Monday’s Meander: Yes to Dahlias, Darling!

For the second year Marc and I headed out to Swan Island Dahlias farm in Canby, Oregon to see what there was to see. A gorgeous sunny afternoon also seemed perfect to take my new compact SUV (replacing the sedan totaled in the accident a month ago) for a drive through undulating hills and fields. It was a relaxing, satisfying outing. (I do like the car pretty well, also–a Hyundai Kona in a cheery metallic red).

I love the big fluffy or intricate or delicate petal designs of the showy, hardy dahlia. And it’s a late summer/early fall flower, a change. Upon arrival, the farm overflowed with strolling folks. We noticed some areas were less burgeoning with dahlias where we walked (out of 40 acres, all open to the public). It seems likely the drought has impacted flower growers as well as other farmers. A great many also are cut for selling to businesses and visitors. But the fields were still striated with beautiful shapes and colors.

We whiled away more than an hour, though we sure got sweaty in the strong August sunshine. Some of the finest things in life are simplest pleasures, filling one with appreciation and peace. Flowering fields are one of those, to us.

This prolific business has been operating for 93 years, though it was bought in 1963 by the current successful farmers, the Gitts family. They grow over 370 varieties and introduce 5-15 new ones yearly.

Enjoy the shots taken as we moseyed about–may you, too, find flowers of joy.

I think my shirt has some dahlias on it…

We looked around the gift shop’s goods set up outdoors and people watched before buying three bunches of dahlias to take home.

Crazy Legs? Why not?–love it.

I got four bouquets from my three bunches and gave one to our youngest daughter, whose birthday was today. Altogether, a terrific day at the Swan Island Dahlias. They create the largest full color dahlia catalog in the US–and are proud to be family-owned after all this time. Give them a try!

Monday’s Meander: The Sea at Yachats

The Pacific Ocean was moody over that week-end, and it seemed prescient when looking back since our time was cut short by a significant car accident. And yet it always displays a vast array of weather, with the skies changing in a few moments, the sea reflecting wind and light with a mercurial response. I offer you a selection of photos that show you what I saw over the course of about 42 hours.

Some show the hike above Cape Perpetua before our happiness was suddenly taxed. Others were taken about Smelt Sands where tidepools and basalt rocks dominate and we like to climb and explore. And a few more exhibit views of where we stayed at Wayside Lodge, a few rooms and cottages. A favorite place to stay–attractive, homey lodgings with excellent customer care. Yachats is not represented here though it is a quaint village full of creative people. I have spent little time there over decades of visits– other than to grab a bite and a coffee at Green Salmon Coffee House, or to check out some art and books, at times. (Visit Earthworks Gallery outside of town, too– a great place for ceramics, glassworks, handmade wood furniture and jewelry.)

It is always about the ocean and beyond, wide sky above and forested peaks, the sandy beach and bluffs that I\we seek. The beauty and power and peace of it all.

Below, hanging out at Smelt Sands State Park. When the whales migrate, this is a good place from which to see them. The sea was pretty quiet then, and the tide, low. There is also a good trail to walk.

The hike is always good up on part of the larger Cape Perpetua Scenic Recreation Area. The headland that rises 800 feet above sea level is the highest point one can overlook the Pacific on OR. coast by car. We enjoy taking to s ome trails –there are 26 miles of them!–that wind around the headland, through temperate forested land. The views are spectacular of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. You can see a horizon 40 miles out on a clear day. Enjoy a slide show of part of our exploration.

The next two photos were taken earlier in the morning as we sat on our little deck relaxing. We enjoyed coffees as we took in the scene. I tried to eat about a third of a pound or more blueberry lemon scone…I think Marc had a cheese croissant…delicious!

The final few pictures are of our last morning–sunny at last–as we awaited out daughter to come get us (my car is inoperable) and return us home in the Portland area. We are grateful to have had a day and a half in Yachats area before the accident. Though we are dealing with some ill effects, we take it day by day. This, too, shall pass… We’ll likely return to the beach before the rains come (we need rain now!), but we admire the coast and ocean in winter, too!

Wednesday’s Words/ Nonfiction: An Adoration of Trees, i.e., Solace and Safety

The solace and the beauty remained every bit as enchanting, of course, after our long hiatus from our urban forest. We went hiking to insert ourselves once more within its wonders. As we were away Monday (more on that next week), here is what I saw on Sunday’s foray–this, rather than a slated piece on love. Love is right in those trees for me, anyway. Not apart from Portland but in its DNA, Forest Park sprawls in the west hills right snug to the city.

Portland from the way up many rising hills; the forest is on slopes at base of Tualatin Mountains

It is a densely planted, textured, thriving 5000 acres, one of the largest urban natural areas in USA. It is home to over 100 species of mammals and as many birds, and offers 70 miles of trails. It is, then, a treasure, and I have waited for months to visit. Here you will see a small amount. But first we stop at the Oregon Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. Several sat on the slopes quietly talking on blankets or sat alone, meditating.

