A Story

Me probing the muddy bottom of the lake of time.

Strange Falling Out Among Relatives

The rumor sifted up out of the layers that settle on the muddy bottom of the lake of time. In the 1940s, two families, the Brightwells and the Touchstones lived across a vivid lake from each other, each with seven children. The oldest two, Autumn Apple–she was a Brightwell–and Cougar Blue, a Touchstone, married.

But apparently there were a few other connubial pairings going on in the many secret love bowers afforded by the almost grotesquely lush vegetation surrounding the sparkling green eye of the lake.

Great Grandma Brightwell let it slip before she died that the family of Autumn Apple and Cougar Blue had a double cousin, a child born of two younger siblings, Unholy Annie and Bear in the Air (so called because he was very light on his feet), a child born in secret, given away and forgotten.

Why fifty years later did this rumor or remembrance bubble to the surface like gasses released from organic matter decomposing at the bottom of the lake?

Or was it a collective dream they were all slowly swimming through like green bottle glass? Because with strange inevitability, the adopted child, Angelica, now in her late fifties, began her search for her roots and found the Brightwells to glad cries of reunion and jubilation by her newfound cousins.

The Touchstones grew angry at the accusations that Bear in the Air might be the father of this sudden stranger in their midst. “You are slandering the good name of our brother, father, grandfather!” Dragging his name through the mud.

However, these are modern times, and the DNA test proved negative for Bear in the Air’s possible paternity. It was Angelica’s mom’s husband all along.

Yet that wasn’t the point to the Touchstones, and that side of the combined family withdrew without discussion or confrontation. The outward silence was inwardly fueled by gossip until the imagined slight achieved the status of epic insult.

This peculiar boulder lodged in the streambed of the once freeflowing river of the Brightwells and Touchstones, the extended two family family.

It was twenty-four months before the four Brightwell sisters found out about the silence they had suspected but only recently confirmed.

One night, they began to text each other, brainstorming a solution. A letter of apology? A phone call? The texts flew back and forth until they had woven a kind of counter-dream that floated above them all, misted out over the lake, the mountains and over the Touchstones, too.

That night, each Brightwell sister dreamed of speaking to a Touchstone uncle. In the dreams, barriers fell; the old camaraderie returned.

In every dream, the dreamers walked by that shimmering lake, and the overgrown leaves and branches reached out to brush their backs, their shoulders, to tangle briefly in their hair.

They passed through the old love bowers and finally came to the shore. They stood together on the wooden dock, looking out across green water.

It was so deep and so still.

 

Rainy Day in July

Morning Glory on a rainy July afternoon.
Morning Glory on a rainy July afternoon.

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.

–Roger Miller

I went on a Gratitude Walk yesterday on what was supposed to be a cloudy day, but the last mile and a half, I got thoroughly rained on.  This videoito is my thankfulness visual journal entry for A Rainy Day in July.

Lavender Festival

On Gratitude Walks

Sometimes it is just super important to hear other people validate that what I am doing is a process that others value, too.

I loved hearing my instructor, Laura Valenti, talking about the spiritual value of a Gratitude Walk. I realize I was raised doing these daily walks with my photographer father and family. I have continued the family tradition into making these little videoitos of my walks 2-3 times a month probably.

Sometimes I have gotten discouraged because I think, “Oh, there is no story, no action,” but then on the next great walk, I can’t resist making another one. They are like daily journals. I post them on Facebook, on my Tumblr, and on my Mind on Fire blog. I might get a few comments, but then they just wash under the bridge in the great River of Time.

I love having this new name, “Gratitude Walks,” for them.

I’m excited to get out and see the world all over again!

McKenzie Lavender Festival

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram; The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun, and with him rise weeping.

–William Shakespeare

Petre and I joined our friends, Paul Hawkwood and his wife, up the McKenzie River for the Lavender Festival. Festival events were happening up and down the river, but we homed in on the McKenzie River Lavender Farm. The fields were in full bloom and real camera candy. The smell had everyone in a state of happily suspended animation.

It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white kerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away.

