30 September 2007


Today held a visit from our diocesan bishop, Dorsey Henderson, who preached, confirmed two young people (all three are pictured below) and presided at the Eucharist. We gathered in our regular three-week cycle of worship at Grace Church in Ridge Spring. It was a place abuzz for the occasion.

With little space to spare, the parish hall taken over for the post-worship luncheon and the choir rehearsing in the nave, the bishop's conversation with the confirmands, their parents and sponsors took place in the very comfortable living room of a parishioner in her home situated across the street from the church building.

It was a day of vitality and purpose. I came away thinking about the word of the day, confirmation, and the fact that, in actuality, much was confirmed this morning: first and foremost, two young people confirmed the promises made for them at their respective baptisms. Beyond that, however, I could see love parent-to-child and vice versa on the faces I watched during the liturgy; a committed bishop reconnected with people he doesn't know very well; the faithful went out of their way to make the day memorable, not only for the two confirmands, but for visitors of which we had a number, and for Bishop Henderson. Confirmations all -- to community, to family, to the faith as it's understood in that place, to the Episcopal Church. A day of vitality and purpose, a day of blessing.

29 September 2007

A southern Fran Fine

Today, on Tal’s 81st birthday, I took a timeout from the desk and attended a USC (that’s “the” USC, as in South Carolina) football game, a day game on an ideal autumn afternoon. We were up early – before dawn – for coffee, cool air from the open porch door, breakfast. I was able to click through a number of tasks: several notes, my September reimbursement request, our pre-game lunch, an intercessory prayer list and draft of a bulletin for tomorrow’s liturgy. All good and satisfying.

Leaving home at 9:30, it was such a pleasure to be out in the day! Everywhere I looked as we traversed the Ridge on our way to the interstate I saw photographs – peach trees’ fall turning, freshly harvested fields, round bales of hay, corn stalks, soybean plants scattered across the rural landscape. No camera. No time. No matter. We were out of the house together and for a purpose, a purpose not church-related.

We ate our picnic in the car at 6161, our assigned parking space. Not exactly a tailgate! And, were in our seats about 20 minutes before the 12:30 kickoff. I am always amazed at the pageantry and noise of it all as game time approaches and the Carolina players and coaches burst onto the field to the blaring strains of 2001 and the firing of a cannon – especially acute today, I think, because it was such a golden afternoon. Even more amazing is the willingness of the Carolina fans to stop cheering their own players in order to boo the opposing team when it’s their turn to come onto and cross the field to their sidelines. But, that’s another entry for another day.

I must say, however, all that noise was diminished remarkably when compared with one particular fan seated behind us. My first and instant thought at her first shrieked utterance: Is Fran Fine a USC fan? It had to be Miss Fine – or her mother. But, the accent wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t Queens; it was clearly southern – and maybe higher pitched, somewhat more piercing, if that’s possible!

So, at my first opportunity, I took my eyes off the field, feigning a look for someone higher in the stands, and stole a glance. She was an older woman with permed, sort of iridescent reddish hair. And, she was round, her snug, striped top giving her the appearance of a beach ball. And, for three hours she “cheered” almost without ceasing, with advice for the coach, personal instruction for individual players (each one called by his first name) and loud disapproval for the officials’ decisions. All in a voice that would shatter glass.

To be honest, she made my day, that Fran Fine wanna-be, super fan. Unselfconscious and seemingly happy, knowledgeable about the game and passionate, she was in the right place and was doing what we had all come there to do. More important is the fact that she wasn’t drunk, rude or obscene – and at Williams-Brice Stadium, that’s saying a lot. Fact is, if I were looking for demure and sedate and proper decorum, and if I didn’t want to be jostled or inconvenienced or even deafened, on game day I would be the one in the wrong place.

I enjoyed the day, the game and the carrot-topped Miss Fine. With binoculars to my eyes for much of the time in order to follow the ball once it’s snapped and my ears attuned to what she was going to say next, I felt present and in the moment and I felt joy. In the end, and not to take away from Tal’s birthday or from the fine fall afternoon, I think I owe much of that contentment to her.

