you really can’t go back

CantGoBackSunset Reflection Before the Full Moonrise @ Abbotts Beach, July 2016

The height of my week with grandchildren in tow at the cabin is planning for Tuesday, the full moon.Tonight will be the Buck Moon.  They are here with me with their two best friends – four kids ages 6-10. We stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to get Junior Ranger nature guidebooks for each, and they pick out sketching journals to write about observations in nature this week. We spend the morning observing a nest of three osprey chicks ready to fledge, weed the side yard of our cabin, and watch for various bugs and birds. I talk up the Abbotts Lagoon Trail on the schedule for the evening hike and fuel them up with hotdogs and full moon facts. We gather flashlights and jackets for the hike to the sunset-moonrise. I am so excited to share this with them after several near-spiritual experiences in this monthly natural event myself. I so want to go back and share the awe and joy of a sunset-moonrise with them in this special place. They race ahead on the trail as I chat with my niece who has stopped by for the night to enjoy the hike, campfire, and pick up a loaner bike for her move this month up to UC Davis for college. The pack of wilder-younglings are rolling down the sand dunes by the time we reach the bridge to the beach. I encourage them to follow me up the largest dune to see the sunset that is quite a bit farther north than I realized. They grumble at the climb, interrupted from their romp in the sandy dunes at hand. As we hike up a sign and rope designate that the dunes are closed due to snowy plover nesting. They get prickers in their feet, we never get to see the sunset, darkness gathers around us in both exterior and interior ambiance. I am disappointed that I have disappointed them after such a long hike, and they grumble as we walk back until they discover a makeshift seesaw assembled from a large round log and long rough plank at the base of the dunes. Scrambling onto it to balance, experiment, and play with this new attraction unearths a unique pleasure. I photograph in bursts to show them the time-lapse later this week of their exploits. I smile at how they  discover their own delights and natural ways to make this place special. I swat away clouds of mosquitoes with my hat in the dusk hurrying back along the trail, far ahead they are spooked by a skunk in the dark (fortunately she does not spray them!). We have not yet seen the full moon and it is already dark. When I photographed it before in mid-winter, the moon rose conveniently over the dip of the lagoon as the sun set in the open breach of beach between obscuring arcs of dunes. In summer it rises further north obscured by high arcs of dunes during sunset. Finally as I approach the parking lot, the moon rises in darkness through the cleft of hills beyond the marsh. Later around the campfire we roast marshmallows for s’mores to their laughs and taunts about the skunk, the dunes, and the seesaw, reminding me that even in familiar places, we are always going forward to a new place in the now.

in the distance

SunriseNow1Gathering Fog on Tomales Bay, July 5, 2016

I am grateful for a house on the Point Reyes National Seashore. Days are rich in the prism of colors that annunciate sunrise and sunset. Bright skies this morning shift to mild fog rising like a slow-motion leviathan ghost creeping across the backs of the pinch-pressed peaks of this geological wonderland. Mountains shoved up at all angles from tectonic action as the North American and Pacific plates dance together, not always harmoniously. The beauty of the pleats of Black Mountain are explained in scientific poetry in US Geological Survey documents as “The Miocene and Pliocene sedimentary rock formations folded into a broad syncline with a northwest-trending axis running between Inverness Ridge and Point Reyes.” The local nicknames describe the compressed crests as Knuckle and Elephant Mountain more accurately. It is the tallest roll of mountain just right of center. Our house is nestled into Inverness Ridge at the base of Mount Vision. I lie in bed until afternoon reading about sea turtles on my first solo summer vacation day. After lunch in Point Reyes Station I stop along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, midway down Tomales Bay, and watch as the fog unfolds slowly, rotating the lighting below as if in a theatrical production, highlighting a tree on one slope, a copse of birch trees on a point, then glowing through thin patches of fog for dramatic punctuation. I frame a panoramic view of this eastern scene at sunset. The barren foreground seems a metaphor of the dark challenges, losses, disappointment at our feet nestled into the history of our experience, and yet fog slowly parts to shine on the illuminated destination of a more luminous future in the distance. I am betting with the currency of gratitude and optimism on the richness of the now, and the promise of tomorrow in the distance.

the ripple effect

PuertoVallartab2Puerto Vallarta Sunset, June 2016

This summer is 20 years since my oldest son, Ryan’s death. Depression and disappointments gathered in a storm that we all underestimated, leaving us in a tidal wave of shock and loss. His death from suicide so deeply affected all of us that each year on July 1st we observe the Eastern tradition of Death Day, a celebration of the life of a departed family member. We stop and gather or phone each other to share memories, talk about what he would have been like today. Part comfort and consolation – part celebration. His life ripples constantly through our own in ways that are deeper and more meaningful than any other loss. I composed this photo of the sunset at Puerto Vallarta a few weeks ago. I always think of Ryan as I frame that red sliver of fading sunset, especially when it is reflected in the wet sands of beach – the illusion of presence at the moment of absence in such a dichotomously beautiful way. Fourth of July will ever be our Death Day celebration of Ryan. This year we gathered, friends and families, at the Diamond O Camp in the Stanislaus National Forest for the long weekend. His younger brother, Gavin, fond of the last photograph of them together at the top of Yosemite Falls, was inspired by that image to plan a family hike to the same spot in celebration. We create our own counterpoints of his presence in his absence.

solstice sunset

Solstice Sunset 2016Sunset over Alameda Slough, June 20, 2016

The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, June solstice, was the bane of my childhood. I would weep as I lay in bed with the sun still shining in the window overwhelmed with the injustice of bedtime in daylight. In 2016 we enjoy a rare cosmic coincidence of the full moon rising on the exact day of the June solstice, the first time in almost 70 years. I plan my day to stand at attention on the deck of our boat in Alameda to be able to observe the sunset in the West,…then turn to capture the image of the full moon rising, rosy-tinged to the East. This coinciding moon is the Strawberry or Rose Moon. I hope to capture that dusty rose of the rising moon, that blushes only on the rising horizon. We have just returned from a week in Mexico so jet-lag has me resting in the stateroom as the sun still lingers above the horizon at 8pm, setting at 8:35pm (in 2017 the sunset will be at a record setting 9:34 pm). I photograph the dramatic deep-wash of warm colors in the gathering spectrum that blushes its beauty on this longest day of the year. I wake Greg and insist that he come and see the show. As I turn to face East and capture the rising full moon, fog foils my plan as it pools in misty white bands along that horizon. I fight the desire for sleep, disappointed as the moon finally appears around 9:30pm well above the horizon where it would have glowed rosy reflecting the sunset. It looms white and bright winking its clever avoidance. I go to bed disappointed, yet consoled by the spectacular spectral display of Solstice sunset. It is enough for my beauty quotient for the week.