Monday Meander: Grief as Companion for a Birthday at Jenkins Estate

It has been 11 days since our family’s loss. I keep walking, communing with nature. It is the only place I get real relief that means anything, something tangibly good and cohesive, fascinating and reassuring. Something powerful that does not unduly distort or painfully challenge, usually, what arrives with each day. Someone somewhere wrote that beauty is in itself a wonder but in the end it means nothing much. Not so for me. Nature’s offerings–even homelier parts–reflect the strange, abundant and always numinous to me. A walk or a hike, and explorations via boat ride, train ride or flight, even a drive in the car, a spin on a bike…these open my view and mind, and instruct me in more collaborative thinking, allow me to reach far beyond those sharp borders of ego-centered self.

I like to move and see and find things out.

Today, then, because I awakened again with tears and because it is my birthday, Marc and I visited the Jenkins Estate which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, built in the early 20th century on 68 acres. There are several outbuildings as well as the house (which is only partially visible here) in a style common to the NW for country gentry. We saw only a little of the grounds–rain threatened–and we will return. But today there were brightly greened trees and plants with scattered flowers abloom in the redolent, damp April dirt. I had wanted to see a garden today, but I am in love with the woods; it was a good walk.

And I took with me the weariness of loss; my husband walked slowly, as well. Often we are silent these days.

Grief is collective over time. And at times–especially since the pandemic– it seems to vibrate under the surface of all. I have felt it all my life, everywhere and in everyone, within all tableaus of life. As a therapist once pointed out to me, I carry grief for all life even as I celebrate living. How can it be otherwise? I truly haven’t always felt it frightening or depressing or damaging–and not endlessly. I feel it as part of intense, continuous currents of life. It has made me scream out or has sent me to my knees. But it also echoes a song so ancient, so profound that its ethereal yet earthy call evokes recognition not only of inevitable dying but of the potency of living and mysteriousness of becoming…from the moment we arrive until the moment we take our leave. So we are ever in the process of gathering close and letting go. I know this. We all know this. It doesn’t get easier, really, each death. It gets more familiar, a visitor we recognize and so let in, if reluctantly and with eyes cast down at first. But looking at it in its center becomes perhaps less daunting, less unsettling. Perhaps. It is a reminder: the transitoriness, evolution of beginning to ending to secret beginnings. For we know what was, what is now, and only guess at the years, the vistas to come.

I am 71 today. Every day I live is valued and lived in tested faith and a shimmering hope. I live inside this blood and bone, and deep within the spirit of Love, despite my paucity of wisdom and unnecessary desires.

Our granddaughter was 28 ; she knew loss before passing on, and such vivacious life.

Next time I return I will share more photos, offer other experiences. I only wanted to put down a few words, say a small hello to my fellow bloggers and readers. I wanted to say Krystal Joy’s name, to honor her being. The funeral is very soon. I am as grey shadow with marrow deep sadness but, too, I know she is free of a myriad burdens of humanness. The tricky ache of it.

We have so much invested in life’s ongoing and often random travels–even as we know all is temporal in this world. It is so worth it to me. May it also be worth the effort to you.

The Gate House, my favorite spot so far.

Monday’s Meanders: North Pacific Coast/Oregon Pleasures

A viewpoint between Neskowin and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

We made it to the sea–and more–once again! Such a relief to get out of the sprawl of the city and into mountains, then onto the beach.

It was a heavenly day trip when last Wednesday we travelled a swath of the north Oregon coast from morning until very late at night. There was no plan except to begin at Neskowin, a coastal village we enjoy with its weather-beaten houses, general store and restaurant; there is also a golf course. And the beach, which is 3 miles long. The off-season (or mid-week, fall through early spring) seems to draw fewer people than some spots. But it’s not all about the ocean at the coast, either–there are many landscapes to explore, including trails at nearby Cascade Head that I’ve yet to explore much.

Proposal Rock-named by a 19th century settler whose daughter became engaged there.

Then we thought we’d go to Oceanside, an old favorite I hadn’t seen since a significant landslide earlier in the year. It would entail a very photo-dense post to share even half of what was experienced. Today I’ll begin with Neskowin State Park, then follow with Nestucca Wildlife Preserve. (The rest will be duly shared in upcoming posts.)

Below, an easy access trail to the right of the water leads past the store and an inn and then to Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site.

Above and below, a calm inlet and part of Slab Creek, which empties into the sea.

Next, on towards Nestucca Bay area. We have driven past many times, so this trip we stopped.

We arrive at the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge and marvel that we never stopped before. There is so much to experience along the Pacific Coast–never a dull trip! This refuge of coastal prairie, marshlands, forest and meadows is wonderful. Many species of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and more–and supports the coastal wintering of Dusky Canada Geese.