24 September 2007

Guess not ...

The parting thought in my last post was a question. Could I, once back from the Ansel Adams trip, keep my balance, keep from being consumed by detail and demands? Well, I've been home almost a week and the answer seems to be no, a resounding no.

Truth is, it's been a wild week. My homecoming was sweet. Tal had home-grown roses waiting for me on the bedside table and I was delighted by a huge bowl of gardenias on the desk in my study when I wandered in there the next morning. I think he missed me!

The mail was a mountain and, in good spirits, we shredded most of it. That first day home, Wednesday, held a number of appointments and ended with pre-wedding meeting with the bride and groom-elect, her mother and the wedding starter at the church. And, Thursday I enjoyed meeting with my clergy colleague group, along with some follow up on the trip -- an evaluation and notes to various presenters. There for a couple of days I felt some hope that the rehabilitation had taken!

Pretty much after that, though, it was the slippery slope of a weekend wedding which claimed my time. While the wedding took the best of me, it was a marvelous occasion. Followed by a regular Sunday morning with confirmation class and worship and an afternoon convocation meeting 50 miles away and minutes to write and the Ridge Runner to get to the printer and Bible study to get ready for. And the house to clean, laundry to do, groceries to buy and meals to prepare. The ironing's still in the basket.

It's regular life, I know, but I end up lost, the word I used before feels accurate: consumed. What about possessed? While I realize that being finished is an unrealistic goal, I also realize that I never feel as though I can stop. And, during periods of time like this past week, I get no exercise, meals are minimal, I get up too early and stay up too late. The camera and the lens are still apart, still in the camera case, just the way they travelled. Pitiful.

But, I'll keep trying. I refuse to believe that I must continue on this way, that I cannot choose otherwise. But, the choosing, the declining opportunitites, shall we say, takes courage. Which do I really want? To slog through the endless "to do" list, checking off items, many of which I have to force myself to care about, being nice and dependable? Or keep some of those items off the list in the first place?

Courage, girl, courage! But, right now ... enough. Time for sleep.

18 September 2007

From Delta flight 162, seat 46C

Well, I'm on the correct side of the plane again. This time correct meaning right. Almost as soon as we were airborne Half Dome emerged from a ring of thick cloud in the Yosemite Valley and shortly after that Mono Lake glinted in the noonday sun. I could even see the intersection in Lee Vining where a right turn would begin the traveller on her or his climb over the Tioga Pass. No tug of sorrow. Rather a sigh of deep satisfaction.

So, now what? Atlanta, then Columbia, then home. Welcome time with Tal and the pups. Appointments. Groceries. Laundry. A haircut. The wedding. Sunday duties. Convocation business.

Can I keep from being consumed? Can I avoid getting as lost as I have been in all the detail? Time will tell. But, truth is, so will I. It's pretty much my choice.

17 September 2007

At the last

I wrote too soon! Another finale. This time at a Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, the name of which I cannot remember. A round table in a private upstairs room with an enormous, thick, beveled-edge lazy Susan and mounds of food in successive courses to be tasted and shared. Such fun. Good cheer. An undercurrent of, not sadness necessarily, but something unspoken? Our little community, already missing Bruce, temporary by nature, having been focused, generally, on a single point for several days, in the process of drifting apart again in so many directions. A microcosm of real life -- the length and breadth of it.

We left Lee Vining this morning at 9:00, reversing our route back through the Tioga Pass to just beyond Olmsted Point. (Bruce had been advised when he consulted a state trooper that the more direct route to San Francisco via the Sonora Pass, though not closed to coach traffic, wasn't a route he would recommend. Enough said.) Then it was new territory as we headed west, leaving the park again at the Big Oak Flat gate on CA120. Through the passing hours I had a sensation of the day playing itself out in snippets, in snapshots rather than like a motion picture or the gradual unfolding I'm used to. A jerky wind-up toy ... Odd. I guess I wasn't paying attention the way I had been -- working out instead the going back, beginning the process of incorporating the effects of this trip (the photography and beyond) on life day-to-day.


