Saturday, November 17, 2007

You Otter Be In Pictures

There is no heron in the picture above but there is an otter. The heron was what made me stop and fumble out the camera. By the time the camera powered up, the bird was gone. When I shut off the camera, I saw the otter. As I snapped the camera back on, the otter slid under the water.

There is an otter in the picture above, but there are quite a few gallons of Issaquah Creek on top of the slippery beast so you'll have to take my word that there is an otter there.

I can tell you that otters like playing hide and seek. Until this morning I didn't know that there were otters living around here, but this otter seemed to enjoy tempting me to follow.

The otter drew me downstream, silent and slick, popping its head up from the water just often enough to keep me following, never long enough for the camera to catch up.

A second otter joined the first, right before they both slipped into a tiny gap in the blackberry thicket on the opposite side of the creek.

I lingered by the creek, exploring on foot and wheel. I saw ducks feeding on the rotten carcasses of salmon, felt the November damp brush up against my legs, heard the water rhythmically pull and release a branch that had fallen in the swift current.

I thought about what Gary Thorp had written in his lovely book, Caught in Fading Light. Gary quotes Paul Theroux who once wrote, "It is my good fortune that I've never owned a camera." Gary goes on to write:

Many times in my own experience I'd missed a good look at a hawk or squandered a coyote sighting by reaching for binoculars when I didn't need them. It was purely a reflex action, and now I didn't want to spoil my chances of seeing a mountain lion by fumbling with a camera case. If I saw a cougar, I would always have the memory, and I wanted to prolong the experience as much as I could, without interruption.

One can develop the art of looking just as certainly as one can master the art of playing the violin. Theroux compared the freedom of traveling without a camera to the adroitness of riding a bicycle without using one's hands. And even after all these years, it still seemed like good advice.

While I see the point that both Gary and Paul are trying to make, which is basically another reminder of the Zen precept to "be here now". I also have to note that I, as a human being, relate to and move through the world with tools. As a near-sighted person, I almost always see the world through lenses. I stopped by the creek today because I was on my bicycle and because I had a camera. I go farther awheel than I do afoot, but I seem to see more the slower I go. This is definitely one reason I prefer the bicycle to the automobile.

The camera is often a good excuse for stopping. Even if the heron has flown off or the otter is completely camera shy, I can't complain.

I can ride a bicycle without using my hands, but I still have handlebars on my bike.


Anonymous said...

New bike?

Greg Z

Kent Peterson said...

Dang, I can't slip anything by you guys. Yes Greg, it's a new-to-me bike. Stay tuned for details.

Anonymous said...

No coroplast. Nice bike, Kent.

Chains on logs, chains on bikes, chains all around.

The world is truely bigger than the lense.

Thanks, Kent.

Bill Gibson said...

""It is my good fortune that I've never owned a camera." Gary goes on to write:

Many times in my own experience I'd missed a good look at a hawk or squandered a coyote sighting by reaching for binoculars when I didn't need them."

Oh yes, I know that. I changed my life for a reason not too different from that. I started doing photography very young, and became a "professional photographer" until I was about 30. I consciously chose to take a different path, partly as a way to disintermediate my psychology. Photography, is a way of "using" reality, and can get in the way of the direct connection to the present that makes us real. I still love binos and my glasses, but I try to leave them behind sometimes now.

I still have a love/hate relationship with technology (HI, ONLINE COMMUNITY), and don't keep a cyclometer either on my bike right now, trying to stay simple. Ah, but some folks know a lot more than I do about that, as I am not by nature that simple...and I am grateful that technology makes it possible to share stories and pictures with each other.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, nice looking bike Kent. I had a feeling it might be a new acquisition when I saw the picture.

Jim G said...

Holy cow, Kent up-an-got another bike!

I thought the $20 Green Bike was the perfect steed?

Anonymous said...

I've even seen otters in the supposedly toxic Green River, going past Home Despot. I was shocked and enchanted to watch three or four of them rolling, diving, and dashing up the banks. Cool critters. Val

Anonymous said...


Perhaps a dumb question ... but what are the chains on the logs all about ? Remnants from logging ?

Cool bike by the way ... tires don't match though. How can you maintain your coolness factor with mismatched tires ;0

Chris / Novi, MI

Kent Peterson said...


The chains on the logs are to keep the logs from getting swept downstream in the rainy, high water season. The Issaquah Creek is a salmon spawning stream (the Issaquah hatchery is about 1/3 of a mile upstream from the location of these pictures). It helps the fish if there are various logs and deadfalls along the way to break up the current and give the fish various resting spots.

Anonymous said...

Serious question:

Can you start riding your bike without that handlebar?

I gave up saying that any bike handling challenge is impossible long ago, probably the first time I ever saw Libor Karas perform trials in person.

I have seen people do no handed bunny hops but never start riding no handed.

Anyone else?