“A Few Haiku (45)”

(c) Michael L. Utley

(#265)

scrub my memories
hang them on the line to dry
before the storm comes

…..

(#266)

summer thunderheads
the past tears a swath across
the plains of my soul

…..

(#267)

post-rain gloaming
ghost-light from an unseen sun
sorrow’s harbinger

…..

(#268)

in this endless night
even eternity flees
from my broken soul

…..

(#269)

sepulchral silence
as the stars spin overhead
in the dead of night

…..

(#270)

when my soul awakes
will I see the dawn of hope
or hope’s dying light

“Big Indian Rock”

Big Indian Rock, Lisbon Valley, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

I was raised on a farm about an hour from Lisbon Valley in southeast Utah. It’s an out-of-the-way place of red rock formations and sage-sprinkled canyons used for cattle grazing and open-pit copper mining (and yes, both activities have damaged the land considerably). I photographed this scene one summer evening in the late-1990s as the sun slanted toward the horizon and shadows encroached upon Big Indian Rock (upper left). I was intrigued by the strong diagonal slope my vantage point provided, as well as the bold blocks of color. It was a contrasting scene due to the brightly lit rock formations and the shadows, and because I was using slide film (which has a significantly narrower exposure latitude than negative film), I was unsure if I could render the scene properly exposed and still capture shadow details. The motto for photographers who use slide film is “Expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may.” My goal here was to focus on composition and color, so I decided against using a graduated neutral density filter, which would have created more balance between the highlights and shadows. I thought that allowing the shadows to block-up a bit simplified the image and helped it adhere to my philosophy of quiet contemplation in nature. Busy photographs are chaotic and cause tension, and I sought peace and stillness here, so the fewer distractions, the better. There is still detail in the shadows, but not enough to distract from the tranquil feeling these rocks convey. I like the composition here, with the two rock formations standing near diagonal power-points in the scene against the brilliant blue sky and dark shadows. The rocks glow with the warm tones of the lowering sun and contrast well against the cool blue and black hues. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“A Few Haiku (44)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#259)

fallow fields
granary of memories
not fit for planting

…..

(#260)

mackerel scale clouds
and silver shark fin moon
eventide rolls in

…..

(#261)

cool moist predawn air
condensation in my heart
stillness in my soul

…..

(#262)

evening rain
I break bread alone
in the dim stillness

…..

(#263)

memory garden
I hoe every living thing
just to kill the weeds

…..

(#264)

summer zephyrs sail
the green grain ocean
wheat waves

“Peaks & Waterfall at Sunset”

Peaks & Waterfall at Sunset, Glacier National Park, Montana (c) Mike Utley

Mount Oberlin and Cannon Mountain can be found along the Going-to-the-Sun Road which traverses Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana. These two peaks cradle the remnants of an old glacier that feeds Bird Woman Falls, visible between the two peaks. In this 1996 image, I was on a very rushed one-day tour of the park with a friend when we spotted this sunset scene. I had no way to compose the image with a strong foreground object as I would have preferred as I was on the opposite side of the steep valley from the peaks, so I utilized the two trees seen here to act as a sort of framing device and to divide the image into thirds to create a more pleasing shot in my mind. The fact that one tree is dead and the other thriving was incidental to my decision to include them, but they do provide a contemplative aspect to the image, especially how the waterfall seems to feed the living tree on the right, while the dead tree on the left signifies day’s end as it contrasts with Mount Oberlin’s brightly gilded face bathed in the dying day’s last light. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50).

“Anchor”

“Anchor”
(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

she sat there
9,000 miles away
on the edge of her bed
or the ledge of her building
I never knew which
and talked about anchors
and the black depths
of depression
and what it would feel like
to fly

“You’re my only reason
for being,”
she said
and was she laughing
or crying?
it’s hard to tell while
text-chatting
(damn my deaf ears)
“You’re the only anchor
I have left,”
she said
and there was a long

pause

and I thought I heard the
wind whipping past
my ears
and felt my heart
in my throat

“I’ll always love you,” she said
smiley face / crying face
emojis

my fingers wouldn’t work
my keyboard was mute
my mind as blank
as the empty miles
between us

“I had the dream again,” she said
I squeezed my eyes shut
while she typed
I didn’t want to read it again
but I was helpless against
the machinations of my own heart
and she pried them open
from across the sea

we walked hand-in-hand
in a flower-burst
mountain meadow
the colors like something
out of a kaleidoscopic acid trip
the sky the hue of ancient oceans
the capricious breeze
flirting with her obsidian hair
her caramel eyes closed
her face
enraptured
turned up to the sun
and we passed
through columbines
lupine fire-weed
monkshood sun flowers
while conifers and aspens
susurrated, whispering secretively
in the language of the trees
amid strange atonal birdsong

then the wind arose
intensified
and her feet left the ground

panic smudged the smile
from her face
and she looked at me
wide-eyed
horrified
as she floated up
toward the howling sky
as though she were
being drawn by some
anomalous gravity
and she cried out in terror
her eyes bulging
her hand crushing mine
in a death-vise
and she screamed
“Don’t let me go!”
over and over
as she was wrenched
from my grip
and sucked up
into the sun

I turned my head
her text a saline blur
my heart pounding
ears ringing

and a string of
crying face emojis
snaked across my screen

a few moments passed

“I’ll always love you…”
she repeated
and ended the chat

and I felt the dead weight
of a severed anchor
crush my heart

“A Few Haiku (43)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#253)

your shadow remains
in the nest of my heart
long since you took wing

…..

