Lake County and All Points North of the Bay


Rodman Slough

   Sunday 7 July 2013: 18.43: Rodman Slough, Clear Lake: Six days over 105º. Never below 90 in our bedroom at night. What sleep we’ve gotten has been fitful, at best. The Slough has been our retreat and refuge. Each morning we’ve loaded the boat with cameras, food, and various cold fluids, then skimmed close to the shore toward Rodman bridge. Once in the Slough, we typically get just beyond that first fork then float languidly along the south bank. In among the warm, musty shade, what flashing glints of direct sunlight reach us must first penetrate the upper canopy of the tall willows, then bounce, weave, and skate their way through the lower thatched screen of branches, vines, and bushes, hover momentarily, and finally spend themselves impotently on the cool dark water — a soothing visual lullaby of dappled Renoir-light slowly dancing and drifting about us all day.
   Unlike the stagnant oppressive heat at home, this afternoon stillness and quiet is restful and rejuvenates, sending us both toward sleep (the pen has twice dropped from my hand as I’ve written this). I like to lie back here across the wide padded stern. Niniane lounges up front among all the cushions and pillows in the bow. With her sunglasses strategically placed over her eyes, it’s difficult to tell whether she’s reading or napping. Although, I haven’t seen her move or turn a page in what seems like an hour, so let’s just say she’s sleeping.
  Of course, I think of it as sleep to which she is richly entitled, after earlier helping me expose a few sheets of film. I sank the big tripod in the shallow water along the shore then carefully set up the 8x10, so as to photograph her next to a stand of tules.
 The effort has exhausted both of us. So now it’s a combination of relaxation and recovery.

Niniane (Lady of the Lake), Rodman Slough, Lake County; July 2013

  Niniane calls it the erotic quiet. Rather than silence, as the cooler temperatures and softening light of the early evening float into the Slough, the pastoral symphony begins. Life’s triumphant melody sings anew out across the water and through the foliage. Bullfrogs moan out their loneliness, fish slap-splash as they erupt briefly from the water, like percussive instruments in an orchestra. Flute-like songbirds, perhaps thousands of them, weave contrapuntal melodic lines with the herons, grebes, egrets, osprey, and all the other waterfowl that call this refuge home. Somewhere up in the nearly inaudible registers of the score humming birds, crickets, dragonflies, bees, and other swirling insects participate. As always, the chorus makes its contribution from above — wave after wave of migratory birds, geese, and ducks in beautiful formations crying out as they make way toward their temporary homes.
  Later tonight, and not just to enjoy the air-conditioned darkroom, I’ll go in to process and proof the six sheets of 8x10 I shot today, while Niniane, most likely, lies in the hammock and attempts to identify all the visible constellations as they become visible in the night sky.
  Tomorrow, all over again.

Towing The Boat Into The Shallows, Rodman Slough, Lake County

Gum over cyanotype



A Project Just Sort of Begins

   Saturday 2 June 2012: 16.28: Broke Dozer Ridge, Lake County: Her name comes from the King Arthur legend. That I knew the first time we met, one rainy evening in San Francisco almost seven years ago now. But that’s about all I remember of the night.
   Our meeting and introduction was, I have no doubt, brief, perfunctory, and, at least on my part, wine-sodden. Gallery directors, during crowded openings, don’t have time to chat with people who clearly and obviously are not there to purchase, nor, appearances would suggest, posses the requisite resources for such activities.
   Had it not been Brian's show, I'd never have been there anyway. The Union Square galleries annoy me, always surging with those packs of sarcastically ironic art students roaming the hallways, determined to project indifference. The ubiquitous tattoos, expertly ripped and frayed jeans with various paint splatters, excessively battered Dr. Martins, and the faint odor of mediocrity and desperation, a hilarious uniform of false identity that always makes me laugh.
   Like Hal Foster so insightfully put it, “. . . so they end up all being different, in exactly the same way.”
   To be more complete, however, back to talking about Niniane, Brian had told me she'd gone through the program at San Jose State and that he'd been on her B.F.A. committee. I remember finding it amusing that we had that in common, Professor Brian and the S.J.S.U. Art Department, but twenty years apart. Brian cringed as he commented on the time span: "I've been doing this a very long time now, haven't I?"
   That I’d be with her, together, and up here in Scott's Valley with a car-load of cameras, a cooler full of wine, and days on end to explore and photograph would have been absolutely unimaginable. It was five years before we even ran into one another again.
   Actually, she’s been off wandering the property with her Hasselblad and one of the tripods for the last couple hours. But I assume she’s still here, unless she decided to walk the ten miles home.
   I made two negatives with the 11x14 earlier, but after muscling that 165 pound beast all over the property, I’m gonna stay here under tree, resting until it’s time to go back down to the lake. I’m done for the day.
   That she’s taken so enthusiastically and productively to this project, in fact, been instrumental in shaping its existence, is one of the more pleasant surprises I’m able to recall.
   It strikes me as comically appropriate that the mythical Niniane was The Lady of the Lake and that she so artfully seduced and beguiled the old sorcerer Merlin with her beauty and intelligence. Although, things didn’t work out so well for the aged wizard. However, more than a year in, I see little likelihood of meeting a similar fate.
   But even if so, what an adventure!
   When we get home, once again, I’m sure we’ll have our race from the car to see who gets in the darkroom first. Gotta process today’s film. I think I’ll have her drive. That way I’ll get a head start when we pull in the driveway.
   But just two days and I’ve already shot $165 worth of film, and no foreseeable infusion of capital with which to buy the paper to print the negatives. We need to start moderating our output, manage our resources a bit better.

Professor Brian Taylor on abandoned portion of U.S. 101, Humboldt County California; May 2009

All text and images © Scott Palmer