January 2009

  • Twelfth Night - Gift #3

    ROCKS!! My hubby and I share our enthusiasm for rock and mineral collecting. Actually we really enjoy each other's company in almost everything we do, from collecting agates at the beach to grocery shopping.

    So... when I am not blogging, crafting, cooking or photographing weddings, we are usually looking for beautiful scenic images to photograph or we are collecting rocks! The dish above holds our most treasured agates and jaspers from Oregon and Washington beaches and riverbeds.

    All children seem to love collecting rocks. I urge you to take yours to places where pebbles congregate - beaches and stream beds. The earth is full of treasure. It is waiting there to be found, and children will find it! If you live in or near Portland, take your children (or if you don't have children take your childlike heart) to Cape Meares west of Tillamook, Oregon on the Three Capes route, or the beaches south of Newport, Oregon. The beach sands and gravels are a rich hunting ground for the agates and jaspers you see in the dish above. We have polished ours in a tumbler, but they are really quite lovely just as they are found naturally - and if you store them in a quart jar full of water, their colors are as vibrant as they were polished. Right now through April is the best time to visit because the winter storms stir up the gravels and bring the agates and jaspers to the suface. For safety, search as the tide goes out.

    And speaking of beaches... does this not look like a lovely painting of a beach with waves rushing toward the rocky shore? This was a gift given to us by a dear friend who found it in a gold frame at an estate sale. It had accumulated about 2000 years worth of cigarette smoke scum on the surface, so it really did appear to be a little painting. But upon close inspection and after a good bath it revealed itself to actually be a lovely example of the jasper/agate to be found in Canada.

    As our interest grew, we expanded our collection to include mineral specimens of common minerals such as Selenite:

    And we've also collected not-so-common specimens like this rare form of Tourmaline nestled on a piece of quartz:

    Yes, those grey hairs are really mineral crystals.

    And then we discovered that, as basalt rock reached the earth's surface and cooled millions of years ago, hot gases from the earth's core would form pockets in the rock, and mineral crystals would grow in them Since we live in a part of the world that is quite literally covered in basalt, we became interested. And then infatuated. And then hooked.

    This piece of basalt from eastern Oregon measures about 10" across and is just full of crystal-lined pockets. And what we love most about collecting a piece like this one is that, until we cut this piece from a larger rock and revealed the pockets you see above, no one had ever, ever, ever seen these crystals since their formation millions of years ago!

    Again, if you live in the Portland area, you can find similar crystal pockets in the basalts along the coast near Oceanside, especially north of the tunnel. Just be sure to get a tide table before you venture out and collect only at low tide. Most of the pockets you will find are less an inch in diameter, but they often contain crystals.

    Now for a closer look at what can be found in basalt pockets. All of the specimens below were found in Oregon and Washington.

    Here is a piece of Aragonite from Washington. The cavity in this rock is about three inches wide.

    More Aragonite, this one from Oregon. The crystal area is approximately 1" across.

    Here's a Stilbite (a Zeolite) crystal cluster from a basalt flow in Washington. (Which is, incidentally, now under water - a dam was built in the area. A friend of ours collected this before the dam was completed.) This piece measures 3" across.

    Thomsonite and Natrolite (both Zeolites) are found in pockets up to a foot or more in diameter in Southern Oregon. This one is about 3" across. Notice the beautiful little crystal of another mineral, Calcite, literally perched on the Natrolite hairs on the lower left of the pocket.

    Another lovely specimen of Stilbite, a gift from a friend who found a good-sized pocket full of Stilbite along the bank of the stream he was fishing in here in Washington! This specimen measures 5" across.

    I love how these Chabazite crystals form in cubes - this cube is 1" x 1" x 1", but they usually are somewhere between 1/4" to microscopic in size.

    In fact, most pockets found in the Pacific Northwest contain crystals that are quite small. And so we eventually had to get microscopes to see many of the crystals we had collected! And let me tell you - the microscopic world is totally incredible! I wish I could let every one of you peer into my microscope to visit this hidden world of visual treasures.

    I would love to share some of the really amazing crystal cavities we have in our collection, but I do not have the photographic skills or equipment to do this magical world justice; so I am introducing you to a man who excels in photographing the microscopic world of minerals.

    Analcime is hands-down one of my most favorite Zeolites. The picture area is 9mm - that's about 3/8".

    This photo shows a 1- 3/8" diameter cavity, filled with several different Zeolites. Notice the Calcite crystals perched on the Natrolite needles. Actually, the needles were already formed when the Calcite crystals grew on them.

    German mineral collector and photographer Volker Betz, who has devoted his life to collecting and photographing microscopic specimens, shares the images above and many, many others equally breathtaking on his web page devoted to his explorations of collecting sites in the Canary Islands.