–Myrtle Reed
I made a Gratitude video. Peter didn’t think the flashy lights “look” of it was the best approach, but, as always, I am experimenting, trying out new approaches.

Forgiveness is the smell that lavender gives out when you tread on it…

–Mark Twain

The Beautyway

Sandy sitting on the steps of an old cabin in Utah
A day doesn’t go by but I sit on the stoop of my hacienda and contemplate the many visual gifts of those who have either gone before me or who walk The Beautyway path of photography and art with me.

As an assignment in Laura Valenti’s class “Meditations on Gratitude,” we were asked to find some way to celebrate or honor our visual mentors–those who have inspired and informed our own efforts at photography.

I know Laura said we didn’t have to go all-out, but too late! All of yesterday got swallowed up (creatively, just the way I like to get swept away by a challenge) as well as a couple hours this morning. I easily have eight hours in this little four minute video–there was just so much to think about, process, and, of course, my original file was 10-15 minutes, so the agonizing editing!

I originally included my husband and my artist sister, but then I started to think about large family politics and reluctantly deleted them. Same with Galen Rowell and Art Wolfe and Ansel Adams and Andrew Wyeth–too many white guys, thanks to my father’s influence and generation. Paul Klee, Kandinsky, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya…the list goes on thanks to a lifetime self-education in the arts…and the historical lack of women.

However, many years ago, there was a three-nation traveling exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr, and Frida Kahlo, and that single day in the museum shaped my thinking and my vision for the decades to come. I have studied all three intensively and journeyed to the wellsprings of their visual inspiration to find my own.

More recently, thanks to an inspirational video Laura posted, I am being inspired by Jay Maisel not to do something I’m not already doing, but to do it more intentionally.

Jay Maisel was asked what two words would make a person a better photographer, and he said, “Be open. Be open to what is happening around you…”

This is my third class with Laura, and her visual aesthetic never ceases to astonish me because it is so different from my own; yet, it is beautiful and evocative, so I have opened my visual range to include images with that unique “Valenti effect.”

I am grateful to all the great artists, including the ones right here in my own home, who have informed and continue to educate my eye to what is most beautiful in this world.

 

Who are YOUR visual mentors?

Chick Din!

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”

And the origen of that infelicitous phrase? The online Urban Dictionary says, “The legend tells that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner with a potato and a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2, hence when you won a bet you had enough for a chicken dinner.”

That said, today’s little huzzah! Is my first place win in the video contest sponsored by Discover Your Forests.org/U.S. National Forest Service celebrating the 25th anniversary of Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Prizes? Well, to me the big prize is having my video posted on the Forest Service website as happened when I won a similar call for videos at Denali National Park, but I got some cool swag, too:

  • $30. Gift certificate to the East Lake Resort Restaurant
  • $75. Gift certificate for boating on East Lake
  • 4 (one in each season) ranger guided hikes (isn’t that a cool prize?)
  • An owl pin
  • A decal
  • A framed Newberry NVM poster, hence the goofy picture
Sandy Brown Jensen accepting award
Peter Jensen went with me to the Film Festival and big awards ceremony in beautiful downtown La Pine, Oregon and was on hand to commemorate the moment with his camera.

Why was this fun? There’s something satisfying about completing a creative cycle. The second I saw the ad for the video competition, it isn’t that I wanted to win but that I wanted to do the project. I love Newberry National Volcanic Monument and have been going there since Peter first introduced me to it in the early 1990s. It’s beautiful. It’s intellectually intriguing. There are lots of fun things to do and see there.

Paulina Lake
We have been visiting Newberry since the early 1990s as evidenced by this photo of Mom, now ninety, and Peter on Paulina Lake in a sunset–we sat out there and drank a bottle of champagne and watched the sun go down. This was a FILM photo that was in a photo album that I just clicked on my cell phone
Bear at NNVM
While I was in the old photo album, I found this shot of a bear we saw in the campground on that trip with Mom back in “the day.”

 

A video contest just gave a focus to all the photography I had been doing around the park already.

Yes, it’s fun to win, but the joy is in the creating.

