The Park in Winter: A Photo Essay

Juanita Bay Park is a broad maze of wetlands and algae-shrouded boardwalks on the northeast side of Lake Washington. I used to stare longingly at the paths from the bus windows as the 255 lugged me toward graduate school and the slavery of being a teaching assistant. But time was a commodity more precious than blood, so I would sigh and return to whatever welcome or unwelcome book I was forcing myself through.IMG_1437 It's been months since I graduated, and there have been many days with splendid weather, but even with a wide-open schedule it feels like time runs like sand through clenching fingers. All I'm left with is grit. Why is it so easy to do things when others compel us, and so hard to do things we dream for ourselves? Especially when they are a little out of the way, or rearrange the normal shape of a schedule?IMG_1439 Finally, something in me rolled over and pointed to Thursday, February 4. This would be Juanita Bay Park Day (my inner monologue tends to rhyme and alliterate to an alarming extent). But the designated day dawned gray and lackluster, with the bored fuzzy sky that will defeat my poor little Canon digital every time. And then! At 3:00! I looked outside to see a break in the clouds had opened and pouring down from the heavens was the kind of golden, late-afternoon sunshine that's so thick you can almost taste it like honey upon the tongue.

It was gone by the time I arrived at the park, not fifteen minutes later.

There was still enough light for photographs, however, and the results have a bleakness about them that I find quite striking -- as though you could take Dust Bowl-era Dorothea Lange-type portraits of plant life in a wetland park. (But without the talent and scathing social commentary.) And the diffuse light helped me figure out the quirks of this camera a little bit more -- like the way the macro setting and the manual focus can be combined to get a texture I've been trying to achieve for months. And so I have to wonder: how much of the struggle to physically drag myself to the park, and the wrestling match between my equipment and the indifferent cloud cover of a dying day, came through in the photos that resulted? Would better weather have made me a lazier photographer? I suspect so.

Once spring gets a little more sprung, I'll head back and find out.