Beauty and this Beast: Wildfire!

Columbia Gorge: Before and After
Credit: James C King,  Oregon Wildland Firefighters

The pictures tell the story but I will say it: I am heartbroken.

To understand how much I love the Pacific Northwest, I will tell you that at 19 years old I fled my Midwest hometown via a one way plane ticket to live at the edge of Seattle, Washington. My life had been a strange mix of the horrid and sublime; it wasn’t to become truly and healthily balanced until years later. But I knew anything could be withstood if I was close–step-out-the-door close–to the wilder areas of nature, specifically mountains, rivers and lakes, forests. I had tasted some of that happiness when summer camping and other visits to northern Michigan. So I had yearned for even more wilderness before cabin living (with older sister) on Lake Washington, an area then still more rural. Every morning I stepped outdoors to take in expanses of lapping, radiant water and greenest trees, to hear music of scampering animals, trilling birds. It wasn’t perfect in all ways; I returned to MI. a year later. But the brash and gentling natural world had so potent an effect on me that all I had to do was shut my eyes: soon arrived the residual energy of its orderly and stirring designs, mysteries and truths. Nature always had felt like a conduit for the healing and instructive powers of God.

Most people seek and can be fortunate to claim a geography that fits them, feels most like home. I was relieved to give up flat, wide-sky expanses of mid-Michigan for this other. Though I visited often it took 20 years to make the permanent move; I have resided in Oregon since 1993. It has been everything I’d hoped in most aspects. Of greatest importance have been the natural world’s opportunities for exploration; activities have seemed endless.

But now: wildfires. Within this part of the state lies our historical treasure, the beloved Columbia Gorge. There is so far zero containment. Six hundred firefighters are out there working day and night. No human life has been lost at this time. Scores of forest creatures have perished, so many more to follow.

Last Saturday a teen-aged boy set off a firework during high fire danger weather in Eagle Creek. That fire began to rapidly grow, then exploded on Monday and now is merged with an older Indian Creek Fire: it now all covers 32,00 acres and counting. Many things can spark flames in fire weather but now these lick at the outer edges of Portland; my husband works in an area that is now at a Level 1 warning–“Be Ready” to evacuate (L 2, “Be Set”; L 3, “Go”). Many communities have been evacuated or may soon be.

And we are not the only ones; an estimated 500,00 acres are burning in Oregon alone. Many are raging in California. There are 1.8 million acres afire in the U.S. right now, per Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown’s latest figures.

Just ten days ago my spouse and I were hiking in the very areas where the fires are devastating the forests and creatures. My post last Wednesday was a cheerful account of hiking to Bridal Veil Falls and enjoying other areas. At that time I felt an eerie sense of the risks of brittle dryness as we trekked among voluminous grasses, unruly thickets and towering trees. One mistake or lightning strike could ignite a fire. But people here are wary and respectful of fire danger watches and warnings. It never occurred to anyone a Washington state youth would exercise such poor judgement, set a conflagration going.

I have stayed indoors for three days, trying to not watch too much news, waiting to hear from Marc on and off since he can see more from his office window. Air quality from falling ash (accumulating on cars, my balcony, other outdoor surfaces) and smoke blanketing the skies is unhealthy, causing burning eyes and congested lungs if out in it too long. (My not-perfectly-healthy heart warns me to take no chances.) The cat I caring for and I are anxiously pacing at times, peering out windows, sniffing the breeze through a cracked window and recoiling–even he does not want to go out. I have the air conditioning unit on high most of the time to filter and cool hot, thickened air. People have donned masks so they can breathe outside when they must leave their homes.

Ash on my son’s truck; he lives somewhat closer to the fires.

Everything feels different for me, brought into a razor-sharp focus I did not have 5 days ago. The trails I have loved hiking and walking, above and along the Columbia River, are forever altered, so quickly. I am profoundly thankful my sense of urgency told me ten days ago to hike those trails at Bridal Veil Falls among others, my annual pilgrimage (marking 16 years lived past a heart event while hiking). Any area structures and homes near there are being or have been evacuated.

