Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

Stillaguamish River near Granite Falls
Recently, I was talking to someone who had lived in the Seattle area all her life, but said she was really sick of the weather. While it's true that it often either rains or is cloudy in Seattle, there are some great advantages to the weather here. For example, unlike places like Colorado (I'm not picking on CO, in fact I would love to live in their cold and dry climate), there is a lot of green in Seattle all year, even in winter.

From the Douglas Firs and pines to the Salal and Oregon Grape and moss, there is likely to be a palette full of different shades of green most anywhere you look. I have heard that Eskimos have a plethora of words for snow; we have a similar quantity of shades of green.
Iris in bloom on NW 80th St

And then there are the unusual and unexpected, yet totally welcome oddities of nature. Those times in the season when you wish you saw a flower blooming, but no flower in its right mind should actually be blooming. But there it is! A spot of blue with yellow stripes catches your eye amongst the tall grasses in a garden in front of a house on a busy street. An Iris in January? I bent down to see that it was, indeed, anchored to the earth and had not fallen from a passing bouquet. An Iris in January – what a wonderful sight!

This is one more reason to love Seattle in winter.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Start of 2011

The first clue that something out of the ordinary was up at the beach on Whidbey Island was the long line of cars parked along the road. Hoping to go for a New Year's Day stroll, the innkeeper had given us directions to Double Bluff Beach and as we arrived, I figured she had pointed us to a very well-loved beach and a long-standing New Year's Day tradition. It turned out it was both of those things, but not at all what we expected of the latter. After parking, we walked toward a throng of people, noting an ambulance and hearing upbeat music booming. Then I heard someone say my name; it was Kay, a friend from COGS who was walking with her fiance.

I asked her for enlightenment and she lifted her sweater to reveal a swimsuit. We had stumbled into the Double Bluff Polar Bear Plunge and we were prepared: we had our own accessories... cameras. At a temperature of 35 degrees with sunny skies, this was going to be fun to photograph with high shutter speeds and long lenses, capturing the speed of the exit of swimmers from the water, as well as the assortment of characters. 

Different groups of people had different strategies for preparing to plunge themselves in the 50-degree water. A group of guys were running around shirtless in their shorts and sneakers, a few bathers were changing into their suits on the beach (nothing to look at – think "well-insulated") and Kay and Dave were bundled in layers, protecting their precious body heat until the last moment. High Noon came and with it, a blast from an air-horn and a bit of confusion from the plungers (what, no countdown?). Their moment had come rather unceremoniously but aside from initial confusion, they all knew what to do... strip down and run in.

My focus was on Kay, as supportive as I could be without getting wet, and making sure she made good on her promise to dunk up to her neck – she did! A few shots toward the main crowd, then back at Kay as she was exiting. And what did she say upon her exit, was it celebratory or enlightening? She swore, "Oh Shit!"  And with those words, the new year of 2011 begins.