Feb 17, 2011 6:44 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
There are so many treasures to be found on the central and south coast. Sometimes you don't even have to be looking for them, to discover them. Such is the case in a gem I found while doing a story on branding season a few weeks ago. I stumbled upon more proof than I anticipated that there's no place like home.
Out in the middle of the open cattle country of Parkfield is an artistic treasure. It's not sitting in a museum, but on Jack Varian's kitchen table. "Is that our dunes?" I ask as I flip through the book before me. "Yep. That's the Oceano dunes." says Varian.
It's a beautiful picture book. But you won't find any copies of it in your local bookstore. It was put together by a guy who's name you may recognize. "And we've had it all these many years since 1963" says Varian. The pictures in the book were all taken by Ansel Adams. Adams made this book in honor of Jack's uncle, Russell Varian. "You know I'm not sure where they met up, but I'm sure it was on a mountain top someplace." says Varian.
Turns out Russell Varian and Ansel Adams were hiking buddies. "They were both lovers of the Sierra Nevadas." Jack explains. "My Uncle Russell was a life long member of the Sierra Club as was Ansel Adams. And they ended up taking many trips together to the Sierras."
Ansel Adams went on to become, well Ansel Adams. Russell Vairan became a pretty famous inventor. But the bond that kept their friendship so strong through all those years, was their intense appreciation of nature.
Russell Varian's fascination with the outdoors spilled over to science. He and his brother Sigurd Varian invented all kinds of things but probably the most famous, the klystron tube that would become the basis of microwave radar. Adams appreciated his friends curiosity about life and the way things worked, and when Varian died in 1959, Adams set out to make a picture book in his friend's memory. And it became an album of photos that he took that he thought Russell would enjoy. Every shot took for it, he did so with Russell Varian in mind.
Jack Varian pointed out the subtle connection as I turned the page to a close up of an oak leaf. "To a lot of people this wouldn't be very meaningful. But to Russell, the geometry of this leaf and everything about it, and how it sustained itself, is the kind of thing he'd really get into."
Ansel Adams took the pictures, Jack's grandfather wrote the prose. And scattered among the pages, Russell's own words of wisdom about nature live-on. This isn't the only book like this out there. A little more than 200 of the books were produced and sold as a fundraiser for the Sierra Club more than 50 years ago. Who knows how many are still around or where they are.
It's probably not worth enough to make someone rich, but there's a wealth of knowledge to be found on these pages of this book. Lessons to be learned about the beauty of nature, and friendship, and taking time to take note of both. And it's all in our own backyard.
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