I mentioned to a friend that I had gone back to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, an urban refuge not far from us–though it feels farther out in country. She asked what wildlife I saw. When I noted birds and a few others creatures, she laughed and said this hardly constitutes “wildlife.” Of course, she is wrong–she’s not much into outdoor life and not fond of birds (she has been bitten, even attacked, oddly). I wish I could share with her all I see here, as I was in heaven. My spouse and I are fascinated by birds and the many sort of critters sharing this place. The clouds here are also varied and interesting, the light lovely as the day goes on.
I saw herons, eagles, Canadian geese, many ducks, a salamander (newt) and garter snake, and heard bullfrogs.
Back in May 2020 we had a good visit, also; those pictures are bright and lush. (I posted those on WordPress, as well). But the subtle contrasts of winter scenes tantalize my eye and mind, as well. The riparian forest, wetlands, and lowlands comprise over 1800 acres. These are home to over 200 species of birds, 50 of mammals, 25 of amphibians and reptiles and a large assortment of insects, fish and plants. There are old oaks and pines as well as grasslands and lowlands. Since we have had tremendous rains recently, the Tualatin River had spilled over, flooding some areas. Additionally, certain areas are closed in winter for migrating birds.
As one enters the refuge, there is a lovely trail. One can walk 3.1 miles when all trails are open. Let’s head out.
Below: evidence of industrious beavers; fast garter snake; rough-skinned newt (skin emits a poisonous toxin).
Click to view the slideshow, below.
Heading back to the entrance and viewing area, the light turned pale honey to amber; the air was just enough sweetly gentled to open my jacket and smell far off but early hints of spring.
I am in search of color and light today. Sometimes I need liberal doses of enchantment. An external jarring of vibrance that stirs my insides. Beyond my window, it is grey and rainy–after all, it’s winter. That is mostly alright with me. Just not recently. I am feeling wrung out by the trauma of my country and its people being harmed by the mobbing of our Capitol building and its results, the ongoing upheaval; struggles with chronic health issues; and life being lived on a somewhat dizzying edge during pandemic times.
We are all worn out. So, then: flowers. Who can deny their scintillating beauty, their bold good cheer? Such varieties! Their innate charms go far, and they have capability to offer hope of the steady seasons’ cycles and refreshed thoughts of finer human aspirations.
Flooding from Oregon’s rivers is fairly common, especially during the rainy season from early November until about May. I live amid two major rivers and several smaller ones. A river patrol boat was scanning the water and shore of the Willamette River during my last river walk. Heavy rainfall has raised water levels off and on the past month. I keep an eye on it, too, as I walk alongside it. Official flood stage for the Willamette, a major tributary of the Columbia River, is 18 ft.
I was privy to a major flood in 1996, when I worried the river would roar up the 20 blocks from riverfront but, fortunately, we were spared. The level now isn’t so bad. However, another issue that I read about today is sewage spillage when we get a lot of rain. For 16 months the river was sewage free, longest time ever since a new overflow containment system was completed in 2011. Until yesterday. There finally was some spillage, due to heavy rainfalls’ impact. The river was closed for a few hours. Not so newsworthy an event, though, I guess: it used to spill over frequently during heavier rains before that billion dollar project. Still, it makes one think twice of dangling a hand in the river during these months.
Those dark clouds above are common and look scarier than they are. They’re typical of heavy rain clouds here. They began to disperse over the duration of the walk. One end of the river can look clear and bright; the other quite foreboding. We do get some doozy rainstorms with winds around 15-20 mph. ButI love that about the Pacific NW. One never knows what one will see and experience when out and about. Moody rivers, undulating valleys, towering mountains. But flooding is a concern, too–now and in the spring from snow melts.
This one is wonderful as it serves diverse purposes. It splits off the mighty Columbia (which acts as Oregon/Washington state line) and divides our city into east and west sides. It flows for about 187 miles; we live in an area southwest of city center. It tends to be quieter here, but not lately. It has been more turbulent and fast-moving, floating logs or detritus along the way. I kept my eye out for river otters and seals but saw no heads or sleek, long bodies poking above water this time.
These pictures were taken during a walk four days ago. Currently, the river’s water level is 7.8 feet, not as high as then since the rainfall diminished to almost nothing for three days. We even had sunshine and much less mud for once. Minor flooding is not much of an issue now in my area, affecting mostly low-lying banks and beaches. The water was calmer in the beachy area below the main entrance to George Rogers Park–a summer recreation spot.
Let me show you some of what I saw, starting with a trickling waterfall. The greenery still looks lovely in December. And there is much mushroom growth.
The clouds moved about and there were glimpses of what the following days would bring–more light and varied landscape color, far less of the deluges.
Very few people by the beach, excepting a few kids chasing ducks and geese and tossing stones into the river. It cheered me to see them having fun despite the cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit) and damp and sweeping bursts of wind closer to the river.
A lovely trellis and arbor configuration is at the entrance to part of the George Rogers Park before one gets to the river. I was quite taken by this view as landscape and sky were on the verge of a beautiful twilight.
Headed back home, a brief glimpse of a few of the mountains and foothills which circle our valley and Portland metro.
I have walked many parks this winter so far, and have more to share with you in coming weeks. Even deep blue skies that sparkle above the emerald greens of this good earth.
I won’t see the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn tonight; the skies are cloudy, air is clogged with rain, and 15-20 mph winter winds howl. But the Winter Solstice with its longest night and shortest day of the year holds meaning for me. It is reminder to be quietly patient as we wait with the darkness for the coming of more light. Winter will give way to greater sunlight gradually and with it, rebirth. Such cycles of nature comfort and instruct. They deepen my sense of unity and wholeness both within and without.
That said, I once more turn to Mother Nature’s offerings. It has been too long since I wandered through one of my favorite local islands of peace and beauty, Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. The last visit was in late summer, but usually a family member or friend and I visit each season. Therein grow such lush flowering plants and trees–as well as omnipresent “rhoddies” and azaleas. And, as well, a pretty larger pond plus smaller one and a musical waterfall. There are ample nooks and crannies to sit and meditate. Waterfowl settled in there live quite cushy lives.
Every season has its attributes. It is attractive in winter, as well. These photos are ones taken years past; they were chosen for some good winter memories. There may be less variety of color, and more water from the heavy rains that dominate late fall to spring. The tones are soothing with a softer palette. Some were taken in November, others in January. Several kinds of flowers begin to bloom in later Dec. I’ll be glad to also share the garden in full splendor by spring and next summer.
May this coming week be kinder and strength of hope keep you; don’t forget to find solace in nature’s ways.
An imperturbable demeanor comes from perfect patience. Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune and misfortune at their own private pace like a clock during a thunderstorm.—Robert Louis Stevenson