Over the past year and a half, I have discovered many beautiful places in this country, and camped in sites that provided gorgeous vistas, but few compare to this place: the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, which is immediately outside the Badlands National Park (and managed by the US Forest Service). I boondocked here in the Escape for a single evening last month, and was utterly captivated by the vastness of the landscape and its quietude. The camping spots were primitive, and there were about 20 campers along the ridge over a few miles, but it still felt like my own personal park. (The gentleman sitting on the right of the trailer in this shot was strumming on a guitar, which provided a lovely small interlude as the sun set.)
I would have spent days up on this ridge, but I had to move on (and it was due for days of rain, which wouldn’t have been as fun). I also wish Susan had been with me—there is magic in this place—but we’ve talked about it, and we’ll get back there together.
This is a five-frame panorama shot with my iPhone and stitched together in Lightroom. Click on it to see it bigger.
We just spent a beautiful week in Capitol Reef National Park, a gem of a place tucked into the middle of Utah. There were a few weather challenges here and there, but we found plenty of time to get out and see the magnificence of the park and the area. (If you want to see the glorious beauty that is Utah, and you don’t want to deal with the crowds at Zion, Bryce or Moab, you need to go to Capitol Reef—seriously.)
On our last night at the park, Susan and I went out for a shower and a burger on a cool, windy evening, and on our way back to camp, we stopped at a viewpoint. The skies and the rock cliffs were so beautiful, and the light changing so quickly that I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a bunch of photos. Back in the trailer, I stitched 4 frames into the panorama above.
(We’ll have a bit more about Capitol Reef on our blog, once we’ve caught our breath and schedule some writing time.)
When I saw the sunrise on this beautiful morning in camp, I really didn’t see a photo until I walked back around behind the cactus, noticing the silhouette of the rising sun. I jumped into action, although I knew I was going to miss the shot I wanted: one with the sunstar at the crack of the horizon and the light on the tips of the cactus–and without the distractions of the ugly bush and the camp shelter. In the time it took to slap on a neutral-density filter, get the tripod arranged properly, and think through my exposure settings, the sun moved a bit too high in the sky, and I couldn’t find a better cactus grouping. So I snapped this one, hoping for one more pretty, cloud-filled sunrise during our stay, and would use this morning’s photo as a test shot of sorts. There wasn’t another opportunity to get a similar shot while I was here, but I decided that I was ok with what I did get on this gorgeous morning.
My friend Tom passed away recently. He was a professional friend more than a personal one, but he was a friend nonetheless. We knew each other for more than 25 years, and he was an important part of my working world at the time when I was getting my bearings in publishing. We spoke occasionally at the yearly Macworld Expo conferences in the ’90s and beyond, but most of our exchanges were over email (often about a product review he wrote for us). Every time I met Tom or his wife Dori, however, there was a warmth among us that I can only describe as camaraderie and friendship.
I can’t eulogize him to the degree that my friends Andy, Jason and Jeff did, but I can say that he was one of the best writers who ever wrote for me: his prose was clear and clean, and he knew about deadlines better than most (being a well-regarded book author helped with that). Beyond that, I can only say that he was a good man as I knew him, and I’ve always been grateful for the work he did for me, as well as the books he wrote, many of which helped me learn new things long after we stopped working together.
Last September, I had the good fortune to have the best office in the world: the Alvord Desert.((Over on our blog, you can see “One Last Jaunt through Oregon,” a travelogue of our awesome September trip. My office in each of the places we went was wonderful.)) Each morning, I got up, made a cup of coffee, and set out my desk and chair with a stack of proofs. There, with an expansive view of the desert playa and Steens Mountain, I worked on a book, the result of an unexpected project that had come together earlier in the year.
The book was not mine, but that of a friend. And, as I worked on the project through the fall and winter, I realized that this was not a one-off event, but possibly the beginning of a new chapter in my life. To that end, I have created a publishing company, Red Notebook Press, and am about to publish its first book.
That book, Aging: An Apprenticeship, is, at its simplest, an anthology of thoughtful, touching, and sometimes funny essays on life as we get older, written by many well-known—and should-be-well-known—authors. Compiled and edited by my friend Nan Narboe, it is a unique book, an important one, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.
“Nan Narboe’s thoughtfully selected essays offer an intimate and lyrical account of aging through the decades. Authors Judy Blume, Andrew McCarthy, Gloria Steinem and others draw from their own experiences, describing a specific decade’s losses and gains to form a complex and unflinching portrait of the years from nearing fifty to ninety and beyond.”
Aging is now complete, and will be published on April 4. There were a few hiccups along the way (the biggest being the nightmare that is building an ebook), but I can tell you that nothing beat the joy at seeing the first copies in Nan’s hands, or finally getting the book visible on Amazon.
I have been in publishing my entire life, but it has been in the world of periodicals. And, while I have never tried to create a book, book publishing is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for years. In fact, part of the happenstance that led me to this project was that I was already knee-deep in research on another potential book publishing project when I ran into Nan. I had done enough investigation about print-on-demand services, creating ebooks, and marketing channels that I knew I could help Nan with two things: guide her book to completion, and create a printed book that looked professionally done. I can honestly say that I have done just that.
As I noted a year ago, 2016 was a year to explore my new world with Susan, and to determine the path forward for my life. I expected to read and write quite a bit, possibly with an eye towards beginning a book of my own, but in the end, I did very little writing. When Nan and I spoke about publishing her book in June, I was in a place of deep dissatisfaction, mostly about my lack of writing, but also because I felt that I had not gotten any sense of where I was headed. I was enjoying our travels, but I felt more like a tourist than someone searching for a new purpose.
