(This is part of The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree, a nine-part series about discovering nature in my front yard. View previous installments here. The entire project is also available with additional images as an e-book.)
I’m a nature photographer. In a normal year, exotic travel is a critical part of the job, or so I tell myself. I’ve crawled inside the magma chamber of an extinct Icelandic volcano. I’ve sat on a beach in New Zealand at sunset as some of the world’s rarest penguins marched by. I’ve stood in the footsteps of the Impressionists to capture a modern take on the white cliffs that plunge into the English Channel.
Staying home is never my first choice. Travel can be addictive. As an artist, it’s easy to think you’re creating something new when you’re standing someplace new. The rush of fresh stimuli usually delivers the creative equivalent of a runner’s high. Trying to find something new in the same-old, same-old, however, can be like trying to get psyched up for a vigorous workout right after you’ve given up on dieting.
But I was determined to stay busy even when I had to stay home. And I did. It turns out nature delivers.
My wife and I have one of the smallest houses on one of the larger lots in a bedroom community north of Seattle. We have a third of an acre, which doesn’t seem like much, but in this neighborhood it nearly qualifies as a wildlife refuge. The homes that were like ours are gone. They’ve been cleared to make way for duplexes, triplexes, octoplexes.
Every time another small house vanishes, more animals show up at ours. Rabbits have built burrows in our backyard. Songbirds raise their young in our shrubs. Hummingbirds drink from the sweet flowers that line our deck.
Some are heard but not seen, like the owl that called from our largest Douglas fir the other night. And then there was the unmistakable tapping of a woodpecker.
(The Hidden Life of the Hideous Tree is available as an ebook. Follow Kevin Ebi's photography on Facebook or Instagram. Prints of his images are available through LivingWilderness.com.)