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: Family Nature Park Outing

What a good adventure! We had a fine outing with two grandchildren and a daughter over the weekend. I am unable to share much of the delightful nearly 2 yo twins (I wish I could as their antics are camera-worthy, I have to say), but there is a glimpse as they explore. Children are so strongly responsive to nature and its myriad of wonders. One granddaughter followed, with nose right to a rectangular info plaque, the trek of an extremely tiny bug as it crawled across it. She kept up scrutiny of it from front side, around the edge and to the back. When it flew off, she was so surprised–then a bit annoyed! But there was much more to check out; off we went. The nature park is in nearby Tualatin, an easy meander with many different trails. It was great fun for over an hour though grey and chilly as it is so often in March. We did see lots more leaves unfurling, and flowers popping out a bit. After they left with their mother, Marc and I continued deeper into woodlands and wetlands for another hour or more.

Monday’s Meander: More Spring to Bless the River

It’s been awhile since I took you along portions of the Willamette River– as well as the smaller Tualatin River, which flows east into the Willamette. I’ve trekked many a riverside mile the last year and more–but in early spring it gets a bit more interesting. It always gives me a lift to see spring flowers poking up from the ground, the unfurling tree leaves and buds on bushes. Here in Oregon we have had the usual cold rains and then a terrible ice storm–it has also been an often glum winter, as it has been for us all to one degree or another. I’ve lately heard many more birds, and think they sing out differently. Today there was a “varied thrush”, it’s clear and seemingly random notes startling and lovely. Many hummingbirds are out and eagles and hawks. And a noisy bee buzzed right over the top of my head, despite the temp lowering awhile to upper forties today. (We had a mix of rain and sleet on the way home for a few moments.)

Well, spring arrives in fits and starts– for human and all others.

These photos are taken around various parts of the rivers near home the last two weeks. We start at the Tualatin Greenway Trail along the Tualatin River. Wandering through woods, seeing the muddy, at times swift water flow, spotting opening blooms as well as people out and about was cheering. Plus, there is greater evidence of fishing and pleasure boats about, as well as a marina with a couple yachts rocking dockside. But much of the recent walks were peaceful and quiet along the treed, often steep river banks.

People playing golf across the river at the Tualatin Country Club.
Wetlands by the Tualatin–spotting a white egret.

BELOW: On to the Willamette in an area we frequent often. Form a bridge, I noticed a grandfather and a grandson, I think, having a nice time offering food to the ducks. A fishing boat with two, maybe three, fishermen waiting wth rods in the water quietly beyond trees and bushes. (In MIchigan when I sort of fished with my first husband on a lake, we called it “trolling.”)

So many more trees have fallen or are being cut for reuse since the ice storm we had over a month ago.Below, someone is grilling or about to!
A surprisingly large hummingbird perched a few moments-then dashed off right in front of me.
A not-surprising number of people flocked to the river shores to kayak and wade in the water or just hang out with family or friends–but still cautiously, overall. Hearing children laugh and dogs playfully bark was a wonder.

Spring is coming, we can count on that happening in all its curious, beautiful ways.

As an aside, this Wednesday I’m supposed to get my first vaccination, so may not be writing a short story, as I do twice a month. Still… I may be writing like mad to get the story done before midnight, as usual. In any case, hope you find some spring –and see you soon!

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Muddling Through Winter Toward Spring

I was right here today, glory be! Out in fresh air warmed by copious and democratic sunshine, it’s illumination awakening all.

I pride myself on not being prone to emotional changes due to weather’s fluctuations, and am alright with the rainfall we get half the year, mostly. But after our historic ice and snow storm over a week ago, and 2021 still unfolding within a tenacious pandemic–well, the weather finally got to me. There has been such damage all about us. I keep taking pictures, as if daily documentation will help to accept it. I know broken, splintered and fallen trees and bushes will heal, come back–or they will not and decompose as nature intends. Still, I got good and tired of it all and by the looks on people’s faces the last couple weeks, I was not the only one. Even diehards out there in the elements get to that point where they start to hunger for greater sunlight, sans wintery cold edged with constant damp that defies outdoor comfort– until the blood gets moving good and fast. I walk every single day at a fast clip, an hour at least, unless physically unable. But that doesn’t mean I am thrilled every minute during winter drear.

