Monday’s Meander on Tuesday: Stunning Red Rock State Park (Plus, My Surprise)

As you can see, I am leading with a blurry but happy photo of me taken when visiting Red Rock State Park, the last part of our trip to Central Oregon. Not because I think the picture is special. Rather, because my admitted self-image does not currently match up with X-rays and MRIs. I must have thought I could bypass various aspects of this qging body; I might have had rose colored glasses on too often.

Sitting on the fence that day three weeks ago, I didn’t feel like someone with a major knee issue. I was a little tired and very thirsty–that sun was nearly scorching my skin. But I wasn’t fending off bothersome pain after a nice walkabout. Those who’ve read my blog are aware I had a medial tear of a meniscus (right knee) in January and have been working with that ever since. To little avail, though a cortisone shot diminished the worst pain after two months’ physical therapy. Which I had to quit as it was the wrong thing to pursue, it turns out. I managed increasingly better after the injection (but it made my face and neck beet red and was itchy several days). I have from the start kept up with daily walks if possible –but after that they were faster and farther and even on hilly terrain with just a tad lingering soreness.

I know this sort of injury is common for lots of active people and so wasn’t that concerned; I had another tear 4 years ago and it healed up. But then came further consults with orthopedic surgeons about that jagged tear. I had the second one yesterday. The first doctor did not inform enough or clarify a timeline for a plan so I sought another’s opinion. I learned I have some degenerative arthritis on part of the knee in addition to a difficult-to-fix tear at the root of the injured meniscus. Bottom line is I will– this year, likely– need a partial knee replacement. I so appreciate the second surgeon being clear and frank about things. And we will talk again in awhile unless things go south faster than hoped.

But–what? Hang on a minute– I didn’t even know I had any, much less significant, arthritis! Sure, a crunch here and there, sometimes a sudden pain. But nothing impossible. I push to override discomfort, anyway, then go my merry way, whether that’s good or not. So this was a shocking reveal. (I still don’t know what will happen with the irregular tear–that procedure didn’t sound so nice/simple. Partial knee replacement with that repair may occur at same time.)

Ok, maybe a little discomfort in the semi-lame knee….enough walking for one day. (And where’s the iced tea? Just snap the pic, will ya?)

I can’t quite sort out or elucidate feelings about it; this isn’t a creative nonfiction piece, and I have to sit with the information awhile. I ponder this: I felt strong and well before this last injury. I have dealt with pain alright, overall, tried to take care of myself and looked forward to an effective treatment plan. Well, reality is what it is. And any fix that will help me stay active outdoors and for longer is the better news. I am grateful for what all I do not have and am counting on more healing, in time.

On to the good stuff: Smith Rock State Park, which spreads out at 3200 feet above sea level. (We met our granddaughter and friend and also her mother there for a last visit.) It is renowned for sport rock climbing of all sorts and levels. Made of volcanic rock–basalt and tuff– the peaks are intriguing colors and shapes. Hard to imagine the upheaval and profound alterations that occurred with the eruption(s).

I regret I wasn’t able to descend into Crooked River valley to hike those miles of trails, nor climb among rocky abuttments this time. You can spot in the distance a few rock climbers and hikers. Paths wind all about below, which I plan to revisit–it’s an exhilarating hike!

The trail you see above travels up and then down and around the river’s length. I am zoomed in here. The shot below gives more perspective on the descent, as well as height of pinnacles. If you look closely, you can see one person walking at far left on the trail by the river; there are a few others barely visible on far right end of trail that are mere specks.

Below, there is a rock climber inside a crevasse farther at right side of the rocks. Look for a white shirt half in shadow. Hard to spot–I did have a telephoto lens–in the car!…

Fanily insert shows Granddaughter Avery, Marc and me; Avery and her friend on an upper trail; people at right looking down toward river valley, left of shot.

I love the textures, shapes, colors of the high desert. And the sweet-sharp fragrances everywhere.

The afternoon began to melt away in the heat and beauty. We had four hours to drive. After saying a fond farewell to our Avery we started back home. Here are a few parting shots from along the road.

