New book, exhibit unearths the marvels of stunning stumps

“Monuments to the Past” will beaccompanied by an exhibition of large-scale photography of the island’s humbling forest stumps.

A new book, exhibit and walking tour to celebrate Vashon Island’s hidden treasures — the gigantic, centuries-old stumps hidden in the deep forests of the island and along its coastlines — will all launch at 5 p.m. on First Friday, June 2, at Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) featuring the first-ever book and photography show on Vashon’s old growth stumps.

The debut of Bill Rives and Julie Speidel’s “Monuments to the Past,” an 80-page coffee table photography book, will be accompanied by an exhibition of Rives’ large-scale photography of the island’s humbling forest stumps, running through June 25. Sales of the book and photography will support the arts center.

A free, self-guided adventure tour with a map and activity guide will also be available to take home so that islanders of all ages can discover some of Burton Acres’ beautiful stumps on their own. Trails meander through these woods, bringing walkers close to some of the most impressive old-growth stumps on the island, making for a perfect summer outing for those who want to connect with nature.

A quiz inside the guide, called “Can we stump you?” provides a fun game for kids to learn more about stumps and the science of the forest. Free parking is just steps away at Jensen Point with a beach and picnic area.

Speidel’s intrepid Main Coon, Khan, was the first to call her attention to the majesty of the island’s old-growth stumps, visiting one on Speidel’s property time and again to scratch the same familiar spot. An acclaimed sculptor, artist and longtime islander, Speidel and her husband could see a story waiting to be told.

They consulted Rives, a fellow lover of nature and art, to capture it with his camera lens.

“By the time I had finished shooting the pictures, Julie and I had come up with a plan to document the island’s stumps with a photography show and book,” Rives said.

Soon, he and Speidel, along with spouses Susan and Joe, were tromping through the island’s forests and boating along the coast on a three-year treasure hunt, searching for these undiscovered ancients.

For Rives, a well-known Vashon nature photographer who specializes in large-format printmaking, the stump project is the latest in a long history of photographic adventures, going back years ago to his time as a young Seattle lawyer and head of the Sierra Club in Western Washington.

As Rives describes it, he fell in love with photography while on long trips into the Cascade Mountains and on treks across the arctic slope where he represented the Inupiat people. He has since traveled the world to photograph the wild beauty of African grasslands, Central American rainforests, and other distant places.

Reflecting on their stump project experiences, Speidel says people can learn many lessons from the trees felled long ago.

“They coax us to slow down, to relax into the rhythm of even stiller depths,” she said. “They summon us to open not just our eyes but our hearts to the buried beauty found in other things and in ourselves.”

As Rives writes in the book, these stumps are “monuments to a world lost, once in balance, reminders that there is a debt owing to the Earth repayable only by preserving the remaining wild places and restoring those lost, so mighty trees can grow again for a thousand years to nourish the Earth.”

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