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.

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Lessons from the Past

Yesterday I returned to our old neighborhood in search of abundant flower gardens. I found a few, but, honestly, it is only early May so those were rather high expectations. Lots of vibrant rhoddies and azaleas. I can’t say I was disappointed. The sights were worth revisiting as the warm, lemony sunlight of mid-day soothed and cheered me. But it was more than the flowers, I have to admit. Perhaps I was looking for our more carefree days before the coronavirus, my husband’s recent and surprising job loss, and the very unstable future in our country–and the world.

It was good to walk down those streets, to recall the years we enjoyed an overall comfortable, interesting life. To see people chatting on their porches–we have fewer porches where we now live–and see children playing on the street, even if at arm’s length, as they played basketball and rode bikes and drew colorful hopscotch diagrams. Our current environs rarely include big porches facing wide streets, and there are fewer children about–we live in condo country and also among wooded homes that tend to be more secluded in the hilly acreage.

As Marc and I strolled about NE Portland, pointing out changes and what has remained the same, I thought as I often do that one never knows what the future holds. I’ve long felt this is an aspect of being human that’s exciting: around every corner–every single new day–there is something about to arrive that will challenge or thrill or enlighten. There is new information to be gleaned, an experience worth embracing. At the very least, one that offers a glimpse into the kaleidoscope of our living, and potential wisdom for the next part of the journey. I am not the sort of person who hides (for very long) but who steps forward to see what is next. I want to know things. Despite it being a bit of a risky proposition at times to just step outside and wave hello, I’m doing it.

So I yet choose to welcome the new day. However, I’ve had to remind myself of this during the shut-down of our country, and as we seem to be considering a very gradual re-opening…which concerns so many of us. I admit my cozy blue-and-cream-flowered quilt is tempting to pull up to my chin another fifteen minutes. But I get up before too long. Get fully dressed. (I still take a a moment to choose clothes carefully as I like certain colors at certain times. Old habits…)

Yesterday while cleaning I came across a small journal. It was as if I was to review what I’d lived the past year. It is one of many journals begun and soon abandoned; after 40 I ceased to be an avid diarist so the vast majority have been repurposed, or completed ones tossed long ago. But not this one.

The only entry was written on 2/1/19, a month before we moved from our established city area home to a SW Portland suburb. I read it over slowly.

It seemed I’d had a difficult dream the night before, and during it I felt we were being pushed out of our home, intruded upon by strangers, and sent packing to unknown lands. I couldn’t figure out how to orient myself via four true directions of the compass in my mind, a strange occurrence as I tend to use an instinctive sense of direction. But it had panicked me and I came to a startled awakening. This does seem a most obvious dream to have about moving. And I wrote:

“How odd to feel so lost in that dream… I came to waking too late after being suddenly jarred to consciousness three other times: the ceaseless planning, the work of it, the new locale and its issues, the costs of moving, the details to manage alone while Marc works. Disruptions and requirements that seem a tsunami of change. One more month until we must start afresh–yes, among tall pine trees on a high ridge. It will not as before. The suburbs have always sent me hightailing it in the other direction…

“What does a woman need to live a rich and fulfilling life, regardless of upheaval? Far less than one imagines, materially. I look through my books; surely they are one essential good. I must choose wisely for the smaller space. I finger scores of pictures, tons of old CDs, small treasures here and there…what matters now?

“It is only a change of house. I have done it so many times in my life! Yet I sometimes tremble as I prepare for this one. Why? Does one habitat mean more than the next? I will go simply forward, find my way, as always. Oh, dear God, I surely hope.”

Did I sense any of what lay ahead? I thought we were moving close to our daughter and son-on-law so when they had precious twin girls–high risk for various reasons– we’d be only five minutes away instead of thirty due to traffic jams and distance. But it seemed like something else was afoot despite all the reassurances we had. There came upon me a weight of dread at times, and an urgent need to get our lives in good order. To deal with whatever was coming: it felt as if I was preparing for something far bigger than any of my ordinary plans.

I didn’t know my daughter would suffer from nightmarish postpartum depression for three months, and that a good, solid recovery would take another three. She recently published an essay on her experience; it was harder and scarier than I, her worried, praying mother, even witnessed and I saw a great deal. The beautiful twins’ arrival and first months’ was not to be that happiest of all events during which we’d share energy and time and love in a simple, straightforward, constant manner. It was, in truth, harder than anything I’d ever thought it could be. To see my daughter sink and struggle day in and day out with her mothering and her perfect babies was so painful I couldn’t speak of it…only weep privately. We were not able to be the easy going grandparents in and out of their lives effortlessly as I had experienced with other grandchildren. Yes, I was there for hours several times a week, and my husband and I took care of each other, too. And the babies thrived. In time, life started to slightly brighten and if shadows fell again, the horizon was more discernible; more illumined ways and means came to us with each day’s coming.

