Macro Oregon: one final walk through Washington Park

| October 27, 2008 | 11 Replies

My conference wrapped up today. Tomorrow, they would have had to drag me onto a plane back to St. Louis, except that I miss my family so much. I’ll leave willingly, but with some sadness.

I’ve also fallen hopelessly in love with Oregon. Lots of bicycle commuters. Lots of free spirits, including all of the friendly skateboarders and kids with body piercings and tattoos. Lots of thoughtful people. I could easily imagine living in Portland. At 4pm today, at the end of the conference, I grabbed my little camera and hit the “Max” (light rail) to Washington Park (only 6 miles away from downtown Portland, Oregon). This time, I decided to focus on capturing park images using the “macro” feature of the camera. Therefore, this one last time, I will impose on readers with yet more photos that I took today, all of them in the late afternoon and early evening.

I had to bracket some of my shots with the macro feature, because focus can be a bit touchy. When a photo “hits,” though, it can be spectacular [as before, I'm using a cheap-but-incredible consumer grade camera, the Canon SD1100SI, lightly editing these photos with Picasa3, which is available free online. In short, nothing tricky is going on here--these images are showing you very much what I saw with my own eyes]. Here, for instance, is a berried plant that is losing its leaves, but not quite].

I know next to nothing about plants. but the plant below reminded me of something I read about ten years ago, that phyllotaxis (the spiral arrangement of the leaves on the stem of a plant) can be described by reference to Fibonacci numbers. I also found the subdued coloration of this plant especially beautiful.

Using the “macro” feature of a camera can reveal things you don’t notice in person. For instance, I didn’t notice (in person) that the tips of these green leave were actually blue.

And I didn’t notice the rainbow reflective pattern on the wings of this mosquito, who was trying to stab through my pants leg in order to get a meal out of my thigh.

As the sun set, though, I returned to regular shooting mode. I found this scene especially compelling (you can enlarge any of these photos by clicking on them).

The setting sun ignited the sky just before dark, drawing my attention to this line of trees.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be on a plane, excited to be traveling back home to see my wife and children. Tonight, though, I’m sorry that they couldn’t be walking in Washington Park with me, to see these sights with their own eyes.

I realize that I am rather intense and distractable, as a rule. Taking these silent walks in Oregon has been therapeutic. Having a camera with me has tempted me to look more carefully at many of the things that there has been to see. It’s not like there aren’t beautiful sights in St. Louis. The problem is that, back home, I’m too embedded in my routine to take the time to notice. That’s got to stop. Walking in silence is powerful healing medicine for the soul.

I must admit that many of these scenes from Oregon are more spectacular than most things I could see in St. Louis. There’s something especially awe-inspiring about all of these old growth 200+ feet tall Douglas Fir trees. They are majestic and towering; they cry out to be noticed as huge living things. Kind of like the blue whales of the forest.

As I walked through the Oregon forests, it didn’t escape me that these giant living things were my cousins, biologically speaking. They are survivors in this world, just like me. My silent walks in the park were so very effective at reminding me that these trees are alive, not just sources of wood products, not just pretty things. Darwin’s revamping of the inter-relationships among all living things is one of the most extraordinary and yes, subversive, things ever maintained. Trees as our cousins? How ridiculous! But how true.  And those tiny organisms are my cousins too (e.g., Cousin Mosquito).

For many people, Darwin’s words are troubling or even despicable. For me tonight, I take solace in the writings of Charles Darwin. I can’t think of anything more dramatic than the fact that I share this planet with my 200+ foot tall cousins.

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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (11)

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  1. lisa rokusek says:

    Erich, ya made me tear up. Sweet, tender post and perceptive post. You are right about Darwin, Oregon and the trees. I think one of the tragedies of 21st century life is we are often distanced from experiencing nature at all, let alone seeing our cousins in in trees and creatures. If we felt the interconnectedness we just might try to walk a bit more softly on this resilient but still fragile planet.

    I love that from your stance of skeptic you speak from a place that many spiritual people also occupy. Shows we can all have different paths and it still can work just fine.

    Thanks for sharing. I am going to go take a silent walk and let myself see my cousins.

  2. Alison says:

    How lovely that you were able to spend so much time enjoying Portland. I would go back if I didn't have so many other places on my list yet to see. I know I couldn't live there, though. I've spent my entire life in the Northeast, most of it in various parts of NJ, and it's too different from what I'm used to. In fact, when we had the opportunity to move three years ago, we investigated a lot of possibilities and still ended up in New Jersey – just a part closer to the beach!

  3. Okay "nature boy", enough with the pretty flowers and romantic sunsets. Get back to work! Maybe you've forgotten while on your Thoreau expedition, but we've got an election coming up! Yer gettin' soft out there! Get your head out of the berry bushes and back to the hard, cold world of politics where it belongs!

    Just kiddin' with ya! (Oh no! Palin's patois is rubbing off on me!) Beautiful pix, as always.

  4. kat says:

    I live in Portland and am thrilled that you found the magic that we live with every day. I have to say it's been an extraordinary October. 75-80 degree days just don't happen in Oregon at the end of October. Please come back again and bring the family. You should all enjoy the Oregon coast next time.

    Thanks Erich for all the nice things you had to say.

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    For a surreal close-up of a mosquito, check out this National Geographic photo: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/wallpaper/img/2

    And here's a mosquito filling up. It's hard to imaging flying with such a belly-full of blood. http://wildparty.typepad.com/home/2008/08/monday-

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Thoreau would have liked this study: interacting with nature (at least when compared to a hectic urban landscape) dramatically improves improve cognitive function. In particular, being in natural settings restores our ability to exercise directed attention and working memory, which are crucial mental talents. The basic idea is that nature, unlike a city, is filled with inherently interesting stimuli (like a sunset, or an unusual bird) that trigger our involuntary attention, but in a modest fashion. Because you can't help but stop and notice the reddish orange twilight sky – paying attention to the sunset doesn't take any extra work or cognitive control – our attentional circuits are able to refresh themselves. A walk in the woods is like a vacation for the prefrontal cortex.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_d

  7. Michelle Douglas says:

    Erich,

    Your pictures are absolutely breath taking. I mean it! They are awesome!

    Thanks for sharing, I hope you won't mind if I print them out.

    Security

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Michelle: Go ahead and print them out. I'd be honored. If anyone wants a high res version for printing, just email me and I'll send it individually.

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