Aging was the perfect antidote. In the process of ramping up production on the book, I remembered how much fun it is to manage a big project, work with good people, play with page layout, edit and proof (yes!((One of the true joys of the project was getting to use the Chicago Manual of Style once again — their website is amazing, and well worth the subscription, if you’re an editor.))), and produce something of true worth.
About Red Notebook
I called my imprint Red Notebook Press for a very specific reason, one that is dear to me. I’m not ready to say much more than this: the red notebook was one of the last gifts to me from Lee. It was an amazing document that has changed the way I think about death and how we prepare for it. I will write about it one day, possibly even as a book, but when I thought about the types of books I would like to publish, Red Notebook Press was the only name I ever considered using.
I’ve been asked by more than a few friends about what I hope to publish at Red Notebook. I’m not particularly interested in publishing fiction, poetry or general-purpose nonfiction. I would like to help authors publish thoughtful, literate texts about living well, especially as we get older; explorations of how we choose to die, and how we can help people die on their own terms; and how to live within the world of grief, with peace and grace. Right now, I don’t have any concrete plans, but I think of one of Susan’s great sayings: “Don’t get attached to outcomes; just remain open to the possibilities.” For me, Aging is a perfect example of that philosophy. I am hopeful that, if there are to be other books, they will unfold as they need to happen.
Over the past few weeks, I have been wrapping up this project. Nan has a good publicist and we’re hopeful that we’ll get a review or two from press outlets to help get the word out.((Not to get all marketing on y’all, but anything you can do to help put the book out there would be appreciated. I truly believe this is an important book, but it is also one of hundreds of thousands of books published in the U.S. each year, and it is easy for it to get lost. If you have any ideas, get in touch with me at rlepage(at)me.com.)) In the meantime, I am preparing to head back out on the road for the foreseeable future; our house is packed up and in storage, and we’re readying our new trailer for four to six months through the Southwest and beyond. While I’m out, I’ll be working on books for that other project I referred to above. Again, I’m being a bit vague about this for various reasons, but I have created a second imprint for a different topic, and hope to have news about that later this year.((I should also have an online presence for Red Notebook Press in the next month or so, at rednotebook.press (sadly, no more, as of summer 2022.))
So, that’s what I did during my summer (and fall and winter) vacation. I’m extremely proud of what Nan has created, as much as I am at being able to help her realize her vision, and I look forward to the things that this year will bring.
Part of our travels this past September included our annual trip to Waldo Lake. East of Eugene and south of Bend, Waldo is one of our special places, and it is remote enough that there is no cellular coverage, which suits us fine. This year, we spent a week there with the Casita, living off the grid, hiking, chopping firewood, and enjoying the forest.
I love photographing the lake, especially at the beginning of the day, when the overnight winds have calmed, the mists are clearing, and portions of the shore become bathed in sunshine while others linger in the shadows.
Next year, I need to figure out how to get the tree on the left a bit further into the frame without reducing the left side of the image to a mush of trees (which is what it is).
Click the image to see it larger. You can find last year’s Waldo Lake photos here; the group includes one of my all-time favorites–and a rare black and white photo from me.
Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is a rather unbelievable place, 422 square miles of wilderness tucked deep in the southernmost part of Oregon, at 4,000 feet. It is primitive and magnificent, and we were fortunate to spend a week there in September, among the antelope, coyotes, birds, jackrabbits and more. It is definitely a place worth exploring — and revisiting.
I took many photos, but few of them seem to capture the raw beauty of the place.
On our recent travels, Susan and I visited hot springs both at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and the Alvord Desert. The springs at Hart were pretty crappy — they looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in, like, ever — but the Alvord Hot Springs (good info here, on SoakOregon) were quite delightful. So wonderful, in fact, that we went a couple of times.((If you look at recent comments on the Web about the Alvord Hot Springs, you’ll see plenty of people complaining about the fact that the new owners of the springs charge $8 for a soak (24 hours of access to the pools, actually, or free with camping on their site). I never visited the old springs, but there were lots of old complaints about them being dirty and disgusting. Today, these springs are hot, clean and peaceful. It was worth the $8, in my opinion.))
I love this shot of Susan, looking out on the desert landscape, with my iPhone, once again. I have a bunch of good ones that I shot inside the springs, but this is my favorite.
The photo reminds me that part of our purpose when we set out on our travels this year was to find a few special places and new experiences. It’s been a great year, and I’m glad to have this memory (and the photo) as part of it.
An edited version this photo appeared in my Instagram feed a bit ago…
One of my favorite places in the Portland area is Larch Mountain. I’ve been photographing there for years at all hours of the day, and one of the things I love is spending a sunset atop the mountain. Despite the small platform at the summit, Larch often has a party atmosphere at sunset, especially during the summer. That’s where my pal Duncan and I first met the wonderful Hudson Henry, and I’ve witnessed marriage proposals, champagne toasts, and what seems like a million photographers while on the mountain.
When I first went to Larch, it bugged me that this big rock got in the way of the sunset, but once I discovered the wonder of the silhouette, I was hooked on looking west at least a few times while shooting Mt. Hood off to the east. And, despite the fact that a silhouette is a silhouette is a silhouette, I keep seeing different sides to them, as with this shot.
This is a three-shot panoramic merge of an iPhone 6s photo, and it’s better than anything I shot with my Sony A7RII that evening. A lot of tines, the phone will blow out the highlights in a sunset, but I seemed to get the light at the right time, while playing with the exposure.((While framing your image, click and hold to lock focus and exposure on the brightest spot, then drag down to lower the exposure a little bit.)) I’m continually amazed at how many of my favorite shots from the past year have come from that pocket camera. (I’ll have another in a day or so.)