Magical Seeing

Storm Cell

Magical Seeing

When I was a very young girl, I was immersed in a magical, light-drenched natural world. I lived by the wild and undammed Wenatchee River. The mountain range called The Enchantments floated above my childhood home like an Avalon in the sky, seeming to be untethered to my little earth. The snow-covered mountains soared high and free above me and my family, guardian of all I was, protector of all I would become.

The Enchantments and Colchuck Lake.
The Enchantments and Colchuck Lake. I’m not sure exactly who took this photograph–probably my dad, but maybe one of his friends or a member of his climbing club.

My dad photographed all this high country wilderness–macro, micro, telephoto and wide-angled lens and eyes.

My dad, Warren Brown, circa 194, with his Leica.
My dad, Warren Brown, circa 1974, with his Leica.

My sister became a watercolor painter of trees and skies with a fine brush for the details of the snowy owl, the raven, the vultures and the eagles.

My sister Cheryl Long, became a painter; this is her Snowy Owl.
My sister Cheryl R. Long, became a painter; this is her Snowy Owl.

We were a family caught up in a shimmering net of the beauty of place, and each in his or her own way struggled to live up to the emotional privilege of being somehow allowed to exist there for so many years in the wide arm of the river, under the great wing of The Enchantments.

We lived in a dreamlike world...Circa 1967. Left to right: my sister Cheryl, brother Lisle, me, our dad, Warren, sister Toren.
We lived in a dreamlike world…Circa 1967. Left to right: my sister Cheryl, brother Lisle, me, our dad, Warren, sister Toren.

I found my own way into the heart of this enchanted world through poetry and story and was lucky enough to stumble upon a career that sustained me in those passions. It was through poetry I first learned the power of what my photo teacher Laura Valenti calls, “Magical Seeing.”

Like poets, photographers immersed in exploration of soul must consider the contrasts between the elusive light and a rich and suggestive dark. In both word and image, poets and photographers like me struggle to capture the haunting, evocative mood, that sense of timelessness and nostalgia.

Memory, dream, reflections...
Memory, dream, reflections…

I like that these years I live in now are called my “golden years.” I can look back at that young girl and see that she spent her entire life in pursuit of this magical seeing. She understood with her heart what I can now not only feel but explain: that we live mythic lives thrumming with the vitality of light, and, as Valenti puts it, “Rich with meaning and mythology and magic.”

Valenti’s challenge to me is the one I have always put to myself, “What can I do to express ever more profoundly a magical way of seeing and being in my world?”

I still live in a natural world so explosive with beauty and detail that I could weep with despair over my inability to photograph it in a new and “more magical” way.

Cow Parsnip Diva
Every once in a while, numinous figures appear from the other side to guide me and reassure me I’m on the right track. In this moment, it was The Cow Parsnip Diva who brought the good news.

I read a book once on designing a Romantic garden. The primary tip my husband and I implemented in our garden is the concept of using arches to create receding vistas that open up to little rooms in the garden. Even a small lot like ours became extraordinary when we thought through adding these layers, these glimpsed views into other little secret gardens within the garden.

On an ordinary walk from my house, I can look through the surprising doorway into the deep reflective green of Delta Pond.
On an ordinary walk from my house, I can look through the surprising doorway into the deep reflective green of Delta Pond.

Earlier this week, I was out specifically shooting for “Secret Places,” and now I add this memory about building a garden to Valenti’s thoughts on seeing opportunities to photograph layers–through archways, under trees into remote and beckoning meadows, through the scrim of a rain cell moving fast across a sunlit valley.

From high up on the shoulder of Spencer Butte, I photographed this storm cell sweeping across the sunlit valley before. I used my iPhone 7+ for this shot.
From high up on the shoulder of Spencer Butte, I photographed this storm cell sweeping across the sunlit valley before. I used my iPhone 7+ for this shot.

“Tell me,” asks poet Mary Oliver, “what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I am trying to answer this question as best I can: I’m trying to give back the magic to the world it has given to me.

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.)

An Hour at Ophir

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.

The light was just downright peculiar when we arrived at Ophir Beach in the afternoon around 4:00 pm.
The light was just downright peculiar when we arrived at Ophir Beach in the afternoon around 4:00 pm.

As I often do, I decided to make a series of daily journal videoitos aka digital stories. The first in this series of five is on the Oregon Coast at Ophir Beach before turning inland. I was intrigued by the strange quality of the waves and the afternoon light, which was in high contrast down on the beach. The sky itself was at first a watercolorist’s gray wash and then magically the sky cleared and became a new, intense blue.

Little cloud in a mackerel sky at Ophir Beach. That scrim of cloud probably accounted for the weird light earlier.
Little cloud in a mackerel sky at Ophir Beach. That scrim of cloud probably accounted for the weird light earlier.
Ophir_from 101
Ophir Beach from Highway 101 as the sky is starting to clear. My camera is still stopping down to cut the high contrast, which creates its own kind of alternative universe feel to the photograph.

 

Slowing Time

Anyone who know me knows I am a wandering spirit. I am not that stay-at-home-and-garden person. After I finish my daily work at the computer or in the classroom, almost every day I pick up my camera, put on my boots and just GO. I am never happier than when I have disappeared into the landscape (all those who wander are not lost!).

Last week, I dashed off to nearby Fall Creek. It was the end of the day during a time when the days are slowly growing longer. At sunset I was at a place called Fisherman’s Bend, where I had never stopped before. Red rock, rushing water pooling green, swirling and catching the low light–all these pulled me into that forever place for just a half hour, but that’s all I need to find my place on the planet once more, just for today.

I experimented with the mobile device app called Stellar to create a little slideshow of the afternoon’s mini-adventure. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the way it looks on the web–do you have an opinion?

On the iPad, the entire screen is filled, which looks great. On the web, it appears to me as small, and I don’t see a way to expand it–although cleverer eyes than mind might spot a way and be kind enough to let me know. But I DO like the mini-portfolio concept offered by Stellar.