Monday’s Meander on Tuesday: Bridal Veil Falls

The heart knows precisely what it knows.

It keeps account of every known and unknown,

hard and tender bits of the puzzling whole.

It fuels and honors the momentary life,

its voice a harbinger of all that is to come.

This heart gives up stories and when it

whispers our autumn trek, I listen.

Each year brings a pressing down, plowing up,

turning ’round the pungent, rocky trail, a critical affair.

Switchback to a bridge over chasm, steps,

coming to the second bridge under which

outpourings of water are freed

from voluptuous earth: a torrent of beauty.

A gathering of benevolence and majesty.

The journey is late this year, yet is done

before winter stalls me further.

And so, Cynthia with heart: to a commemoration.

Twenty years since my intimate friend

crowded against every rib,

throttled my strong knees,

yanked me to gravity’s dominion.

The ruby blood circled throne of heart,

stuttering, pressuring, then decreed

Enough, now.

Twenty years since I braced myself, crawled,

begged for release, half-stood, limped back up

a path of terror, leaned against Marc,

every breath a damnation, each step a warning.

Rescue came late, so much later,

and yet this heart and I carried each other

that far, then farther, farther yet.

I would not have it; this heart would take me back.

Or it would not know defeat; this heart wanted me back.

Today, like most years, the path is gentle

beneath my feet, and the small pumping muscle

and I sail up, around and over it.

To the bridge where water’s jazz erupts,

to the steps that nearly killed me, all the way up

and face to face with sweet Bridal Veil.

I tremble; heart flings open its gates.

O mighty waters above, below,

O Lord of heavens and earth,

I come to this wild altar of wonder,

my heart beaming, my life made right

with this water, these trees

At 51, I had a heart attack when hiking. How despondent it made me, but I worked to regain health. Last Thursday, I had a small heart event that kept me quiet for a day or so. But Saturday I hiked the path as I do every year near the date when I was felled. And I felt stronger; it always makes me stronger. Never take for granted the work of your gifted heart–how it keeps us wedded to this life, how it cares for us without ceasing–until we are done.

Monday’s Meander: Wapato Greenway Hike

We continue where we left off last week, still exploring Sauvie Island but now on trails in the Wapato Greenway (named for an arrowhead shaped leaf of a common tuber). This is part of an Oregon State Park on the western side of the river island and about 170 acres. Dense with old white oaks, willow, tall cottonwoods, maple, ash, dogwood, Douglas and grand firs–it is another tree lovers haven. And the hike is an easy one as it moves past thickets of those trees, wetland and open meadow, and lovely riverside acreage. The Multnomah Channel, below, flows from the confluence of the Columbia River and Willamette River.

What makes this trail different than many I have hiked? It is similar with an ancient feel of all that lives here. But perhaps it also feels a bit haunted, though it may be my imagination… but it persisted the whole hike even as we enjoyed ourselves. The giant old white oaks, as elsewhere in this area, always stir me. They are of that group that seems wholly imperturbable to me.

However, these were once lowlands of Native peoples, as most of the Pacific Northwest, of course, was. There were villages of Upper Chinook peoples in the “Wappato Valley” within major settlements inhabiting Sauvie Island, per Lewis and Clark’s accounts in early nineteenth century. They reported they had no tribal designation separate from the Upper Chinook people. They were red cedar canoe users, primarily fished salmon, and sturgeon, gathered abundant berries and many other plants, hunted elk–and lived communally in plank houses. But by the 1830s, 90% had been wiped out by malaria. The land harbors mosquitos, being wetlands and by the river; it is hard to ascertain whether or not any other mosquitos may have been brought by explorers. They could not combat the dissease and often dunked sik people in the infested waters to cool the fevers.

Even with this sobering loss in mind, the landscape remains filled with nature’s bounties. Two hundred-fifty species of birds thrive here, many mammals and amphibians. I heard far more than saw them, as is usual on our hikes. It was a warm but distinctly autumn day, the air bright and plants crispy after the long drought, yet scented with falling leaves and hinting at changes to come. (I believe this hike is a bit over 2 miles, though our whole venture ended up being 3.5-4 miles of hiking around places.)

Marc making his way with his found walking stick.

Not many people were about–a family here and there, a lone hiker. Mostly it was still excepting our footfalls and creatures scampering and their “talking” with one another.

At the footbridge was a cottonwood wetland with slim evidence of moisture–though it had rained off and on a couple of days the week before. Then we wove in and out of more wetlands, meadows, woods.

Lots of “woolies”–had to skirt around the little fuzzy caterpillars.

Soon–happily, as we were sweaty and needing a snack– we came to river waters. We arrived at Hadley’s Landing, where fishing and boating are good. Please click below to view the scenes.

We had our protein bars and more water, then took the trail loop back to the start of it, stopping at a wildlife viewing platform. All was shimmery warm, and stillness dominated, perhaps dozing in the heat. Finally, we drove along more quiet island roads, a stop here and there, then crossed the bridge for home. Another edifying outing.

A place to sit, dream, gaze at Racoon Point.
We drove down to a dead end and came across several older Asian men fishing, talking and laughing in the shade of the trees. Houseboat community on the channel. And then to our bridge back to the city.