At Eye Level

I took these pictures of tree bark and lichens during my first walk after being sick in bed for a week.

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I was tired and loopy, and really only capable of seeing things at eye level.

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I took these pictures across the street from a school where all the students were being picked up by their parents. I wonder how many of them looked across the street at the strangely dressed lady with the camera lens three inches from a random tree.

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At least I wasn’t TALKING to the tree this time. I don’t think.

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But I can’t be sure. Everything was still a little fuzzy that day.

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My vision was even a little weird: it was, in fact, an awful lot like the way the macro setting on my camera works. A few things were in sharp, almost too intense focus. Everything else was kind of a blur. It’s kind of amazing that I didn’t get hit by a car when I was crossing the street. Good thing my neighborhood is pretty quiet.

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Moss: My Latest Photographic Fixation

You can walk the same half mile loop every day and always notice something different. Last week’s obsession? Moss. Especially moss in sidewalk cracks, on the curb, on lamp posts at the park.

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Pacific Northwest winters are green, and moss is one of the reasons. In the summer all the moss gets sort of crunchy and brownish, but in the winter it practically glows.

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Moss beautifies the urban landscape. Even cracks in the sidewalk become fascinating.

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The intersecting seams of green form runic shapes.

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Moss has been around for a long time. It’s one of the oldest plants, and one of the toughest. Another plant that gets bad press from the grassy lawn loving crowd, but is loved enough to merit websites and businesses devoted entirely to moss gardens.

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Of course, moss is enjoying a bit more popularity these days thanks to the terrarium trend. I approve. I’ve loved moss since I was a kid: I used to peel up sections of moss to cover boxes and stones and make fairy furniture.

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These days I like it best when it softens the hard edges of the urban landscape, growing on utilitarian structures and giving them a rustic charm.

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And I love the unexpected compositions it creates: I found the beautiful little zen garden in the picture above growing in a hole in the sidewalk smaller than the palm of my hand. It makes me want to bring mossy stones into my tiny garden patch to keep it interesting in the winter. Lucky for me, there’s a nice article from students at Oregon State on establishing moss in the garden. Now I just need to find some good rocks . . .

Green and Gray

Portland continues to sport a mostly green and gray palette this week. The days have been dark, but at least it isn’t very cold. The mossy, muddy park a few blocks from my house continues to beckon, and I go with my camera so I can see in new ways.

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This vine grows in whorls and helices on a fence along the way. I can’t wait to see what sort of vine it is: right now it looks like all the other trees and shrubs–gray bark, green lichens, greener moss.

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These wet days make the moss jewel-bright. I want to wear a skirt that color.

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Over the weekend we had a windstorm, which knocked down a bunch of branches. This one fell onto the park bench. Taking pictures of it, I had to wonder:

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Did someone intentionally choose paint the exact color of those lichens for the benches? Or was it a happy accident?

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that cold wet weather is my favorite walking weather, not only because I don’t have to share the park with as many people, but also because I find the low light and cool air soothing. It clears my head and helps me think. Which makes me think I’ll probably never move away from the Pacific Norwthwest.

More Forest Park

The woods are exciting this time of year: summer heat is still holding strong, but I can see the subtle shifts everywhere. For example:

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And:

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I can’t get enough of those speckled berries. They belong to False Solomon’s Seal, and I am in love with them. The ripe ones are wonderful too, but the spotted not-quite-ripe beauties are like candy or beads or fancy party balloons.

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Maidenhair ferns are another sight I can’t get enough of. I love their unusual, spirally growth pattern. Ferns and moss have always been magical to me.

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Moss, with part of a Maple seed caught in its fuzzy little fronds. Fabulous. I hope you guys like pictures of the woods, because you’ll probably be getting a lot of them in the near future.

Nature Therapy: Pictures from Forest Park

After nearly a year, my new life is settling into a rhythm–one that includes daily walks and daily writing time once again. The two have always been intertwined for me, walking in nature and creating. Slowly, I’m getting back my walking legs–and my creative flow.

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And I’ve met some new friends: I’ve told you about Hemlock, of course, but there’s also the fiery orange blossoms of Jewelweed (above).

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Just last week I came upon these white berries that look, I swear, like mini marshmallows.

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I love moss. This is another mossy thing that looks like some kind of creature from mythology–or maybe outer space. I swear those branches are going to start waving, tentacle style, any second.

woodland magic 6Working for someone else again has been hard to get used to. It’s not more work than I was doing before–but it’s different work, and it’s working with other people, which is challenging for me. I like people, but I’m an introvert, and social interaction saps my energy. Of course I appreciate having a job, and as day jobs go this one is pretty good. And WOW do I love getting a paycheck twice a month. Still, every day by the time I get to the woods I’m tired, and brain fried, and agitated.

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But after 30 minutes or so in the cool shade, the rough spots are smoothed out and I feel more settled and calm. And inspired. I feel incredibly blessed to live in a city that makes publicly accessible green spaces a priority.  Nature therapy to the rescue.