The things we take from ourselves

Writer, photographer, fellow seeker of awe in the sanctuary of nature Jennifer Bowman puts the impact and losses into solemn perspective. I am grateful her friendship and recommendations guided me to find Punch bowl Falls on our first trip to Portland four years ago. That and a few of the trails in the Gorge are experiences I am grateful I gathered before they were lost to this season’s wildfires.

The Trailhead

Eleven years ago today, I spent my birthday at Glacier National Park. That was back when I owned a house in northwest Montana, and I spent every possible moment there. And because it was my birthday, I wanted to go to Glacier, because I love Glacier. I looked back at my ancient blog Trailheadcase (I’ve been blogging continuously at one site or another since 2005), and was reminded that it was chilly enough up at Logan Pass to require a coat on my almost-four year old (now almost 15), but warm enough to play in Lake McDonald in shorts and a t-shirt. Such is life at elevation.

1416192024_9c3b301464_b St. Mary’s Lake at early afternoon, during the 2003 fires.

Tonight, eleven years later, Glacier is on fire. A lot of it is burning. The venerable Sperry Chalet, one of Glacier’s famous backcountry lodges, was overtaken by flame. I’ve been watching this beloved…

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Turning the Page on an Endless Summer

So fellow travelers, today is the final day of the 2017 Great New York State Fair .

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This photo is from 2011 because I won’t have photos from The Fair this year.  You see, for the first time in forty two years I am not going. This is a decision without precident and far out of character for me. I love the Fair! I’ve attended every year since I arrived as a college freshman, when free buses ran us from Syracuse University up to and back from the Fairgrounds during the week before classes began. I’ve been so many times I know about the Sheep to Shawl contest where teams sheer, card, spin and knit wool to compete for ribbons. I’ve enjoyed the Rooster Crowing Contest in the Poultry Barn an event which landed us a pet bunny (the girls got bored and wanted to see the guinea pigs and bunnies, you know the rest.) I’m a regular “People’s Vote”r for the table setting and wood carving competitions. I’ve seen more amazing things sculpted in butter and sand, wondered at intricate quilt designs and applauded teams of rescue dogs performing high jinx while raising awareness that shelter animals make great pets.

Then there is the food, around which I plan my intinerary.  Arrive early enough for a breakfast of Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, conveniently located in the dairy building right by the afore mentioned butter sculpture’s rotating glass refrigerated display case. Snack on maple snow cones or maple cotton candy before checking out the astounding enteries in the photography and quilt competitions in the Home and Art Center. Peruse the ribbon winners of the flower of the day in the Horticulture Building, then grab a baked potato with the works (butter, sour cream, and cheese) while my feet can endure the long line at the booth, after all at a dollar it’s always been and still is the best bargain of the day. Walking the midway offers fresh squeezed lemon or limeade and fried dough at one end and at the other end, if I time it right, I get to watch young dancers and drummers from different tribes performing while I enjoy my favorite Green Corn soup at the Six Nations Cook House.  Eventually I meander back to the cool shade under the trees by the NYState Parks mini lake for dinner from either the International Building or Dinosaur Barbeque where the picnic tables are within view of Chevy Court where free concerts are staged.

So why am I missing it this year?  While our annual trip to Portland and a day of jet lag fatigue kept me out for nine of the thirteen days of this year’s run, I still had both time and advance tickets available. And I do love the Fair, it’s my annual end of summer tradition.

And there, when I woke up this morning on the very last day this year’s Fair,  I realized there was the key : End of summer.  It’s a reality I am in complete denial of, an inevitable shift in time I cannot stop even if I choose not to turn the page on the daily calendar sitting in my kitchen. If I don’t pass through those gates then this summer cannot end, right?

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You see, this summer has been extraordinary.  After the inordinate impact of last year’s challenges at work, I dedicated this entire summer to getting my physical and emotional health back. From the Spirit of 60 Road Trip to favorite trails rediscovered  and the adventures of our trip to Portland, I’ve focused on understanding why I veered so far off course, what I need to do to stay balanced, establish clear boundaries, reset priorities and how to thrive rather than survive the challenges of the coming school year. Every day possible, I woke up and asked “What would I most like to do today?” then followed that call as best I could.  I might find simple joy in a treat at a favorite cafe, wonder at a rare bird sighting, strength in hiking a difficult trail, healing in the hug from a loved one. It’s a routine I will continue as best I can going forward with the new school year.

