Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Nearly Summer Solstice Mattole

Winter Mattole, at ~11,000 Cubic Feet per Second

On my way to the beach early one morning last summer on a solo seaweed collecting mission, the river was looking misty and beautiful and I couldn't resist stopping to photograph the summer solstice dawn flow. I had no idea that I would stop to photograph it again, at the other edge of its range, in full-bodied, raging, muddy winter flow. But as I toured around town shooting images of flooding, high water, and other winter scenes, I instantly remembered the summer image, and wanted to do a rephoto for this blog.

Here are two faces of the same beast. Though the summer image is not anywhere near the lowest the river becomes in October, before the first raindrops fall. When the river is that small, it is difficult to imagine the fullness of bankfull, the trees bobbing in the center of the channel, the little rapids, strainers, and the sounds. The nights before we left on our trip, we were suddenly aware of the sound of rushing water all over the landscape. This as a contrast to the sound of wind, or the sound of silence, or the sound of birdsong, the sounds of summer.

The other contrast here is the green leaves of summer versus the bare, craggy branches of the alders on the banks, wearing their catkin necklaces. The green of summer is pervasive, and therefore unnoticed, but the colors in winter stand out boldly, against the backdrop of browns, grays, and greens. Willow branches are bright red. Alder catkins are yellow, usnea lichen is white-green, and looks like splashes of sunlight, even when the sun is hiding behind clouds. All this reminds me of a quote Drew often cites:

"A warm man can never understand a cold man". Not sure on the origins of this sentiment, but I regularly feel this at the zenith of the seasons, where I lose all sense of the bipolar reality of living close to the seasons. Tonight, far from home, I am contemplating these two, alternating and opposite faces of this thread weaving our landscape together.

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