1. Descending into the central valley via Priests Grade near Moccasin CA, a drop of over 1540 feet in less than 6 miles. The sign for Old Priest Grade went by too fast for me to request a stop. Now that would have been a photograph -- the old priest herself with that sign!

2. A picnic lunch in a park at Knight's Ferry Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in California. It's also the site of a saw mill ruin, a window/wall detail shown here.

3. A wind farm on either side of our route through the coastal range's Altamont Pass with hundreds of windmills of varying sizes visible from the road.

4. Increasing traffic and multiplying lanes, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco.

5. Arriving at the Club Quarters, saying goodbye to Bruce, our comfortable, efficient rooms.

6. An "unarmed" (meaning no camera) walk to the Embarcadaro and Chinatown with a travelling companion.

7. That supper ...

8. And, a final night photography session on the sun room of the hotel.

What a wonderful day!

The stuff of legend

I said nothing in yesterday's postings about the day following our six hours in Bodie. The day held much more! After leaving Bodie and traversing the road, this time in improving sections, we stopped at the top of the escarpment overlooking the Mono Basin, Nevada in the distance. One of the mountains in this photograph, I think Mark said, is Border Peak. I don't know if its "address" is Nevada or California!

The Mono Lake Committee has its headquarters in Lee Vining -- a bookstore, art gallery, gathering spot. One book and two t-shirts (and a membership) later, I'm glad I took my dusty self down there before dinner. With the presentation on Mono Lake at South Tofa the day before, the visitors center the day before that and time at the Committee, I am coming to understand something of the urgency of the water situation in this part of the world, in general, and this group's strong devotion to the cause, more specifically.

Our trip's grand finale came at dinner at the Mono Inn, hosted by Ansel Adams' son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Jean. Delectable food. I had wild Alaskan salmon, acknowledging with each savory mouthful that I need not look for such at the Edgefield Bi-Lo! Memorable location. From the mission style dining room, our view was east and we watched the light change on the water as the sun set. Once-in-a-lifetime experience. Michael gave a slide presentation following the meal which included some images I'd seen before, some information I'd learned in the days previous and, and something new, portions of letters written by Ansel Adams which Jean had unearthed relatively recently.

Ansel Adams was a force, as we all are in our own way, an icon, a legend even. He appeared in life like his photographs, I suppose: larger-than-life. Mark has observed that he and his photographs were very much alike in another and more primary way than the larger-than-life aspect: extroverted.

16 September 2007


So tired ...

One more look. One more look. One more look. And, so it went as 3:00 approached. Finally, I simply had to walk away.

How did these people do it? Not only was Bodie in its heyday a desert town -- no green, no natural shade, ever, and 70+ degrees in the summer, but the winters were hellacious as well -- with violent snowstorms and low temperatures of -20 degrees. And, that was just the weather.

I was a terrible tourist today, not reading printed material to learn the town's history, not visiting the museum, preferring instead to let Bodie simply happen to me. I understand there's a quote by a young girl which pretty much sums up life this desert town: "Goodbye God, we're going to Bodie." Gives new meaning to the term "godforsaken."

I have an unphotographed but strong visual memory from today. The coach is in the distance and there are several of our group, all be-hatted, strung out singly and in pairs, trudging along the length of what might have been a quarter-mile track through the wavering glare. I don't know why that image is so vivid. On one hand that coach was our rescue, literally our way out. And yet, there was a reluctance to board.

I wonder at the power of the souls left there and at our innate ability to feel their presence. There were many people in Bodie today -- our coach of photographers, families, groups of leather-clad bikers, people driving Hummers and hybrids. What drew them? Likely, not a longing for the really wild west or even dreams of striking it rich in their own lives, in whatever the equivalent for gold might be for them. I wonder.

Could it be that Bodie representative of namelessness? If in our visiting Bodie we acknowledge that someone slept in that tattered bed, that someone hitched a team to that carriage, that someone stumbled to that outhouse, that many someones descended into that mine and others like it, etc, I wonder if we are hoping that someone some years down the line will try to do the same for us.