So this morning when I asked myself what I most wanted to do the answer brought me here instead

Potters Marsh and Three Rivers, a favorite birding spot

It was a quiet, peaceful hike. Ducks, geese and sandpipers that nest along the banks of the marshes in the spring have raised their young and moved on the for season. Only a steady stream of dragonflies and bumblebees stirred over the still waters. Crickets shrilled their late summer chorus from under towering goldenrod.  A constant wind brushed the tree tops, the rustle of drying leaves sounded like waves coming ashore. Following the trail into cooler woods I was rewarded with the distant call of blackbilled cuckoos. On the way past the eagles nest also now empty, we came across a small snapping turtle struggling in a patch of sand in the middle of the path. After letting Delilah sniff to satisfy her curiosity, I gently set it on the edge of the big pond. One small act of kindness somehow settled the restlessness in my heart.

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Hey where did he go?

So, after I came home, when I finally did flip the page on that daily calendar in my kitchen one quote reminded me I have the power of asking the “right” questions. It read :

“We are either throwing our emotional weight into the balance of fear and anger or we are adding to the world’s measure of hope and kindness.  This is cannot always be seen, but it can certainly be felt.  Today, I will ask myself two questions: ‘How do I feel in this situation?’ and “How do I want to feel?’ ” (Hugh Prather)

What I want to feel is the warmth of an endless summer shining in a heart free to answer “What do I most want to do today?” and I know I have the choice to honor that no matter what the coming seasons bring. Besides, those Great New York State Fair advance admission tickets will still be good next year.

 Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.
 

 

There and Back Again: Redefining Home

So fellow travelers, it’s been a quiet few days since we’ve returned from our marvelous trip to the Pacific Northwest. There’s more than a hint of Autumn in the air, one local weather watcher reported a record early frost in her area a bit north of here. Delilah and I found signs of way too early color on our first walk.

 

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HRH Princess Delilah met us at the airport with squeals and cries of sheer delight. She arrived courtesy of her escort Mark B. who along with my good friend and camping buddy Lisa provide our spoiled rescue Diva with the best of care when we are out of town.  They also happen to be the adopted family of our former foster Sammy aka Sammers Wiggle Butt. He stays with us when they go out of town.  I’m deeply grateful for this reciprocal arrangement, without it our extended annual visit with our kids would not be possible.

Parting goodbyes grow harder for me each time as every trip deepens my connection to the wild wonders of the PNW.  The irony if this is not lost on me, since I had said for years that region of the country was one I had no interest in moving to. Never say never.

Functional graffiti on a side street in PDX

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Each year we explore more areas, seeking out potential towns to purchase a retirement home. My husband tracks property values on Zillow and I seek out natural vistas and new trails to explore. We learn more about the issues each area is facing  and I am planning at least one future trip to experience the colder rainy season. I expect I’ll remain a willing convert, after all you don’t have to shovel rain to get to your bird feeders or brush it off your car to load your groceries.

Rain 2014 the only year its rained during our trip

 

Since returning, I noticed I had a hard time saying I was “home.” Yet I also felt content to be back, walking the neighborhood with Delilah, cleaning my little fish pond and weeding the small forest attempting to take over various areas of my yard. I gathered flowers from the wildflower patch I seeded last spring and discovered a dozen or more tiny fry had appeared in the pond during our absence. Seeing them wiggle in the waterfall current and darting around the lily pads sent a wave of joy through my heart which ached to have coffee at the bagel shop* where Favorite Younger Daughter works and hike just one more mountain trail with either one of my girls.

Then insight dawned.

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Just as I can equally love two daughters with their unique talents and temperaments I can have and love more than one “home.”  It simply means I am twice blessed and for this I am truly grateful.