I made two videos for the competition–one is narrated; the other tells a story, which is why, I was told, it was selected over, honestly, a much better photographer.

Peter and I drove over to La Pine, about two hours away, where we found a rodeo, carnival, apple pie baking contest and Quilt Show all enlivening this otherwise sleepy little backwater, which nevertheless is at the gateway to Newberry. People wandered in out of the heat for our little film festival, so there was someone to applaud.

The sign of a successful poetry reading, Peter says, is there are more people in the audience than poets on the stage–so again, huzzah!

 

 

 

 

 

What I Saw Today

What an outrageously perfect early summer day!We left the Chetco River Inn and drove up to Prairie Lookout where we could see over to burned over Vulcan Peak and Biscuit Fire area of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

This particular video really is like a visual journal. I see I repeated myself once or twice, but just as I don’t polish my journal entries unless I’m going to turn them into something I want to publish, these videos put together on my lap on my iPad Pro in the evening or morning after the adventure have to stand as a way of informally speaking to my world about what I see that is beautiful or important to me in that moment.

Because the moment rushes by, and eventually the video is all the memory I really have left of a unique time spent with friends one summer afternoon way back in June of 2016.

 

Peter Poet in Packer's Field on the road to Prairie Lookout high over the Chetco River.
Peter Poet in Packer’s Field on the road to Prairie Lookout high over the Chetco River.
The bright flash of wild columbine is always welcome. Notice that this one has no yellow or white, which many do. In the Rockies, blue columbine grown in the alpine area.
The bright flash of wild columbine is always welcome. Notice that this one has no yellow or white, which many do. In the Rockies, blue columbine grown in the alpine area.
We found the Fire Monster at Packer's Cabin on the Prairie Lookout Road. He is the most obvious candidate for having drawn down that first lightning strike!
We found the Fire Monster at Packer’s Cabin on the Prairie Lookout Road. He is the most obvious candidate for having drawn down that first lightning strike! 

(NOTE: In mid-June 2016, my husband Peter and I along with an artist friend, Charlie Johnston, spent a week at the Chetco River Inn. It is about twenty miles up the Chetco River outside Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories.

This is the last in the series of five.)

Flowering

 

Charles Johnston, Peter and I went flower hunting in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, up on Vulcan Peak which got scoured by the Biscuit Burn in 2002. Started by a lightning strike, it fried 500,000 acres. The new understory in this area is the Siskiyou Azalea. From the top of the ridge the most intoxicating perfume wafts up from under the snags, which once reeked of ash and char. Cobra Lilies grow in the serpentine seeps along with the Siskiyou Indian Paintbrush as an adapted companion plant. And harebells, pipsissewa, and tiger lilies oh my!

Ten years later, and this place still looks like a bomb went off here. But its a great place to look for wildflowers!
Ten years later, and this place still looks like a bomb went off here. But its a great place to look for wildflowers!
foxglove
Foxglove are such a ubiquitously beautiful feature of the Pacific Northwest landscape that sometimes it’s hard to remember that they are immigrants from Turkey, escaped from domestic gardens.

(NOTE: In mid-June 2016, my husband Peter and I along with an artist friend, Charlie Johnston, spent a week at the Chetco River Inn. It is about twenty miles up the Chetco River outside Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories. This is the fourth in the series of five videos.)

Green Pools

 

Who can resist the allure of deep green river pools moving under the shade of the big oaks in early summer? Not I!

In mid-June 2016, my husband Peter and I along with an artist friend, Charlie Johnston, spent a week at the Chetco River Inn. It is about twenty miles up the Chetco River outside Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories.

The third in this series of five was filmed on a day warm enough for me to get out my GoPro and get some underwater shots.

It’s just as magically green underwater as it is above. The whole time I’m under there, the words of Lorca’s famous poem are running through my head:

Romance Sonambulo (Sleepwalker’s Song)

Federico García Lorca, 18981936

Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain. 
With the shade around her waist 
she dreams on her balcony, 
green flesh, her hair green, 
with eyes of cold silver. 
Green, how I want you green. 
Under the gypsy moon, 
all things are watching her 
and she cannot see them.

