Reub's journey

15 October 2022

Forward and up



On this warm October morning of my birthday we take the dog on a walk.

There are hills and trees and dappled sunlight,

walkers, runners, bikers.

There is loud squeaking behind us,

and an old man on a very old bike passes us.

By old I mean older than me, for I am now 73,

and his bike squeaks.

John says he may be deaf and cannot hear the squeak,

but I think the squeak speaks.

As he goes up the hill he hears it saying

we are going forward and up forward and up

forward and up.


24 May 2021



 I love the madrone tree, how it changes with time.



The young bark, looking like shaved and curled cinnamon, is all rough and crazy.


But as time goes by, the madrone sheds its bark and adopts a completely different look.

The madrone becomes as smooth to the touch as though it were a bolt of beautiful satin placed incongruously in the tangled woods. The bark shavings at its foot were collected by indigenous people and used for medicine.

Sometimes the limbs reach chaotically towards the sky.


Yet the madrone is unafraid of low-down places, and without taking more space than it needs, explores the humble understory.

But other times it is all about heading outwards, red and bare stretching past the gray trees all around.

If the madrone were a person it would be one of those vivid people, different from all the others. It would be that person who is smoothed by age, strengthened by an ability to reach outwards, a healing friend made especially beautiful by her unusual color of skin.

02 March 2021

Ed and Reub

All three of us, the two little boys and me, were Covid-masked, playing in the back yard for the first time in quite awhile. I was pulling them up the slope in a rusty red wagon, all of us laughing and muffled. Our young dog Cooper kept pace, excited by the fun.  Little A, only 3 years old, suddenly stopped giggling and I slowed to a stop.  

I want to see your gods he announced. I could see his furrowed brow.

We were next to Eddy's leaf-covered grave, planted with wild columbine. And Reuben's ashes, buried right there. 

"What?" I said. His brother L, at 5 years old, interpreted. 

"Your dogs. He wants to see your dogs."

Reuben has been gone for 4 weeks, and I realized that the little boys had not visited since it  happened.


Reuben died peacefully at the age of nearly-16, after years of ups and downs, medicines, training, and pure love, by the hands of our good vet. 

I asked A if he was referring to Reub. He paused and answered patiently. "There was Eddy. And there was Reubie. I want to see your gods." Eddy has been gone since June, nearly a year. But Ed and Reub were a pair, a kindly duo of furry friends, and always patient with small children.

I had to agree. How I would like to see them again, the two old boys, companionable and in the end, tolerant of nearly everything. My dogs, my gods. The ones who taught me so much, who represent an era of my life, and who inspired me to begin this blog so long ago. 

I must remember the advice of a friend. "What is remembered, lives" she says. And if a 3 year old can recall what has been gone for nearly a third of his experience, then that is certainly a remembered life.

Thanks, Eddy and Reuben. Even the littlest among us remember you.


03 July 2020

A topography of tears

Because of a minor procedure on my right eye, I was advised to buy artificial tears three weeks ago. That is funny, because truly I have been manufacturing my own tears for much longer. I could be selling tears by the tiny bottle. Happy tears, but mostly terribly sad tears, nothing in between. Highs and lows, a topography of tears.

The day in March that we went into a statewide lockdown, my watch stopped working.  Today, even as Covid-19 increasingly circulates, I finally went into a tiny shop in downtown Corvallis and got it fixed. Nearby I went into my favorite little store and, masked & cleaned,  bought two pairs of Smartwool socks.

 I came home and hugged Reub. There were tears of joy. Complicated, anxious, deaf, old Reuben. We are without his lifelong best friend, Eddy. Tears of grief. Ed died a month ago, sweetly at the hands of his vet, in our back yard.

There are whole volumes that I could write about Eddy, a quirky, hilarious, intelligent, driven, entirely devoted companion. But I have already written these things, and now it is time to move on, grief recognized by all who know. I lay a flower on his grave every day, and you had best not call that foolish. The name of this obscure blog will never change.

 Reuben got a special hug because yesterday he spent the whole time on an IV at the vet, heroically not-succumbing to a terrible, painful hemmorage in his abdomen.

It was a metaphor for the world right now, a world of pain that somehow survives it all.  Because sometimes things can be fixed, and for that I am grateful. Old Reub lives, and my watch works now.

08 May 2019

Malheur, 2019

A ranch not far from Malheur headquarters
Three years ago there was an ill-conceived occupation at the Malheur headquarters here in eastern Oregon. Poorly-informed, poorly prepared, armed men came here from other states and created a stand-off that lasted about 6 weeks. One of them was shot and killed, several served short sentences, and the others got off scot-free. The damage that was done both to the land and to the community is slowly healing.

