificial light makes the tulip look more golden than it actually is, but I like the way it looks against the wall.
Since I haven’t learned to paint yet, I have to pretend I’m Georgia O’Keeffe with a camera.
By the light of fluorescent lamps seeping in from the kitchen. I tired a flash, but all I got was a white blob.

Windows 10 is also a pain. It stores my stuff in three different places. All too often, I can’t find what I’m looking for and have to go through a bunch of files to find the one I want. I have to admit, I’m not a terribly organized person, so that doesn’t help.

Did I mention Word Press? Yet another pain. Lately it hasn’t been able to fine the preview page, so I have to publish my posts without previewing them.

Despite all the hassles. taking these photos, editing, and posting them, writing the essay have been enjoyable. Mostly.

Latvian Easter Eggs

Resist dyed eggs.

For centuries Latvians have been using natural ingredients to dye Easter eggs. I know it’s late to be posting this, but I only just found this photo and it’s too pretty not to share.

These eggs were dyed using onions, which go in the pot of water the eggs are boiled in. You need a lot of onion skins. Tiny leaves and flowers are dampened and applied to a dampened egg. Then the eggs are wrapped in gauze to hold the leaves in place, boiled till they’re hard and allowed to stay in the dye bath all night to get color depth. Less time in the dye bath means a lighter color.

To get a marbled effect, wet onion skins are crunched and applied directly to a dampened egg and wrapped in gauze. Adding a dash of white vinegar to the dye bath helps the dye adhere to the egg.

Red cabbage results in blue eggs. Beet juice for red eggs.

Latvians aren’t the only ones who dye eggs using natural ingredients. Instructions for achieving different colors, lavender, green, yellow are available online.

National Poetry Month

No kidding, April has been National Poetry Month since 1996, organized by the Academy of American Poets to raise awareness of poetry.

In honor of National Poetry Month and spring, which is almost two months old, I’m sharing one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, e. e. cummings. I’ve loved his work since I was introduced to it in high school.

I think this poem captures the spirit of spring in a unique and delightful way.

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman
whistles far and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
balloonMan whistles


Ghosts & Ghost Towns of Washington

Photos by Robert Ruth (used with permission)

Washington state may be as far west as you can go in the continental United States, but as far as I can tell, most people don’t associate it with the Far West, also known as the Wild West. Probably because when many people think of Washington, they think of urban Seattle. In fact, may people think that Seattle is all there is to Washington. Not true, there is much more to our state than the mostly urbanized west side. However, the Old West can still be encountered in Eastern Washington.

This isn’t a blog dedicated to tourism, but there are some places in my state that I’m particularly fond of and want to write about. It’s been a long time since I visited Okanogan County, but I still have fond memories of it and immediately recognize much of its landscape and many of its buildings in photographs, even though it’s been years since I last saw them.

All these photos were taken in Okanogan County, which is Washington’s largest county and is located in the north central regions of the state. It adjoins the Canadian border.

You can no longer stay at the Nighthawk Hotel, unless you’re a ghost. Nighthawk is supposedly the quintessential ghost town. I love the name. I was there for a Ghost Towns of Washington photography workshop. We were warned that we wouldn’t be welcomed by whatever human presence remained. Nevertheless, I did a bit of wandering around and photographing. Nobody drove me off with a shotgun. I also love this old hotel. It’s just the sort of thing you’d see in a Western movie or TV series.

Before European settlers arrived this area was home to various indigenous peoples. The name of the county derives from the name of an indigenous nation.

Mining, forestry, and fur trade fueled the county’s economy in its early days. Agriculture and tourism dominate the local economy now. Mining towns that have not become ghost towns have become agricultural communities.

There are still plenty of Wild West tourist attractions in Okanogan County. The most famous one is probably the Omak Stampede, also known as the Famous Suicide Race, held in August. During the race horse and riders charge down a steep hill, across the Okanogan River to the rodeo grounds on the other side.

The town of Chesaw had a brief Gold Rush boom. It hosts a Fourth of July rodeo every year. And in the town of Tonasket there is a steam threshing bee in September, where you can see the equipment that was used before the invention of the internal combustion engine.’

You might see a steam engine like this one at the Tonasket Threshing Bee, but probably not the ghost of the old farmer. Robert is good at being a ghost.
This time Robert is the ghostly denizen of the town of Molson. It isn’t just a ghost town. The entire town and several of its buildings, including this one, is a museum. The population, at last count, was only about two dozen, but the place draws several thousand visitors a year to photograph its charming attractions. I loved Molson, too.
When the people moved out, the plants moved in. Is any place where humans once lived ever actually empty, albeit abandoned? Plants live there. Mice and other small animals occupy its nooks and crannies, while bats and birds live under the roof. Hopes, dreams, and memories might also still hover within the walls.
This is a haunting photo of ghostly Joanne Perry Ruth. Her body may be gone, but her spirit lingers. Who is she waiting for? Is she looking into the past? Has she given up hope? They say hope springs eternal, so perhaps she hasn’t given up quite yet.

If I look at these photos often enough and long enough, maybe I’ll come up with a story to go with them. Or maybe the photos and what I’ve already written are story enough. Or visitors to my blog might come up with their own stories.