Then, today: the sky cleared of clouds and bloomed fully with light. Today it was as if sunshine brought forth the beauty hiding out in us, as well as the landscape. People actually spoke to one another in passing, not only a nod of the head or, as I experience in my immediate neighborhood, a raised hand held two seconds at chest level like a circumspect salute. This time: “hi” and smiles–I could see past masks that energy called happiness sparking their eyes. One woman and her family paused when I spotted a dandelion, and then gawked, too, and noted how cheery a thing, a sign of spring, how wonderful to see it. I had to agree.

We know it’s only a brief reprieve. It’s February in Oregon so we’re going to have lots more daily rainfall and chilly temps a couple more months. Or more rain with a warming up. More teasers with brilliant blue skies, softer breezes. Today it was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps a tad more as the afternoon wore on, but you’d think it was 68 degrees. People kept arriving as if we were going to a giant picnic or an outdoor concert again. Some were wearing shorts or were jacket-less. (This is a typical Oregon thing for younger ones when the sun comes out. I almost expected to see sandals.) People were skateboarding, playing volleyball and tennis, running, walking overjoyed dogs. We visited the community garden–there are many in Portland metro areas–and a couple gardeners were looking things over, ascertaining the state of things after the Big Freeze, and planning what was next.

It was like my entire body experienced a long, easy sigh of relief. Not to mention mind and spirit. It wasn’t just the blue sky. It was being around others as they played, talked, joked around. Seeing children having fun, hearing their whoops and wild shouts was a joy. It felt close to a normal day even though most wore masks, or stepped away and off the path respectfully if they were not. We all wanted to just be for awhile…to breathe, smile, look about, live in the present without fear or sadness or numbing boredom. If we can’t replenish ourselves, how can we keep our heads and hopes up? It may be as simple as noting small wonders and giving over to the moment. Sharing greetings with passing strangers, persons who are also just looking for refreshment and peace. Good will. We can get through a great deal if we keep finding ways to refill our souls and kindly care for our bodies each day.

It was a perfect afternoon in a place I love to visit. Gabriel Park is large with good trails and meandering sidewalks, encompassing woodlands as well as green rolling hills. I realized I long to see and hear a baseball game sometime before too long…just the sound and appearance of lots more people living in the open may make me cry–this, from a person who is content with plenty of solitude. But one can overdo that, too, as we have found out.

Here is some of what I saw today. I hope you enjoy my photos. The first set is in slideshow mode. (Forgive small spots on a couple shots–I haven’t found a safe way to fully clean my lens…)

Edge of community garden area–and there’s a dog run park behind this if you look closely.
Things lie in wait….

Below: what sort of tree grows like this…from that stumpy center, with so many elegant branches? Haven’t a clue, yet.

The cedar, below, is one of several at the park that are enormous. I offer a comparison to my height…wow. I love these old trees. In the next shot, the interior. Kids go into the trunk area to hide and play– and I have seen a few grown ups go in–some were smooching, of course!

Back through the woods.

All the plants soaked up that sun.

Before too long, new leaves will be opening along graceful and strong branches, and flowers other than early rising crocus, snowdrops and a few “daffies” will be opening up to show their faces. We will get out there again.

Monday’s Meander: A Wetlands Haven

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).

Viewing platform partly crushed by this huge tree–recent storm damage.

Click to view the slideshow, below.

Several other wetlands enthusiasts were about.

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.

(A handful of these shots accompanied Friday’s poem about how healing it was for me there: Friday’s Poem: At the Refuge)