We passed through Warm Springs Reservation on the way to the Cascades. Whenever I do, I think of the clients I counselled while working in addictions/mental health treatment. I was once employed by a Native American organization and it was an experience that changed me, meeting people from multiple tribes, witnessing the palpable suffering and learning about their survival; learning a few of many traditions, hearing their music, and feeling their great desire for wholeness. I still have some beadwork sliped into my hands by some women clients who completed treatment succesfully. I was given a beautiful painting by a well known Native artist…but couselors shoould not take such gifts. The director decided to keep it since I wasn’t American Indian, anyway– and it was valuable. That hurt a bit, but I wonder how the male artist fared once back home.

This rugged land–and all the rest– was once theirs. The lossses were and are grave; the Native peoples are traumatized and it carries forward generationally. I ponder it even now–our country too often seems to not consider the impact of all this. And we cannot forget.

This trip–about which I have posted for four weeks– was only three days but stuffed with interesting experiences and fun hours. Marc and I will be getting away more this summer. Actually, we are off to the beach on Sun. so I won’t be posting next “Monday’s Meander.” But the following week: some choice Pacific Ocean stories and shots!

Mondays’ Meander: En Route to High Desert Country

We started south from Portland but in a short while turned off I-5 toward the Santiam Pass in the Cascade Range. We were embarking on a three day weekend trip in Central Oregon. I was looking forward to the drive toward the 4,817 ft. high pass situated betwween volcanic peaks of Three-Fingered Jack and Mount Washington.

The weather was cloudy and roads were fine, with a spatter of rain now and then, and plenty of white snowy banks and forest floors at highest elevations. But soon we had to pass through countless charred remains of coniferous trees and through Detroit, a tourist town of 231 which sits alongside Detroit lake and Detroit Lake State Park. The infamous Santiam Fire in August 2020 began as three separate fires due to lightning strikes, merging into one horrific fire spurred on by 50 mph winds. It finally burned 402, 274 acres. We recall it well; it spread to four counties including a part of ours. Under fire watch for weeks, we remained indoors for ten days due to gathering thick smoke and gusts of high winds; bags were readied for an evacuation order. We didn’t get one, but thousands of others did. It was an unprecendented monster fire as it began to creep closer to Portland. I already had a healthy fear of fire; I tend to be very careful even when using candles. The smoke lingered for a very long while; there were many fires trhoughout Oregon that summer and fall.

And this was our first time in this particularly damaged Cascades Range area since then. And as we drove closer to the areas impacted, I had a window partically down–I could still smell the entrenched odor of old burned wood.

As we climbed, we began to see the black tree trunks and stumps. It was unnerving to drive from lushly green Willamette Valley into fire-eaten landscape.

Above, a view taken by Detroit lake which does show some greening of the forests; the darker and somewhat sparse areas of the mountains are not the worst damage, it seemd, but it was still apparent. Marc captured subdued feelings as I scanned blackened parts of trees beyond the camera, as I tried to imagine what it was like for residents to scramble for their lives amid an inferno…Any charred remains looked worse with each mile travelled. Five people died in the wide ranging fire. And all homes in Detroit were destroyed.

We continued into and past Detroit, gazed quietly at remnants of fire’s path–as well as hopeful rebuilding of homes and mercifully greener spots. Forest habitats heal and even can flourish, finally.

(Apologies for some poorer shots–I was shooting from a moving car mostly during this part.)

Below, a part of Detroit Lake with a view of Black Butte, left.

We began to reach the summit and then to descend.

Before long, we were entering the rain shadow side of the mountains–and into Sisters, OR.

Well-known for its touristy Western-themed atmosphere and shops, there are many reasons to visit, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding (lots of ranches in this area), mountain biking, skiing–as well as enjoying the Sisters Rodeo, a Quilt Show and the Sisters Folk Fesitival. Here are a few shots taken as we drove, then walked a little downtown. But it was very windy and cold and we wanted to get to Bend by late afternoon.

Then we were off and into sprawling high desert, a whole other experience and one of my favorite kinds– despite being a rainforest sort of gal…For one thing, the different types and fragrances of plants and the rocky, dry earth are fascinating, really lovely. And sunlight shines hotter; my skin’s rosiness after three days attests to it. And everywhere around the flatter landscape–easily seen mountains!

A sculptural group of wild horses.

It was just the start of a fun and relaxing trip. See you soon for upcoming posts–I have many more pictures from this Central Oregon trip! Next up: the bustling small city of attractive Bend and more of the surrounding environs.

