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.

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.

Monday’s Meander: Sandy River Fun/Time Out

Today I had another great reprieve from difficult times. I enjoyed a couple of hours at the Sandy River with some family–two daughters, a son-in-law and the twins. The river is at the west end of the Columbia Gorge, near Portland, and it is very popular for recreational activities. The Sandy runs 56 miles and begins its journey in the high glaciers of Mt. Hood, and finally joins the Columbia River. Steelhead and trout are readily fished, folks enjoy floating the river, and any non-motorized boating is popular. Hiking along the river and picnicking and, of course, swimming, are among the activities people enjoy. Lush surroundings with woodlands plus wildlife abounds along the running water–I want to explore more of it. It was a quick trip for the little ones this time.

We found an easily accessed spot along the shore with a small bit of shade nearby. It wasn’t the most picturesque or the quietest stretch but we saw other families having a good time nearby. The water was shallower and calmer; the two year olds could safely enjoy a new experience. The water tended toward chilly but didn’t deter anyone–it hit around 98 degrees at one point today. I’d love to share the varied shots displaying all the fun we had (being protective of grandkids) but wanted to share a glimpse. And, to the twins’ delight, a train sped over the river very close to us. They waded a bit and went out further on their mom’s or dad’s hip; threw small stones, played with wet sand, worked at picking up and throwing heftier rocks. One of the girls, Alera, was hugely satisfied when she managed to do so a couple of times, her face suddenly splashed, her laughter peeling out. They had quite a nice adventure. As did we all.

Above, a couple with my oldest and youngest daughters (six years apart). One dark blond, one with dark curls, different but much the same, as well. The one in the wide brimmed hat is the oldest, Naomi. (I realized they aren’t great shots but so it is this time.)

Naomi did an amazing thing last week. She is staying in Colorado for the summer–she lives in S. Carolina. I was grocery shopping last Thursday when I got a peculiar text from her. It said: I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by and say hi!

There was a picture of her standing at my front door.

I stopped in my tracks, then calmed down and thought, Well, Naomi does some quirky things, likes to play practical jokes. She knows I want to see her–but this photo must be from the last time she visited. I didn’t believe it and kept shopping. She had said she might not make it for a visit until next fall or winter as she was swamped with travelling, art work in progress, applying for tenure at her university. Yet there was a niggling thought…

There was not good reception in the store so I went outdoors in the garden area and texted her.

You don’t mean you are here, of course. That’s an old picture, right?

Nope.

What????

You are really at my door?

Yep!

Oh my gosh, no way!!

Yes!

And I about lost it right there among the pretty petunias and pansies, let out a squeal–and cried a little. (The plant guy stole a look at me, then nicely moved on.) I could hear tears in her voice, too. It has been one and a half years since I have seen her. It has been a trying year and a half with several losses. This daughter has called me twice a week or more faithfully, texted me every couple days, sent me little gifts. We are close in a special way, we can talk some foolishness or explore life intricately. This lovely creative person was once two and a half pounds born at six and a half months, a tiny preemie that was on the brink. She fooled everyone. I am always grateful to see her smile and hear her voice.

And there she was, waiting for me. I about skipped to the cashier, restraining myself as my grin widened, stuck across my face. Then I half-ran out of the store. Such a reunion! She had told her four siblings– they had kept her secret perfectly. Amazing to me, the whole beautiful thing.

She is due to move on this Friday. It will be hard to say “until next time”–as who knows when? But I shall be happy, content to have spent each day with her for a week as we shared time with others, too–we have had a few get togethers with her siblings.

In a couple of days, my one remaining brother and his wife–two professional photographers who have driven across the country with cameras in hand–are coming by. We will catch up. Just be together again.

This is what being vaccinated against Covid-19 allows us to do. It is such a gift to see all, to share meals and good talk–and, once more, hugs. As the long shadow of the pandemic wanes more and more, with the safety factors so greatly improved in Oregon and elsewhere, our lives are day by day resuming a more natural pace, and can include a myriad experiences. Not just sitting on my nice balcony, gazing at the woods and sky, listening to the birdsong, dreaming of better times. Not only taking long walks or hiking in drear or sunshine with faces masked, nodding cautiously at others, wondering what they are thinking, how they are doing. I have needed this hope, this improved living that allows expanded opportunities to reach out some, explore and breathe more freely. Everyone has needed a real turning of the corner, the possibility of more change for the good. Affirmation of life even in the middle of the tenacious precariousness of the world.

And because of all this, I am taking the rest of the week off from blogging. Some of us are headed to the beach soon, for one thing. So, until next time–and may blessings be upon each of you, be careful and caring. I can tell you after terrible loss recently that kindness truly heals and helps. Every one of us.

Monday’s Meander: Lilacs, Rhoddies and More at the Farm

I decided I must give you flowers, lilacs, specifically, but also rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, peonies, irises, viburnum, wisteria and more…I am not a current gardener–some years have passed since we had a nice plot of land to grow much. But I appreciate all green growing things, flowers especially, now more than ever. My balcony is loading up with more potted flowers each week. And junco pair already took over my hanging fuchsia plant for nesting activity…

But today I’m at a favorite spring destination: Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Woodland, Washington. I post pictures every now and then but not last year. It was a pleasure to be able to re-visit at last. We may have been a bit early to take in all the bloomed varieties but it was worth the visit.

The farm is located on 4 acres of land, purchased in 1877 by it’s namesake’s parents. Huldas work with her lilacs expanded in 1905, and she added 14 new varieties. After she died, the Hulda Klager Lilac Society bought and maintained the gardens. The home and potting shed were refurbished. No tours of the humble but lovely house due to the pandemic, but I have often enjoyed a walk-through. Altogether a stop in WA. we have to make each year when we can.

I hope you also find the tour lovely and tranquil.

Please click through the slideshow to finish.

(An empty chair is for everyone loved and lost. Love never ends.)

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.