Climbing the Enchantments in Search of My Father

               Artist’s Statement

When I was a girl, I could see The Enchantments suspended like a dream high above our little Wenatchee Valley. A land both impossibly distant and yet closer than hands or feet, this was my father’s place of spiritual retreat and renewal as he tried to walk off World War II and his landing at Omaha Beach, the long winter of the Battle of the Bulge, and being wounded in the action at the infamous Battle of Remagen Bridge.

The Enchantments is a region within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area of Washington State’s Cascade Mountain Range. The trail to the Enchantments is a brutal ascent of 6,000 feet of elevation gain to an end elevation of 7,800 feet. I took this pilgrimage to the lost landscape of my father in September 2021. It was as psychologically and spiritually intense as it was physically challenging. It wasn’t just a check on a bucket list; it was a journey to the core of a family creation story.  

When I was a young girl in the 1950s and 60s, we didn’t yet have a TV. My dad’s pop-up slideshow screen held pride of place in the living room, and once or twice a week, the whole family would gather in front of that screen for a slideshow of his latest trip. He was on the High Mountain Rescue Team, so he really got into the backcountry.

My dad, who passed long ago in 1979, was and still is revered by our large, extended family as “a great landscape photographer.” So, not only is his conventional aesthetic locked into my personal origin story, but his near-sainthood status in the family throws a long shadow over my own practice.

That is why I undertook the pilgrimage to his beloved landscape, The Enchantments: to personally confront this powerful ghost and to honor his practice while struggling to establish my own.

This was an extremely difficult journey for me. I was pushed to the furthest limits of my fitness at age 71. It was truly the last possible moment in my life to seek my father in the high country that he loved and photographed so extensively.


Every view in this snapshot country looks like a page from National Geographic. These scenes are as irresistible as a sugar addiction to photographers. I was determined not to take even one sweet shot, so I limited my visual reach by allowing myself ONLY a creative lens, the LensBaby Trio 28. 

Once there, I encountered the spirit of my father in memories, in dreams, in reflections in the lakes, in the blur, the twist, the doubling of the image. He came to me in the fire of a tree, the green of deep waters, in rock faces and intimate landscapes of the soul. So much of what I had forgotten returned to me in this, his personal landscape.

Joseph Campbell in his The Hero With a Thousand Faces, speaks of the apogee of the arduous soul’s journey where a moment of apotheosis occurs, where the heroine finally realizes and says to herself, “I and my father are one.” That happened to me inside the world of these images. I came to terms at last with my long-time anguish of grief at his passing. I have missed him in ways that only images, the language of the heart, can express. 


Clambering up the Cold Mountain path,
the Cold Mountain trail goes on and on:
the long gorge choked with scree and boulders, 
the wide creek, the mist-blurred grass.

The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain. The pine sings, but there’s no wind.
Who can leap the world’s ties
and sit with me among the white clouds?

—Hanshan, Cold Mountain Poems, translated by Gary Snyder 

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Entering the Zone of Heightened Power

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Witness Tree: His Spirit Journeyed With Me

--Dragontail Peak 8,840'

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Even Thirty Years Later, He Fell into Fugue States

Remembering Omaha Beach

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When the Rock Opened, His Shadow Ran Out

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Finding the Copse that Sheltered Him

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Who can leap the world’s ties,

And sit with me among the white clouds?

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All that Long Autumn Night, He Tried to Speak to Me in Dreams

In the Dream, I Try to Follow Him to the Summit,

but Time Gets in the Way

--Mt. Stuart 9415'

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He Wants to Tell Me How Far He Climbed,

How Far Away from the War

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Marrying Mom Changed Everything

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He Never Stopped Telling Us About The Enchantments

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Green Waters Carry Me to Him

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His Intimate Landscape

Mom Died 42 Years Later; Now Their Spirits Are Re-joined

I Know I Will Find Him, But the Journey is Long and I am Old

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See? He Gestures to Me from the Opposite Shore

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My Favorite Color is Red, and so was Daddy’s

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The Lights Go Out: How Can I Understand Death?

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It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.

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Daughter, Sandy Brown Jensen (2021) and Father, Warren Lester Brown (1962)

Climbing The Enchantments

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