Could Bodie's draw be its starkness? And, does that starkness in some way reveal to the visitor his or her life -- if he or she allows it? Is Bodie my life stripped bare, back to its essence? Does Bodie, now mute, murmur directly into the visitors heart the unspeakable: the stark (and perhaps in the end the only) truth about our longing to be loved, to be known, to be remembered?

Then, there's our so-human tendency to keep nameless the very people who make us rich ...

Enough. Goodnight.

Into the desert

Early rising has been part of my pattern during this time away. The faintest brrr of the cell phone set to vibrate wakes me completely. The temptation to stay in bed has been for the warmth.

This morning I left the hotel at 6:10, expecting sunrise at 6:41. A trail toward the lake began directly across the street (CA395) from the hotel. It had a name, this trail: the Lee Vining Creek Trail, the creek being one of the five that feeds the lake from the winter snow melt in the high mountains, producing a swath of green through the desert-brown slope toward the lake. The sound of the creek and the deep lushness along its path was a surprise to me, given the aridity of the area. A welcome surprise, giving me back a taste of the Yosemite Valley's comfort.

As I wrote yesterday about the sunset at Mono Lake -- not very dramatic without clouds, my photographic efforts at the sunrise didn't amount to much. But, following the trail, I ended up at the visitor's center again and walked back toward the hotel and breakfast along a quiet street where some of the town's services are located, among others the school bus maintenance facility and a school house turned museum. This is the window to the right of that museum's main door with a vine making its way up and across. Get it? Lee Vining? Sorry ... I tend to forget that these places, like Lee Vining, are places where regular people live and work and marry and die. They are home. Without the walk this morning, I might have stayed exclusively in my visitor mode, a schedule to keep, scenes and details to photograph, failing to remember to grant that level of reality to Lee Vining -- and everywhere else for that matter.

We spent the day at Bodie, a genuine ghost town, the ride there initially taking us west out of the Mono Basin and then northeast deep into the desert on increasingly diminished roads -- 4 lane to 2 lane, across cattle guards and through gates, and finally to a dirt washboard. About an hour's drive from Lee Vining.

That hour, though, may as well have taken me to Mars. Harsh, desolate, forbidding, Bodie -- not to mention, permeated by, awash with grief, a powerful combination of hope and hopelessness pervading the windblown silence of the dusty streets.

But, as far as photography goes, Bodie is a paradise. Shadeless at an elevation of 8300+ feet, it's a place arrested in time and a place of sharp physical, as well as, historical contrasts.

15 September 2007

Mono Lake

What the defunct trapeze school overlooked is a vast, delicate desert and body of water. Ansel Adams' famous photographs of Mono Lake were taken before Los Angeles' diversion in the early 1940s of most of the water which flowed into it, devastating the lake and its surroundings. The lake as we saw it today has had 20+ years to recover, following a much-celebrated and too tenuous court decision in the 1980s declaring that the lake level had to be restored. The war over water for southern California, however, continues and many people have devoted and are devoting themselves to protecting Mono Lake.

We availed ourselves of the visitors' center, which includes an exhibition of photographs by the likes of Brett Weston and Ansel Adams. This photograph was taken looking toward the escarpment to the west which we will traverse tomorrow.

After checking into our hotel in Lee Vining we spent the afternoon at the southern part of the lake, South Tofa, illuminated by a talk and field trip focusing on the geology of the basin and the formation of the tofa. The late afternoon, toward evening was spent -- go ahead, guess! -- photographing. The presence of clouds would have provided more drama in the photographs we made. But, there are a few things out of the control of even the leaders of a Road Scholar adventure.

Departing ... arriving: what's in between?

I am coming more and more to realize that it's what's in between that matters the most; great riches reside in those in between places, between where we find ourselves, oftentimes comfortable and safe, but somewhat dissatisfied and and where we suspect/know we need to be.

We left Yosemite this morning. A significant part of me didn't want to make the move from that storied valley. I'd never been there, having waited a lifetime, so to speak, to glimpse, to enter into that vast but also geographically small place. At the same time, Yosemite had a wonderfully familiar feel. It must have something to do with how enclosed the space is. Womb-like, maybe?

