Friday’s Poem: At the Refuge

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

First this: brazen bolts of sound

as a multitude of geese strike the right

formation, alarm punctuating sky yet

harbored in a common beauty.

And the order of things alters

as the eagle rises to the hunt

so easy, magnificent.

One more joins, and I stay the urge

to salute or fall on my knees.

It is that tapestry of wild calls,

of bones within feathers like

an architecture of life, of power. Survival.

And then comes a rough-skinned salamander,

auburn and sleek atop dirt, beady eyed, prepared.

I do not touch even with careful toe of boot.

It is sleekness wrapped in poisonous skin.

A pencil-thin, stripey garter snake nestles

between moss and grass,

slips lithe and invisible into harmony

beneath an ancient white oak.

Great branches snag me as my eyes move upward,

lifts my soul to its crown; I am held in its breath,

am granted one spell of peace.

Frogs along the path like country singers,

sing sonorous measures in starts and stops–

a comedy routine, the telegraphed news.

Most of all, this great blue heron.

It stirs from riverbed before I hear it.

Leaps from water, rising with heartstopping wings

in a miracle of elegance and strength,

glides past clouds of winter

to light that spills into this day.

I think of it: laying on its fine back,

moving past edges of this world without falling.

I cannot say more of why this brings me to tears.

I am given this afternoon where

many beings show themselves and

the wetlands let me pass through, and

groves of oaks watch over, naked and unafraid,

and sunlight kind as compassion rests on my skin…

this earth so generous with blessings,

may I not ever, may I not ever forget.

Monday’s Meander: The Emerald City

Seattle, WA.: The Space Needle, built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, and a Chihuly glass sculpture.

Because I am missing Seattle, here we go on a virtual visit. The name could be attached to the land of Oz….but it is not. “Emerald” refers to a preponderance of greenery–towering evergreens, among other plants and trees– displayed all year around. This was a last fun trip before the pandemic kept all more homebound. We have chosen the beautiful, invigorating Seattle for New Year’s a few times and it has always been worth it. We’ve also visited family in the area and at 19 I lived there so I feel quite at home, though it so much bigger than my hometown of Portland (we are very green, too). I was disappointed to not go up there this year.

If you’ve seen some of these shots before, perhaps you can enjoy them, again. If you have never been there in person I hope you’re enticed to explore the city, yourself, some day! With little commentary, let’s begin…

All glass art is by Dale Chihuly at the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum.

Above shots: Experience Music Project; architect, Frank O. Gehry. (Not easy climbing up and standing on a ledge… but fun!)

I have had a great time revisiting memories–one good reason to travel is that, with photography, you get to almost go there once more. But I am so looking forward to another in-person visit. In the meantime, more local day trips are good. I am hoping you also will hop in a car, ride your bike or head out on foot to open spaces, to be safe. It never fails to cheer me in all the ways that matter. See you for another meander next week!

Mt. Rainier

Monday’s Meander: Winter’s Rising River

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.

Monday’s Meander: A Time Out

Willamette River, OR.

Meditative view of kayakers taking a pause before gliding down the waterway…though I didn’t go to the river (for once) today but to a Pacific Coast beach. I needed a time out from the cacophonous world. I had every intention of getting to my list of tasks and working on my Monday WP post this morning. But a twitch or two in body and mind emphasized a growing nervousness about this coming week as political fomentation increases by the hour.

So, when Marc was all set to go to the beach, it was easy to change my mind — despite a forecast of cloudy and chilly. No problem, it’s natural theater, the Pacific Ocean.

A tidepools area, Yachats, OR.

The past two weeks I’ve been getting in a lot of day trips with good walkabouts and satisfying (easy to moderate) hikes. By Wednesday I will have sorted out tons of new photos, and then will offer my usual “Monday’s Meander” post. Until then, keep your hats on and chins up–we have to ride these greater waves of discontent, cope with the pandemic and still maintain or create balance and cozy ways. One of mine is right here, writing and sharing a life like you fellow bloggers and readers.

There is still such beauty and wonder to find and savor. Take care out there.

Duck Lake, Interlochen, Michigan. From a trip a few years ago.

Monday’s Meander: Silver Falls State Park

Lower South Falls

I am still having trouble downloading photos from my aging iPhone (I dropped my good camera on another hike and it is lame now). Ah, well. Silver Falls State Park is a gorgeous place to visit and includes ten waterfalls. We hiked about 4.5 miles–much of it steeply uphill–and saw only three Saturday afternoon! I salvaged a few photographs, though some may be a bit out of focus. Well, apologies–we were moving most of the time for 3 hours so I snapped as I could. (I’ll perhaps post more as I can, including videos.)

South Falls

The river on the left is from the entrance to the park by nice lawn. But the second shot was 2/3 of the way through the hike–we were both sweaty at that point and a bit breathless so stopped for water. I’m trying to smile while taking deep breaths and slowing the heart rate, ha!

I had wanted to post a video from behind these falls with the sound effects nature provides–but it wouldn’t download from my darned iPhone. Instead, here’s a simple shot of South Falls from behind, where we stood in a cave-like spot, and could see that blue sky and forest. To the left is a picture just past the falling torrent; to the right, a shot from directly behind. The shallow opening in the rock wall over which the falls hammer downward was nicely cool, a bit damp from spray–and a wonderful vantage point.