Category Archives: Nature

Where-Ness

A while back after my boss returned from sabbatical in Europe, we had a conversation about the thing we really remember and hope for from a trip. Those encounters of “where-ness.” This has nothing to do with all the stuff you saw or plans you made, but rather a single experience—often just a flash—where you felt like you were an authentic part of a place.

He told of a sunset walk through Madrid with his wife, the air all warm and glowy pink, when they sauntered into a medieval square and were greeted by the student choir sitting on the fountain steps singing “Hey Jude.” The tune rose and fell as the pigeons flapped for scraps, and people milled around in a relaxed fashion—on their way home from work or out for an aperitif.

This moment had a live-in magic, and he thought he might remember it forever—or for a long time at least, long after he forgot the train rides and museums tickets.

It got me to thinking about trips of my own. What were the highlights? The squishy candy middles?

My rally through Canada last summer was full of them. Like: our first morning in Nelson—a laidback mountain town on a cold-water lake. My old friend Mark who lives in Nelson advised us on a morning wander. “Hike up the Pulpit early before it gets too hot,” he told us and we listened. Straight from the café with paper cups of dark roast still in our hands, we began our ascent on a morning of dazzling heat and beauty. The trail to the Pulpit—a big rock looming on high over the town and lake—was essentially just a steep set of stairs carved into a plummeting hillside. We climbed and climbed. Soon we were high on caffeine and lung-fulls of warm, tree-scented air. I nabbed a sweet, mealy saskatoon berry and popped it in my mouth. The temperature rose. We sweated into our tee shirts. Less than an hour later, we emerged onto the precarious sun-washed rock AKA my forever happy place. Overhead, bluer than blue sky. To either horizon, steep green valleys. Directly below, the city and of course the lake—calling us back down for an afternoon swim.

March-ing

The dreamer in me loves every season. The realist knows life is better in the summer. I do do winter though. Me and the cold know something about each other, like on horrendous wet days splashing around in the streets when the foul weather reflects my inner gloom, or all the solitary walks through snow I use to cultivate quietness of mind.

Then spring comes and life’s just a grand fucking party.

THINGS I FORGET ABOUT IN THE WINTER

Pink drinks.

Painted toenails.

Front stoops.

Sleeping with the window open.

Sunday mini-ramp sessions.

The magnolia.

Feeling fresh air against the freckles on my arm.

Strawberries.

Asparagus.

Enough daylight after work for the pursuit of happiness.

That BBQ smell.

Bicycles as transportation.

Ankle socks.

Doing nothing and feeling good.

The warm air currents—a love letter from the sun.

Splitting Up

I procured a split board in the fall to reconnect with my love for winter snowboarding. In general I’m retired from Oregon resort riding. It doesn’t give me what I need and so I stopped thinking about it—stopped setting aside time for it.

With skins, poles and a dog, I can now explore in the deep snow heretofore only post-hole-able hinterlands. I went out to do that for the first time a few weeks ago, and the simplicity of it made me very happy. It felt so much more like “play” than any snowboarding I’ve done recently. Free from set agenda and people, from reliance on chairlifts or runs. Just me and a quiet ecosystem of powder dollops. And it was fabulous exercise. My body grew warm and my lungs worked hard. My face steamed into my goggles, and I sent a prayer up into the trees that my muscles would continue working, my heart keep pumping. They did. It did!

At the top—which wasn’t even the top but an unassuming pause point where we decided to strap in and send it—I felt that old excited flutter for the descent. An old forgotten feeling. And just like that I was off, dipping through the trees with the dog hot on my tail.

I’ve long suspected but never really known until now—splitboarding is the winter recreation of simple people like myself. It’s been warm here in town, but let it keep snowing up at altitude, so we can all get up and get out just one, maybe two more times.

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A new mountain bike: In December Mark gifted me a two-wheeled steed in honor of the winter Yule. I’ve been craving a method to get way out into the backcountry and feel like come summer I will do many horrendous climbs and long loaping descends on this bike, and it will calm my troubled spirit.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: I only read sci-fi when it comes recommended from my big sister, as she has immaculate taste in the genre. When this book arrived, I knew I must read it and did so in a matter of 3 days. It takes you inside a dreamworld flowing with the odd and creepy, never painting the full picture but instead a vague outline, remaining mysterious, knowing all the strangest things are cooked up by your own imagination. The book is part of a trilogy, and spoiler alert—they made a movie out of ’em starring Natalie Portman. Better get reading!

