Table of Contents


General Introduction


Impressions of the North Cascades
Essays about a Northwest Landscape

Part II: Landscapes of Experience

Vignettes from a Field Journal

The contribution by Libby Mills to this collection is unique. Libby is an artist and a naturalist; she records her encounters with the North Cascades in a combination of words and images. In these selections from her field journals, art and natural history come together to reveal the richness hidden in this landscape.

Libby teaches, studies, and travels extensively in this region and is never without her sketchbook. While most of us may occasionally stop briefly to compose a picture through the lens of our camera, Libby stops, looks, sketches—and looks again. Her art requires her to study the textures and details of this place with greater care and intensity than those of us who do not see it through the artist's eye. Sometimes she sets out to portray a scene or detail with painstaking completeness. At other times she simply wanders the mountains, casually recording her encounters in her field journal. These journal entries are not completed works but impressions that she uses later to reflect upon and deepen her understanding of her experience. They also remind her of qualities of specific places that might deserve a longer look on a future trip.

Mazama Meadow
August 17, 1989

The alpine comes down to this low meadow on avian voices; Clark's Nutcrackers crow and Townsend's Solitare's note harmonizing with Western Tanager and nuthatch. Douglas Squirrel answers as clouds form over unseen mountains.

Subalpine moth, dark brown & tan; Cottownwood bark and seeds

Field Journal Class
Mazama Meadow

Any number of ants here making it impossible to feel alone in the universe with this young pine. Shoes and socks after lunch. It is so hot and dry; but a breeze helps. Mazama meadows buzzed by a hummer or very large insect. Does the ant bite me to remind me I am never alone here, there is always animal company? or to remind me to be in the moment, and not drifting back 20 minutes or so ....

The meadow is hushed at noon, just a light breeze sounds rubbing needle against needle on the soft ponderosa. If butteflies sang there would be a chorus of swallowtails, cabbages and others I've barely discovered today, because I'm looking at a page, not the air they live in. So nice to be back!

Ponderosa pine; this piece of the puzzle bark fell onto my shoulder as I sat quietly drawing.

Methow River
downstream from Mazama
Aug 19, 1989

Wind in the cottonwoods and the quiet rush of water...sounds that melt together, mix and sort out. Having exchanged their messages the tree leaves ripple and and the river blows...

A twig of poplar the scent aged out now in August

Mazama Meadow

How do you draw the way the aspens sound when the breeze blows through them?

Intermittent warm evevning light blazes onto the meadow and rock walls...shadows suddenly bring the beauty to life!

Bright Western Tanager calling...I thought we'd heard the last from you on your journey southbound.

Lost River

By the river a tributary to the Methow. Overcast and threatening, restful to the eye.

How do we draw water? Good question.

Road to Harts Pass
July 24, 1993

Finally the day to sit and gaze into this superb view of the Methow Valley. Listening to Robinson Creek in its rush to converge with the Methow, and Western Tanagers perching in all their colorful glory, feeding young before our dazzled eyes, this stormy unstable day. For now, we have more than enough sun, having chased away the clouds with our sheer gathered will power.

The Flora of mountain spring right after snowmelt
July 21, 1991
Hermit Thrushs meadows on the way to Hart's Pass

An old friend I met here one day with the help of Hitchcock.

Claytonia lanceolata Western springbeauty; Trollius laxus globeflower; Veratrum viride Corn Lily or False Hellebore, very young

"A bee-loud glade..." —Yeats

Parnassia and Ligusticum

Calm morning at the meadow campground by Hart's Pass. Sun dodging in and out of quickly growing clouds. A marmot whistles, gray jay & Clark's nutcracker, juncos make their calls. So many flowers in bloom. Gentian dots the meadow blue, red paintbrush, yellow arnica.

Slate Peak
July 22nd, 1991

Crater Mountain, Pasayten Country
What a joy it has been spending this afternoon caressing your stones and snowfields with my simple pencils and hearing nothing but butterfly wings and melting snow.

Mountain days
I could never have enough of these sweet breezy brain-wasting hot sunny days, of these ridges riding off into a distant sea of more montane ridges... birds caressing the soft singing branches of ancient nutcracker pine and fir

Subalpine Fir near Windy Pass

Sunday—July 17, 1988
Not so early morning the birds have been up.
Hermit thrush generous of flutey song, Hummingbird exploring each color red. Pine siskins chittering, flocking, landing impatiently on limbs, and moving on. Fox sparrow, the jazzy swooping song of sunny subalpine fir and brush. Junco rolls its call out over tree tops, the same yet sweet. Quiet creek, more like a constant breeze the high whisper spills down meadowside, clicking sound, mostly heard at dusk, sounds again from fir branch... a bat? A cricket. The breeze rushes, not yet sunny and warm as the day that has created it. Sky of deep blue has covered the night stars, even more sparkling than my fantasy dreams. The night deer, odd thumps and scrapes in the dirt invited my weak eyes to stare into the brilliant Milky Way. Now sunlight tries to warm us on our borrowed meadow recently freed from snow, punctuated with pika "peek". Morning comes again.

Harts Pass
Cold, sunny
3-5" snow
Oct. 17, 1989
Among the Lyall's Larch

Soft green bundles sprouted just in June now sprinkled, seasoning the snow gold and tawny brown. You couldn't wait just one more week for us, you couldn't risk the raging dessication of autumn's initial blast, you let go... why can't I?

Aug. 14, 1991

What a fine place to eat a peach!
Hill topping with the checkerspots and swallowtails, the raptors and siskins. Only their sounds, marmot whistles and the music of snow melting down ragged craggy mountains. What a perch I've found, all the finery of August dribbling on my chin as I try to take in mountains in all directions, and clouds lifting to show swell after tumbled swell of glacial landscape.

Back in the Mazama meadow haikus
Oct. 14, 1989

Eyes aiming upward; rock wall and pine sing autumn; no rattlesnakes now.

Yearning for sunlight drawn to meadow overtime; aspen rustles, "stay"

First bike in crunchy flesh of autumn's sweet red fruit; Nuthatch chatters back

Wolf Creek Road, Methow River
August 20, 1995

Warm August afternoon
nearing six, we consider leaving this bend in the river where cedar waxwings flycatch over the rocks.

Their trills turn the head in the evening light to assess and discover the beauty all around us.

Methow River, Oct 15, 1989

Cottonwood leaf gold
Tales are told of monarchs too numerous to imagine, and I long to lie below branches bending under their orange weight. But here are my swallowtails, sailing out from branches burning in their yellow brilliance, on each rustle of breeze. One minute they fill the air, and like butterflies draw my attention to follow their twisted trails. Here they lodge between boulders... a dragonfly hovers over the scene of ochre wings, some dotted black. It darts away, avoiding autumn, as river stones are buried in blankets of gold. And then, too soon, the snow.

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North Cascades Conservation Council
P.O. Box 95980
Seattle, WA 98145-2980