Archive for May, 2012

Hola, baby.

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

[IMAGE] Havana cars

…click to listen:

…about the music


From Cuba.
It was a profound trip, and I’m still searching for the best ways in which to describe it all.
More rum will probably help. That is, if there’s any left.

This is a country of great beauty and mind-boggling contradictions. Of enormous potential and infuriating limitations.
Of fantastic, fantastic, music and art and people.
It is a place that is stubbornly stuck, looking backward to an era that at the time appeared forward-looking to many.

So for a post or two, I’ll substitute images far from my kelpy home for those far from my comfort level. And maybe yours.

I’ll be back. To Cuba, someday, because it’s riveting.
And right here on this blog, very soon, because I have glimpses to share, if I can find the words.
And the rum.

[IMAGE] Havana cars

Island hopping and offline

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

[IMAGE] quail

…click to listen:

…about the music

A little unconnected music.

Well, tomorrow I leave for yet another adventure on yet another island: Cuba! I’m the lucky bird who’s been invited to be the “artist ambassador” on a trip organized by the oldest artist residency in the U.S., The MacDowell Colony, on whose board I serve and of which I’m a former Fellow. Along with roughly 15 other fun MacDowellophiles, I’ll be meeting with cultural organizations and wonderful Cuban artists from all disciplines, basking in their work and sharing what we do here in the U.S. Oh, and perfecting my Mojito mixology…

I won’t be bringing my laptop, so my email access will be limited. But I’ll be taking lots of photos and video to share here on the e-pages of Kelpville after I’m back home on the 26th. As you’ve probably noticed, I rarely discuss my work or non-nature-based travels in this algae-infused corner of the internet; I figure if anyone’s curious about how I make my living and spend my time when I’m not sneaking up on unsuspecting wildlife, they’ll click on through to the other side. But I suspect that the experiences from this trip will result in a worthy exception, even if the local wildlife is brightly plumed salsa dancers. Especially if.

So, hasta mañana! ‘Til then, hold all my quails, please.

Alex in Wonder-island

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

[IMAGE] meadow

…click to listen:

…about the music

Beauty that turned my world upside down.

There are lots of nifty benefits that result from being an active composer-kelpista blogger. One of them is the serendipity of making new friends from all over the planet. I get emails from every continent. Well, almost: not a single soul on Antarctica has written me. Yet. C’mon, you glacial-based scientists! You’re freezing your butts off down there and stuck inside with nothing but your computers and chocolate bars! What else do you have to do other than read my blog?

I will report back when I hear from someone living on Antarctica. Promise.

Other times, my readers are right in my back yard. As in, living on a neighboring island directly across the moat surrounding mine. Not long ago, I got a Facebook message from a fellow San Juan Islands-er (not to be confused with a San Juan Islander, who lives on San Juan Island in addition to living in the San Juan Islands. Oh boy, this can get confusing to visitors). Phil Green, the longtime caretaker of Yellow Island, extended an invitation to me and two other local bloggers he loves reading, Shann Weston and Monika Wieland, for a private visit to the enchanted floating nature preserve he stewards: a quiet atoll of almost-but-not-quite 11 acres that can only be reached by a small boat, or Diana Nyad. Frankly, all visits to this botanical oasis are private, as there are rarely more than six humans afoot on the isle at any one time. The thing is so small, it would probably sink under the weight of several average Americans. To be hosted by Yellow’s sole resident is quite special, indeed. In return for fetching and, presumably, returning us to and from Friday Harbor, Phil suggested that the three of us, each photo-shooting maniacs with a unique voice, blog about our afternoon.

And so, at midday on a Tuesday, we played hooky like a giddy group of junior high kids and met on the dock. The three of us, plus two of our partners who are also avid nature types, hopped onto Phil’s groovy new skiff, and off we went.

Not too long after revving the engine, we had arrived.
To nowhere. And everywhere.

[IMAGE] ashore
Yes, one could hear the theme from Gilligan’s Island wafting through the air. As I said, presumably, we’d return at some point. Uh, maybe.

The day began a little on the gray side, but as soon as we walked up the first hill, sun and color surrounded us:

[IMAGE] expanse

It’s the height of wildflower season up here, and Yellow is renowned for its display. With neither actors nor grazing mammals to chew the scenery, the native plant life is a multi-sensory encyclopedic explosion of vast beauty.

[IMAGE] creatures
Well, there were no actors or animals, but I did stumble upon two homo sapiens crouched low in the fields. They appeared potentially dangerous if disturbed, so I was careful to keep my distance.

It goes without saying that photos cannot possibly do justice to the overwhelming experience of standing alone in an isolated meadow with millions of flowers, bees, birds, and a pollen count that would lay any allergy-prone creature flat. Every sense is heightened and thrilled; atop one of many knolls, dwarfed by Pacific Madrones and staring out to other islands across a sea of endless buttercups and camus, I had become Alice in Wonderland, and even without the LSD, everything looked reaaaallllly psychedelic.