60 degrees on a Saturday: You wake up inside a house with glowing windows. The day shines with opportunity. Go out and do stuff, or sit at home, it doesn’t matter. Life is better in the warmth and light.

Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes: Me, Colorado, died red hair, corduroys and a cardigan, listening to the Spinanes in between Geology and German class. Fast forward 20 years to Oregon, and there’s Rebecca on stage in front of me playing soft-as-velvet acoustic guitar in a halo of purple light.

2017: Following Up

2017: The year that saw a new pup, a hundred road trips, a thousand trails—long, winding and otherwise. It was the year Mark gave me sparkly ring, and took all these lovely pictures of me wandering around. Proof! I embrace the wisdom of walking. It was the year I got a new job at Nemo. Procured a parcel of land in the woods near Bend. Built a fence. Cried over my old dog Lefty. Spent the night on a mountain in a blizzard and didn’t die.

Photographs aren’t real life, but they’re a slice of it. I’m glad my better half is always snapping away pics when I’m not looking, because then on dreary January 2nds, I can look back and know that I really did it. I went outside and followed the path, contemplating all the craggy views and forest sprites. I left behind the computer and the television in favor of simple happinesses with man and dog, blank-brained meditations on the trail and other moonshine of the mind.

If my year were only these images, I would be happy. Luckily, it was even more.








Wintering

I’m averse to the word “busy.” I also hate the concept. It would be cool if every time I was inclined to say I’ve been busy, I just said that life was “full.” I’ll have to remember that. Anyway, abundance has been on my side. Lots of work. Lots of friends. Lots of dog chaos and yardwork and social functions and exercise and driving. As mentioned elsewhere, I have a new full-time job that takes up a fullness of time. And yet I’m light of step. Despite new responsibilities, I can’t remember a time when I felt freer. It’s good to be moving and feeling right and in an atmosphere of growth.

Aaaaaanyhow, this is all just a longwinded way of saying that I’m a weekend warrior now, and I’m good at it. For instance I catalyzed this Sunday by going up to Mt. Hood and white-walking through the new fallen snow. There was powder dolloped on all the trees and a cold freshness to the world that I almost never encounter anymore. The smell. The smell! It was pure Colorado childhood. My childhood exactly. Walking down the driveway past the frozen pond to the bus stop in the early morning dark as the snow plow did slow circuits up and down the hill, its headlights transformed into strange glowing orbs in the clouding powdersmoke. The smell and the cold and the snow took me straight back there for a moment. And it was nice.

Also: Despite all of the bad things in the news, everyday, relentlessly—there’s a lot of good stuff in the ether, too. Have you watched Godless yet? Have you gone soaking in the Kennedy School pool in the rain? Have you read the book Bluets? Have you eaten the chocolate caramel cream cupcake from Back To Eden?

 

Homesteading, October Edition

It was hard to find time amidst the juggling and scrolling to drive out to Three Rivers and winterize our trailer. And yet we did—out of fear. Remember last winter when we all got snowed in in Portland for 2 months?

The trip was last minute, a little panicked, but the drive was so beautiful we forgot all about that. The colors as we passed over the volcano—crimson scrub oak between the dark, mysterious pines, and when descended onto the plains everything got softer, warmer. Pale gold-spun grass, burnt orange brush, gauzy evening light. When the day fell, we were warm in the trailer. The puppy slept literally on top of me. Cramped quarters are the coziest (and happiest). And getting punched in the face with a paw first thing in the morning is one of the rare joys of being a dog owner.

So, we applied to have water routed to the property, and we built a small roof to keep the snowdrifts at bay. That is all. Just these small things are what we can do right now. Though I love the little trailer, I’m still haunted by dreams of a wildly cozy A-frame. I hope my cabin aspirations will birth reality in the coming years, the kind of reality that involves a couple dirt movers and a concrete truck to pour a foundation.