Lively, tuneful birds flitting among the forest, the bears’ huffing calls, signs of cougar, rushing creeks and waterfalls, the sight and scents of that deep, sinuous, busy Columbia River from high wooded trails, the town of Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods and beyond…hard to think of today but harder to avoid. I try to console myself with the fact that I at least possess hundreds of photographs from over the years and such fine memories. I know there are other areas intact in the Northwest to enjoy but for the foreseeable future nothing will be well and not ever the same along miles of the Columbia Gorge. Not as it has been for many thousands of years.

So I weep, there is no stopping it, for great losses. How can we ever repair such damages? Or must we watch earth’s demise, just wait for Mother Nature to repair things again–and will that fully occur this time? Powerlessness wells up and harangues me. Hurricane Harvey has devastated so many areas down south. Now there is Hurricane Irma tearing a path of destruction. All over our globe climate change usurps the last flimsy denials, our illusions of domination. Many Native peoples everywhere spoke of the loss of natural balances long ago; so often those warnings went unheeded. I think hard on these things as I prepare to share a few photos from over the past 8-10 years.

What are we to learn amid all this? At the very least, we must come to know more deeply all we are given on this earth, so much better honor and care for it. And beware reckless greed though it feels so late. Nature’s bounties and complexities have been our guides and lifelines, yet too fast can be threatened. And lost. Can we have forgotten that the earth was made to be enjoyed and utilized in an alliance,  a partnership that provides us housing and food and a myriad resources every single day? This planet is constructed for an alliance, for interdependence that has sorely been taken for granted more often than we want to admit.

Love and honor your small spot on the earth wherever you are, love the beautiful and the homely, the short-lived and aged plants and creatures, those underfoot and making homes in small spaces and those high above, the ever blooming and those that require more tending, bodies of water that beguile and nourish or desert that stuns with its rare raiment, the jungles with their lushness and secrets, the valleys and woodlands with emerald swaths and changing shadows and light, the far northern lands with austere majesty.

I want to ask that you think of us here. Hurricanes and other disasters are so overwhelming while I suspect fires can be noted as spectacles then put aside by the public, with less probing thought afforded long-term consequences. Far less federal aid is generally allotted for fire damages and rebuilding efforts, as well as those who must relocate. I appreciate prayers for all life suffering from the wildfires in our country.

(Starting with the picture of the blue heron among Columbia River’s shoreline rocks are five consecutive pictures of Cascade Locks, a village/area long a favorite for us, and we most recently had lunch by the river just ten days ago…all now threatened by voracious flames with evacuations underway. You will see Bridge of the Gods that has so long spanned Oregon and Washington; we hope it holds. But news is that wildfire sparks have now “jumped” the river to WA. More devastation unfolds.)

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Young or Older, We are Carried Forward

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All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

This pictorial post is about two things: being alive and thank God for it; and my youngest daughter celebrating her birthday. It’s the 37th one for her today. Yes, how swift is time’s passing…and how wonderful to have A. in our lives more since she and her husband moved from the Monterey-Carmel area (California) back to Portland (Oregon). I think it brave of her to leave a good position in order to live, play and further her career in the Northwest, closer to family.

I am allowed to post a few pictures of her that are already public, taken during her work at Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the Sea. It could seem a bit glamorous at times! It is in a performing arts center; she worked in management doing publicity/marketing and community/educational development. Arts management/administration remains her line of work.

But first, an old, not too clear “actual snapshot” of her: the summer before kindergarten, age 4 and a half. She was a tiny gal for a few years due to a medical condition, but she had a large store of verve and curiosity and could charm a dour stranger in the grocery, a passerby on the street. That vivacious spirit remains in full force.

At that time we lived in a spacious, enjoyable A-frame house on a lovely acre in Tennessee. There remain some good recollections of the seven of us living there despite being Northerners in the South where Confederate flags were yet flown–and likely still are. (I’ve written a post or two on our unusual move to Tennessee–we didn’t live in a house when we first arrived!– if you care to do a search on this blog.)