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Library Week! The Countless Words To Guide Us

Photo by Rafael Cosquiere on Pexels.com

To imagine a world without books is impossibly hard. As I look around my home I can see I never intend to do so. I haven’t once bothered–or dared–to count them. I have sorted, passed on and re-sold physical books numerous times, have bought new volumes (and read a few online). I often buy books for gifts and rarely turn down a good freebie in a streetside Little Free Library or languishing in a cardboard box by trash receptacles. It’s not that I will read anything at all…we do have our preferences…but, then again, if there was nothing at hand but an ancient census report, I would gladly read that. And read it again. I am definitely one of those who reads fine print on packaging, randomly peruses dictionaries and reads every sign that catches my fancy on a road trip. So one might conclude it is the basic act of noting letters, then reading them that “rings my bell”. Perhaps that’s partly true–it lights up that language portion of human brain instantly–but only a small part of the story.

I like to learn about almost anything. To be gathered into another’s life or informed of another culture or to ride the wave of an epic tale. I like to find the path in storyland and follow it with mind and arms open, whether fact or fiction. Books, books, books. They are friends and teachers, distractors and challengers, quiet partners in my life.

And I write of this as it is National Library Week in the USA; School Librarian Day was April 4th. And April 16 is National Librarian Day. A time to consider how fortunate we are to have books at our fingertips–or not far away. Library books are a blessing shared by the community with ever changing and diverse residents. Hopefully, this week even more people, young and older, will take advantage of it.

I have much to consider when I consider how books have helped shape and even transform my life. Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames, R.N. kept me up late with my flashlight as a 9 year old. I devoured books for fun, but I was also reading because I also was writing my own stories and plays and poems by then…I was learning by osmosis, perhaps. But later I read a variety of works by poets Denise Levertov, ee cummings, Theodore Roethke, William Wordsworth and Kahlil Gibran– as well as wide ranging writers as Hermann Hesse, Dag Hammarskjold, or Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck, for a few examples. They each strongly impacted me both as a young writer and spiritual seeeker. Books and their libraries were good escapes, yet also a deeper balm for the troubled youth I was. Reading provided me with greater perspective and stimulated more hope. More than a few times, what I sought and discovered helped me keep my head above water. They still can have the same power for children and youth.

I read as a hungry creature grazes in a field of delectable offerings, often and with excitement. I most often read not what any class reading lists recommended… and have not ever been in a book club. But I’ve made it a weekly, even daily, habit to study multiple book reviews or simply wandered through libraries and bookstores, on the lookout for the next fitting volume.

Recommendations, anyone? Let’s talk it over–I’d give it good thought. I do enjoy swapping personal preferences, such as with my neighbor today.

Public and school libraries have been particularly important because they require only a library card and my time and respect. They are ubiquitous in this country–and free! I like them so much that when we travel, Marc and I often seek out local libraries. And any ole bokstore, of course. To see what there is on offer, to experience the electric yet cocooning, amiable energy the presence of books in hands perpetuates. I’ve visited tiny, dusty libraries that have perhaps not purchased new books for years yet offer many gems. And light-dappled, multi-storied, shiny buildings I could move into with sleeping bag to spend a year or more. (The stalled novel I wrote features a country library in several scenes, so that tells me something.)

In elementary school I anticipated library hour as much or more than most other things in the school week. I lingered as long as feasible, content with browsing then slipping a book from its cozy place within the company of like-minded books. The librarians–rarely stern ones, the mythical library policers of the stacks– were eager to help aid me. And they seemed to know everything, or could find out in a flash. Best yet, I was often pointed toward resources to find out my own answers. Patient and appreciative of young, inquisitive minds, librarians were congenial and supportive watchers over children as we strove to enlargen our minds, stoke imaginations. On the way home, I hugged my “find” close, eager to get reading if only between other activites until bedtime. –It is this way even now.

I grew up in a city that was fortunate to have wonderful arts, sciences and other educational facilities. Our public library was one designed by Alden B. Dow, a protege of Frank Loyd Wright. It opened in 1955 and was contemporary by common standards, with its angularity and stark elegance and turquoise trim (or perhaps a wide flashing) right below the roof edge. It had floor to ceiling windows that overlooked lush landscaping. It had a big study space that was open to a second floor mezzanine with more rooms: more books. The smells and colors and shapes… I was transported being there.

