He didn’t know it when he emailed me about his book, but author Paul Brians and I live in the same neighborhood, on different streets but only a few houses away from each other. As is often the case on the Island, the degree of separation was simply not knowing each other’s last name. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he is the guy I’ve seen photographing plants at Battle Point Park, who I’ve chatted with a few times, usually while my dogs are tugging at their leashes to move along. I knew his name was Paul, because his wife is Paula, and I’ve chatted with her many times. When a couple are named Paul and Paula, you tend to remember. He didn’t realize he knew me, just liked my website and hoped I’d like his book. And I do.
Possibly these details are beside the point, but somehow they seem appropriate, because Brians’ book is really a neighborhood book, for the neighborhood of Bainbridge Island. It’s an ode of sorts—an ode to the beautiful and beloved place we all came and stay for. Brians’ love of Bainbridge shines through in his spare but informative prose and especially in his often intimate and always affectionate photographs of the wild side of Island life.
It’s nice to see a book dedicated to our seasons, since so often they are dismissed as being unspectacular compared with the extremes one finds in the Midwest or Northeast. Yet if you look, as Brians has done so closely, they are here to admire, turning along the yearly wheel more gradually but turning nonetheless, through sleep and renewal, storm and sunshine, deep and light green and every shade in between.
But Brians shows us there is much more to see here than shades of green. He documents the yellows and reds of fall ferns, maples, and apples. He shows us the white of winter clouds, snow berries, and the Cascade peaks. For spring there is secretive white and pink trillium and profusions of pink and purple plum, camellia, salmonberry, and rhododendron blossoms. Summer appears in all the colors, from the bright yellow of invasive scotch broom to the white of the ubiquitous Queen Anne’s Lace, the deep pink of the intoxicating Nootka rose to the fuschia’s flaming reds and a world of berries from red to blue-black.
Now and then, through the seasons, we are treated to images of our island fauna—a fawn, ducks, a dragonfly, multi-colored rabbits. I wished for more examples of our animal life through the seasons, since we are so rich with sea and song birds, otters and coyotes, bees, caterpillars, and the occasional shy salamander. I hope in Brians’ next book we get to see more of these members of our living community and perhaps learn even more about the rich plant life surrounding us.
One of the pleasures of this book is how familiar it is. Before I had even read the text I found myself thinking, I know this exact tree stump on the Ferry Dell Trail, that stand of alders at Gazzam, those Battle Point Park bunnies and the wintering Nootka roses behind them, that honor-system flower stand, this row of plum trees along the horse farm, the Japanese Garden at Bloedel Reserve. . . . Yet there are plenty of hidden places too that are sweet surprises.
So, whether you are looking for a gift for the plant-lover in your life, want to learn more about our local flora, or are a connoisseur of “wild” Bainbridge Island, Four Seasons on Bainbridge Island: Photographs by Paul Brians makes a worthwhile addition to any Islander’s library.
Four Seasons on Bainbridge Island is for sale locally at Eagle Harbor Books, Dana’s Show House, The Traveler, Bainbridge Gardens, Bay Hay and Feed, The Bloedel Reserve gift shop, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, Oil and Water, and The Curious Child. Brians will be selling the book and large matted prints of his photographs at Woodward School during Bainbridge in Bloom on July 8-10.
View more of his photographs here.