Per the government website since it is so well said: “Nestucca Bay, at 1,202 acres, is the largest refuge within the Oregon Coastal Refuge Complex. Located where the Nestucca and Little Nestucca rivers converge and debouch into the Pacific, the refuge is managed to provide wintering habitat for six subspecies of Canada Geese, including Aleutian and Dusky Canada Geese. The refuge also hosts several species of dabbling ducks, shorebirds and raptors on at least seven distinct habitat types.

And, additionally: “In addition to the salt marshes, mudflats and labyrinthine tidal creeks characteristic of estuaries, Nestucca Bay NWR features an array of distinct habitat types, including pastures, grasslands, woodlands, freshwater bogs and forested wetlands.” 

Taking a short drive to a parking area, we then walked up a trail to the top of the overlook. Many raptors and songbirds delighted. The vista was wide and far, the air so clear and bright–and the sun shone surprisingly hot. We were the only ones at a viewing platform, and the feeling was one of freedom and peace.

We determined that we’d hike the long trail into more forested land next time–although I am a bit wary of bobcats showing up, I would love to see–or at the least see evidence of–Roosevelt Elk, black-tailed deer and coyotes, and also mink, river otters, beaver and more.

After a pause for lunch, it was time to keep travelling along the West Coast highway, 101, to first revisit Sitka Sedge and then Oceanside. More to come next week!

(PS Number two COVID-19 shot is this Wednesday. Number 1 was a quite alright experience. So I’ll write a creative nonfiction post if feeling fine. If I do need to rest, I hope to return for my usual “Friday’s Poem” post. If not, then see you next Monday. Enjoy the unfolding of spring, if that is your season now. Step outdoors, find big and little joys, pass along peace.)

Monday’s Meander: Almost Tulip Time!

At the Woodland Tulip Festival in Washington

I am feeling a bit impatient about tulips–how much longer…? It should be enough that there are vincus, cherry blossoms, daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, rhoddies, camellias, magnolias, daphne, pansies and several more showing off their colorful designs. I even saw my first wild trilliums over the weekend, a small but distinctive joy I get every Pacific Northwest spring. But it’s tulips I start thinking of…perhaps because my mother told me as a child that tulips bloom in April, the month I was born–so it must be my flower.

Or maybe it’s because my sister, Marinell, liked them and I miss her–she died around my birthday a few years ago. Plus, a happy memory is how much we enjoyed a three-sisters trip to a tulip festival in Washington in 2013. From my oldest sister’s home in Issaquah, WA., it was an easy drive and we made a day outing of it. It was one of the last Sisters’ Trips that Allanya, Marinell, and I took. So, it is only natural that I think of her and spring rambles with pleasure.

I hold tulips in high regard. I appreciate their ubiquitousness, their commonness; they have few frills, less fragrance. Sturdy, with three petals and three sepals to make it seem as if six petals, the tulip is a brightly hued, rather humble bloom that nonetheless looks pleased with its elegant simplicity. They seem easy to grow. Tulips traditionally symbolize love and spring’s arrival–entirely apt, in my opinion. Apparently in the 1600s they were considered extremely valuable and cost a fortune. Another factoid: there are almost 150 various species, and over 3000 naturally derived and cultivated varieties in the world. And they are related to a flower I do consider more fancy while also attractive (but often smellier)–the lily.

But enough talk. Here are photos from our trip in 2013, a cloudy day that was bursting with color and smiles. This might hold me until they show themselves in my neighborhood!

At the gardens: Marinell and Allanya, two more of nature’s best

Monday’s Meander: Historic Ice Storm (and a Cheery Walk)

It has been four days of snow and ice until, blessedly, last night around 3 or 4 am it began to simply rain at 34 degrees fahrenheit. I don’t have statistics for this post, but it is considered an historic event, and Oregon isn’t the only state so impacted. I’ll learn more about damage, hear some difficult stories here. We lost power twice for varying time frames. It got very cold so fast–within 3 hours– in our townhome apartment. Last night was the worst, lying in bed and hearing greatly amplified pop, crackle, creak and snap and such explosive noises as weighted trees groaned then fell, and transformers ceased to work. Branches broke off, skidded across roofs and ice chunks rapidly followed, crashing onto buildings, balconies, patios, cars. I worried about the grove of pines on a small hill across from our place. We moved downstairs to the living room. But bangs and thuds continued just past our widows from the many pines and alders lining a steeper hill below us–many branches overhang homes.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of damage when we finally went outdoors this afternoon: countless trees had fallen, branches were strewn in odd places, a few cars had been bashed. And mine, included. Turns out I had a good reason to worry about the trees last night–but it wasn’t pines, afterall. It was a weakened alder tree way past my car that crashed, hit first one vehicle’s hood then my trunk.

Below, an end of our balcony overlooking thickets of trees that cover a steep descent–and this is before the thick ice layers.