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On the left, A. is in the center with the wine red dress; on right, giving a speech at an event. A parent cannot foretell exactly what or where one’s children will end up doing or being but I imagined the arts would figure prominently when she was a dancing, singing toddler. Suffice it to say: I am rooting for her, I believe in her and love her dearly. And she believes in and loves her Mom back. Lucky me to have such caring kids (adult kids, that is–sort of forget this reality, some moments).

(I would love to show family pictures, but she prefers more privacy.)

Now for the next topic, if you will bear with my randomness today. It connects to the first half in that my very life is predicated in large part on love of family and others, this beleaguered, breathtaking earth, creative expression and the numinosity of God.

For those readers who may not have read many posts, I manage–like too many–the condition of heart disease. And this past week-end marked the 16th year since my heart lurched and squeezed so hard I could barely breathe, then toppled me to my knees when hiking in the Columbia Gorge. I always make the trek out to Bridal Veil Falls. It is within the historic Gorge that is carved, in large part, by the mighty Columbia River, amid the Cascade Mountains.

Diagnosed with aggressive coronary artery disease at 51, two stent implants saved the day. In time–a year or so–I returned to active engagement in life. I did not hike that area for a few years, however, perhaps out of fear and also due to tricky cardiac rhythms. So it is always a relief to be able to go back now each year, the scene of the event and attendant new challenges. It is not a totally easy hike in to the waterfalls. So I deeply feel the victory in it, a blessing and a sign of hope, a balm for my older but still raring-to-go body. To go out into the world and especially into nature using legs and eyes; nose and ears; mind, heart and soul– this superbly designed vehicle within which we carry ourselves–is such a gift I can barely express its worth to me. I will let the pictures speak.

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My spouse, Marc, and I paused at a viewpoint at Portland Women’s Forum State Park to take in the expansive scenes of Columbia River Gorge. The domed, interior marble-clad building is Vista House, completed in 1918. It sits atop a basalt promontory of Crown Point, approximately 740 feet above the river. The building was designed as a memorial for the pioneers of the 1800s who made their treacherous way across Oregon, hewing trails in the mountainous forests as they went. The haze is due to smoke from wildfires in the Cascade Mountains. It can be blown about everywhere, of course, even into Portland. The Oregon Department of Forestry notes that there have been 754 fires as of this date since January 2017. Lightning strikes have ignited about 28,000 acres;  humans have caused fires on about 5000 acres at this time. This is a lot of acreage scoured by fire; we have had unusually sustained high temperatures in the state this summer, with precious little rain for three months. The dryness is worrisome as we hike in all areas.

Climbing via vehicle on narrow roads to our hiking spots on left; on right, evidence of the extremely dry terrain.

We first stopped at Horsetail Falls, a favorite but partly to escape heat that had followed us into the mountains. Once outdoors and hiking the air was transformed, refreshingly cool.

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Moving on past several other waterfalls, we arrived at our destination, Bridal Veil Falls and began the descent, then ascent. The slideshow shows our arrival, beginning at the empty bridge. (Marc was caught gazing pensively over a gate at the end of a forestry service road.)

 

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It was a joy to complete this small, private pilgrimage again. At the 15 year (2016) mark and still managing heart disease well enough, I felt like falling to my knees and hands again to “kiss” the good earth in thanksgiving–and did so. This year it was enough to take in the bounties of nature, at peace deep in blood and marrow. We never know when what we love might be impossible to wholly embrace, so it is best to unite one’s self with every good and gracious moment.

 

A Summer Fair of Peculiar and Pleasing Note (Going Strong After 40-odd Years)

Enter at your own risk: you’ve made your way to the Oregon Country Fair!