 

Massive sunflowers greeted me when I got home. They are the first ever to bloom after many unsuccessful attempts to grow them. I laughed right out loud when I saw them. Maybe it was good to be back at this home after all.

 

 

 

Walk gently on the path my friends an may adventure find you ready.

*If you happen to find yourself  in Portland  do stop by Spielmans.  Their custom roasted coffee is excellent and they make the best bagels I’ve ever had- and I grew up in New York City so that assessment bears some weight.

 

 

The Wrong Donations – Some Tough Words on Disaster Relief

Gracious humor, gentle and direct.

My Best Laid Plans

I need to make a statement. I want to say it as kindly and gently as possible, but this message really needs to get out there. It’s important. Please hear me with as much grace as you can, because I mean it with all love and gentleness.

My children and I spent hours yesterday sorting the donations that are pouring in. That picture is the mountain we were faced with, and it was still coming. We’re not the only ones. Hundreds (thousands?) of volunteers all across our state are doing the same exact thing. Why? Because your hearts are in theright place.That’s why.

I want to make that abundantly clear. It is beautifully apparent that you are thinking about us and that you want to help us figure this thing out. You are doing anything you can, and that has brought such profound joy to our hearts. I personally…

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Mountain Spells

So fellow travelers, we have spent three days discovering the majestic power of the mountains in Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington.

Mount Rainier (above) and Mount Olympus (below)


They are spellbinding. 

 

Yesterday at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Favorite Older Daughter and I hiked a trail leading to a lookout point. It was a mercifully short, but knee cracking steep climb.  My daughter patiently paced her stride as I stopped to get photos and catch my breath more than a few times.

 

The views from the top were worth every inch we hiked.

Even more precious was this rare time alone together. “Proud” barely describes the depth of joy I feel being with the amazing young woman my daughter has become. I have not written much about her because it is not often we get to spend time together. I head back home in a few days with an increasing sense that “home” is no longer where I currently live. It’s become this wild and wondrous place I return to every summer, this place our kids call home.

While trying to describe my experience at the trail’s crest I wrote what I thought was a run on sentence, until I realized it was actually a poem

The mountains are calling and winding tendrils of awe around my  heart

Ice fresh air seductively imbued with cedar fills my head with wild dreams of following endless ridges laced with enticing ribbons of trails 

I would walk on and on diving below the tree line plunging deep into forests of forgetfulness and forgiveness  where nothing matters but the next step

A raven calls

I turn and face the sun

and walk step by step 

 back home

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.


Afternoon Tea with Roses

So fellow travelers, this visit to Portland has a more relaxed pace. Taking time to simply enjoy being here as if this is where we already reside gives me a different perspective of this quirky city.

Portland is definitely exhibiting the aches and pains of a city which has grown far too quickly in the past decade. Some of the bruises are decidedly ugly.  Traffic gets steadily worse every year and Oregon’s absence of vagrancy laws creates an open door policy which requires a level of tolerance most large cities balk at. People become blind to the homeless because their presence is so pervasive it overwhelms any perception of being able to help. I have not been here long enough for the blindness to set in, what I see makes my heart ache. I am not sure I am willing to risk blindness to reside here.

During the week, the kids are up and off to work early.  I hang out with their beautiful rescue dogs, and edit photos from the previous days wanderings while enjoying a good cup of coffee, while my husband works (the great downside of the capacity to log in and work from any location.) When he’s done we head out to wander at will, returning later in the day to have dinner with the kids.

Today my husband drove out to see the custom auto shop where our son-in-law works. Ah those boys do love their cars and trucks. I met Favorite Youngest Daughter at the bagel cafe where she works and enjoyed a delicious sandwich, sitting on the deck surrounded by sunflowers while writing my post about the eclipse.

When my husband returned from shop talk, we headed to the International Rose Garden, a spot I had not yet fit into our daily explorations because I expected most roses would be well past bloom this late in August.  I was majestically proven wrong~

For some reason I was most drawn to the tiny buds yet to blossom, holding their secrets tight in the intense afternoon sunshine.