Desertification

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This isn’t a curated reporting from the impossibly perfect vacation. It’s just pictures from a road trip to the desert last week. It was fun. It was raw. We hung with family and talked politics. We bopped around gathering sagebrush bows and piled them on the dashboard, so when the sun beat down on the car, it bloomed with the scent of desert wind.

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Speaking of, is there anything more relaxing than the desert landscape? Placing yourself under the influence of the open sky and red-rock cliffs, you’re immediately at ease. You fall in line with the natural world and its beauties. You wander past sandstone monoliths thinking about the long history of the earth and how life came to be. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, yeah—Portland, Oregon to Moab, Utah, via a maze of roads riddled with wildfires and repaving projects. Every time I venture there, I leave wanting to plan my next visit. Next time we’ll bring bikes and ride out to Klondike Bluff. Next time we’ll winter camp. Next time we’ll drive backroads through Capitol Reef … Then, 15-17 hrs later I get home so burnt from driving I vow never to go back.

But, you know, it’s hard to stay away.

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Mark and his dad. Multiple generations of awesome dudes.

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On Saturday, we meandered red-rock labyrinths with my mom and sis.

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The Colorado River ran through all of it.

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I really wanted to swim in this dreamy desert locale, however I was warm but not hot and the water was very cold. But I waded! 

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In the canyon with the cottonwoods and cool waterfalls.

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Let the world make you feel small as often as possible.

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A very cute coffee situation in Moab. Piney and Rocket.

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Deep thoughts at sunrise. 

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The road home. Sagebrush on the wind.

3 Things

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Life and death in the forest. On the lot in Three Rivers, in darkest night, I let Piney out of the camper to pee. His ears perked up and he bolted off into the black. I yelled after him—but puppies don’t come back when called, especially puppies on the hunt. A car was coming and as it passed, I heard it, the awful noise—the deadly thud. Confusion. Running. A black shape in the neighbor’s yard. A set of eyes reflecting back at me in the flashlight beam. And a soft pale shape slumped on the ground. The car had hit—not Piney, but a baby deer. Piney had been chasing the baby deer, was maybe even upon the baby deer as it met its violent end. Like you’d imagine, the dog was terrified. The space of a single breath between his little body and death. There but for the grace of gods go I. The next morning, I peeked out the camper window and saw the mother doe standing over the carcass of her babe. When the crows got too close, she chased them away. Minutes unfolded. Cars drove by. Finally, she wandered off into the forest.

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The last river days. Despite the Indian summer, the wildfires burning, the red dawn and ash dropping everywhere—despite that, the passage is happening. Summer receding, fall emerging. Usually you can’t remember the last time you went to the river, because you didn’t know it was gonna be the last time—but this year’s different. Sunday, we went to the Lewis for a swim, and it was hot but not too hot and the water was cool. The sun disappeared behind some trees too early, so we sat in the mellow shade. It was impossibly relaxing, improbably quiet. You could feel it—the end, and how the seasons go right on without us.

The Gorge on fire. Red sun, red moon, ridges on ridges incinerating. It’s our turn for a natural disaster—in everyone’s favorite place to go for cosmic nature-spiration. Stay safe, everyone. Keep your people and animals close. Send drinking water and vibrations to all the firefighters. The world as we know it is forever changed.

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(Pic from Oregonlive.com)

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99.2% Eclipse Of The Heart

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The eclipse. THE ECLIPSE! Did you see it? How could you not. I did’t transport myself to the line of totality, although many friends did. The world, for now, is divided between dids and didn’ts. I don’t have totality FOMO, though, because I’m one of those people who takes crazy pleasure in the simple and everyday. The velvet down of our pup’s big ol’ bug-catcher ears. Sandwiches on sourdough. Golden hour in the backlit woods.

All the good things, all the time.

Anyway, Monday morning was just your average 99.2% eclipse of the sun, viewed from the park by our house, with friends, with neighbors, with coffee. A community gathering, of sorts, to worship the cosmos. In another lifetime, we woulda been Druids ’neath the Henge.

My favorite part, besides the deepest, softest quiet that descended on the city, was the ice-cold breeze that kicked up when the eclipse peaked. In the movies, a wind like this would portend strange doings afoot—a wicked change of fate, otherworldly powers. In real life, it was just a brief blackout of life-giving Ultraviolet rays. Simple science. Unless … ?

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