I let my daughter and her fiance lead the way in 2012 when they finally convinced my husband and me to attend for one day. Immediately it felt as if I was stepping back into those hippie days when I attended open air music and other arts festivals with like-minded friends. I prepared for the inevitable scent of marijuana on the breeze, outrageous costumery and random hi-jinks. I was not much off the mark. Come along with the four of us to get a taste of a slightly mad, creative and fun event. Showtime!

According to Wikipedia and website info, the Oregon Country Fair was conceived and first unrolled in 1969 as a benefit for an alternative school. Over the decades this fair has grown into a colossal event with at least 45,00 visitors over a three day period. Set within wooded acreage owned by OCF outside of Veneta, Oregon, it’s billed as a non-profit educational organization. They still donate funds to their chosen recipients. It has a half dozen permanent staff but thousands of volunteers, performers and artisans contribute to its ongoing annual event and they clearly provide its longevity.  But most likely go because it remains an outpost of hippiedom with its expressive arts, a broad array of seldom seen or heard fantastical fare. Plus, you can wear beautiful wings or whatever desired (it may at times be a bit risque, allowed within limits). Even if you are a 60+ years person one is encouraged to doff enchanted fairy or steampunk or what-have-you accouterments. It’s the fair’s intention that we become a part of the performance, the zany milieu.

I confess to having appeared rather an ordinary woman and did not sport iridescent wings… somewhat to my regret as I do have the capacity in me. But I did appreciate my daughter’s red dress and fancy touches of gold. And nabbed this picture of her multiple smiling faces! Others were casually attired while some were eye-popping.

On offer were food and drink, entertainment galore, arts and crafts, music and dance; vaudeville, circus acts, marching bands plus solo musicians of all types and even spoken word. There are 960 booths at which to gawk and spend money. Workshops abound regarding all types of physical and spiritual well being plus arts and crafts. Concerts can be heard coming around each new scene, and many buskers enthusiastically perform along winding, green paths. Even a few talented children got in the act.

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The above picture shows a musical sculpture. It was mesmerizing to coax resonant notes and unusual sounds by striking or pounding on varying parts of the metal design. I do not recall who built it.

Moving along through the treed acreage was like being sheltered by a dome of green light. We walked amid mobile fantasy that unfolded one act after another while walking through a cheerful crowd. Even stone cold sober one begins to feel one’s consciousness altered due to a myriad of changing, vibrant sights, scents, tastes and sounds. If stimulation and surprise are not something you seek this is not the place to be; one may as well surrender or go home.

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I felt I needed to attend the OCF at least once, as it is a Pacific Northwest experience, creative connection between people who might not intersect otherwise. One enters into experience as spectators during performances but then again by interacting with a kaleidoscopic moments, an abundance of milling, motley characters. The crowd was dense and sights numerous, yet there was a pervasive sense of surprise, wonderment. Peaceable pleasure.

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Though I was tired out at end of a long day, ready to lounge in air conditioning with a tall iced tea, I’m glad we attended with our youngest daughter and her partner. Once was satisfying– an infusion of unique possibilities acted out in the open air– and perhaps enough for me as I embraced my own real hippie scenarios long ago. My husband found it a bit much but remained a good sport. It is one kind of Oregon summer tradition and thousands love to come year after year.

I hope you have enjoyed the abbreviated but decent sampling of an Oregon Country Fair experience as I saw it in 2012. Need a recharge? Want to push some boundaries but harmlessly? Looking for poetic inspiration? Everyone needs small breaks from a more mundane reality. May you embrace your own weird, lively, magical outing this summer!

Behold What the Eye Can See

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

It happens to me often and here it was again as we moved through the scenery. Beguilement.

Expansive views of the acreage of Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate (built in 1895 and owned by the George Vanderbilt family known for their shipping and railroad empires) are majestic and bucolic. They thrill the eye, the sweeping views evocative of tranquil order, supported by nature and hidden human industry. I absorbed each vista with breathless anticipation of the next bend we would round. It wasn’t so much being impressed by the property as being impacted by the changing scenes. Each bigger picture was mesmerizing in breadth and scope. I could have looked and looked and never been satiated. Such plenitude of detail that at moments I could hardly absorb it all. Even withstand it. That’s just how it is for me. I’m certain it’s the same for others, especially those who have a passion to observe, to know more intimately what they see.

