Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Return of Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeters Near Blanchard, Wa ©Paul Anderson

In the Pacific Northwest we have our share of rainy, dank days.  At times, the grayness of the low skies, and the muted dark green of the Douglas Firs, Red Cedars and Hemlocks can feel oppressive, but then, depending on my mood, the weather can also comfort, by wrapping itself around me like a tired, old, sleeping bag. 
No, this weather doesn’t make me feel warm like that old bag. After years of living in this climate, I am ingrained with the sense, the feeling of familiarity, of the commonplace.  The weather reminds me that this is my landscape, my environment, and my home. I am grounded in this sense of place.
As a creature of habit, I take comfort in the rhythms of life.  The start of my children’s sports seasons, the ski season, our annual four day weekend at Ross Lake Resort.  Fall blueberries in the high Cascades, winter hikes in our Chuckanuts.
I need the return of salmon, a fresh cup of coffee, a good book,  the snow goose migration.

Snow Geese Skagit Flats ©Paul Anderson

The return of trumpeter swans.

I try and embrace the customs and traditions of the holidays and the iconic events of the religious year.  

Holidays ©Paul Anderson

I anticipate the ebb and flow of nature. 
I am reassured by the change of seasons.
As a photographer, I look for shapes and forms, the composition of the landscape. I see patterns and texture in a Mesquite Flats sand dune, and it reminds me of the patterns and texture on a 60 foot high “dune” of wheat waiting for shipment from our granary, the Palouse. 

Death Valley ©Paul Anderson

The Palouse, Son on Wheat ©Paul Anderson

I associate feelings and emotions with specific images, mental and photographic.

I associate images, mental and photographic, with specific feelings and emotions. 
But I don’t consciously understand the what, when, where, or why of how this process begins, nor how it evolves.
I remember sitting in my grandfather’s old rocking chair, my arms protectingly wrapped around my young son.  He is restless and trying to fall asleep on my chest. I feel his soft, warm breath swirling against my neck. 
As I slowly rock back and forth, I remember Toroweap.  
It is late October and chilly on the north rim, within days a snowstorm will close parts of it for the winter. I step out of my tent and sit at the edge, bare feet dangling high above the river, a sleeping bag draped over my shoulders.
In a dry waterpocket, on a ledge of Coconino Sandstone, a small pot of cider reaches a boil, wisps of steam drift past and I breathe in deeply the scent of apple and cinnamon.
From downstream, I sense the pulse, hear the hushed roar of Lava Falls.
To the east, faint stars appear. To the southwest, beyond the Vulcan’s Throne, a thin band of magenta stretches low across the horizon.  
Above, and across the inner canyon , insular clouds, trailing pale, faint, translucent strands of virga, fail in their attempts to quench the thirst of the juniper forest spattered across the Coconino Plateau.
Below, where the basement rocks of the North American continent lay exposed, 1.8 billion years old Vishnu Schists, warmed earlier by the sun, radiate heat, generating  uplift. 
Cooler, heavier air descends to the river.  The displaced warm air rises slowly three thousand vertical feet to where I sit. 
The air swirls, tumbles over, around, gently warming me.
Night ascends from the canyon.
And we sleep.

Toroweap ©Paul Anderson

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