Tag Archives: snow

Weekly Photo Challenge: Out of the Ordinary

When people think of southern California, images often include sunshine, palm trees and sandy beaches. And while some of that is certainly true, it is also a place that is within easy reach of snowy mountaintops and deserts known for extreme heat and unusual beauty.

Even our usual palms were looking out of the ordinary earlier this week as they stood shrouded in dense fog, turning the sky from its predictable blue to shades of gray.  I stopped on my way to work to snap this foggy image with my phone.

img_5166

Just days earlier we had trekked to the top of our local mountains for a hike in the snow.  We weren’t entirely sure we would find snow–it had stormed the previous week, but had been warm and sunny during the week. But our luck held out and we found plenty of snow…and a few other out of the ordinary photo opportunities like this metal watering hole with ice floating in it.

69f7749e-34b3-4cea-9798-8ed83d1cd84b

And this large metal ball-shaped thing.  I have no idea what it is or what purpose it serves beyond piquing my curiosity!

91287e84-a6a7-42c3-8511-47a79e3b9e4d

A low tide walk on the beach revealed some out of the ordinary artifacts too. It’s not common to find an entire clam or oyster shell positioned on its hinge in the sand.  You can even spy a bit of algae growing on it!

f03a4b12-80e7-4b1c-b2ed-eff1d63a0ca4

The classroom is often ripe for out of the ordinary possibilities.  Today our friend Janis came to share her passion for taking photos of trash she finds on the beach with our students.  She brought bins of color-sorted plastic debris for students to use to create still life arrangements to photograph as part of our study of photography and photographers.  The kids loved playing with the trash and created some beautiful and thought-provoking art.

img_5192

Yesterday we headed out with our devices to try something new photographically.  I loved watching students lay down under the play structure to photograph the polka dots they noticed when looking up and the delight on the face of a third grade boy when he managed to shoot down the baseball bat holder and capture the image of the spider in his shot.  I noticed this rake hanging on the fence by the dog park…getting close created an out of the ordinary view.

img_5175

I took a quick beach walk after school today to clear my head and welcome the weekend.  The sky was filled with clouds that created interesting textures and colors.  But my eye was drawn to the flock of tiny seabirds who moved in unison with the waves.  When I got low and focused on them, all the color seemed to drain out of the scene, taking me back to a time of black and white.  This out of the ordinary scene is unfiltered and unedited.

38aabb4d-509d-4e96-80ec-fcdcfb9aa0e7

So, head out with your lens and see what you can find that strikes you as out of the ordinary.  Perhaps it will be a new vantage on something you see every day or maybe you will turn your head and see something you’ve not noticed before.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #outoftheordinary for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Take a look around…what will you find when you look for the out of the ordinary?

Exploring in the Rain

When you visit a rainforest, especially in January, you should probably expect rain.  I could hear the light rain falling even before I was quite awake this morning, lightly tapping on the roof of the lovely Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in the tiny town of Forks (of Twilight fame).  Light comes late here, with sunrise around 8am!

It was gray and wet as we ventured out, heading toward the Hoh rainforest and the Hall of Mosses.  But we weren’t the only rainy day adventurers.  As we registered at the ranger station I couldn’t resist this shot of the hiking boots from the other side of the sign.

boots

All this rain results in spectacular displays of mosses.  Everything that stands still is covered in velvety coats of shaggy moss.  You can see the magnitude of the mosses in this shot of Geoff dwarfed by the mossy trees.

mossy tree

And of course, I continued to be on the lookout for mushrooms.  I wasn’t disappointed.  There were enormous shelf mushrooms that grew tall above my head and tiny mushrooms sprouting from cracks in logs.  This tiny fairy village of mushrooms caught my fancy today growing among the mosses.

mushroom village

As we left the rainforest my eye was drawn to the way the fog hung low behind the treeline.  It almost looks like snow out beyond the river.

low lying fogLeaving the rainforest, we headed north toward Port Angeles and another part of the park.  And after an unfortunate encounter with a park ranger (going too fast along the road near the lake) that resulted in a speeding ticket, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge.  This is the highest part of the park at over 5,000 feet in elevation.  We could see snow capped peaks as we wound our way up and could feel the temperature dropping.  And Hurricane Ridge lives up to its name, the winds were vicious as we got out of the car!  The fog and snow blended as we looked out across the ridge.

hurricane ridge

Away from the ridge, the winds calmed and it was fun to stomp around in the crunchy snow as the rain continued.  Geoff caught this picture of me enjoying my third visit to the snow in the last three weeks.  I think that is a record for me!  (I may not have spent as much time in the snow in the last decade as I have in the last three weeks!)

in the snow

On our way back down the mountain, we noticed a deer family crossing the road in front of us. We slowed to a stop, camera in hand, snapping pictures as they crossed…and then seemed to freeze in an effort to appear invisible to us.  This shot makes the deer almost look like a museum model rather than a living, breathing animal.  I got pictures of all three…

deer near Hurricane Ridge

We ended our adventure with a delicious and relaxing dinner at Next Door GastroPub…even sharing a rich and decadent dessert.  Before heading back to our hotel we took an evening drive around the seaport to try our hand at some nighttime photography.  I’ll end with this shot through the rainy car window of a small coffee shop.

coffee shop through raindrops

Another wonderful day exploring, can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Taking Time to Explore

I’ve been debating on a word to call on as a muse for 2015.  I’ve been looking for a word that is active…that will push me to move out of my comfort zone, challenge me mentally and physically, and will work for both my professional and personal life.