Buena Vista overlook
This is a place that  John and I hold dear.

A flooded field, private land
It is wide open. At this time of year, both the refuge and the private lands surrounding it are host to thousands of migrating birds.  We saw hundreds of ibises. They nest in the Great Basin of Oregon, and migrate to Mexico when winter approaches.

The Great Basin is a stark place and you shouldn't count on your cell phone to work. You must put away the phone and watch the snow-melt fill up shallow places. We probably saw 10 species of water birds here.

Mostly it is high desert, sage brush everywhere.

Look up! See the swallows. They have a nest in that tree.

At Benson Pond
If you are a careful observer you will see other nests. A great horned owl, perfectly camouflaged.

Benson Pond
Water abounds now, but only for a few precious weeks.

Near Krumbo Lake
The ancestors of the Paiutes were here long ago.

On Coyote Butte
Here and there you may find a flower.

Krumbo Lake
If you know what you're doing, you may catch a trout, and there will be few to notice.

Above Krumbo reservoir
In the sky above the sage brush and water are millions of newly hatched midges. They will only live a few days, just long enough to find mates. They hum, but do not bite. What beautiful, harmless little lives. It is, I believe, a perfect existence.

05 February 2019

Snow Flowers

It's been some time since Ed or Reub has contributed to that body of knowledge known as Very Little Science. We hope that you are edified.

 The rare and lovely Snow Flower made an appearance today.

 This trumpet-shaped beauty is related to the lily family.

 Snow Flower gardens are difficult to maintain and are enjoyed for very brief times.

Snow Flowers are pollinated, as you can see, by ladybugs.

 The ladybugs lie in wait for a chance to do their work.

 There are many kinds of Snow Flowers. Pictured here is the Spiky Snow Flower, which was also in bloom today.

The Spiky Snow Flower, beneath it's prickly exterior, has a kind and nurturing heart. This colony of Spikies lovingly cares for an adopted oak leaf. The rescue leaf was on its way to certain destruction before being taken in, and shows its gratitude in every way that it can.

Indeed, Snow Flower plants are the unsung heroes of the leaf-rescue-world.

Snow Flowers are divided into two types. This is the long-haired variety.

Here we see the short-haired Snow Flower.

Caution must be exercised around the Tarantula Snow Flower, which is given to surprise attacks against intruders, usually aimed at their heads or the back of their necks.

Well guys, time to make tracks. Thanks for reading. Remember if you saw it on the internet, it must be true.

22 January 2019

Fire, Water, Air

Hawaii's summery weather and gorgeous landscape beckon people from darker climes in the middle of winter, but early November was a good time to visit this land of fire, water, and air. And now in late January it's fun to think about it.

There were moments in the interior of the Big Island that I could have sworn I was back in Wisconsin: so green and rolling, dotted with cattle, the air balmy and soft.

But mostly the landscape of the Big Island was loaded with the drama of violent explosions, rugged cliffs, and the vivid blue of sky and ocean.

The volcanic origin of the Hawaiian Islands is a profound part of the indigenous culture.  Religion, story-telling, music, and dance all reflect the unique sense of place. In a land created by the whims of molten lava and surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, the themes of great legends are woven with both violence and deliverance.

Hula, as practiced by a dance group in Volcanoes National Park, was an impressive spiritual experience.

We were lucky to be there when this group performed, a great opportunity to learn about the mighty gods and goddesses of Hawaii. The recent activity of Mt. Kilauea meant that the dancers themselves had increased their energy and involvement in the past year.

The very top of Mt. Kilauea steams at nightfall. The eruption of 2018 resulted in the visible lava being drained away, leaving a gaping caldera, closing most trails, and ruining the museum that stood at the rim.

A section of Devastation Trail remains open to the public. This area was laid flat by a fiery eruption in 1959.

A lava flow from yet another eruption at the base of the mountain, running to the sea.

Cooled lava forms beautiful patterns at your feet in this isolated part of Mt Kilauea.

Here are long stretches of volcanic rock, sometimes dotted with petroglyphs. There is no sound of traffic, no potable water, and only the sound of the wind and the heat of the sun. This area remains a holy place for indigenous Hawaiians.

Hawaii is a favorite getaway for people who tire of Oregon's dark winters. It's common for Oregon cars to have sea turtle decals on them, and a sure sign that the driver has been to the islands. No, our car does not sport such a sticker, but I do carry with me the clear memory of a group of sea turtles resting on a breezy, obsidian beach, the waves crashing nearby. A symbol of beauty and peace dwelling in a land of fire, water, and air.