Black and White’s Enough for Me

I headed for the beach Friday because I plan on heading to Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon next week, and I didn’t want to completely miss the Spring migration. Unfortunately, the sunshine in Tacoma when I left was the only sunshine I saw.

As a photographer, I’m all too aware that the bright sunshine can make a mediocre picture a good one and a good picture a great one, but if you live in the Pacific Northwest you learn to appreciate the subtle shades of grey that dominate here.

In other words, this gray picture of a gray and white Willet resonates with me in ways it might not to viewers from sunnier parts of the country,

Willet On a Gray Day

and the same can be said for this shot of a Brown Pelican lumbering just above the waves like some ancient ship.

Brown Pelican

Even the birds I got close enough to that I would have been able to capture their native colors were black and white, like this Pigeon Guillemot.

Pigeon Guillemot

At first I was frustrated with the shots of this bird because they all looked fuzzy, but when I looked closely I could see several drops of water in sharp detail. Apparently there’s something about the bird’s plumage that make it appear dull and fuzzy.

My main goal on the trip was to see loons, a bird I rarely see locally. They were everywhere, but usually so far out that even a 1000mm (a 500mm lens with a doubler) lens couldn’t get a decent shot. I spent nearly two hours in Westport trying to get close to one and was finally rewarded with this shot, so close I had a hard time getting it in the frame.

Common Loon in Breeding Colors

Rain or not, I would have been thrilled with the day if I hadn’t managed to get a single shot because I just love seeing loons, particularly one so close I could have reached out and touched it if I’d wanted to.


Perhaps one of the reasons I’m so motivated to work on our yard is that it looks shabbier than I can ever remember it looking. We had a sudden week of deep freezing just before Christmas and it has taken its toll on the front flowerbed that the previous homeowner had planted. Over half the plants died, to be replaced by weeds.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the deer seem even peskier than in previous years, eating the tulips that flower in the front bed quicker than I can get a picture of them. These two


are the only survivors from ten that were in full bloom when I went to bed the previous night.

Skye is almost as hard on the flowers in the backyard. He doesn’t eat them, but this pretty tulip

Yellow and White TulipT

is one of the few that has managed to escape Skye’s trampling on the flowerbed, when he isn’t burying his bone.

One of my few real triumphs so far is this Jack-in-the-Pulpit


that I bought last year when I visited the Weyerhaeuser Rhododendron Garden.

Hopefully things will improve when I finally get a fence around the flowerbeds in the back and transplant what tulips are left in the front to the backyard.

“Long Live the Weeds”

About this time of year I always remember this poem by Theodore Roethke:


Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm! –
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marked by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked, and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, look, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I.

I’ll have to admit, though, that at times I’ve wondered if Roethke wrote this poem in the middle of winter, when real weeds had long since gone dormant.

It’s hard to feel quite this upbeat about weeds the next morning when you wonder if you’re going to be able to get out of bed, much less attack the weeds for a second day in a row.


Nothing like two solid days of working in your garden to make you appreciate the wild flowers you see regularly on your walks whether they’re native harebells that seem to be everywhere,


these flowers I saw at Waughop

Purple Flower

or these flowers in the gardens at Theler Wetlands.

Purple Flower