Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter's Last Moon

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I figured the "spring forward" time change would rattle most people, so I expected to be the first one at the gate at 7 o'clock this morning. Wrong! I had to pull in behind three other waiting cars, and four more followed close behind before the ranger opened the gate about three minutes past the hour. For years I was the only galoot crazy enough to be there that early, but crazy people have become a dime a dozen. 

As I followed a car up Pantoll Road we entered a dark canopy of trees. My headlights caught a strange movement like dry ice swirling inches above the surface of the road. It was wispy waves of tree pollen. 

For the first image of the day I hung out awhile as the sun came up. Eventually it rose far enough to balance the light in the sky so the moon wouldn't show up as a featureless white orb. I still miss the more picturesque, gnarled old top of that Douglas fir. Before a storm damaged its top (in December 2015) it used to have kind of a Japanese bonsai look to it. Now it's just kind of an old flat-top, growing up slowly.

I was scoping out the Serpentine Power Point area for wildflowers (not much there yet) when I found this interesting, very pointy oak leaf. Its skeleton is so tough, the old leaf was practically a stone.

Speaking of which, there are always interesting stones to be found in serpentine areas.

I kept putting the macro lens away, only to have to pull it back out a few moments later. I finally just left it on and didn't take it off again the rest of the morning.

These rocks in the serpentine area are not only soapy-smooth to the touch, some of them are laced with the most intricate veins of color.

I was drawn to this patch of lichen because its shape was a very nice circle, as if it had spread out evenly from its central starting point.

After checking out the serpentine I poked around in the forest a little bit.

I read somewhere that the bulbs of calypso orchids are edible. One web site says they are "edible, raw or cooked, and have a rich, butter-like quality." I tried one raw, and "buttery" was not the first adjective to strike my fancy. The thing is, you feel pretty guilty harvesting any of these little nuggets, and since they aren't exactly yummy, I do not plan to try it again anytime soon. 

Pure diva.

I found a nice spot on the edge of a very small meadow where I could sit on soft grass and lean my back against a fairly smooth rock. The scent of Lomatium, an interesting combination of fresh and slightly acrid, was still in my nose, or at least in my memory, since I'd just been handling some as I viewed its flowers under a hand lens. A pileated woodpecker called out a few times from a tall dead tree close by and a northern flicker drilled a couple of staccato bongo flourishes into another snag nearby. Acorn woodpeckers laughed from a nearby granary tree, and a few band-tailed pigeons shifted nervously in some high tree out of my sight. 

From my pleasant seat I got to ruminating about how macro and landscape photography bring you to opposite ends of your experience of nature. If the greater landscape can take your mind out past the moon to the ends of the universe, the macro landscape can take you to its beginnings, to a point so small that we cannot even make a picture of it in our minds. And yet from that zero-point onwards, matter and antimatter managed to keep from annihilating each other, stars formed and exploded with enough energy to create all the elements that would eventually come together to form the planets, including our own blue-green Earth. A big bang, and then: the initial conditions that led to planets, birds, wildflowers, people.

I watched the tops of some nearby Doug fir trees dance in the wind with a blue sky for a backdrop and thought I had been wasting my life right up until that moment. What better occupation could I ever have than to be right there in that blissful moment? A shaft of sunlight cut through the forest and lit up a shooting star that I hadn't noticed before. So much for my blissful repose! Nature just keeps calling.

As I walked back to my car beneath a canopy of madrones and a very big old Doug fir, the ground was singing with milk maids. Once again, I couldn't resist.

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