We headed into Hoyt Arboretum area. This part of the forest covers 192 ridgetop acres, home to 2300 kinds of trees and bushes. The trails range from steep to comfortable, a great workout in the bright, hot, open air. Lots of Douglas Firs and so many others.

If I recall correctly, above and below are paperbark maple. New kind to me!

And below as noted. The nest two are the trees coming and going.

Click through the slide show for a walk into and out of the redwoods.

A couple strolling hand in hand. Lots of couples!

It was a rewarding and hotter-as-we-climbed afternoon through hills, up to ridges and down again (about 4.5 miles)… appreciating fine old trees, scatterings of wild flowers and much other growth. (Usually we can see 3 major mountains in good weather but that day they were obscured by mistiness.) I also appreciated people here and there being respectful of space and quietness, ambling softly among the wide open spaces, feeling freer and refreshed in radiant summered air.

For me, there is almost nothing like a brisk walk or steady hike. When outdoors the inner and outer aspects of my life coalesce better, and somehow I feel more vibrant, and life more real. Yes, happiness is the word– for the rocky soil, reaching, entwining branches and grandness of blue sky above with a veil of shadow about feet. And all that enthralls and surprises in between. The trees teach us about endurance, flexibility, connectedness and symbiosis, efficient designs for thriving, usefulness, fineness of form, historical preservation, and of course, loveliness. They speak to me as the wind circles and rushes, as within trees the night’s deep stories come alive and dark flows into dawning light and then birds perch, flutter and sing among branches. I see how small I am and yet a part of the whole. And in this time, of all times, how fortunate to have such reminders, and a few hours’ glory of God’s diverse creations.

Monday’s Meander: Helvetia Country

Go by car! That happens more these days- and I am happy to get out and about so off we went toward Helvetia, Oregon. This beautiful, hilly community is a lush and close-knit agricultural area established in late 19th century by Swiss immigrants. About a half hour deeper into the Tualatin Valley, we turned off a main artery. We remained on a narrow road that barely allowed two way traffic–of which there was almost none Sunday.

This community is also known for historic churches and pioneer cemeteries–none of which I have seen before and did not see this trip. Only a drive through this time, eyes feasting on pastoral landscape that revealed the fine farmers’ hard work.

You may see a few blurred spots–rarely stopped as any moment a vehicle could barrel around the sinuous hilly road. Well, bear with me–it is a driving meander, after all.

You will note the abundant red clover above. There are fields and fields of it (Marc says “crimson clover”- apparently different from simply red) planted in between other crop plantings to replenish nitrogen in the soil. Many crops do well, including lavender, peaches, many berries, wine grapes; pumpkins, eggplants, carrots, garlic, garbanzo beans and much more. I noted there are also gladiolus raised, but none were seen this time.

I love the big sky and clouds–mountain ranges and valleys make for interesting formations.

There are many lovely homes, also, some newer, and older farmhouses indicate a historically prosperous agricultural community. Incidentally, Roloff Farms is located here (“Little People, Big World” TV fame).

We passed about a dozen white and yellow boxes of bee hives– and the bees were wildly a-buzz for a long stretch. With all that clover and a diversity of other plants, they must be in pollinating heaven.

I hope you enjoyed the drive. Next time a longer ramble will be taken, and historic places enjoyed–with, I surely hope, several stops at produce stands.

Thursday’s Words/Nonfiction: The Better Deal

I went to a mini-country flea market a couple of weeks ago and was at first disappointed. It was a lark, something to do on a lazy July afternoon. I expected a vast array of fascinating items, pretty things, possibly antiques, as well–like the flea markets you see on TV, where most things look interesting. If I try again, I will have to research the best ones to browse–although I have said I’m not keen on collecting anything now. Possibly never again. Yet afterward I felt it was a satisfying, even cheery time.

I have written before of the things I managed to hang onto. But I haven’t even been a bonafide collector–rare books or other pricey specialties–oddities like intact fenders from 1940s trucks, say, or fine lacy collars from France. No, I am no expert or even wanna-be expert. Rather, a gatherer of bits and pieces: hand-thrown ceramic mugs; arty blank greeting cards; magnets depicting interesting places or people; excellent pens and mechanical pencils (not pricey–just a strong, smooth delivery). And more useless things, of course, like rubber bands and old glasses. Because you never know…

When we moved in March, we gave the heave-ho to those useless and many superfluous items. I kept thinking that I wanted to lighten my life load and also that I do NOT want my children to have to deal with extraneous items when I am finally gone. Lots of drawers and cupboards were emptied and sorted, memories no longer requiring vast material semblances. There was a whole storage area in the basement whose contents I didn’t tabulate. I don’t care what was there; it hadn’t mattered for decades. I didn’t watch those hauling, nor the truck being filled and leaving for the dump. The haulers sorted out any good stuff and did what they wanted with it. I was entirely relieved to see empty space.

So I am not wanting to replace the old with newish old things. I have done that for years–church rummage sales, garage and estate sales. I would stop in a flash to see what was good, or just to browse. You couldn’t imagine what might jump out of a dusty stack or a pile on a table. Something useful or lovely, all was game– though most of the time I walked away empty-handed, pocket currency intact.