I grew up in Michigan; snow was nothing much to be concerned about, even days of thick swirling snowfall. It go down to zero degrees often. But I haven’t lived in MI. for decades and snow in this Oregon Valley isn’t usual–and rarely with snow, ice pellets then sleety rain and more snow falling for days. This area is simply not prepared for events of this scope, nor for for so long. And we live on a steep side of an extinct volcano. So we were trapped with others who live in these SW hills. We did have candles and flashlights and lots of blankets–we had cheese and crackers and bread and peanut butter when all else failed!

Below: a corner of our power-less living room; other views just beyond LR windows. The branch to the left was displaced-due to icy weight-by about ten feet, but it didn’t break yet, surprisingly!

We had to empty the refrigerator and freezer of unsafe food but we can b uy more tomorrow. My car is driveable; the trunk can wait for repair (insurance will likely not cover it–it’s an act of God/weather disaster). It could be worse, yes. But it has been quite enough. We had frightening wildfires in the fall that kept us on edge, were locked indoors due to smoke and threat of fire. And my husband’s sudden job loss. And the virus which seems to be ever with us even as we hope for at least containment (no vaccinations for our age group yet).

It takes alot for me to get bone tired and out of emotional steam. I have a history of persevering despite many roadblocks, as many do. We are resilient creatures. But I write this with such weariness. I need sleep, and to take a pause mentally and spiritually. Life will keep happening, bitter and sweet. We weep, we gripe. We clean up and then go on. And this morning before our power came back again and even rainfall ceased, Marc heated water on the gas grill on the balcony to make tea. I was so grateful for that; my chai was so delicious with a bowl of cereal. I felt rejuvenated with that mug in hand.

Off we go.

Several folks were out chatting a couple blocks away with mug or beer in hand—like an impromptu storm party!

Most pictures posted were taken a day before the worst of it, so it was still not so hard to walk carefully. We admired iced bushes and trees and snow-softened landscape, enjoyed families out playing. Great exercise! I’m glad I have these to look at in the future, the Oregon snow and ice storm of 2021, even if it pales in some ways to the old Michigan blizzards.

I did not see the guy or gal who was to be shoveling…
Awestruck kids and mom–I like the bear ears on her hat.
Above, Marc captured me in a picture. More families at play–and typical heavy, low-hanging boughs.I found the grass lovely.

The pictures above are of my paisley Velvety Gloves (yes, they’re have a name…a story told before in posts), displaying more crystalline twigs and needles.

A glimpse of how steep our neighborhood is in many places.
Dog walkers coaxed most dogs along.
Marc is patiently waiting for me. The road seemed another walking option, as very few cars came by, and slowly.
Next time we pass by, perhaps the crocus and snowdrop blossoms will be bobbing in a gentler breeze again.

Monday’s Meander: Menucha’s Rustic Charms

I went to the Menucha Retreat and Conference Center during early spring, and the serenity of the grounds was strong enough to linger several years.

The land was homesteaded in 1874 by John Painter, an English sailor. Situated above the Columbia Gorge with its namesake river, the property was bought in 1914 by Julius Meier, a wealthy businessman (Meier and Frank department stores) who later was a Governor of Oregon. The estate became well known following the first family residence being built in 1927. The property was a country retreat for family and friends, and political figures visited, including Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Meiers mostly took up residence in warmer months.

The home and land were originally reachable only by the river where Native American culture thrived (and salmon was abundant). Then the first Northwest highway was carved out of the Cascade Mountain Range in 1913. It runs 75 miles through the Columbia Gorge and past Menucha.

In 1950, the First Presbyterian Church of Portland purchased it with the family’s blessing. The estate was named by the Meiers, and since “Menucha” roughly means “still” or “peaceful” in Hebrew, the church kept it. The ecumenical center serves as retreat for about 400 Judeo-Christian groups (thought it serves not only these groups) per year. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (though the original home was destroyed by carpenter ants). Not grand but more rustic, the structures are sturdily designed in the Pacific Northwest style developing during that time. The primary retreat center’s interior is attractive but it is the outdoors that draws me. The grounds are rolling and green and forests encircle it. And it’s well kept with a small front garden; the land is 700 feet above the river.

In early spring Marc and I wandered around the grounds following an Easter week dinner and other events. The wind blew fiercely at times but steady sunshine warmed us. We were pleased to have finally visited a place we had only ogled from the car for years. Though not now attending the church we did then, anyone can book a room for their individual restful retreat. Perhaps when the pandmeic is well addressed we’ll look into that. Weddings are also held there, as well as conferences for nonprofits, family reunions and arts workshops.

In addition to this great fireplace where meals can be made–and hot dogs and marshmallows roasted– and served at nearby tables, there is a well maintained pool overlooking the Gorge.

There is an old stone labyrinth that we walked.

Some of John Painter’s fruit trees live on.

It is a good spot for meditation and restoration, as its name indicates. We finally bade farewell to Menucha–until another day.