 

 

Late summer roses

Bright aromatic banquet 

Secrets yet to bloom

 

 

 

And the bees, zooming in and out of the fragrant flowers, pollen coating their wiggling bodies as they pushed deep to gather sweetness.

 

Busy visitors

gather sweetness spreading life

pure joy to watch

 

Portland is hot in August so we gladly accepted my younger daughter’s recommendation to visit a charming spot called the Tao of Tea.

We first experienced this type of tea service a few years ago at the Lan Su Chinese gardens in downtown Portland. Lan Su Garden is a beautiful treasure often overshadowed by the more famous Japanese Gardens.  The spot we went to today is a second location of the tea house located in the Chinese gardens offering the same menu minus the admission fee*.

Tao of Tea is well named, a sanctuary where rich wood walls buffer sound and seem to absorb the worries of this trying world as you sit sipping carefully prepared hand selected teas.  It was a most perfect haven to consider our younger daughter’s plans for the coming year.

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Cocoon of quiet

Pillow dumplings smokey tea

Heart connections thrive

Fluffy dumplings, exotic teas, the gentle trickle of a Buddha blessed fountain, all gifts I can wrap up in memory to take home until I can return.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends an may adventure find you ready.

*Editors note:  Given the opportunity to visit Lan Su Gardens, the unique and intricate landscapes are well worth the admission fee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solar Eclipse 2017

So fellow travelers, when I realized the 2017 total solar eclipse would pass through Oregon I began to make plans to schedule our annual visit to Portland around the August 21st event.

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 Lunar map by National Geographic©

After all, I am that kid who wanted a telescope and a wall map of the Moon not the new model of Barbie’s Dream House for Christmas .

So, we booked our flights, marked our calendars and ordered two packs of NASA certified Neil deGrasse Tyson approved eclipse viewing glasses shipped direct to our Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law’s home in Portland. Why risk forgetting to pack them?

A map from EarthSky.org, my go to source for comprehensible astronomy news and information, indicated Portland was just outside the path of totality. Additional research showed there was not a hotel, AirB&B or campground site available within the 100% zone during the weekend of and Monday evening after the eclipse. Everything had been booked over a year in advance. See? Some Americans do trust science.

If we were going to view the eclipse at totality we would have to find a site we could travel to and back that same day.  Some diligent searching turned up the Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fair grounds in Salem. At just eight dollars a car  for parking this free, family friendly event sounded perfect. I signed up to receive “Eclipse Event Updates” via email and within a week memos from the Oregon DOT and OEM (Department of Transportation and Office of Emergency Management) began to show up in my inbox.

Our original plan was rise early, drive to Salem and arrive at the fairgrounds before the gates opened at 6am.  Under normal circumstances the trip would take just over an hour door to door, however according to the initial reports from ODOT traffic was expected to be heavy on the handful of roads leading to areas within the path of totality.  This would be a major issue for Madras, a tiny town dead center in the path where totality would last over two minutes.

We drove through Madras last year on our way to Bend, where we spent three days exploring the wonders of Smith Rock and the Painted Desert  .Thousands of people were expected to descend on this sleepy little place, with a handful of small businesses and one, maybe two gas stations.  News reports of restaurtants stocking up and scheduling staff around the clock popped up. Wow! and as ominous reports of potential highway gridlock and gas shortages arrived in my eclipse feed, I began to second guess our original plan.  Would we end up stuck on a highway, watching the eclipse from the road?

20170821_075258My detailed research indicated Portland was within the 99% range of totality.  The kids’ home happens to be within walking distance of the trailheads at Powell Butte Nature Park. So that became our backup plan.

Powell Butte trail map

 Once on the ground in Oregon, I began to follow various Twitter feeds to keep up to date on weather, traffic and wildfire reports. Summer is wildfire season in the PNW and unfortunately several fires had broken out in the totality zone. There were areas with mandatory evacutations and road closures.

Yet, as eclipse day approached many of the anticipated issues did not materialize. Aside from an early report of gas shortage, which officials realized resulted from thousands of cars going to Symbiosis a big festival near Prineville, it seemed so far people had heeded the directive to “Arrive early, stay put, leave late.”