And today’s adventures pushed me to decide.

We knew we wanted to squeeze one more hike into these precious days off…something a bit out of our ordinary choices.  And when we left the house this morning in our hiking gear, with cold weather layers ready, we thought we were heading up into our local mountains.  But at the gas station, we changed our minds and headed off on a two-hour trek to Palm Springs and the aerial tramway.

tram to the mountaintop

The tram takes you from the bottom of the mountain near Palm Springs to near the top of San Jacinto at over 7000 feet.  What we didn’t anticipate were the crowds…or the snow.  Each tram holds about 80 people and takes about 15 minutes to go from the valley to the mountain station…and there are two.  We were lucky and only waited 90 minutes for our turn to go to the top.  By the time we boarded the tram people were waiting more than three and half hours!

Once we got to the top, we headed off on a five plus mile hike…in the snow!  And ah, it was breathtaking!  As we walked away from the lodge, we moved away from the throngs of people who had come solely to throw some snowballs and slide in the snow.  The sun shone brightly on the clean, white snow.  We could hear birds chirping and our own breath as we climbed the mountain.  We happened by this family of snowpeople as we headed out on our hike.

snowman family

We reached our destination at 9100 feet!  Crisp and white and fresh…Round Valley (the peak is another three miles up, we’re saving that for another day!).

at altitude

The views were gorgeous!  I had that same feeling of peace and relaxation that I get when I walk on the beach–a sense of the power and beauty of nature.

tree on San Jacinto

From the magnificence of the trees, rocky mountainside, and enormous boulders, to the fragile elegance of icicles and the reminders of what is yet to come from the pinecones…the wonders of Mother Nature surrounded us and wrapped us in her arms.

pinecone in the snow

And for the cherry on top, as we got back into the tram for the trip back down the mountain, the sun was setting with the full moon in view.  As the tram floor rotated 360 degrees during our descent, we were treated to amazing and colorful views of the entire valley below.

full moon at sunset in the tram

A friend reminded me that I could actually stick with my word from last year for more than a year…play has plenty more potential.  I could probably stay with it for a lifetime.  (And I think it will remain with me!)

But I’m ready to add to play…and this year my word will be explore.  I want to explore possibilities and places, new ideas and old habits.  I want my explorations to take me in new directions, to push me to try things I haven’t imagined I would ever do, like hike up a mountain in the snow!  I look forward to exploring this year…physically, intellectually, imaginatively, and playfully.  Hope you’ll come along for the ride!

New Year, New Eyes

There’s lots of cliches about the New Year…resolution making, retrospectives on the year that passed, champagne at midnight, polar bear plunges on New Year’s day, and so many more.

And somehow, there is something about a new number for the year that encourages the idea of fresh starts, new habits…and maybe a new way of seeing the world.  I got ready for my new year by heading up to our local mountains for a rare…and wonderful snowy day.  You might remember last week that I said it never snows where I live.  Well, that is still true, it didn’t snow in most of San Diego…but we did get enough snow in the mountains and surrounding foothills to create a winter wonderland.

For someone who seldom sees snow, this was a treat!  The world looks entirely different when covered in a layer of white.

snowy trees

Even the familiar…dandelions and native plants take on new dimensions against a snowy backdrop.

dandelions in the snow

frozen flowers

And we couldn’t resist the urge to build a snowman…even if it was a miniature version!

snowman building

I love the way snow creates a quiet space, there is a sense of a hush and opportunity for reflection and introspection.

in the snow

Maybe that’s what the cows were thinking (although this was later in the day after lots of snow had melted…and at a lower elevation)!

cows and snow

I’m sure I’m not going to be able to depend on snow to give me new eyes to view my life this year.  But maybe a ride high above the ground will help…like in these skyfari buckets at the zoo!

skyride

But mostly, I know, I will need to stay on the lookout for new ways to see what is most familiar to me.  I couldn’t resist this shot of three seagulls as I walked to the parking lot at our local beach…seeing with new eyes in the new year!

3 seagulls

What will you see this year as you look with new eyes?

The Power of Multiple Mentor Texts

Writing is hard work.  Some days the writing flows and I know how to put my words together to achieve the desired effect…but at other times I feel  stuck or confused or unsure about how to approach the writing task in front of me.

