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Ambling along this damp morning, I was stunned to see two beautiful spiderwebs quivering between their anchor trees. This one looked like an extravagant theater curtain slowly being unfurled.

This arachnid architect is sure to catch breakfast, lunch, and dinner in its net. The water clinging to its many strands made this look like a glistening chandelier. But linger longer. The more you stare, the further in you go, its geometry pulling you to the center of the web and beyond.

This second web was above the first and to the left. Looking at it, I felt like I was being looked back at. Yet no one else was around save a distant Steller’s Jay and some Dark-Eyed Juncos.

Rotating the next photo, I realized that, yes, not only was I watching the forest, but the forest was watching me as well.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Here in the Northwest, we don’t yet know if our intermittent clouds will allow us to see Mars’ closest approach to our planet for the next 15 years. This occurs before sunrise on October 6th, 2020. Mars has been blazing in the night sky and will continue to do so for weeks, but Tuesday is when the red planet and our home marble meet to shake hands.

It is difficult to find clear patches of night sky without light pollution so I have learned to embrace the trees. If you’re not near trees, you’re probably near a building or city.

There was nothing else shining near the moon and Mars at this time on this night, making this all the more dramatic. Since the weather may or may not cooperate Tuesday, I figured I’d snap some photos in the absence of clouds.

This last photo deserved some FX. Mars was far bigger and brighter than it appears here. Tuesday it will be a mere 38.6 million miles away. Be sure to look up on October 13th, 2020 as well, when Mars is at opposition to the sun.

The planet Mars — crimson and bright, filling our telescopes with vague intimations of almost-familiar landforms– has long formed a celestial tabula rasa on which we have inscribed our planeto-logical theories, utopian fantasies, and fears of alien invasion or ecological ruin.

David Grinspoon

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Driving home from a friend’s house late the weekend before, I had to stop to get photos of a toasted cheddar moon and blazing red telluric Mars just above it. Little did I know that, courtesy of the fires raging in Washington, Oregon, and California, we soon wouldn’t be able to see the sky for a week or more.

The smoke began to funnel northward through the I5 corridor late in the week. At first it looked like fog. Then, on Saturday, September 12th, 2020, we woke up on an alien planet. It looked like Mars outside– yellow, hazy, dark, and foreboding.

This is the Edmonds ferry dock at Brackett’s Landing. The whole world looked like pea soup. You could barely see the ferry that had just left.

The ferry loomed like a ghost ship and was then sucked into a void. Normally you see an opposite shore. Today, there was nothing, just the edge of the world.

I zoomed in as the ferry plowed westward, but at best it seemed like an apparition in a sandstorm.

These photos have not been edited at all. This is how the beach actually looked that Saturday. You can see scuba divers coming in. I found it odd that people were still out diving, but does hazardous air quality affect visibility in the water enough for them to care?

Even the plants’ colors seemed off. Everything was saturated in this weird, otherworldly glow, like we had survived some nuclear horror and were slowly crawling out of our shelters afterwards.

As I snapped the photo of the famous orca, I mused how it appeared to be swimming in pollution. Then it hit me– how similar this is to the disgusting pollution our resident orcas live in. This is what we do to their world. This is a constant for them. Because we so callously pollute the water, each local orca could be considered a floating superfund site.

We used to rejoice when their babies were born. Now we just pray they survive the lack of traditional food sources and the industrial waste. They often don’t, and humanity goes on complaining about lack of entertainment during COVID, or rioting, or obsessing over the latest cosmetics, ignoring their cries.

I have stood here many times, but I’d never seen it look so foreign.

All day, no matter where I went in two counties, I noted an absence of birds. Far fewer birds than normal braved the rancid, tar-filled air. This crow and his seagull buddy foraged along the beach in tandem with few others in sight.

Yep. It was definitely Smoke Time.

Arriving at the north end of Lake Washington, this panorama seemed straight out of a sci fi movie. We were supposed to have temperatures nearing 80 degrees with near full sun, but last time I’d checked the temperature it was 58.