Not that it was overwhelming in a deleterious way. The copious beauty was varied and intense. There is something within me that, though filling up to overflowing expands further for more. I feel hunger for it all, want it imprinted within. And to partake of any wisdom moving beneath the robust and delicate scenes. For what my eyes see, ears hear–they teach me things. Our senses are gifts, conduits to greater understandings, not just of a moment but of complex universal designs. I follow my eye and instincts to discover an abundance of intrigue.

But I need to dismantle it a little. I take camera in hand and as all who love visual arts, focus on separate tableaus with their telltale clues, delights. Eye/mind/soul zero in on minute parts, look into shadows. Seek one cloud’s shape within greater configurations. Each piece is cohesive in its specificity, sometimes even more so than the extended view. They all have value; I am drawn in by a propulsive curiosity. I want to see well the exterior but also find an interior liveliness that is like a secret. It’s a treasure hunt for mind and senses. Any moment can harbor possibility and that is the real magnet that draws me. I can define an object before me , but what does it mean? How did/does it function in space and time? What matters or mattered about it within a garden, in a room, a life?

This is what attracts me in daily living: about everything. Put another way, what exists in this present can well hold my attention, but what has captivating potential–and everything does–is a series of magic doors I seek to open. If a glimpse offers a story, even a tiny one, I have been granted access to a journey that leads to challenges, a certain enchantment and most often, fulfillment. I can’t really lose. All of life is a story within another story within another, like Russian nesting dolls or better yet, a puzzle that is partially solved while added to over time.

I used to pretend being a reporter when I was a kid. I sat at a child-sized roll top desk with cubbyholes, took notes of various household and neighborhood goings on, filed them away in their slots and  folders. Diaries to detail more thoughts and experiences were required. I wrote and produced plays with neighborhood buddies and tried in vain to charge admission. We attempted full make up and ragtag costumes and hung a sheet for a curtain. We had decent turnouts. And then there would be a brief song on the radio which evoked extemporaneous movements–lo, a dance unleashing its tale. There was always something to hear, see, smell, taste, touch–and to read! and a cohort to do things with!– that jogged an expressive impulse. Take the navy, wide brimmed hat with sheer white and pink flowers at the ribbon my mother made with her own hands. It settled onto her silvery hair. It had presence all its own as she wore it; it did things with her. Another story idea.

Let’s take dolls as inspiration. Owning some of the first Barbie dolls was a blast.  I became stage manager and director of their adventures. I’d get the big square floor pillow–brown corduroy–and then cover a matchbox with a handkerchief for a couch or bed, bring in rocks, twigs and grass for a yard, sneak my mother’s fancy scarves to create exotic wardrobes and floor covering. The finishing touches were always changing but each mattered in that moment.  (I know, it’s not PC these days to say I enjoyed playing with Barbie and gang. She did not do dishes and Ken did not mow lawns. It’d now likely be demoted to mere play therapy as well, sadly.) Barbie et al and I got all sorts of events going; those dolls unlocked ideas and enlarged experiences like crazy. They led lives with fine sensibilities but had a talent for spontaneous fun. Or I should say it seemed they did but I was the supposed director.

It took very little to have a good time. From seemingly nothing could come anything at all. A sunny spot by or even under the scarred baby grand piano was a world to be reckoned with, mine to develop and claim. A starry night and a blanket. A cozy camp out within evergreens.

The back yard, with its shade trees and pines and bushes made a great stage but so did various living rooms and bedrooms, a porch or park or back steps. I didn’t even have to make much up, though. Tall tales unfolded all around me as life was textured and colored with people, places, events. I was charmed and mystified by myriad scenes, found them dramatically provocative of ideas and emotions. There still might arise an urge to embroider it–seeing an abandoned plaid, overstuffed chair or a cafe umbrella shading a person at a table whose single booted foot and “talking” hand were seen. Something had already happened, was happening or was about to happen. And I wanted to know, even if I had to fill in the gaps.