That’s where mentor texts come in.  I look for pieces written by others that do what I am trying to achieve…and study them to learn from those writers who are acting as my mentors. Sometimes I learn about structure and how to organize my ideas.  Sometimes I am inspired by word choice and craft elements.  Sometimes I notice text features and literary devices.

And for the young writers in our classroom, we work for find mentor texts to support their development as writers.  We like to use multiple texts, knowing that not all texts work for all students…and to show that not all writers approach the same kind of writing in the same way.

And sometimes the just-right mentor text sings.

Last week our students studied four poets and their poems about snow as they got ready to write poems about snowflakes.  We started with an old friend, Valerie Worth.  Her small poems are a treasure: short and rich, filled with imagery and powerful language.  And then we turned to an unusual mentor text…an “old” poem with some unfamiliar language.

On a Night of Snow

Cat, if you go outdoors you must walk in the snow.  You will come back with little white shoes on your feet, little white slippers of snow that have heels of sleet.  Stay by the fire, my Cat.  Lie still, do not go.  See how the flames are leaping and hissing low, I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite, so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet–Stay with me Cat.  Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night.  Strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore; and more than cats move, lit by our eyes’ green light, on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar–Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might, and things that are yet to be done.  Open the door!

Elizabeth Coatsworth

The first response from my students was, “What?”  We reminded them to focus on what they understood about the poem rather than what they didn’t…and they picked up on the “little white shoes” right away.  Then one of our students pointed out that each of the stanzas was told from a different point of view…the first was talking to the cat, the second was the cat talking to the Mistress.  With that comment, one of our third graders, M,  couldn’t contain herself!  “Oh, now I see it!  I want to try that!”

When we went to write, she started immediately.  M had already talked about the metaphor she wanted to try on…an idea about a blank canvas to represent the whiteness of snow…when we had studied Valerie Worth’s poem the day before.

Here’s her poem:

The Snowflake Outside

Snowflake, you have no choice but to fall. So keep dancing down like a ballerina, making the world empty of color like a frustrated artist’s blank canvas. Snowflake, keep whirling magically and descend daintily onto my sleeve. From a great sky you fell.

Yes, from a great sky I fell so let me keep falling forever and ever. Don’t let me land on the frosty ground. I want to have my life forever. I want to show my style and unique ways. I don’t want to land, melt, or be unnoticed. Let me keep falling and blowing with the wild whistling wind.

M

There’s magic when the just-right mentor text provides the just-right support for the writer. You can see how M used the structure of Coatsworth’s poem as a container for her ideas, images, and feelings about snowflakes.  Before she was introduced to this poem she had already done some writing about snowflakes, thinking about movement, metaphor, and imagery.  The idea of shifting the speaker inspired her writing and gave her the shape she was looking for.

Most of the time we try to avoid mentor texts that directly address the topic/subject we are focused on.  But poems about snow are plentiful and we had many choices of mentor texts about snow…and our students have little experience with snow and snowflakes (except those they made by cutting paper) beyond what they have seen in books, movies, and photographs since it doesn’t snow where we live.

I love when a mentor text nudges a writer to try something new and stretch her wings.  And I am reminded that writers need a variety of mentor texts to learn from…rather than a single model.

What mentor texts have you used lately?

photo_2-2

Snow in San Diego…Really??!!

A rainy Saturday set the scene for our adventure.  Remember, rain in San Diego is an event! The smallest amount makes our roads crazy and all the talk…on news stations, in coffee shops, in bars, on the street…is about the rain.

photo

On the surface, we told ourselves that we were off to do some holiday shopping, but really we were looking for a bit of adventure!  Parking itself was an adventure…and as we searched we discovered that we were just in time for the Little Italy Tree Lighting Festival. And as we searched for parking we also spied this magnificent rainbow.

photo-4

Once parked we emerged into the cool, crisp afternoon.  The rain was done for the time being, the sun made an appearance…a perfect time for a bit of exploring.

photo-6

As we wandered and walked and ate and talked the sun began to set, painting splotches of brilliant pink onto the gray rain clouds in the distance.

photo-7

We explored the booths at the festival as darkness arrived and looked up, turned to each other and asked…what is that?  Small white flakes floated in the air…could it be…  As always, as someone who grew up in dry, relatively warm southern CA, when I saw the flakes my first thought was ash…a fire?  No…snow swirled and danced in the glow of the lights. Snow?  Really?

photo-2

photo-5

Sure, it was snow.  The man-made variety.  But it did lend an air of festivity and winter-ness to the event.  It was noisy…and turned off and on as the guy manned the switch.  But when it was blowing snow, everyone around responded.  Children danced and chased the flakes, trying to capture them in their hands, on their tongues (I have no idea how it tastes), in their outstretched hats.  Adults flocked around capturing pictures of their children, of each other, and of themselves.

photo-3

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try my hand at photographing snowflakes…and this version of snow lacked the hush and wonder of the snow gifted from clouds.  But it was fun and unexpected.  Remember, we think light rainfall is a major weather event.  So snow in San Diego…  Maybe a snow day will be next…