Walking out on the dock felt like walking out to the edge of a flat earth. You usually see land on all sides. Seattle, however, had disappeared. The middle of this scene had simply vanished. There was smoke, and then there was nothing.

Gazing down into the lake’s milfoil mass, I imagined one of those menacing merpeople from Harry Potter reaching up and grabbing me. No thanks.

These logs, although fixed, appeared to be swimming away from the yawing nothingness in the middle of the lake.

A gaggle of geese bobbed around like nothing was happening, the lighting exactly like the filters used to portray Mexico City in the movies. Ever notice that, that Mexico City always shows up in hazy brown or sepia tones on the big screen?

These old pilings looked like a pathway into another place or time.

Zooming in, no birds roosted here today. None flew through the air either. Aside from traffic noise, there was an eerie stillness.

One rebel Canada goose floated leisurely through the soup apart from the others.

As I was chatting with a local, we looked up and said, “what’s that?” It was the first time we’d seen the sun in a couple of days. It was a grapefruit-hued pinhole in the sky, barely piercing the blanketed glop of destruction.

The sun’s reflection in the water was just as bizarre.

At times there was a blush or rose color playing upon the undulating mocha of the lake.

While forecasters had originally said the smoke would start moving out earlier this week, that didn’t happen. The Seattle area was enveloped in a dense yellow fog again this morning… except it wasn’t fog. By afternoon we saw a bit of sunlight, prompting me to go to Juanita Beach in Kirkland to see what I could see.

Sure enough, there was the sun, sparkling down upon the latte-like lake. Yet it seemed to be a sun from John Carter, Pelelandra, or Tatooine.

The ducks were happy enough. But there were still no birds in the air.

It seemed like dusk, not afternoon.

Beyond the boardwalk there was just a fisherman and faux fog. No Seattle. No 520 bridge. Just empty space, because the west is on fire and we continue to pray for rain when there otherwise would have been summer through the end of September.

Smoke veils the air like souls in drifting suspension, declining the war’s insistence everyone move on.

Jayne Anne Phillips

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Moonrise on Independence Day, July 4th, 2020 in Seattle was 9:11 P.M. By that time the penumbral lunar eclipse was happening, causing a slight shadow to fall upon the full moon.

People asked me what I was waiting for when they saw my camera. One woman seemed to think my wait was pointless until– SHAZAM! The moon came out from behind the trees.

Glorious…

A passing boat had this patriotic light display on it.

Then the fireworks started to happen.

It was amazing to see the fireworks light up the water next to the shimmering trail of moonlight.

This picture reminded me of a face, specifically that of Gypsy in MST3K.

The moonlight stretched further and further across the water as if extending a path to onlookers.

As it darkened, Saturn emerged like a pinhole was poked in a dark canvas. I expected to see both Jupiter and Saturn, but only saw Saturn (I think…)

What a blessing to have this light show going on along with the fireworks.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Have you ever been driving along and are suddenly so awed by what you see rolling over you that you stop to take pictures?

I went eastward down a side street to capture the utter darkness of this immense cloud in Snohomish County tonight.

This inky denim-blackness looked like it was going to swallow the earth.

The clouds to the west were fluffier and friendlier, yet still moving like something was after them.

This was a truly ombre sky. It comes on the heels of a torrential rainstorm on Saturday night that snapped thick flower stalks and triggered small landslides.

It was not like this farther north. I must have been in the right place at the right time to see this massive conglomeration of cumulus clouds passing overhead like a vengeful mother ship.

The color has faded out of the sky. It is grey, becoming darker as the world turns herself round a little more. The clouds are long and black and ragged, like the wings of stormbattered dragons.

Keri Hulme

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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For years I have been fascinated with the story of a goldfish that survived the April 29th, 1965 Puget Sound earthquake. This was a strong quake that one of my parents remembers vividly. They were just kids when it happened, and as a kid I remember marveling over their description of the strong jolts, groceries toppling, and the pavement in the parking lot of a Pierce County grocery store rising and falling in waves.