Green, how I want you green. 
Big hoarfrost stars 
come with the fish of shadow 
that opens the road of dawn. 
The fig tree rubs its wind 
with the sandpaper of its branches, 
and the forest, cunning cat, 
bristles its brittle fibers. 
But who will come? And from where? 
She is still on her balcony 
green flesh, her hair green, 
dreaming in the bitter sea.

—My friend, I want to trade 
my horse for her house, 
my saddle for her mirror, 
my knife for her blanket. 
My friend, I come bleeding 
from the gates of Cabra.
—If it were possible, my boy, 
I’d help you fix that trade. 
But now I am not I, 
nor is my house now my house.
—My friend, I want to die
decently in my bed. 
Of iron, if that’s possible, 
with blankets of fine chambray. 
Don’t you see the wound I have 
from my chest up to my throat?
—Your white shirt has grown 
thirsty dark brown roses. 
Your blood oozes and flees a
round the corners of your sash. 
But now I am not I, 
nor is my house now my house.
—Let me climb up, at least, 
up to the high balconies; 
Let me climb up! Let me, 
up to the green balconies. 
Railings of the moon 
through which the water rumbles.

Now the two friends climb up, 
up to the high balconies.
Leaving a trail of blood. 
Leaving a trail of teardrops. 
Tin bell vines
were trembling on the roofs.
A thousand crystal tambourines 
struck at the dawn light.

Green, how I want you green, 
green wind, green branches. 
The two friends climbed up. 
The stiff wind left 
in their mouths, a strange taste 
of bile, of mint, and of basil 
My friend, where is she—tell me—
where is your bitter girl?
How many times she waited for you! 
How many times would she wait for you, 
cool face, black hair, 
on this green balcony! 
Over the mouth of the cistern
the gypsy girl was swinging, 
green flesh, her hair green, 
with eyes of cold silver. 
An icicle of moon
holds her up above the water. 
The night became intimate 
like a little plaza.
Drunken “Guardias Civiles”
were pounding on the door. 
Green, how I want you green. 
Green wind. Green branches. 
The ship out on the sea. 
And the horse on the mountain.

Green pools of the Chetco River
“Green, green, I want you green…”

 

 

In Praise of Rocks

 

In mid-June 2016, my husband Peter and I along with an artist friend, Charlie Johnston, spent a week at the Chetco River Inn. It is about twenty miles up the Chetco River outside Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories.

The second in this series of five is a morning’s amazement at the beauty of the gravel bar down on the river not far from our Stone House cottage retreat.

This is an overview of the Chetco River bar where I'm staggering around in the rocks looking through a lens instead of where I'm going. This is ankle-twisting country, for sure, but I got lucky.
This is an overview of the Chetco River bar where I’m staggering around in the rocks looking through a lens instead of where I’m going. This is ankle-twisting country, for sure, but I got lucky.

At one time, okay, okay from about age 8 to about age 60! I hauled rocks home from my travels by the irresistible bucketful. Finally, I realized I really didn’t get that much enjoyment out of them once I got home and put them in the yard. The geologists are right to call them “leaverites,” as in “leave ‘er rite there.”

Now, I take photos mostly. I don’t say a couple of special beauties didn’t make it into the back of the Subaru, but at least the muffler isn’t dragging the ground.

This videoito is a celebration of Oregon’s geology once it’s been tumbled and cast up on the bar waiting for the next flood to take it on down to the sea.

In the Southwest desert, this would be an actual set of Georgia O'Keeffe antelope horns. On the Chetco River, it's driftwood.
In the Southwest desert, this would be an actual set of Georgia O’Keeffe antelope horns. On the Chetco River, it’s driftwood.
Chetco Rainbow stone
The Chetco River specializes in what we call Rainbow Rock–admittedly not its scientific name.

Chetco stripey rock with leaves


single yellow flower on Chetco stone

 

spoon n stone Chetco bar
There are many surprises on the Chetco River bar–this perfectly good tablespoon beside a rusty whatchacallit was one for me today.

 

I'm not the only one enjoying morning on the bar.
I’m not the only one enjoying morning on the bar.