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This capacity for probing with problem solving–the urge to learn–is an attribute we all enjoy. It has been a powerful driving force in my everyday life. And because of this, I am never bored. Entertainment is within reach at any given time. There is endless mystery. I am duly humbled by how little I yet know and understand and experience a thrill from ongoing explorations. Even the momentary, least noteworthy ones. Or perhaps those are the best, at times.

It’s all in the details, that was what I was thinking on my power walk today. Walks are interrupted frequently as I pause to examine something. I spot a teal green gate at the side of a rambling house and above it is a heavily leafed branch; amber light is streaming through treetops. There is a soft splash, cat’s whiny meow, breath of wind. Leaves on trees shimmy, almost singing. How all this transfixes me… there is a sense of prescience. But of what? Of life happening and about to happen. Of  intricate connections, from behemoth tree to blades of grass to wooden gate to all creatures to crown of sky and beyond and to this moment. I am flabbergasted by the wonder of it. It is an intimate place in which we live and learn.

I am not naive. I have not lived a breezy, protected life. Surely no one truly does, for so much of what we do and hope for is a grab bag, like it or not. The very beauty that we need to love can hurt beyond measure when we’re vulnerable or anguished. As a young teen I still recall a moment when I experienced the unbounded extraordinariness of just being alive yet also felt  bereft. I stretched my arms around a favorite oak tree and wept. Later I wrote a poem, a terribly adolescent poem, and there is a line that’s stayed with me over 60 years: and yet beauty bites the bleeding heart. I loved so much and easily and still was rent by life’s bitter parts. As we each are.

But nothing is wasted in life; we experience it and let it go or keep it close, even recycle it sooner or later. We reinvent ourselves any way we can and need to do. It is our story to make happen. There is much to be unveiled as breath enters, nourishes microscopic cells, exits the miraculous lungs; while this fist sized muscle of heart beats its tireless rhythms for me. So I listen and watch, reach out, seek more. Wonder visits me like a loving old friend and we root out bits and clues, celebrate even when I get worn out and crabby. I do not want to be careless with the  bounties offered, nor dismiss the grace of moments I am allowed to inhabit. Big picture or small, the scenes of life are ours to unveil.

My visit to the Biltmore Estate gave me a renewed appreciation of my life situation, the assortment of whims, choices, dreams and labors. I left with a more vivid view of settings and circumstances within which the Vanderbilts conducted parts of their lives. The estate might have fleshed out the family more with traces of their individuality, remnants of yearnings. (George man loved books, that was encouraging, and hopefully the women did, as well. ) A visible legacy other than only wealth, with signs of daily interactions, musings and matters of the heart that roiled, pacified and beguiled–those underpinning and perhaps secreted away from such power and industry. I have more investigating to undertake. But I couldn’t help but think of them traversing the stone steps, gliding across endless rooms, seeking solace or joy in the gardens as they spoke in hushed tones. Can we have Act 1 outlined and set up, please?

Then again, maybe I will move on to fleeting moments of lives being lived, scenarios created this very second. Wait, see how the summer light moves across the grass and street? All it takes is observation plus a dash of imagination, same as it did as a kid.

Days of Loss, Treasures Revisited

All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson copyright 2017

I’m not able to write fiction today; it takes me 6-8 hours per short story posting. It might be feasible if I propped my eyes open all night, even made a pot of coffee but I drink that substance sparingly so that’s out. I’m a bit weary but have now paused after hours better spent–have to say it as today it is certainly true– with my extended family than at this computer. And believe me, I am madly in love with writing. (Posts this short are like teasers; I always long to pick and play with more and more of those acrobatic words.)

