top of page

Wild Life

Remembering Wild and Not-So-Wild Days.

May 30, 2024 :: Good Things

This kind of snapshot is a time capsule.

Or a time machine.

It can take us back to the moment we see in the frame -- to its sights, sounds and scents. Those senses are woven into the memory as tightly as the photograph is bonded to its paper.

My family at the Oregon Coast, 1967

It was the Summer of 1967. We were spending it in Corvallis, Oregon. My Dad was teaching a class at Oregon State University while he took some advanced classes himself. Most of the weekends were ours to explore the landscapes and towns of the Pacific Northwest.

This was the day we saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It looked like a Great Lake like Lake Michigan back home in Wisconsin. But something was different.

The Pacific Ocean had an energy greater than any Great Lake. You could sense an understated power in it, even on a quiet day. There was nothing "pacific" about it.

You might guess from this photograph that we were headed to a picnic spot. I ran ahead to get ready for the chance to take a good picture. I asked two of my sisters to sit on the handrails. My third sister was a beloved force of nature, so it was no surprise that she flew down the steps toward the beach.

I was just in time to see my parents reach the top of the stairs with the picnic basket and cooler. I made one composition and clicked the shutter of my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye box camera. By the time I wound the roll film to the next exposure, everyone had passed me and they were almost to the picnic table.

It was a good day for an adventure because the whole summer was an adventure. We towed a tent-camper trailer Out West and back home again. We camped at KOA campgrounds on the quickest route to Oregon. We camped in state parks on the weekends. And we camped in national parks on our slow way home.

We explored the Cascade Range, the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake National Park, Yellowstone, the Tetons, the Black Hills, and the Badlands. We saw wild landscapes and wildlife we'd only read about. Imaginary places and creatures became real.

That summer is a distant memory now. My sisters and I are in our 60s. Dad died 14 years ago. Mom passed away in April. It seems fair that this photograph is soft and gauzy, just like the past.

But even a blurry photo can sharpen a foggy memory. It's still a time machine and a time capsule full of sights, sounds and scents.

If I slow down and close my eyes, I can see the sandy beach and the hazy sea, hear the breaking waves and the gulls overhead, feel the salt water on my toes and the spray on my cheek, and smell the ocean and the wildflowers nearby.

That summer opened the door to a world of adventures for my sisters and me together and on our own. It encouraged us to step off the porch and past the fence to see what else was out there. Every day, the world grew bigger, more mysterious and more wonderful.

Our experiences launched me on my path of discovery into that expanding world. The circle widened from solo hikes from home to bike trips to bus trips to car trips to overseas trips, all in search of wild places and things.


My Mom’s encouragement set those wheels in motion. I can’t thank her enough for the freedom to explore on my own when I was a kid. Years later, she told me about her concerns for my safety until I walked in the door with some stories and snippets of nature in my knapsack.


She said those worries persisted for her into my adulthood every time I ventured to another wild destination for pleasure or business. It was part of being a mother – your mother, she’d say. And so it was with all of her kids, all of her life.

Fortunately, her worries evaporated when we were safely back in our homes. Then she'd share our joy as we shared our stories.

Even better were the adventures we had with her. Some were close by -- hiking in state parks like Devil's Lake and birdwatching at wildlife preserves like Horicon Marsh. Some were a bit farther in Midwestern woodlands, prairies and gardens. Others were farther still like exploring the Appalachian Mountains, Alaska's Inside Passage, and the British Isles.


Today, I'm in a place between sorrow and thanksgiving. I'm struggling to reconcile the recent passing of my Mom. There's so much left unasked and unsaid.


But holding this photograph in my hand helps me hold onto an old memory while taking a fresh look at it. In the joy of that simple moment, I see why I'm thankful for all the wild and not-so-wild adventures that came after it, with or because of my Mother.

Thanks for the wild life, Mom.

We miss you, Mom.

MENU  Home  :: Galleries  :: Workshops & Tours  :: Journal  :: What's New?  :: About/Contact

© Cliff Zenor : All images and text copyright by Cliff Zenor 2010-2024.

Contents cannot be copied or used in any form

at any time without the written permission of

Cliff Zenor Photography. All rights reserved.


Recent post
Featured Post
A RetiringThought
bottom of page