15 April 2015

One bright morning

One bright morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away. I'll fly away, yes, I'll fly away.

On the brilliantly sunny morning of April 12, my mother passed away quietly. 

It was not an unexpected death, and she lived a long mostly happy life during which she worked hard, raised a family, administered sound advice, cooked well, and looked good.  She would have been 94 in May. It wasn't until her last few years of hearing and memory loss that she began to slip away, and even then she could put up a pretty good semblance of normalcy.

I am glad I was able to see her in February, as she waited her life out in a small home for patients with memory issues. With the utmost seriousness she took my gift of a springer spaniel stuffed toy,  stroking its ears as though it were yet another of the many dogs she had known over the decades.

As an adult child you know you will lose your parents. It has finally happened to me. I find myself in a little boat of my own, where I've been dozing. But the slender rope that used to attach it to the pier? It's come loose and I'm strangely afloat.

23 March 2015

Trail cam fun

 A year ago I was gifted with a trail camera, and for the longest time it was mounted at the back of our yard, focused on the path beyond the fence. There have been a lot of photos of Ed and Reub and myself because we're out there all the time.

 Still, it was worth it just to see who else shares that space. Here the local population of turkeys sneaks into the back yard on one of those mornings when the dogs are napping at my feet in the house.

 Disappointed mountain bikers, who had probably hoped to find a way further up into the hills.

 Quite a few deer, hurrying past.

Finally, when I found the fresh carcass of a turkey not far back in the trees, I decided to move the camera to see if it would capture one of the likely predators lurking there. Heh. I wonder whose terrier this is?

First diner to appear was a possum.

Second to show up was a raccoon. But wait...is that just possibly... the crouching shape of a bobcat on the right, in front of the little fir? No, it seems too small, and anyway the bobcat is extremely camera shy. Hmmm.

 Recently I moved the camera to the edge of a grassy clearing. The first visitor was a young doe.

 She makes her way up the path.

 She pauses.

 Maybe she notices the blink of a light as the camera takes its shots.

 She investigates!

 Becomes bored.

 Hogs the lens for almost 3 minutes. The camera-driven by its motion sensor-merrily takes this shot over and over.

 At last she ambles away.

 The next day introduces the first fawn of 2015. I have yet to see this little guy, but the camera knows he's there. I'm really enjoying the camera's new location! Who cares if I can't seem to capture a big cat? I release myself from the pressure of having to photograph exotic megafauna in my back yard.

 And then, guess who shows up? Here is the bobcat, at last, passing through in the moonless night. Hello Kitty. I am delighted.

I expect the bobcat comes this way a lot, and the camera tells me why.

10 March 2015

Town and country

We spent a couple of weekends in Portland recently.  I love these trips to the city, where we absorb music and time with kids, interesting food, bookstores, and urban architecture. 

 The view from the hotel window, so different from what I see at home.

Bio-swales in southeast Portland clean the polluted rain run-off. I like these small natural areas beside the busy streets; they seem like a good idea.

Meanwhile back home in Corvallis, spring is in full swing.

In back of the house, maybe a hundred yards, I found this paw print. The squareness of it and its lack of toenails makes me think it's a cat of some kind, probably the elusive bobcat who surprises me from time to time when I'm out there. I think it's too small for a cougar. I suppose it might be a dog print, or a coyote, but probably not.

This is what Reub's paw print looks like, not so square, and obvious toenails. Clearly canine, and different from a cat.

Then, this happened too. I was out back with Ed and Reub when we came upon a small bunny in the path. He didn't move and I knew he was either sick, or a loose domestic rabbit who didn't know to bolt from the curious dogs.

I took the dogs into the house and went back with a towel, thinking that if it were a domestic rabbit I shouldn't let him out in the drizzle like that, prey to the hawks and owls. I should gather him up and cage him. I covered him with the towel and he poked his nose out. We sat there for a long time and I realized he was dying. Swaddled with the towel I moved him under the dry cover of a protective young fir. Then I took the towel and went away. Thirty minutes later he was dead, toothmarks in his side. And 30 minutes after that he had disappeared completely. I suspect the bobcat.

Even if Mount Hood is a wilderness area looming like a drama queen nearby, Portland is a place protected from the constant give-and-takes of nature. In an urban setting it's easy to lose touch with the fact that we ourselves are part of a greater world. So although I really love forays into the city, I do like returning to a less urban setting, one where I am confronted with wary predators and small rabbits.

16 February 2015

The dairy state

When you visit a place it's good to take advantage of that region's unique qualities. Take Wisconsin, for example. The minute you drive your rental car out of the airport you're experiencing the dairy state's unusual way of de-cing its roads. Is there any other place that sprays cheese on its highways in winter?