As a kid, I made myself comfortable in the children’s ample room with a pile at my feet. Later on, I sat huddled over books read for academic needs or pleasure, soaking up the hush of a place that harbored readers and those who researched. The wooden drawers of card catalogs held more than I could begin to think of; I took my time thumbing through them, as one thing led to another. Among the aisles between tall shelving I found nonfiction sections as fascinating as fiction or poetry sections. How could there be that much to investigate? Awe, perplexity, and pleasure flooded my being.

It was a pleasure to enter the high-ceilinged two-story building and so difficult to leave. Time evaprotated. A visit might also be a ruse for meeting friends (or a boyfriend), during which we’d surround oursleves with tomes then whisper intently back and forth or write furious notes. But more often visiting the library meant a treasure trove to delve into, plus a pause from life’s ordeals and uncertainties. I felt at home in the grand but often undefined scheme of things more than in most places. The library: sanctuary, a repository of wide-ranging wisdom, a safe place for bookish entertainment, a haven for those who thirsted after curious places and peoples which lay beyond those sturdy walls.

Of course, there were magazines as well, and music, then movies and over the years surprising things (we can check out all sorts of odd and useful items at our present library). Most of which I don’t utilize, I’m afraid. My priority has remained simple book hunting.

The greatest feature: all the public is welcome. Everyone can be sparked by the thrill of learning, nourished by engaging or challenging tales. Or a quiet nook with a comfy chair within which one may doze, reading material in hand. The word library means simply a collection of books or bookshop; in Old English etymology it is a “book hoard.” Makes sense to me.

One view of part of my childhood’s Grace A. Dow Memorial Library, Midland, MI-in this shot, magazines take front and center, as does the view. Ahhh…

When Covid-19 roared into our lives and many public places became inacessible, I turned to online offerings of local libraries (and virtual bookstores). Though I greatly missed prowling the stacks of our smaller city branch, I was glad to browse and put “on hold” many titles to later pick up. In fact, I chose more books than I might have otherwise; it became a meditative experience to search and find. I read a wider variety as there was more time than ever. (I also read more and differently to further inspire my own writing; the more I read the more I always learn.) But I also enjoyed lining up with other people to get the choices in hand. We began to converse as we waited for the librarian to bring out our orders to an outdoor shelving unit. It was a pleasant ritual in otherwise worrisome months… then more months.

When our actual library doors opened again, only 5 people were allowed in fifteen minutes at a time. But what surprising happiness! I could see it in everyone as they browsed and fingered books and other items: a sense of contented relief, just for a brief spell. I am certain that those who visited libraries online or in person have felt that this has been a favored event. Perhaps it was even a lifesaver, emotionally. When all else was fraught with fear or loneliness, health issues–that loss of bearings in society at large–we could still, thank goodness, generously welcome books into our ives.

I recall once during that time that I searched for a certain novel, reportedly available, within my fifteen minutes. To no avail. So I asked a librarian if she knew the author and if the book was misplaced. She did; the author was a respected, long deceased one not often checked out, anymore. She searched further. Failing to locate the one I wanted, she announced she’d purchase the book–and two more by that author–so that I and others could have access to his work. This was said with a triumphant smile. I was flabberghasted. She was, as she noted, “here to support our patrons and provide great materials whenever I can.” And she did, and she always has done so.

So, here is to libraries and librarians. Here’s to the hours of work put in for us (work we often do not see or think about), and to their patient, knowledgeable and kindly assistance. The countless books and other materials kept track of and then offed to us have given me, for one, more freedom to roam far reaches of mind, heart and soul, to critically consider diverse notions and gather quite useful information. Books give good medicine as well as good direction more often than not.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Monday’s Meander: In Anticipation…and Travel by Mind

I ran out of time today to complete a post based on outings over the week-end. Between visiting my sister most of the day and then my son and daughter-in-law, the hours flew by. I am also in anticipation of a few events, including spring’s unfolding (see above), as well as our daughter’s arrival from Virginia on Fri. This coincides with several birthdays this month and in April, as well as remembrance of family death dates. I also just learned a sister-in-law is going on hospice care. Grief can seep into beauty, so spring can seem a mixed arena within which to live. I am beyond grateful for each bud, leaflet and startling bloom; the richer sunshine with longer days; fragrant breezes, chorusing birds and a kaleidoscope of colors that overlay the waning greys of winter and brighten the rains of spring. I’ve been walking more vigorously since a cortisone shot to knee and physical therapy. And I do look forward to farther-flung travels as spring and summer come into their glory–and the Covid infection rates dive.

