I’m back to the blog after a
little long road trip. This post is about how we started that road trip, after flying into Portland, Oregon, and then driving six hours across the state.
So … there’s a little patch of heaven in the southeastern corner of the state of Washington called the Palouse. Sometimes called “America’s Little Tuscany,” its pastoral rolling hills of wheat are vast and serene. It’s been on my bucket list of places to visit and photograph for years. Don and I went last month.
Before reaching the iconic fertile hills of the Palouse, we stopped in Palouse Falls State Park, a geological 180 from what I had come a long way to photograph. It has never been on my bucket list of places to visit or photograph, and we almost turned back several times before arriving.
Seriously, we had all sorts of reasons not to go — it was out of the way, we’d be late checking into our hotel, the park had closed recently due to security concerns after someone fell to their death when part of a cliff collapsed, and there were rattlesnake warnings all over the place — but I think …
it was worth it. Pretty awesome, right?
The next day was the day I’d been anxiously anticipating. Armed with maps and apps, we drove to the top of Steptoe Butte State Park, probably the most popular photography destination in the region. Here’s my photograph of what I understand to be one of the more beautiful scenic overlooks of rolling hills in America:
Fair to say, June 9, 2018, will not go down as the day I captured the beautiful expanse of the rolling hillsides of the Palouse.
Undaunted by the weather, I went ahead and made a few photographs that day:
Okay, but not what I had come to capture.
Towards the end of the day, when we were near Oakland, Washington, the sky opened up for a short while.
That wet red barn on the rolling hillside is the closest I came to what many people view as an iconic Palouse scene. Still, it’s not the abstract photography I wanted from miles and miles of overlapping hills reaching into the horizon.
What is beautiful? Is it a red barn against a green hillside? Abstracts made from hills filled with light and shadows? A waterfall into a deep canyon?
In an interview with Krista Tippett and published on http://www.onbeing.org, cellist Yo Yo Ma described beauty in this way:
It could be music. It could be a poem. It could be an event … [o]ften, in nature. But, when that encapsulated form is received, there’s a moment of reception and cognition of the thing that is, in some ways, startling … We are part of nature and we observe nature, but we’re part of the human realm, and there’s that moment, when essentially there’s a transfer of life. [I]t’s the human cognition of that vastness, the awe and the wonder, something that’s, in a way, bigger than yourself.
The Palouse is beautiful – all of it – but on this trip, the part where we felt that transfer of life into a world way bigger than ourselves, more than anywhere else, was the part we almost missed … Palouse Falls State Park. And you know what? At this point in my life, I really like that an old dry canyon with water and energy and life flowing in and through it, can on any one particular day be more beautiful than fertile fields many miles away.
Sometimes a little fog helps you see things a little more clearly.
Thanks for following my blog.
Stay tuned for the next post which will likely feature some aspect of our 2,000 mile jaunt through Oregon, where we saw whales, sea lions, elk, deer, marmots, eagles, dogs, more dogs, one cat, lots of fish, but no ducks. And they call themselves the Oregon Ducks? I’m not kidding, no ducks. Not one.