    Check out this wonderful web site called webminerals.com. It is designed for anyone who wants to learn more about rocks and minerals, geology, or just how to actually pronounce a mineral name! And, for those of you who live in Washington or Oregon, or plan to visit, be sure to make it a priority to explore the fabulous Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro, Oregon. It is a world-class mineral museum you shouldn't miss.

    So... now that the January doldrums are almost gone and we are gaining 2 minutes of light each and every day, and I am reluctantly packing away Christmas; I am pulling out my crafting stashes, writing down every crafty idea that pops into my head and making it a goal to do something crafty and creative every day this year. And of course, I am already planning for the holidays!!

    Thank you one and all for your encouragement and for sharing my adventures. I have met some of the nicest people these last few months. I always look forward to your e-mails and comments and opportunities to know you a little better.

  • Twelfth Night - Gift #2!

    So many of us are in the midst of the dark, cold days of winter, I decided we all could use a little vacation!

    And since I am going to be your tour guide, I am taking you to some of my favorite scenic places! First stop - my own back yard - spots that are less than a two hour drive from my own front door.

    Like Mt. Adams reflected in Takhlakh Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, in Southwest Washington. This is the breathtaking view from the area of the campground set aside for tent camping. Awakening very early one morning, we peeked out of our tent, saw the first rays of the rising sun lighting both the upper slopes of the mountain and the lenticular cloud sitting on the peak, pulled our clothes on over our PJ's, grabbed our cameras and tripods and flew out of the tent in less than 5 minutes. The surface of the lake was like glass. The air was so still not a single leaf was in motion, the cloud formations were spectacular, and the light was perfect. And to think we almost slept right through this moment! OUCH!

    I am fascinated by the "bridge" Curly Creek has carved out of solid basalt as it plunges 100' into the Lewis River. Curly Creek Falls is one of many waterfalls you can visit in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, and several of them, including this one, are reached by following very short well maintained trails.

    Lower Falls is another of my favorites along the Lewis River. It isn't particularly high, only about 35', but just look at the color of that turquoise pool. No retouching! It is really that blue. You can reach the viewing platform easily, and several additional overlooks provide views from different angles. And... if you are in a mood to hike through rain forest lushness, you can follow the Lewis River trail for a couple miles to explore three more waterfalls!

    The state of Oregon is right across the Columbia River from my home in Washington; and again, within a couple hours from my front door you can sit at a picnic table, grill a hot dog or a steak, and enjoy this view of Mt. Hood across Lost Lake.

    Now a little taste of the beauty to be found in Northern Washington State!

    Mt. Shuksan, a 9000' peak just east of Mt. Baker about 5 miles south of the Canadian border at the end of highway 152. You will feel as if you are at the top of the world when you are walking around up here. Views of both Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker are nothing short of spectacular, breathtaking, awesome and the best part is...you can drive to the top! There are many trails from the parking area but since you are already at the top it is an easy walk to enjoy the views. I used to have to backpack 6 or 8 miles uphill to find alpine country like this!

    If you live in the Portland/Vancouver area or are planning to visit this area, e-mail me and I will be happy to give you the information you need to visit these spectacular spots this summer!

    Now... before we travel to destinations beyond my back yard, I want to share these beautiful images of the Pacific Northwest. They are all posted on a website called Timecatcher.com, which brings together images from around the world taken by some of the best landscape photographers in the business. Go to the Gallery and you will find a world map which guides you to excellent and gorgeous images from the country of your choice.

    Next stop is Adam Burton Photography. We are all very busy with the beginning of our new year, but do yourself a huge favor, grab a cuppa and take a few minutes to visit New Zealand, Wales, Norway or Antartica, or choose your own favorite vacation spot from the countries represented in his gallery. Adam Burton's images are absolutley incredible. I am a photographer and I have no idea how he does what he does!

    Now, how about an African Safari with photographer Andy Biggs? If you love beautiful and sensitive photographs of animals, visit both of his image galleries of African animals - one in color and the other in black and white.

    I will leave you now with this image from Sol duc Falls, hidden away in Olympic National Park in the Northwest corner of Washington. I sat on a rock at the top of a steep drop for over an hour to get this shot - waiting and waiting and waiting for the sun to come out from behind the clouds and create the God's rays in the mist at the same moment that the bridge was empty of visitors! I am known for my lack of patience with computers - but suspend me over a gorge filled with mist and the sound of rushing water, and then put a camera in my hands and my capacity for patience seems to expand almost to timelessness!

    Thank you for sharing my travel adventure! And don't forget, there is one more Twelfth Night gift coming soon!

  • Twelfth Night - Gifts for you!

     

    January 6th is celebrated my many as Twelfth Night, and by others as The Epiphany or visitation of the Magi.

    In some cultures, people give gifts every night beginning December 25th, Christmas Day, and ending on January 6th - hence the 12 days of Christmas. In other cultures, people give gifts on Christmas Day and again on Twelfth Night. Special cakes are baked to be eaten on this day. In England, it is thought to be bad luck if your decorations remain up after January 6th. (Boy o boy am I in trouble!)