As the coach began the climb out of the valley, however, the sadness I expected to experince did not come upon me. Very unusual. Normally, places I love are hard to leave and the actual departure is enough to evoke tears. One reason for the unusual lack of response could be that I know I'll be back; there's been much conversation amongst us about needing to be at Yosemite in the spring to see (and hear) water in the falls. Frankly, another reason has to have something to do with the numbers of people (yes, even in September), particularly around the Lodge. I found time and place for solitude, no doubt about that, and I certainly don't begrudge families and large tours time in Yosemite, but ... I was more ready to move on that I realized.

Let me interject one thing here. The summer Tal and I tent-camped across the country and back, I made a practice of making two photographs each time we stopped: one of the camp site all set up -- our green, domed tent, the two, now gone, folding striped canvas chairs, the Army-green, wooden camp box, the (also green) Coleman stove all ready for occupancy and use, and the other a photograph taken from inside the tent looking out, showing anyone who studied the photographs my first view on waking (besides Tal, of course!)at each location. Well, this is what I saw from the patio outside the sliding doors of my room three mornings running at Yosemite. Could I have been any more fortunate in room assignments?

We made several stops today, the first one at Olmstead Point for a good look at the backside of Half Dome and into the east end of the Yosemite Valley. It was also a great place to look at exfoliating granite up close with its domed shape and varied layers and to get ready to see the red metamorphic slate of Mts Dana and Gibbes further along our route. Teneya Lake was visible from the NE end of the Olmstead Point parking lot and was our second photography stop. I'm sorry to say that I don't know the name of the rock reflected in the water.

We pressed on to Toulumne Meadows for a short time to check out the visitors' center, to wander in the meadow, cameras at the ready, followed by the finale: moving out of the park and through the Tioga Pass, truly a geographic and engineering marvel. All this before lunch. Our stop for the midday meal was on the rain shadow side of the mountains -- at the Whoa Nellie Deli, aptly named, and it did not disappoint. While trying to imagine the untold numbers of people who arrived, terrified, at the bottom of that pass, I gamely tried the self-proclaimed, world-famous fish tacos. Actually, while I didn't know fish tacos were on my "list," I can strike them off now ...

The restored Mobile station which houses the deli, along with the on-site remains of a trapeese school, overlooks Mono Lake, our destination for the next two nights, a place like I've never seen and about as un-womb-like as it could get.

14 September 2007

Clearing smoke


Having finished lunch with the group at the Cathedral Beach picnic area, I’m sitting at a table on a sandbar in the Merced River, which is slow, narrow and shallow at the moment. Though it’s a cool day, it's also sunny and the steady breeze has leared some of the haze. While I sit here basking in the sun, this is my view.

We started out the morning at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, a thin wisp of water falling off the edge with mist blowing up and back, forming a multi-colored corona above the cliffs. When the Bridal Veil is really flowing, I understand one gets soaked at the spot on which we were standing. As it was today, our cameras are dry (good) and my photographs pretty ordinary (oh well). From there we split up, wandering out amongst the rocks, through the woods searching out the softer light and those eye-catching views, large and small, about which Mark is teaching us.

Since things were so contrasty, I experimented with black-and-white and, naturally, given where I am and in homage to Ansel Adams, the red filter.

This expedition is affording me time and space, not only to think and ponder, but to get to know my camera better and to reclaim an understanding of the interplay among ISO values, shutter speed and f-stop. Our fully programmed cameras are a wonder – easy and quick, but I’m having a blast using the light meter and running on manual.

4:30 PM

Now I’m resting my feet at Glacier Point, where we are waiting for sunset and the chance to photograph Half Dome in the warming light. Sitting on a rock wall, my back to the sun, I've been so comfortable – up until a very few moments ago. The sun has dropped below the trees and I’m beginning to shiver.

