04 May 2016


We have just returned from a four night stay at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in central Oregon and it is hard to know where to begin. In any ordinary year I would just post a bunch of amateur pictures of waterbirds with fabulous names: avocets and willets, ibises, bitterns, and stilts. Then cliff swallows. Yellow-headed blackbirds. Golden eagles. This year the group collectively saw 72 species of birds, which is quite a lot for 5 days of laid-back bird-watching.

But this is not any old year for the Malheur, and anything that I may say about what I saw is colored by what I felt. 

Photo by my husband, John.
Say. Saw. Felt. Confusing. What is the difference.

The Malheur refuge was occupied by misguided anti-government extremists early in January of this year. One of them is dead and most of the others are in jail right now. Many in Oregon feel that it was handled as well as it could have been.

But it is still terrible, and there are lasting scars in that area. There are ranchers who, at the time, were sympathetic but misrepresented, and others who were targeted by angry armed men and who now feel paranoid. There are more than one or two citizens diagnosed with PTSD. And there is an ugly race this month for sheriff. Everything is badly bruised.

 How do you enjoy a place like this?

Well. It is helpful to accept small beauties in a great landscape.

Conversely, there are great beauties in very small landscapes. 

 It is possible to love them both, two opposing ideals, and hope for the best. May Malheur heal, and Burns, OR, become a viable community once again.

21 April 2016

Hope is the thing with feathers

When John came home from work today he said he had just seen something amazing: a pileated woodpecker diving before him, just yards before he turned into the driveway.

John James Audobon, Plate #111 Birds of America

Woody Woodpecker was pileated, quite special, and we're glad to welcome his species to the neighborhood.

I love birds, but hardly know anything about them, even though I regularly feed them, hear them, see them, and find them dead. Next week this time I will be in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with a group of 16 birders, and so I should soon know more.

Coincidentally I have two photos in a local art and poetry exhibit, only there because the curator is a friend and thought to invite me. The exhibit is inspired by Emily Dickinson's poem #314. She did not title her poems.

Dickinson's first line "Hope is the thing with feathers" is the focus of the art and poetry of this show.

The poem, and a few more photos:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

01 April 2016

Just for fun

Happy April Fool's Day!  Did you get fooled by anybody today?
In honor of comedy, here are a few photos that make me smile.

Our downtown alleys are graced with artwork and poetry, but somebody felt left out.

It IS a kind of curious-looking motor bike. I don't blame the alpaca for looking.

A thank you note from a bunch of middle school students. Take that, Kobe Bryant!

I found this dog running loose and so I brought him home.

We freaked each other out.

It's always good to carry a camera because you just never know when a mushroom is going to smile for you. They don't often do this. I swear this is not an April Fool's joke!

There are classier images at the Friday My Town Shoot-out, where this week's topic is "Funny." Have a look:

10 March 2016

Between parties

Winter solitude-
in a world of one color,
the sound of the wind.
Matsuo Basho

In the Cascade Mountains of Oregon the slippery winter roads are sanded with red volcanic ash. It works pretty well, giving tires the traction they need and causing the snowbanks to melt into strange sculptures this time of year.

Log jams are everywhere, left behind by the high waters of the season.

It's March, and while the daffodils are blooming in the valley, it is still winter's last hurrah in the mountains.

This year we nearly missed winter completely in western Oregon. El Niño brought us rain but no snow in the valley. So I was happy to see the white stuff this past weekend when we spent a few days in the mountains.

It was like being late to a big party. Most people had already left and the  celebration appeared to be completely over.

The major players had all gone home, the skiers and snowmobilers had hung up their gear. Even the ice was melted off the lake.

 Perhaps it was too late for winter's party. Cold and quiet except for rustling branches and the drip-drip of melting snow, it was, however, nice and early for spring's big bash.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes...
Matsuo Basho

25 February 2016


About a year and a half ago some kids dared each other to toss a match into the dry grass on a hillside forest not far from here.

The ensuing flames quickly became a wildfire that nearly devastated the northwest side of town. John and I watched the flames and smoke from our house.

It was a cautionary tale. As you can see from one of my trail cam pics, our backyard adjoins an overgrown plantation that has the giant invisible words FIRE DANGER! written all over it. The neighborhood association had a discussion with the owner of this woods.

And that is why this week has been noisy around here.

I know they had to do it, and I know it will bounce back into something amazing and different, but oh my gosh.

It's so...organized.

An enormous flail mower came through and shredded all of the undergrowth and small trees. Ed and Reub are a little confused. Where did the rabbits go?

I wonder what the bobcat thinks of it.

The deer will love the changes because there will be so much new stuff for them to forage upon. When the loggers have left I'll have to find a safe place to put the trail cam. Maybe this year will bring another set of twins.

Meanwhile the changed landscape looms behind the house, like an old friend that has gone through a devastating, inevitable divorce. It isn't easy now, but it will be better later.

12 January 2016


 We were at this one beach a couple of months ago, a place well-known for agates washing ashore.

 Agates, semi-precious gemstones, are tiny gifts from volcanic activity long ago. They wash up on certain beaches along the west coast quite commonly.

They hide among the millions of beautiful wet pebbles shining in the sunlight every day.

There weren't many of us searching for agates that day, but there was this one guy who knew what he was doing. We approached him and asked to see what he'd found. He opened his fist and said, "This clear stone here? It is by far the oldest. Only the old ones have clarity." I wish I'd taken a picture. He had a single crystal clear gemstone in his hand. It looked like a diamond, sparkling obliquely with all of its edges rubbed off.

 Clarity. I thought it dissolved with time.

 Things become less black and white, don't they?

 Memories fade.

 I don't know, though. Maybe there's some kind of distillation that comes with age.

The young search for clarity.

  Does it develop with time?

 Meanwhile I watch the clouding eyes of my old dogs. Clarity?

All that really seems to matter is the warmth of an old friend and a soft pillow for one's head.