HistoryLink’s Alan Stein wrote a piece on this nearly 20 years ago which is posted below (click to see the explanatory newspaper photo). Given the local connection to Juanita Beach, and the fact that Wednesday is the 55th anniversary of the earthquake and the goldfish’s improbable survival, I’ve wanted to make this into a local festival. I asked around. No bites. And that was before COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

At minimum, I wanted to put this logo, with its upside down fish bowl, on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Kirkland needs to celebrate its history more as its high density development is swallowing up the past. We see cars with odes to Wall Drug, the world’s largest ball of string, and the Mystery Spot, so why not our Juanita Beach goldfish? Why not make this a thing? It’s especially salient with the renovations going on at the park right now. Much of the park is being completely redesigned.

If you live or work anywhere near Kirkland, raise a glass to the Pepple goldfish this Wednesday, April 29th, then turn it upside down quickly and see if you can get a seal. We really should celebrate something this memorable, this miraculous, this bizarre… especially at a time when we all need a really good party.


Goldfish survives bizarre earthquake experience on April 29, 1965.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 3/01/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3037

On April 29, 1965, a goldfish owned by Juanita resident Howard Pepple survives a strange experience. The glass bowl containing the fish flips off a 4-foot 8-inch bookcase, overturns, and lands on the floor upsidedown, forming a seal. When Mr. Pepple returns home, he finds the fish swimming complacently in its overturned domicile.

A Fish Story

Pepple, a caretaker at Juanita Beach Park, lived in an apartment above the park’s concession stand with his wife and fish. No one was home during the quake except the fish, so two hours after the temblor Mr. Pepple returned to assess any damage that may have occurred to their dwelling and possessions.

The object most out of place was the fishbowl. When the Pepples had left in the morning it had been sitting on a shelf, more than four feet above the floor. It was now lying upside down at ground level. Examining it further, Mr Pepple saw water inside. The fish swam within, oblivious to its current predicament.

Flipper

Investigators surmised that during the quake, the shelf swayed, and the bowl was knocked from its perch. It flipped end over end as it fell to the tiled floor. The soft tile, similar to lineoleum, softened the blow, and the mouth of the bowl landed perfectly flush with the floor. A seal formed which kept water (and fish) inside. Rocks which had been on the bottom of the glass domicile were on the floor, still within the fishbowl.

The local newspaper was alerted to this bizarre event and photos were taken. Pepple then inverted the bowl, returned it and its resident back to the shelf, and things returned back to normal in the Pepple household. All was well again in Juanita.


Sources: “Juanita Goldfish Swims After Quake Flips Bowl,” East Side Journal May 6, 1965, p. 1.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com except HistoryLink article, which is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution.

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This is the cottage I call the Feriton Fairy House. Where is Feriton, you may ask? It’s on Google Maps… right smack where the Google campus is in Kirkland, Washington. KirklandHistory.org has a well-researched explanation of why this area is called Feriton. Most Kirklanders are unaware of its historic name.

Located just north of the walking and biking trail through the heart of the city known as the Cross Kirkland Corridor, you can pass by and completely miss this gem built in 1945. The area is dominated by commercial and industrial sites from the CKC southward, and larger, more modern residential buildings on the other sides.

This is what you might see as you travel towards Houghton (PCC, Met Market, Northwest University) on 6th Street South.

Here is what you might glance at while traveling northward.

You might think it’s just a shack on property worth most of a million waiting to be swallowed up by another condo building. But stop for a moment. Look closer.

The closer you get, the more idyllic this setting becomes. The busy road and the bike lanes start fading away. You become aware of the tinkling water of a creek. You begin to marvel at the lush grounds and old trees.

Linger longer. Who lived here? What was its purpose? I’ve met the owner and know that he still cares for the place. There is nothing worth stealing, yet this little island of calm on the edge of downtown is priceless.