Since lunch we’ve been back to the Yosemite Lodge for a quick rest, to prepare for the afternoon and to down-size to a smaller bus – 24-passenger as opposed to 48. It’s a 32-mile drive from the valley floor to Glacier Point and the road is pretty narrow, steep and surprisingly well-traveled. One photo opportunity before this two-hour stop was at nearby Washburn Point where we could see into the Yosemite Wilderness – the Little Yosemite Valley, Mount Clark, toward Tuolumne Meadows and beyond to higher and obviously drier mountains. Nearerby, we could actually see flowing falls, three sets: the Nevada Falls, the Vernal Falls, and Illioutte Falls. This photograph contains the first two, but I’ll bet they’re too small to pick out.

8:45 PM

Back in my room, I am too tuckered out for words. Several of our group have gone to supper in the vicinity of the lodge, but I’m skipping that event, attractive as it was. I have water, an apple and some trail mix and that will have to be sufficient for supper.

It got colder at Glacier Point! Alecia, our driver, ran the heat much of the way back here. While we didn’t stay until the sun was completely down, the light did change beautifully. And, once we left Glacier Point, we couldn’t pass by Washburn Point without stopping again. And, because we left Glacier Point early, look what we encountered on a curve lower down the road.

We depart Yosemite in the morning and will be traveling to Mono Lake via the Tioga Pass. And, that’s just the beginning, getting us to lunch and at early afternoon check in at the Lake View Lodge. Shortly after that we’ll go to South Tufa, have a geology lesson and stay for the sunset. I'm going to stroll to the Yosemite Lodge lobby -- where the internet access is -- and post this. And, I’ll keep writing and post the next entry when I can. Thanks again for reading.

13 September 2007

Atmospheric recession

The title of this entry is a new term I learned this afternoon on a photographic walk with Mark Citret. There is a definite haze in Yosemite Valley this week, caused by a barely contained forest fire, the name of which I cannot remember (has something to do with the moon). This walk was a circuit beginning at the Yosemite Lodge to the base of Yosemite Falls (called Yosemite Wall this time of year, since there’s no water), around almost to the Ahwahnee Inn, into the meadow with views of North and Half Domes, through the Yosemite Village and back.

This photograph is an example of atmospheric recession. The details of the rim are not clear and there’s nothing the photographer can do about it. So, while one cannot help but include in the photograph the rock formations – which recede, they are not the image’s main feature, the path of the dry creek bed is.

In this example, what caught my attention is the sunlit tree branch.

And, here, Mark noticed that the shape of the trees in the foreground mimic the shape of the valley rim in the background.

Our morning was spent on a tour of the valley floor in an open tram. Quite nippy! The two hour excursion included two lengthy stops, one at Valley View looking back through Bridal Veil Meadow toward Sentinel Rock and the other at Tunnel View, a less stunning sight in the morning than the one we had yesterday as we arrived. The photograph below of El Capitan, in which you cannot see the many climbers at various stages in their conquests of this monolith, was taken from the tram during one of its numerous pauses. Our guide was full of information, as well as terrible jokes. It took me at least half the tour, but I finally figured out that he reminded me of Al in the late-1980s situation comedy Home Improvement.

This evening the Ansel Adams Gallery opened for a wine and dessert reception for our group. The curator offered a fascinating fine print tour, featuring a number of early Adams photographs. He also spoke about a few of Adams’ assistants, showing their work and how they were influenced by Adams. While the gallery is no longer the actual building used by Ansel Adams’ future father-in-law in the nineteen teens (floods over the years precipitated a move to higher ground), it is the business he started and that his daughter/Adam’s wife, Virginia, operated. It is now owned by Virginia and Ansel Adam’s grandson, making it one of the oldest family galleries in the country.

And finally, an unedited photograph I took at the bridge over Yosemite Falls Creek, currently dry. I like progressions and patterns and the railing supports caught my eye at the beginning of our walk. I went back after its conclusion to see that I could do with it.

12 September 2007

Arriving at Yosemite

This afternoon was entirely travel from Point Lobos into the Sierra Nevada to Yosemite. We began climbing almost immediately on leaving the coast, the play of sunlight and the shadows cast by the clouds onto the gentle brown hills truly indescribable. Without a map I felt pretty lost – how I do like knowing what the route is to be, but I made myself sit back and simply take in what I was seeing from the coach.

