Window, Northern State Hospital, Sedro-Woolley. Photo © 2015 Jane Alynn.
Recently, when I was wandering around the old Northern State Hospital farm for a project I have been working on, this wall with a barred window on one of the dilapidated buildings caught my eye.

At first glance the surfaces attracted me. The textures of long-growing lichens, of cracked and peeling paint, its many layers exposed by years of neglect.

Then I saw the puzzle of geometric shapes: the rectangular window, a frame within a frame, perfectly centered in the middle of what remained of a square structure; and the space divided into triangles by the diagonal bar, which together formed another rectangle.

But that slash of metal! The diagonal line, even as it contributed to the symmetry of the composition, furnished the needed contrast, subverting the visual balance with a sense of drama. Slicing across the front of the window, its meaning was clear and commanding: entry was forbidden!

Observations like that make connections with something more inward.

As I stood there, looking at the cracked and peeling layers of paint, the barred window, I envisioned the layers of mystery that surrounded the hard lives of the mentally ill patients who once lived there.

It is this process—the same process, really—as writing a poem, that makes seeing and then photographing so vital for me.

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