The serene foolishness of staring - with amazement - at ordinary things.

At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to stand and gape at this or that thing - a sunset or an old shoe - in absolute and simple amazement. 
— Raymond Carver, "A Storyteller's Shoptalk"

I crave mindless staring now more than ever. I think it's a subconscious, maybe even spiritual, reaction to having to pay attention to all the trivial-yet-urgent matters that come with living perpetually "online." What worries me most in doling out brainwaves for these things is not that I'll become a zombie, necessarily, but that I'll lose the ability to stand and gape, as Carver says, at ordinary things with simple, serene, even foolish amazement. 

And it was recently I saw this habit of gaping manifested in some of my photography.  

After going through the hundreds of photos I've taken over the last decade, I started to see a recurring theme in subject matter and composition: open, negative spaces with either nothing at all or a single, mundane object front and center. Without quite knowing it, I used photography as anoutlet to practice the Zen-ish habit of appreciating the mundane scenes around me every day. 

Instead of reflecting a kind of vacant-staring, these photos show--at least to me--a fully-present, deeply-engaged stillness and awe at the foot of wonderfully regular things, which is pretty nice given the increasing extravagance and drama of the world at large. 

Oregon Trail, La Grande, OR

Oregon Trail, La Grande, OR

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Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

Red Mountain, WA

Red Mountain, WA

Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

Lost Creek Wilderness, CO

There’s always an urge among writers to turn fleeting observations and momentary glimpses into metaphors and “material” as quickly as possible...rushing to notice never works, nor does trying to notice. Attention requires cunning passivity...notice what you notice and let it go.”
— Verlyn Linkenborg, "Several Short Sentences About Writing"
Bedroom Wilderness, HOME

Bedroom Wilderness, HOME

Georgia Pass, CO

Georgia Pass, CO

[While] Peter was gazing at a white heron in a treetop, a very large [Bonefish] began to chew on Peter’s shrimp fly...while the guide and I, being real fishermen, began to go nuts. STRIKE! STRIKE! we hollered.

But that white heron...

Each [the white heron and Peter], I believe, was owned. True ownership as I see it, occurs the instant consciousness is usurped by one of these Peter-Meets-White-Heron appreciations. And while true ownership lasts, nothing but the usurping wonder exists.
— David James Duncan, "My Story As Told By Water"
Wolford Res., CO

Wolford Res., CO

South Park, CO

South Park, CO

VISUAL IDIOMS (AND OTHER CLICHES)

These are the result of wanting to put a few of my favorite photos and a phrases from a rarely-used book (American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms) to use. 

There's irony and maybe a tad of melancholy here. But none of it was meditated or forged with intellectual rigor, just fun, impulsive, and mindless creating. 

Just for the helluvit. 


FOR WANT OF Sun & Steel on the Olympic Peninsula

This photo essay documents a few days floating the Sol Duc and Bogachiel Rivers of the Olympic Peninsula (OP) for steelhead. My guides were two childhood friends, brothers Phil and Luke Rudat, from my hometown in rural Washington. As a sort of reunion with them, I joined in on an annual trip they make up to the OP to tempt fate into granting a rare fortune for those parts: sun and steelhead. 

Our hope was answered with a 20 minute reprieve from the rain on our first day. During those twenty minutes, Phil caught two steelhead. But, as quickly as the skies opened, they closed again, this time heavier, and a bit more somber. It felt more like a tombstone than cloud cover.

For the next three days the weather gave us every bit of possible nastiness it could muster: tearing wind, torrential rain, piercing hail, soggy snow, and frigid sleet.

And we didn't catch another fish.

Always grateful for the chance to get out there, we still wrapped up with heavy sighs and made our way home. As they do every year, Phil and Luke, still wet from the rain in the cab of their truck. started the quasi-spiritual rite of crossing fingers, tying streamers, and praying that--just maybe--next year they''ll have better favor from the soggy-souled gods of the OP. 

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Outerwear that kept Phil, Luke, and myself dry and comfortable was generously provided by Mountain Standard