[IMAGE] Alex in wonderisland

[IMAGE] meadow

Looking a little closer, every flower popped like one of those black light posters from the late 60’s:

[IMAGE] meadow

[IMAGE] camas

If it weren’t for the little path…

[IMAGE] flower path

…you could easily lose yourself…

[IMAGE] a new view

…just like Alice.

Composers are incapable of stopping the composing gerbils that run the musical wheels spinning endlessly in our skulls, and those goofy little rodents hit pay dirt upon landing in this fantastic buzzing, chirping, splashing, lapping, branch-rustling sonic environment. The timbres and rhythms and frequencies and motifs all served to really get the gerbils going. No telling what the heck is going to spew from me musically next, but it might make someone sneeze.

The bees even donned spiffy attire for their concert performance:

[IMAGE] bee

As gorgeous as the flowers, are the Madrones that love the island’s sunshine. Many refer to them by their Latin name, Arbutus; I call them Arbeautiful, because they truly are. Abundant in this part of the Northwest, they’re among the most sensual trees I’ve ever seen, with trunks that look like dancers:

[IMAGE] trunk

Even better, sometimes like nude dancers:

[IMAGE] trunks

Oooh, you just want to reach out and stroke the hard, muscular smoothness…

[IMAGE] trunks

…which alternates with varying degrees of sharp, peeling bark (maybe some sort of kinky pleasure/pain thing for nature’s amusement, I dunno):

[IMAGE] bark

Tucked into all of this magic is the very, very old driftwood cabin where Phil lives.

[IMAGE] cabin

[IMAGE] cabin

It’s weathered decades of storms and is ready for more. Just like Phil.

A few years ago, friends and I kayaked onto this same beach at a far higher tide, when sand, not kelp, was the substrate. This day featured one of the year’s absolute lowest tides, and the moon’s proximity pulled back layers of water that normally protect all these squishy secrets. A lone dinghy teased me with a reminder of possible escape. But who would want to?

[IMAGE] shore

While I most certainly didn’t want to leave, in this photo, I look as though I needed directions:

[IMAGE] Alex
“Let’s see… take the crosstown bus at 86th to the IRT#1 going south, get off at 66th, Lincoln Center is across the street and there’s a Starbucks on Columbus… oh, wait, wrong map…”

There are more than a few moments during the year when I’m keenly aware of the two extremes of my life, from the ultra-urban to the über-rural. Standing in this precious wilderness, and realizing that it only took me 10 minutes in a tiny boat to get here from where I live, was definitely one of those times.

To the south-ish, a passing reminder of civilization was the postcard-perfect view of a ferry in the distance.

[IMAGE] ferry

And to the north-ish, at least one other human shared my view of Canada’s southern Gulf islands from their sailboat:

[IMAGE] sailboat

And at the end of the day, six humans felt exceedingly peaceful, joyous and fortunate to call this wonder-island archipelago home.
Thanks, Phil. What a perfect Tuesday afternoon.

[IMAGE] bloggers
Your faithful scribe, Monika, Shann, and Phil. Do we look totally blissed out, or what?

Adventures in web(footed) dating

Monday, May 7th, 2012

[IMAGE] gull love

…click to listen:

…about the music

One bird’s effort pursuing the gull of his dreams.

[IMAGE] Gull love
Ok, I’ve gone all out. THIS is a great gift. I know she’s gonna love it!

[IMAGE] Gull love
Hey, beautiful: this is for YOU.

[IMAGE] Gull love
Uh, beautiful? Hello?

[IMAGE] Gull love
Hmmph. Man, I look like an idiot.

[IMAGE] Gull love
All right then: I’ll boldly take the initiative, and bring her proof of my love. And, my bank account. This stupid thing cost a fortune…

[IMAGE] Gull love
Yes! I got her to look! Success! She notices me! Ahem: I HEREBY PRESENT YOU WITH…

[IMAGE] Gull love
…THIS PROOF… OF… Wait! Where’re you going??

[IMAGE] Gull love
Whoa! Beautiful! Hold on! Come back! It’s your color and everything! [Geez, this thing is heavy. Next time I’m just getting flowers like the cheap gulls. None of this root-ball-o’-sincerity crap…].

[IMAGE] Gull love
Oh, bea-u-ti-fuuullll..?! Come heeeeeere?! I got this for youuuu… Huh? What? You like it? Really? Oh, wow… oooh… ohhh… mmmmm… you DO like it! Ahhhh….

[IMAGE] Gull love
(intentionally blurry for a PG-rated blog post)

[IMAGE] Gull love
And this is all I’m left with. She had her way with me. She took everything. Geez, I’m so, um, gullible… But the promise of love is worth it… sigh… well, at least I think it is?… maybe?… wait, how much did that thing cost…?