I stood upon the dragon and saw its scales glistening in the sun beneath my feet. I was not afraid. That was a mistake.
I saw crabs climbing a sandy beach in the shadow of palm trees, even though I knew, with some certainty, that I stood atop a sidewalk beneath large oak trees. And yet it seemed to me dark, though nearly mid-day, as though the sun hid behind the moon. It soon fled, my confusion, and took the darkness with it.
I expected to enjoy the solar eclipse but was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it, even though we didn’t have a total eclipse from where I work in Beaverton. I thought it would get darker than it did given the near totality, but even the little sliver of sun still left plenty of light, even if things did look a little odd. Normally when the light levels are that low, the sun is either low in the sky with warm light and long shadows, or completely out-of-sight with cool light and no shadows. But this morning everything just got dim. I hadn’t read up on the eclipse, thinking that it was just going to get dark, so I was caught off guard by the shadows. I loved both their crescent shape and their hard edges so I spent more time watching the shadows at my feet than the shrinking sun itself, looking for patterns created by the light filtering through the trees.
Thankfully I brought my camera to work even though I wasn’t planning on photographing the eclipse itself, the Sony A6500 camera and Sony Zeiss 16-70mm zoom lens are small enough that I tossed them in my laptop bag this morning just in case there was anything interesting to photograph. So you’ll have to put up with some abstracts of shadows over the coming days, some in deep shadows like this one (the combined crescents reminded me of seabirds flying above the beach) as well as some more open shadows where there is less contrast between light and dark and more warmth in the shadows.
Years ago TriMet started the Westside MAX Public Art Program to install art at the MAX light rail stations on the Blue Line’s west side and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate the art at my stop near work, Millikan Way, where the art reflects technology and nature. Millikan Way is named after a famous scientist like many of the area streets, in this case for Nobel prize winning physicist Robert Millikan who measured the charge of an electron. I included my shoes in most of these pictures since I spend about a third of my commute walking and the other two-thirds on the train. This shot of some signal artwork shows off an older pair of blue New Balance running shoes, I bought these several years ago during a stretch when I was driving to work instead of taking the MAX and they’re still in good enough shape that they haven’t been relegated to dog-walking status. I tend to wear the other shoes in this post more often when I’m walking instead of driving, leading to their long life.
My favorite art pieces are the many bronze plaques containing sonograms of songs of local birds, plots showing the different frequencies the birds make over time as they sing their song. I especially like this art as it combines two important parts of my life, you probably know my love for wildlife if you’ve spent much time here, but you wouldn’t know I’ve spent most of the past twenty years of my work life working with signals in the frequency and time domain. The equipment we design (like my last project or the one before it) is usually used in very different applications, like analyzing wireless communications or radar systems, and at much higher frequencies and bandwidths than birdsong, and with many different types of plots, yet many of the fundamental principles are the same. This sonogram is for the American goldfinch, I took the picture on a day when it poured rain, which is why I’m wearing my waterproof Merrell shoes. Like my orange running shoes, this is a pair I wish I had bought a handful of once I realized how much I liked them. They are great for keeping my feet dry when I have to walk through puddles but are still quite breathable, they’re wet in the picture but my feet were not.
This sonogram is for the little Bewick’s wren, you can see how different it is from the goldfinch, especially the trill at the end where the song bounces between two frequencies. Birds have multiple vocalizations even though only one is shown in the plaques for each bird, and the songs can change with geography so that a bird on the east coast may have a different song from a similar bird in our area, but you can get a sense of how varied the songs are from one species to the next. The shoes are my blue New Balance trail running shoes that are the newer version of my beloved black shoes that finally fell apart, and are a favorite for days when it might rain some but not enough that I want to risk wearing out the more expensive waterproof shoes. These are my favorite shoes and the only thing keeping me from wearing them every day is that they weren’t available in brighter colors, although I do love this color of blue.
This sonogram is for the great blue heron, full of lots of frequencies and not exactly the prettiest of songs. They’re squawkers, the herons. Shown too are my new yellow New Balance sneaks which replaced the orange ones which were wearing out, I wear them on dry days to make me more visible, plus I love colors. I don’t wear them on wet days as if they get dirty they’ll lose some of that eye-catching color. A clever photographer would have photographed his yellow shoes with the yellow goldfinch and his blue shoes with the blue heron, but you’re stuck with me.
Even the utility building gets in on the art action, with brick patterns suggesting trees of the small wetland behind. There’s a little creek that runs past the other side of the parking lot that I walk over to get to work, and while it’s not the prettiest thing, I do see beavers in there at times (I believe they live at the nearby Nike campus). Occasionally a muskrat too, but nutria are much more common as is true of many of Oregon’s waterways. And a few varieties of ducks, and the occasional great blue heron too.
There are lots of other little art pieces around, from mathematical symbols to pine cones and leaves and the like. I love that TriMet did this and over the years I’ve thought about getting off at each stop on my commute to take pictures as the art varies from station to station, but so far I’ve only done it for the stop where I normally get off. I do have a small camera now that would be perfect for the task, but I’m eager to either get to work or get home to the pup who is waiting for her walk.