Yet right now the jumble of upcoming birthday celebrations of loved ones coupled with losses can yank me into waves of sadness and tire me out. It’s the contrast of it, the jubilant yes rubbing against the droning no…I have to practice internal balance, and I want to support others, too. I need to strengthen and gird my heart, even as it softens and unfurls like a magnolia bud. I do have God’s presence to keep me steady.

One thing that helps is to travel virtually. Via photography books/blogs, computer or television options, sure, but I really mean mentally. It’s easy and free, after all.

Especially when I have trouble sleeping or keeping my mind on hopeful musings (as has happened lately), I take myself to places I have loved by visualizing them. I think we all do this, and perhaps should more often, as it helps supplant a challnegingt state of being with a nourishing one. For me, one such place is Interlochen, Michigan, where I attended Interlochen Summer Arts Camp (there were others, but Interlochen was the finest)) when growing up. When we visited a few years back, I looked out over Duck Lake and Green lake and thought: making music, writing, acting and dancing in this place infused me with lifesaving hope, enabling me to further pursue passions. The experiences brought revelatory moments with people, places, moments which gave mind and spirit a radiant new sheen, offering freedom to help build a better self, as well as work on skills and talents. I was, then, right at home in that world.

So– that is why I shared, below, the shot of me at Interlochen from that trip, enlivened by great memories, sitting beside a favorite lake in the sweet-summered open air. The scope of life enhancements was such that I could enumerate many blessings as a youth– when much of my world seemed frayed. I can close my eyes and be there…I tell myself: this is true life as much as the hurt of leavetaking; this is faith moving right in the center of troubles. Happiness can be kept holy in divergent ways, and may it be so as needed. This world is so traumatized. I humbly embrace any small gift, and pray for those who are aching and wanting.

I will likely write this “Wednesday’s Words” post, but not a “Friday’s Poem”, and may find it difficult to contribute posts next week due to family activities and several obligations. I will be back. Meantime, I hope you awaken moments of grace in your lives…and keep sharing good love every day. We all need both.

Monday’s Meander: A Garden’s Glimmers of Spring

I’m not much of a gardener–though when I was younger we tended flowers and vegetables and enjoyed some good yards. But I have a deep appreciation for them and make it a point to visit as many as possible year ’round. When Marc travelled often for work, I accompanied him time to time and immediately located gardens (and parks) to wander. Last week as temperatures hit mid-50s, my older sister and I visited Crystal Springs Rhododendren Garden. Spread out over 9.5 acres, it provides a home for over 2500 rhodies, azaelas and other plants. It boasts over 100 types of birds and other creatures (including nutria, not my favorite: it’s a huge water-loving rodent). Waterfowl dominate two separate ponds amid grassy areas. I often post shots of this place seasonally. Spring is not here but I am teased by several flowers blooming by February in Oregon. One I always look for is a shrub of pink, overtly sweet daphne flowerlets. (A photo is below of a bush by a walkway, after a shot of Allanya). It was just enough to give me hope that it’s going to really happen this year–though earlier today it snowed for fifteen minutes!

Being outside with Allanya is fun; we embrace our time together. She has dementia; it can lately be a challenge to get her out and about. She likes exploring nature as long as we rest often. Though her short term memory has significantly worsened the last year, she enjoys a good conversation and offers a ready laugh. As she states: “My memory issue bothers other people, not me–that’s just how it is and goes!” It’s been an adjustment for me over the last 4-5 years. She for decades held executive director positions and was also a dynamo in her personal life. Her essential personality still shines, for now: ebullient, funny, incisive and fascinated by others and life. She is my only living sister now.

Off we went once more. Enjoy the views.

We enjoyed our meander. The sunlight was sheer on mostly empty pathways. There was a slight but edgy breeze, yet earthy fragrances wafted about and to our noses. The waterfowl were dunking and hunting for food, bathing and floating or bobbing about gracefully–and Canadian geese gathered overhead in huge numbers, making a wild good ruckus. In another month or so all will warm up more and brightly hued flowers will be popping out like mad. I’ll shoot more scenes to share when it’s truly springtime.