But it’s Memorial Day. A day set aside in remembrance of those innumerable ones who have given their lives defending our country. And it is a somber day for other reasons.

Over the week-end in my city two brave people’s lives were lost while stepping in to defend two teen-aged, apparently Muslim girls who sat on a train enduring hate mongering. A third man is still in hospital with severe injuries. The perpetrator–who spewed racist epithets and threats then resorted to deadly knife violence when well-meaning strangers intervened–was soon arrested. But what was done was done and so fast. This happened not that far from my neighborhood, on public transportation that thousands routinely take to get to work, to home, to see friends, to attend events. It is a horrific crime, a nightmare of a reality to victims’ families and friends. To the witnesses.

And then I think of Manchester. And so many other places and persons, countless intolerable losses that permeate our earth, this home we are to share.

So I felt strongly this was a time to even more appreciate those who matter so much to me. To pause in prayer and slow way down. I put aside thoughts of writing and now here I sit thinking. What visits me with increasing familiarity is that mixture of sorrow, incomprehension, gratitude laced with tenderness. Inside my essential being remains glowing embers of hope. I don’t always see why, but faith in goodness is rooted there. What language can muster any order or sense from cavernous depths of human despair? Such pain nonetheless can reveal in its darkest moments a relentless, fierce pursuit of hope…We work to believe and find strength as we connect through the haze of doubts.

So I shared ordinary activities today that mean so much. I gathered with family to share a table full of good food, and hugs, ideas, anecdotes, experiences, passions. We are all talkers sooner or later and it can go on a long while, wave upon wave.

We spoke of the violence. But we also talked about rock hunting (saw new ones my son brought), health and healing, true love here and in the beyond, books, beading and jewelry (niece), yard and electrical work, dill potato salad (I make a good one) and delicious chicken linguine and baked beans with unusual ingredients. Packing up and moving to new homes, making custom T-shirts and hats (son and sister), print making (sister-in-law) and photography. Carburetors (one brought as a gift) and vintage cars and motorcycles rusting or running. Being an active jazz musician at seventy eight (brother). House painting jobs and the risk of carpal tunnel. Pyramids, aliens (son, his partner, niece’s partner). Outer space exploration versus earth sciences (I was thinking of this more than speaking). Grandchildren growing up and away, skateboarding (son is a pro), jumping on a trampoline (I enjoy with grandkids), learning to drive and also driving as downright irritating. Also learning to play piano to better compose music. Cherry and marionberry pie with ice cream to savor, even admire. And mentions of those not present: they are always missed. Dogs abounded, which was good. My sister’s attentiveness, smile, and hug were better. I enjoyed her fun yard art; she likes to paint creatures salvaged at estate sales.

If there were captivating characters ready made for short stories… well, beloved relatives could fit the bill fine. A family, as we know, is designed of custom- created individuals sharing genetic, historical and/or emotional material. And how fabulous that is, you have to agree. Except when you feel it may not be so all that, or not all the time. We all have opinions and viewpoints, after all. We can find ourselves at cross purposes and out of key as well as filled with exquisite harmonies made by all (which has layers of meanings for me since we are a musical crew).

I am glad to report today was like a satisfying gift bonus, as when you open the main package and then discover goodies hidden about the expected one. It was reassuring and invigorating to mingle with those who are interesting, goodhearted, often (dryly) humorous persons. And who feel like real friends, not obligatory ones.

Add in packed-with-info phone calls and lengthy texts that count for more time shared–not all are family members who reside in Oregon. Space can be healthy and good except when you really want them all with you. Close, safe.

This long week-end also afforded more time with my overtaxed, oft-traveling spouse. And since the hard and daily rains have ended and we’ve been able to get out and about more, we revisited a few places we love. Birds singing their small hearts out was exquisite, even poignant; how they moved me. I leave you with scenes from nature’s variety which proves a constant source of renewal. So I can be and do better. So we can go out and love even truer. Bravely, despite risks. This is basic wisdom. Other peoples in other times have used it well; so can  we.

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