Our driver did point out the eucalyptus grove Jimmy Stewart drove through in the movie Vertigo. Pretty interesting that it’s still there, although a divided four lane highway now goes though it. The enormity of what is produced in the central valley boggles the mind. Fields of lettuce, artichokes, vine tomatoes, corn, cotton, grapes, milo, alfalfa; orchards of almonds, olive, piscashio; and, toward the eastern-most portion of the valley, cattle. And, that is just what I could identify. A small billboard dots the valley: “We farm, you eat.”

While the fields under production are green (or whatever color the crop is), where the irrigation isn’t is dry, machinery in the field kicking up great clouds of dust. And, the wind is relentless. The black oak thrives as does pine, a number of varieties which I read about before this trip began, their names and distinguishing characteristics I don’t remember. Actually, the sugar pine with its unusually long cones I could identify.

By the time we approached the south entrance to the park I was beginning to feel rather odd, having to concentrate intensely in order to fight off a mounting feeling of disorientation. It wasn’t motion sickness. Very different from that very familiar feeling. Fortunately, I was able to doze a bit and, otherwise, played mental games to keep from feeling too overwhelmed. Once we arrived at the Yosemite Lodge, I learned that what was happening to me is not uncommon at all, a condition caused by dramatic altitude change. Pretty yucky at the time, I must say. Feeling OK now.

Given a serious landslide some three years ago, our entry into Yosemite had to be from the south, making the trip considerably longer. The destroyed road, Route 140 approaching El Portal, has been repaired for regular traffic, but since the land is still unstable, coach traffic is not allowed. Because of the hour (about 6:30) and the position of the sun, our study leader asked the driver (whose name is Bruce, by the way) to stop at what is called Tunnel View. The tunnel is nearly a mile long and the traveler emerges from that narrow, dark space into the first view of the valley.

That all this has been spared cliff-hanging residences, Cracker Barrels, Red Roof Inns, Wal-Marts, and putt-putt golf and water slides is too wonderful for words.

Point Lobos

It’s an overcast morning, perfect soft light for photography. Mark has urged those in the group who are disappointed at the light to give it a try, that bright sun isn’t necessarily the ideal lighting condition. We, at present, are sitting on the coach at the Point Lobos gate. It’s 8:50 and the park doesn’t open until 9:00. The attendant is in his hut, not looking in our direction. But, we’re first in line!

Here’s the deal. Since the computer is stowed here in the coach, I’m making notes (which I would do anyway) for the BLOG in my journal as we travel. At the end of the day I’ll put my fingers to the keyboard and post the entry when I can.

1:00PM, on the coach again after lunch: What a morning we have had. Our group was met my two docents each one taking half the group on a nature walk on separate trails (one through the Allen Memorial Grove of Monterey cypress and pine and the other to Blue Fin Bay [I think that was the name; the view from the trail’s terminus was of Carmel and the 18th hole at Pebble Beach) for about 45 minutes and then trading groups.

Following the guided walks, we were on our own to return to locations where we wanted to spend more time with the camera and practice our craft (to quote the study leader, optimistic soul that he is). What he wants for us is to make photographs that go deeper than scenery quality. Mark's advice: Don’t NOT that that picture, the scenic one, but then look around and let what attracts you be your guide.

By the time we were cut loose the fog had burned off, making it seem as though we had been there on two separate days, as you can see from these photos. But, I suspect that whatever the weather, time of day, or the visitor’s temperament, that meeting of land and ocean makes its mark on the soul. And, as Ansel Adams said (among others, I would presume), photography -- like all art -- is an expression of the human soul.

11 September 2007


It's been a long, wonderful day and this is going to be short. Our drive this morning from San Francisco to Carmel along Highway One was, in a word, fabulous. There are nine of us on this expedition, with a study leader, a group leader and a driver for a total of 11. And, we're in a 48-person coach. So, not only were we moving south along some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, we were doing it spaciously. Plus, none of us "students" were having to deal with the traffic, not to mention figure out where we were going.

Our primary destination in Carmel were two galleries, both featuring (mostly) black and white film photography and both pictured here: the Weston Gallery (below) and the Photography West Gallery (left) In both cases the gallery owners met us, offered short lectures and showed us many photographs from their inventory, matted and housed in large, drawered cabinets.

