Monday’s Meander: Leach Botanical Garden

The lovely Leach Botanical Garden covers 9 acres in SE Portland and was for a long while owned by descendants of pioneers. John Leach, a pharmacist and his wife, Lilla, a science teacher and amateur botanist, who developed the acreage. I last attended a wedding there a two f decades ago when we all enjoyed a smaller, more rustic garden. It has since been redesigned to better showcase the land’s offerings. Marc and I recently spent a beautiful morning with the twins and their parents exploring. It is a family friendly garden (be aware masks are required for all but the youngest). A new feature is sculptural wood benches, some of which were tried out by the toddlers–climbing and sliding down them!

A spacious pavilion opens to a pleasant area with a fire pit area and an elevated walkway set among the towering trees, where the grandkids had snacks. Note the walkway behind which the toddlers enjoyed running across.

Moving on, the path took us down to the comfortable “manor house”, permanent residence of the Leach family until 1980. There is also a quaint cottage on the other side of the courtyard and, further on, a stone cottage the Leaches originally lived in during summers as their manor house was being built. The courtyard emphasizes a fairy tale feel to the property.

Of course, I would take the cottage without a second thought…a perfect spot for writing and Marc fit me right into the scene. The twins enjoyed a small pool in the courtyard.

One can understand why weddings and receptions are popular here!

We continued down the steps and paths to a river walkway, where we spotted the sturdy, cozy-looking stone cottage. I had hoped to explore inside but all buildings are closed due to Covid-19.

It was a beautiful morning, and we reluctantly took our leave–we will return soon!

Monday’s Meander: Yes to Dahlias, Darling!

For the second year Marc and I headed out to Swan Island Dahlias farm in Canby, Oregon to see what there was to see. A gorgeous sunny afternoon also seemed perfect to take my new compact SUV (replacing the sedan totaled in the accident a month ago) for a drive through undulating hills and fields. It was a relaxing, satisfying outing. (I do like the car pretty well, also–a Hyundai Kona in a cheery metallic red).

I love the big fluffy or intricate or delicate petal designs of the showy, hardy dahlia. And it’s a late summer/early fall flower, a change. Upon arrival, the farm overflowed with strolling folks. We noticed some areas were less burgeoning with dahlias where we walked (out of 40 acres, all open to the public). It seems likely the drought has impacted flower growers as well as other farmers. A great many also are cut for selling to businesses and visitors. But the fields were still striated with beautiful shapes and colors.

We whiled away more than an hour, though we sure got sweaty in the strong August sunshine. Some of the finest things in life are simplest pleasures, filling one with appreciation and peace. Flowering fields are one of those, to us.

This prolific business has been operating for 93 years, though it was bought in 1963 by the current successful farmers, the Gitts family. They grow over 370 varieties and introduce 5-15 new ones yearly.

Enjoy the shots taken as we moseyed about–may you, too, find flowers of joy.

I think my shirt has some dahlias on it…

We looked around the gift shop’s goods set up outdoors and people watched before buying three bunches of dahlias to take home.

Crazy Legs? Why not?–love it.

I got four bouquets from my three bunches and gave one to our youngest daughter, whose birthday was today. Altogether, a terrific day at the Swan Island Dahlias. They create the largest full color dahlia catalog in the US–and are proud to be family-owned after all this time. Give them a try!

Monday’s Meander: Chinook Landing Marine Park

Just a turn off winding NW Marine Drive, close to the suburb of Fairview, you will find Chinook Landing, one of the largest boating facilities in Oregon. It is a 67 acre marine park with six boat launching lanes into the muscular Columbia River, which rushes and skims by Portland on the way to the Pacific Ocean. Besides boating and fishing this is a good park for picnics, wildlife viewing and archery, and there is also river patrol station here. I came across these photos taken in 2015 that encourage me to return… while the sun beams down and river breezes are cool but dry. What a sweet place to sit and watch the boats go by, to walk and daydream.

The houses seen to the west in foothills of the Cascades are on the Washington side (likely Camas), a short drive over the Interstate Bridge.

Because I live among so many rivers and not far from the sea, I am constantly enlivened and delighted by the varied bodies’ daily changes and a plethora of water activities. It makes a difference, as I grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes in Michigan (and over 62,000 inland lakes, as well!), so would feel forlorn without water near by. In my hometown, I also played by the pretty tinkling Snake Creek and the swift Tittabawassee River (prone to flooding).