Well, to be more accurate it's actually a cheese by-product: the brine left over from making mozzarella, when tossed on pavement, causes the salt to adhere. Wisconsin is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by using far less salt than in the past, plus the cheese makers don't have to dispose of all that brine. Pretty cool, eh?

Speaking of cheese makers, we always try to visit one. I favor the mild brick from Widmer's Dairy in tiny Theresa, Wisconsin. (That's pronounced Teh-reh-sa, not Teh-ree-sa.)

We picked up two kinds of brick (on sale) and some fresh cheddar cheese curds. Divine.

Chocolate is also a dairy product.

The same day we went to Widmer's dairy we also visited Hughes Chocolate in Oshkosh. Here, when they say "Oysters" they don't mean oysters. They mean little round chocolates rolled in crushed peanuts. I ate mine before realizing I should have taken a picture.

The endearing thing about Hughes is that it produces its chocolate in the basement of an old house, and on a cold winter day there's a window open in order to cool the chocolate bunnies.

Didn't I just read that including fat in one's diet isn't the big no-no that it used to be? That article was perfectly timed for our trip to the dairy state. I'm going back for more.

11 February 2015

Smiley faces

The first time I read :) I thought it was a typo; it took weeks before I figured it out (but that was years ago when of course I was much dumber than I am now.) This use of punctuation has become ubiquitous. While out on a dog walk I once found a smiley face fungus, making me wonder if even Mother Nature was getting into the emoticon business.

 I have mixed feelings about emoticons. It's a fascinating move from written language back to hieroglyphics and pictographs. On the other hand, do we really need smiley faces to show our intent? Maybe so. I kind of like using punctuation marks creatively.

The Swedish retailing giant Ikea has just released its own set of downloadable emoticons. I find them odd (what's that thing in the middle of the bottom row...and is that an allen wrench in the top row?) 

Ikea claims that its emoticons help in building relationships, light-heartedly recommending that couples employ them to help communicate. The main reason to watch this video, though, is to hear the right way of pronouncing "Ikea." You've been saying it wrong all this time.

Finally, in honor of Abe Lincoln's birthday: did you know that he may be the father of the emoticon?

See it? There is a wink right after "applause and laughter" on line 6. Seriously! You can read more about this controversial little tidbit right here.

 Hey... I just learned how to do "Abe Lincoln."


08 February 2015

Visiting winter

 The winter landscape of my childhood is quite different from the deep greens of February in Oregon. For the past two years I've gone back to Wisconsin to re-visit the familiar white hillsides crested with  calligraphic strokes of bare trees. It sometimes seems as though I never left.

 The snow was just beginning to fall as our plane landed, and by the end of the next day there was close to a foot. Snow transforms even the most commonplace tree stump into a thing of magic. Do you see the bald eagle?

 The little towns of eastern Wisconsin have their own charm, always made nicer with a fresh coat of snow.

 This is an "ice shove" on Lake Butte des Morts in Oshkosh, where in very cold weather the shallow, frozen lake presses outward, eerily moving slabs of ice, and pushing rock banks away from itself. When the lake moves, it makes a crunching, groaning sound that may include the sound of breaking glass or even wind chimes.

I suppose all lakes in the north do this, but I've only heard about it in the Lake Winnebago/Butte des Mort region of Wisconsin. This video shows an ice shove in motion:

Ah, the northern winters. I do miss them sometimes, but I was glad to get back to mild-mannered western Oregon. These days I only visit winter when I want to.

06 January 2015

A good start

December was a quiet month, so it seemed appropriate to have a quiet opening to the new year as well. We just spent the better part of the past week in a rented house overlooking Netarts bay, a mostly undeveloped place on the Oregon coast.

 You don't go to Netarts if your idea of a good time is shopping, movies, or man-made attractions.

 And you have to be the kind of person who doesn't mind spotty cell reception.

This is the place for long quiet walks on the beach.

You never know what you'll find...what is this anyway? The area abounds in many types of clams, oysters, and crabs, so my guess is that a shellfish of some kind made this star-shaped abode. It was too pretty to dig up, so I just left it alone.

 This is a view from our front window, just after sunset. (The pie in the sky is a reflection of a neon sign that could be lit up on the kitchen wall. Pretty cool.)

 Another look out the same window, taken at first light, just when the sun made it up over the hills behind us, and for a few minutes causing the three arched rocks to glow golden.

 Kelp. There is always kelp washed up with the tide.

 More kelp. I probably took too many pictures of it, but what an amazing plant.

We saw 4 dozen harbor seals, hundreds of water birds, and beautiful vistas in every direction. It was a sublime way to start the new year.

 May 2015 bring peace and beauty to your world too.