The Feriton Fairy House has seen better days. Yet it’s that worn, down home feel that lends itself to the fairy tale realm. You can weave many stories centered around this house. You can imagine a World War II veteran having lived there since he came back from France. You could conjure up a tale of three raccoons that live inside and argue over how to make the best buckwheat pancakes for their woodland neighbors. Perhaps a wise gnome in a blue cap lives there and only comes out in the moonlight.

Even when you’re walking by across the street it doesn’t seem like much.

Just cross the street, though, and you seem to be staring at a little slice of the shire. Imagine this without the fence, without the adjacent busy trail, without the sidewalk and sign. It seems like another time and place.

You’re standing in the middle of a city near the campus of a major corporation yet here is this splash of country. Follow the creek under the roadway and you’ll find a friendly willow and magnificent magnolia soaking up the hydration on the other side.

We often take one glance and keep moving. There is value in stopping, looking, breathing in, tuning the distractions out. We can fail to see great beauty when we pass by too quickly or stand too far off. It’s when we pause and explore, when we get a little closer, that we can find an oasis in the arduous busyness of life.

There’s no two-car garage here. No upper stories or pretentious balconies. The beauty here is in its simplicity. Standing on the edge of this property, while you’re drawn into the pastoral setting, you cross a threshold into a timeless state in which you realize this is what Kirkland once was.

May this cottage continue to stand as a monument to a simpler time when we wanted less and were grateful more.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Standing on water, watching the Pink Super Moon rise, a guy jamming on a Flutophone while sky watchers flit around in their bank robber chic attire… yes, it was an epic night.

Watching this moon come over the eastern horizon was a transcendent experience.

As we carefully spaced, socially distanced sky watchers were hyper focused on the eastern sky, another light show was going on behind us in the west.

Driving north, I noticed the planet Venus blazing in the western sky.

Three of these lights are not the moon. Do you know what the others are?

Driving to work the next morning, I was in awe of the still full moon dangling over the water in the pink and purple heavens. I’d stopped to get photos of the moon at dawn the day before– it appeared as a gargantuan orb splashed with molten xanthic. By the time I found a place to park it had disappeared behind a bank of clouds. So I was especially grateful to get these early morning shots.

Only the first and last shots in this post were edited. The colors of this night and the following morning really were this varied and spectacular. In one week, we were blessed with a super moon, Passover, and Easter all at once. Surely that is no coincidence.


…it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.

Psalm 89:37

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Did you see it? The crescent moon was flanked by Jupiter and Mars this morning before dawn with Saturn off to the left. The moon was so large and buttery and the planets so bright that it was surreal. It seemed like an epic scene out of a science fiction movie set in another galaxy, like I was speeding towards someone else’s sky.

Only after I arrived at my destination was I able to try to take photos. By then some of the colors had faded and I could not see Saturn. But seeing Jove and angry red Mars was more than enough.

A lot is going on in the predawn sky. As you climb out of your dream life and disentangle yourself from the sheets, be sure to look outside and up to catch the latest the heavens have to offer. Space.com has the day by day rundown for this month.

With wonderful wisdom the Lord God on high
Has contriv’d the two lights which exist in the sky;
The sun’s hot as fire, and its ray bright as gold,
But the moon’s ever pale, and by nature is cold.

The sun, which resembles a huge world of fire,
Would burn up full quickly creation entire
Save the moon with its temp’rament cool did assuage
Of its brighter companion the fury and rage.

George Borrow, Wild Wales

©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Earlier this week I drove down to photograph the latest developments in the West Sammamish River Bridge project. I shared pictures of the three bridges there in The Final Countdown, two of which will soon be lost to time.

Almost all of the trees on the west side of the bridges have been removed to make room for a crane. It is painfully obvious what a necessary screen they were as the road now has a plain view of messy industrial sites beyond.

On the south side of the bridges is the local boat launch on the west and Rhododendron Park to the east. As I glanced to the east, I was elated to see a big tree on the edge of the park full of cormorants.