(#254)

let me rest my soul
in the cool shadows of the
north side of your heart

…..

(#255)

thoughtless koi in lotus pond
I hover above, god-like
and go unnoticed

…..

(#256)

take the dappled path
through the green konara copse
there I’ll find my way

…..

(#257)

evening mourning doves
will never let me forget
day’s death and night’s tears

…..

(#258)

I arrange the stones
into cairns of memories
lest I lose my way

“Spruce Sprout on Stump”

Spruce Sprout on Stump, Abajo Mountain, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

While exploring the Abajo (Blue) Mountain in southeast Utah in the summer of 1996, I came across this tiny blue spruce sprout growing on an old blackened stump. I was struck by the brilliant green—the color of youth and vitality—and how it contrasted with the dark tones of the stump—age and fatigue. The textures were also a study in contrast, with the smooth, supple flesh of the sprout defying the harsh, rough wood of the base of the old dead tree. I’m fascinated by contrasts in nature, and this mini-tableau was brimming with them. Life and death? Youth and old-age? Color and a lack thereof? Tenderness and harsh reality? Perseverance in the face of all odds? The inexorability of life where none should exist? Anyone who knows me will realize the main emotion I felt when I saw this scene was one of quiet stillness and contemplation. This sprout speaks to me on a fundamental level, telling me there is hope—always, there is hope—even in death. If we take the time to actually see what is around us in nature, we can sense change in our lives and an invigoration of our spirits…and because of this intrinsic truth, it’s all the more important that we are good stewards of our earth. Nature nurtures our souls, and once it’s gone, then there will be no more hope for us. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“View South from Arch Rock”

View South from Arch Rock, Arch Rock State Park, Oregon (c) Mike Utley

Arch Rock State Park is located along the southern Oregon Coast between Gold Beach and Brookings. It features a natural arch just off the shore (not included in this image) where incoming waves burst into whitewater explosions as they shoot through the arch. This image was made in October 1995 on a windy late-afternoon as the light turned golden. This is the view south along the coast, taken minutes before this image which shows the view north from the same immediate area. This scene displays the rugged nature of the Oregon Coast: sheer cliffs which drop into the ocean, sea stacks, forests and cobalt-blue waters. My 24mm wide-angle lens allowed me to include a couple of foreground objects while capturing the infinite horizon beyond. I like the varying shades of blue and green in this image and the way the setting sun seems to gild the cliff faces in a golden sheen. This shot was made just before the rainy season began, which would cloak the coast in overcast skies, fog and rain for much of the next six months or so, but regardless of the weather, the Oregon Coast retains its magical allure and continues to call to me all these years later. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

“A Few Haiku (42)”

(c) 2022 by Michael L. Utley

(#247)

barren apple trees
culled from orchards without thought
so many regrets

…..

(#248)

in the desert
all pretense is stripped away
only truth survives

…..

(#249)

wooden ladle and tin cup
and a bone-dry well
life’s futility

…..

(#250)

take the empty cup
drink my fill of nothingness
let me live in peace

…..

(#251)

dragging the river
somewhere in the murky depths
I may find myself

…..

(#252)

leave the stones unturned
let the clouds drift where they may
live in harmony

“Split Rock & Pinyon Pine”

Split Rock & Pinyon Pine, Lisbon Valley, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

I’ve posted several images from Lisbon Valley in southeast Utah. It’s an out-of-the-way region that lacks the deep canyons and arches of its neighboring national parks, yet it has a charm all its own. While photographing Big Indian Rock years ago, I came upon this large boulder that had tumbled down onto the valley floor below and split apart. Aside from the marvelous texture and color of the boulder, what really struck me was what grew on top: a stunted pinyon pine. These trees, and junipers as well, eke out a hardscrabble existence in the desert of the Colorado Plateau, seemingly surviving in the most inhospitable locales. How this little tree managed to flourish left me nonplussed. I use the word “tenacity” to describe desert life, and it’s an apt term in this instance. This scene spoke to me of isolation, loneliness, determination, tenacity and the will to survive despite the harshest odds. From a technical standpoint, due to the strong direct lighting from the evening sun, the rock face was extremely bright and glary, so I employed a polarizer filter to eliminate the glare in order to allow the texture detail to show. The polarizer also eliminates glare from atmospheric dust particles and haze, thus darkening the sky. This was a conscious choice regarding the sky, as I wanted a deep cobalt blue to provide contrast to the brilliant orange of the boulder. The cirrus clouds added a surreal touch to the sky. The way the shadows blocked up completely black made the color and texture of the rock pop. And the pinyon pine? It seems to glow of its own inner light, a strange sort of confidence and serenity. Despite its hardships and travails, it’s found its peace atop its own personal mountain. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)