Second-hand shopping was, in truth, the affordable way to manage our household’s needs for many years. It wasn’t about collecting good stuff. With five children, clothing and shoes were expensive to supply. My husband, a businessman, got good togs, but I was happy enough with hand-me-downs. (Appreciated Goodwill stores many times over.) So were the kids until they thought they knew better at 12, 13. Our four daughters shared clothing, anyway–even wore some of mine, since we were all about the same size for years. Our son was the only one who sometimes got brand new clothes. I’m not sure he even cared since dirt and sweat permeated all.

The same went for household things. I’d seek out decent pots and pans and replacement dinner sets and glasses. Another good bed frame. A usable lawn mower or cheap bike. A chest of drawers I could paint or a small desk to refinish. End tables for the den. Vases and picture frames and unused candles–always desired and useful, it seemed. Everything I needed could (and can) be gotten somewhere for much, much less. Back then I could not– and later, would not–pay full prices. All could be gotten for a song at any sidewalk sale opportunity. Why not go for it? One could always walk away with a shrug; on to the next possibility.

I also have appreciated chatting with the sellers as I searched, hearing stories of why they were clearing things out. Sometimes–like I had a few times early on–money was needed badly enough to sell their goods, say, to cover rent or a looming car payment. Other times they were revamping, hoped for a fresh decorating or fashion start; were moving and starting over far away. Divorce seems to always demand unloading much. Babies growing fast, children leaving home. Job losses, illness. Or just a desire to clear out the cobwebs, be free of their–they just faced it head-on– junk. (All situations I have been familiar with over decades…) It was clear if they were real collectors of valued items, they could even make good money. Then go out and buy more. What could I say? I’ve always adored books and had (perhaps) too many. Still do and buy them used mostly–and re-sell later.

I have to say it is hard for me to spend hard-earned money on new and costly items. I can see new computer or washer, for example, dressy shoes or beautiful handmade art or jewelry now and then from art fairs (have to support artists and crafts people!). But my forest green Laz-y-Boy sofa came from my sister’s years ago; it is still serviceable. As is the fine woolen tulip rug my other sister sold me for cheap. (She is gone; I think of her every day as I walk on it). And by the way, they have both been serious bargain hunters out of principle, my remaining sister far more than I. And she has been a serious collector of turquoise jewelry and Native American totems, old tools, musical instruments and more. She’d take used furniture discarded on the street, restore it to its gorgeous origins and sell it–she long had bought and sold certain items for a tidy profit. It must be in the blood, as my deceased brother collected wind instruments, silent and foreign movies and jazz records and motorcycles/cars and their parts– and more. My son salvages broken things, fixes them for fun, gives them away. We love to find hidden treasures, I guess, to keep or gift. And if we really save on a big sale or with smart haggling it is a happy purchase, indeed.

But I am, I believe, done with accumulating much more. I just like to look. I don’t need much, nor fancy things (okay, good clothing left over from my retired work life), though I’m sure some think I could enjoy better possessions than what we have. Truth is, I like our pared down belongings, and the emptier spaces that suit our current home. Less to take up my time fussing over, maintaining.

What matters more to me is the simpler life, a life swept of miscellaneous stuff and of absurd agendas (like cleaning fancy silver, which I was brought up doing–who needs it?). My mind grows more orderly, calmer, as if sunlight illuminates and breezes sweep in to freshen up my thinking. My heart is steadier and less constantly taut with life’s aches. My soul feels a stirring that can be overlooked or even lost when revved up with pursuit of this desire, that finery, that temporal need. I want to stand alone with myself and feel alive and quite alright, just as I am.

My husband and I gravitate more to the outdoors in drier, warmer weather. The rustling, nearly meshed canopy of leaves above, balcony overflowing with potted flowers, hummingbirds and bees flitting in and out: heavenly moments. I cock my ears at birdsong (and kids’ voices far off) while taking meals, reading a book, or practicing daily meditations and prayer at our outdoor table. My breath moves through me like silent music, filling and releasing me. What I have cannot be seen nor noted as admirable, but the joys and wonders are embraced within, absorbed and passed on, I hope, in living well with others.

I am less burdened since getting rid of much. I could live with even less. My spirit feels good. aligned with itself, not cluttered by irrelevant distractions. What matters even more to me is not what I own but if I inhabit this day and night truly and honestly. And what I can give of self and time.

But… having simple fun matters. Going to the country flea market was a brief stop during an outing on a toasty summer day. There was nothing for me but two new hand-stitched burp cloths for my twin grand-babies. Cost me five bucks. But we wandered about, anyway, conversed with congenial, interesting people. We enjoyed a happy hour with family, after which we had a delicious meal at a humble grill in a town we had never been to before.

One can wander, peruse odds and ends and share warm greetings for the simple pleasure of it, after all. I think we can use more of that kindly sort of thing, and less the actual material ones.