I stood on the long, usually rocky shores of Lake Michigan and never saw the other shore, it was/is that gigantic. As a youngster I’d stare toward the horizon and think: this is just like an ocean but fresh water, how amazing is that! In the Pacific Northwest we are lucky enough to enjoy both fresh (but only about 1400 lakes here–but there are 110, 994 miles of rivers) and saltwater of the Pacific Ocean. (I need to rent a kayak and get out there before winter rains arrive!)

I hope you enjoyed the photos. Chinook Landing at the Columbia River is a good spot for river lovers.

Monday’s Meander: The Grotto, a Meditative Walk

From the start, you can tell this is no ordinary walk in the woods. First off, there is the name, The Grotto. The history indicates that a young boy prayed for his mother’s life after she nearly died in childbirth and when she lived, he promised God he would build a shrine. Years later he joined the Servite Order and was sent to minister in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR. In 1923 he found acreage that was appropriate and work began on carving out a cave for an altar in a 110 ft. basalt cliffside. The 62 acre property was developed by the Catholic Church over time, including gardens and a Grotto Monastery of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary atop the cliff. There is daily mass held, retreats offered, weddings in the pretty church and many special events for surrounding communities. The Servites remain active in work and prayer at the monastery.

The well attended Church on the ground level.

In order to fully enjoy the gardens and a view of the Monastery, as well as embark on a contemplative walk, we take the elevator up to the clifftop. The view upon disembarking is expansive, allowing one to observe parts of the city and the Cascade Mountains (on the Washington State side of the Columbia River).

On the Upper Level are opportunities for a prayerful experience with the Stations of the Cross, a Meditation Chapel, a labyrinth, the monastery and a few cultural shrines of Mary, as well as lovely green and floral garden walkways. There are ponds and flowers, a few benches to rest upon. The birdsong and towering trees are wonderful.

The Monastery

The labyrinth is designed to replicate France’s Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth. I had never walked it; it isn’t a quick or easy meditation to do. But I was truly awestruck by photos of Chartres as a young teen and later as an art student in college, and ever after longed to go there, to experience it scared beauty in person. But I may never do that. So this time, I walked this labyrinth and took my time. Though others came and went and a couple started then quit walking it, I was fairly oblivious. Soon the labyrinth pulled me in and I followed the complicated turns, step by step. I kept on, up and around and back and forth and toward to center again. I felt its quietude, its unique power. I can’t explain why. I stood in the center and felt deep calm. I followed the way out and as it ended I was deeply moved, with the surprise of tears arriving.

We completed the walk through the gardens in an hour, grateful for cool breezes and pervasive silence, the prayerful texts and the opportunity to contemplate the many ways God can be sought and discovered.

We had come full circle and decided to end with the Meditation Chapel before taking the elevator back “down to earth”. We chose to stay outside as many people came and went. There’s a wall of glass on the western side of the chapel and the view is excellent. It does make one feel like a small speck in the scheme of things. And yet, a part of the scheme and counted.

Monday’s Meander: Crystal Springs in the Heat Of Summer

Each season embodies exquisite offerings and certain places show them off well. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a good example. I visit this garden in SE Portland three or four times a year. By Mid-July, the rhodies’ and azaleas’ bright, voluptuous blossoms are gone, but other native flowers, abundant greenery about the spring-fed Crystal Springs Lake and many waterfowl (some varieties were “missing”–migration, perhaps?) bring beauty to the fore and entice many visitors.

Once a test garden, the first rhododendron was planted in 1917; there are now over 2500 varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants, all of which were donated (or bought with monetary donations). Rocks used for water features and other displays came from Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Gently winding pathways make for a leisurely walk through lush landscaping. Weddings also can be conducted on the property–a reception was about to commence as I walked through. (Temptation was strong to take photos of the elegantly dressed women and men…but privacy, after all!)

I hope you find the sights as delightful as I did firsthand. I will return in autumn if not before.

Another peaceful outing that made a good difference in an ongoing journey of healing from life’s bruises…even as they seem to keep coming. Have a week of similar good moments if you can.