Astounding fact. At the Weston Gallery we saw a large format (20X24, really large format!) Charles Watkins photograph, Pohona The Bridal Veil Fall , shot c 1878 and printed by Watkins himself with a 2007 price of $48,000.00. More astounding than the price? That he got all that glass in and out of Yosemite by pack mule and the glass survived.

Carmel? It's charming, gentrified, very expensive. And, there have to be more galleries per square inch than anywhere else in the world. A serious collector could find absolutely anything here. To my eye, there's simply too much to take in.

Tomorrow promises more space and fewer people. It's Point Lobos for a hike with a local naturalist for an hour, two hours for photography followed by lunch. Then we'll begin the 5 1/2 hour drive to Yosemite.

As we go our study leader, Mark Citret, is instructing our diverse group, diverse in the places from which we hail and diverse in photographic experience and platform (we have point-and-shoot to highend digital, SLR and large format film represented in the group), in all manner of photograhic technique and philosophy. Check Mark out at his website: www.mcitret.com.

I'll close with the one photograph I shot today that I've had time to crop and edit. It's just a second story scene.

Thanks for reading and good night.

Sitting on the right side of the plane (as in correct)

This portion of my life's journey has been a long time coming. It's pretty generally accepted that for a person's present moment to be what it is it takes every prior event, every prior decision, every prior step to get him or her there. If anything had happened differently, anything, the present moment would also be different. As my husband, a former state trooper, says about traffic accidents he worked, investigated, studied during his career: it takes perfect, split-second timing for the accident to have occurred.

So, here I am on Tuesday morning, September 11th (an iconic date without doubt) sitting at an early breakfast in a hotel meeting room on Clay Street in San Francisco. Split-second timing. The fact that I am eating french toast make with authentic San Francisco sourdough bread further marks this moment!

In the shorter term, this continuing education is a long time in coming as well. Since my last continuing education experience (CREDO in the fall of 2004), my annual efforts at being a responsible professional have failed for various reasons -- mostly pastoral (theirs) and health (mine). Some deposits along the way were refunded; most were lost. Fortunately, continuing education does not always have involve book "larnin" or be overtly theological. This one is clearly personal, for my soul. I can't quite yet believe I am here.

I left Columbia yesterday morning, awake before the 3:45 alarm. To save time I skipped coffee at home, planning to enjoy a cup in the airport once the car was safely parked, my suitcase checked, and me and the computer and the camera bag and the tripod through the drama of security. Well ... the airport was without air-conditioning and the food court was closed for remodeling. An inauspicious beginning. It was too hot for coffee anyway.

Then. There's always a then. My Columbia-to-Atlanta (yes, Delta) flight was significantly late departing. Meaning? Sitting for an extra 90 minutes in the heat AND no beverage service on the over-booked MD-88. Once in Atlanta I moved with great haste and arrived at the gate for the connecting flight in time to walk onto the waiting 767. No leisurely Starbucks and people watching for me. Whatever brand of coffee Delta serves tasted exceptionally good at 10:15 when I finally had that first cup in hand.

Almost as soon as we were airborne the clear skies filled with clouds. As I sipped my coffee, I watched the ground disappear and found myself gazing out at an endless expanse in all directions of what looked like quilt batting. I read an entire issue of The New Yorker and chatted with my fascinating seatmate while we ate our snack and ignored the movie.

Then. (Some "thens" are good.) We flew beyond the sharp edge of that batting just in time to see the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. From there on I marveled at the vast wrinkled surface of the earth, wished for a map in order to be able to identify the towns and cities and airports passing below, wondered at the alluvial fans in what was clearly desert. I had been hoping that the pilot would make an announcement as we approached the Sierra Nevada as he had when we crossed the Rockies, but when the time came there was no need. The escarpment was so defined and dramatic that I had no doubt about what I was seeing.

I was in seat 43A, blessedly looking south, Yosemite right there. I was sitting on the right side of the plane (as in correct). And, it had taken me my whole life to get there.