It was tempting to consider making the trek to Salem. Powell Butte registered at 99.4% on an interactive eclipse tracking map. Would the potential headaches be worth the additional .6%?

In retrospect, I can answer yes ~ provided we wait out the departure traffic headed out of Salem. That 50 mile drive north to Portland took most people over four hours. Guess poeple were less inclined to follow through on the “leave late” instuctions.

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The experience on top of Powell Butte was still pretty cool. I hiked up a few hours early to stake out a spot with a wide unobstructed view. A small, diverse crowd gathered. Kids and dogs played while we waited. A couple on horseback rode up and waited in the shade of the treeline. Coffee, snacks and water were shared. Photographers with special filters on their tripod mounted cameras offered people a closeup glinpse of the action.

 

 

 

 

The view from our spot

For a few hours we were simply one community joined in mutual awe of Nature.

It cooled down. Eerie crescent shadows snaked along the ground, then suddenly the light dimmed to a strange violet color, not totally dark, but something unlike any light most had ever seen. Silence,  then cheers and applause. In the distance,  snow capped Mt. Hood shone brighter for just an instant then dimmed.

And all too quickly, sunlight returned. It is amazing how much light just a sliver of the sun can radiate onto Planet Earth from so far away.

Our experience in no way matched what I saw later in images from the totality zone, yet it left me with a humbled sense of our humanity and after some thought, these simple words ~

Filtered eyes look up

Moonshadow eats the sun while

Open hearts reach out

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Eclipse photo by Peter Rahalski

Now to start planning for 2024.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready. 

Market Magic

So fellow travelers, this Portland trip is focused on savoring my favorite elements of this quirky city.

Foraging in vintage shops which abound in treasures and Goodwill stores which offer bargains on items we forgot to pack, like a fleece jacket to stave off cooler coastal temps.

Gastronomic delights dreamed of for the past year, revisited and found true to the memories. Marionberry shakes,  kimchee quesadillas, beer infused mac and cheese to name a few.

Photo note:  Wet Dog Cafe, Astoria. The wait staff was amused I’d come all the way from New York to have that mac and cheese.

 

Getting lost in vast ocean views.

 

 

 

Sunset Beach after a hike (post pending)

 

Today I wandered around the Portland Farmers Market. 

Each Saturday the central green space of the PSU campus becomes a feast for the senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local produce, most of it organic,  food products like honey, jams, pickles, fresh pasta and breads. If, somehow, you are still hungry after the bounty of tasty samples, there is a tempting collection of food booths scattered throughout the market offering options from wagu beef tacos to veggie curries.

 

Lavender and honey ice cream was all I needed to feel content while enjoying the musical entertainment at the little stage under the trees.

Today’s featured performance was a smooth jazz trio whose take on classic crooner hits brought me back to childhood memories of radio infused Sunday drives.

Sinatra vs Bennet was an unending debate between my grandparents. ( With all due respect to Frank and my grandpa, I lean towards Tony, the young upstart my grandmother favored.)

 

But it was this colorful musical duo with their sweet terrier pup that I was glad to find.

I met them last year and heard the story behind their journey to the safe haven of PDX. In their eyes like so many others, this city became a harbor for stormtossed souls seeking acceptance.  The rhythms of their Hawaiian folk tunes carved a triptych word pattern.

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Shredded lives

 broken threads

 rewoven

 stronger now

 tapestry

 framed in hope

 

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

Zen Moment Sunset in Astoria

So fellow travelers, this moment from an evening post dinner walk in Astoria.

Sunset boardwalk stroll
Cherished moments together
Gifts of time and love

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

It’s a Dogs Life

So fellow travelers, I am finally back in Portland Oregon, resting comfortably at the residence of Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law. 

It feels like we never left. And it feels like an eon has passed. Time is strange like that. 

Caught this moment with the kids two rescue dogs, Zeus and Coffee. 

They go and they come

Mysterious human ways

We wait patiently

Simple moments are sometimes the best respite from the worrisome moments in life.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.