There were cormorants everywhere. You can usually find a couple paddling down the slough here, but 1… 2… 3… They were almost impossible to count as these trees (plural) seemed to be a beachfront disco/single mingle spot for the local population. Other two-legged species gathered around the trees to photograph the gathering.

I counted 57 cormorants perched in these trees at one point, but some kept rushing off as others arrived. I chuckled inside because 57 cormorants sounds like a vintage car… a ’57 Cormorant. Try it on an unsuspecting teen and see if they respond, “yeah, yeah, that was a great car.”

These appear to be double-crested cormorants. The ones with lighter feathers may be juveniles. Not being a cormorant expert, The Cornell Lab’s page on cormorants sheds a little light on this.

Once again being sans tripod, I struggled to find stability during these zoomed in shots. This one turned out a bit out of focus, so I played with it to highlight the striking emerald color of these birds’ eyes.

My Nordic ancestors thought of cormorants much as we think of angels now. Cormorants were believed to bring warnings from the Folk of the Forest and therefore functioned as protectors.

Do you believe in angels? I do. Thursday night some friends prayed for my safety. Friday morning I had a narrow escape from a sudden danger. I’m certain that some invisible friends helped guide me through.

These birds weigh about three to five pounds each, so these branches must be sturdy enough to host such a party. I noticed that none of them landed on the trees and touched each other. They liked being close, but didn’t seem to interact much. Perhaps they too are practicing social distancing.

Here come more! Those of us near the base of the trees were amazed.

If you are familiar with Packard automobiles, they had a distinctive hood ornament often referred to as the “swan.” But it’s said to actually be a cormorant.

These birds of a feather didn’t make a lot of noise. This video of their call demonstrates why stumbling upon a group of these at night can be unnerving. Years ago I was ambling along a different spot on the slough in the dark and froze when I heard what sounded like 35 hoarse cats hacking up hairballs. I had no idea what was “hargh”ing at me just offshore that night.

According to Wikipedia, Phalacrocoracidae is a family of about 40 species of aquatic, fish-eating birds. We call them cormorants, but some in Britain call them shags. Curious about the etymology of this word, I learned that this French-sounding term, cormorant, is Middle English, comes from the French cormoran, which before that came from medieval Latin’s corvus marinus, or sea raven.

Keep your eye on the bird second from the right. He or she cracked me up. I think they were really enjoying the sun.

And back and to the right…

A little forward, to the left now… It was like bird yoga. You’ve probably noticed the dangerous snarl of fishing line on the top branch. People do fish at this spot. Personally I wish we’d just leave the fish to the birds in such places, especially with the bridge project starting as it’s disrupting their habitat.

That’s about a four-foot wingspan on the left.

This appears to be the wing drying behavior that double-crested cormorants do when they land. Not all cormorants do this, curiously. The sun was very warm in this spot on an otherwise chilly day. This wing drying is also associated with the Christian symbol of the cross, which may explain why the cormorant occurs on certain European crests.

Here you can see their magnificent black webbed feet. Since they are primarily designed for life in the water and swim with their feet, their legs sit towards the back of the body so they’re not the most graceful walkers. In the water, they are fish killing machines, a fact that has caused humans to mistreat them in some cultures. A cord was tied around their neck so they couldn’t swallow fish, then men would use them to hunt fish and take their catch from them.

Interestingly, this type of cormorant will nest in trees or on the ground depending on the habitat.

As graceful as these birds are in the sky and water, there is still something vaguely pterodactyl about them to me. Perhaps it’s because they are among the so-called earlier birds. They seem to be a survivor from a distant past.

When Dylan Thomas proclaimed his love for his wife in a letter, he said, “I will come back alive & as deep in love with you as a cormorant dives, as an anemone grows, as Neptune breathes, as the sea is deep.” As this bridge project continues, I hope the locals like these big black diving birds survive unscathed.


©2020 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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