And my daughter got better; she labored at it with intense energy, used every resource available, sought support and welcomed daily help. We all learned and adjusted even as there were times of deep pain and worry. I found I understood fewer of my son-in-law’s parenting perspectives as I helped with the babies three days and more each week. In time, since he was not working , he was able to leave and get other things done, or get a needed respite. My daughter had returned to work but sometimes I just glimpsed her on my way out. She was worn out and determined to settle back into routine. I sure had to learn about caring for twins and their family needs on the run; we sometimes compromised a little. The babies were snuggled, fed, diapered and adored. I saw how incredibly strong my daughter–and her husband–were and are. To parent requires courage; to parent with extraordinary stresses requires a warrior spirit and hope beyond hope.

Adversity can do damage but it can also make one very strong, can expand and enlighten person; it can make one tougher yet more tender, at once. I think we each experienced some of that as we plunged on, got past the hardest weeks.

I discovered things about myself as a mother, and as an individual–how much more I was willing and able I was to endure greater fear and uncertainty, how much more love came forward when I felt tapped out, how much deeper my faith in God would become. How I will not give up my belief in better times, even now in my later years after sorrows galore, not give in to fear or worry or pain for more than a small time. But I let my deepest heart feel it all.

There was nowhere to run, after all. I was living it with them all, was smack in the middle of our real lives. I was not going to turn away from not only the crises but the miracles.

There are times we must, I think, allow ourselves to feel our brokenness, to admit our frailty so that we can be ready for more healing once again. Because it comes if we embrace the process. If we are ready to grow further as individuals. And looking back can only help us understand a bit more. The rest is staying steady as we can in the moment and moving on.

We have lived in our woodland home now for over a year. It is a place that has come to so well suit us. I see how important it has been to have vast reserves of nature’s wonders right outside our door; how much more healthy to have miles of sinuous trails for walking or short hikes; how soothing the river with its timeless flow of waters; how cleansing the winds from the western mountain range and foothills. It is quieter in all the right ways, and birdsong never ceases to bring a smile as I awaken. It is gentler here, and we have needed that.

I feel gratitude daily, even moments of joy despite these chaotic times, and deep grief for those who are suffering. It'[s all of it, isn’t it, our human living? And we will keep on, until we do not. I have come close to death several times, and each time I wonder how it happens that we each leave or we stay. But today remains the gift right now.

I don’t know if we will live here beyond next March. Who knows where we all will be this time next year? It has always been unclear, hasn’t it? This time it is a viral scourge, next time it may be something else entirely we must face and cope with. It depends now on how COVID-19 rules our culture, economy and health, yes. And if my husband will find another good job or if we can or simply must retire sooner than later. If we can remain fit and able as we have been, overall. But every place I’ve had to move– despite challenges– knowledge has been gained, fun has been had, friends made. I hope I have left some good will. Wherever we are, we lug ourselves along, as the saying notes. So I best take care of my soul, mind, and body–this life I still have depends on it. So I draw nearer to those I well love. I still offer my kind greetings and support to friends and neighbors–and you, dear reader, if you will have it via my weekly stories.

Blessings to you, do not despair but find the good in the living you do.

Monday’s Meander: Come with Me Down to the River Again, the Good River

I could make up a song about all the rivers I love! Once more to the Willamette River, a safe place to walk about during these times and partake of a good variety of beauties. This is the Foothills park area. It is a quieter river southwest of Portland without the big ships, though we have seen seals swim up here.

I became, to my surprise, 70 over the week-end! Despite not being able to go to a favorite beach cottage in Yachats (OR.) or Cannon Beach as we often have this time of year, we enjoyed our meanders nearby. I do miss traveling, however, modest. Next week’s post I will share Yachats as it truly is awesome there. Meanwhile, I hope you can feel Spring’s peaceful breezes off the water if only in your imagination. And one day perhaps you can visit Portland area and find our many great rivers for yourselves. One reason I love it here are the various bodies of water. Enjoy.

Monday’s Meander: Monterey, California

I am contemplating Big Sur…the wide Pacific, the light

Four years ago around this time Marc and I visited our youngest daughter and son-in-law in Monterey and Carmel, CA. Since the hit series “Little Big Lies” showcases that town and area, I thought it’d be a fun diversion to post a few of my sunny photos once more. (Daughter A. had a great job at Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea– a performing arts venue.) Carmel is fancier, Monterey more artsy and homey to me.

A view of Monterey Bay

It truly is as beautiful as it is purported to be. The light is extraordinary; artists flock there as well as other creatives. The weather is about perfect, the landscapes scroll before one’s gaze, ever changing visual gifts. The area is inhabited by the more moneyed, generally, but even we middle class folks enjoyed happy roaming about at our leisure.

Some of these shots are taken as we traveled to Santa Cruz, Big Sur and the Pinnacles National Park, around the Salinas Valley (the valley is John Steinbeck country). Included also are picturesque sights from Carmel-by-the Sea. It all delighted with attractive architecture, streets, seaside and valley views.

I hope it gives you restful pleasure to view some of the places we visited. We start in Monterey and Carmel.


A slide show is below.
We hiked into Pinnacle National Park. Great time climbing, checking out the views.

Heading into Big Sur country…

Back to lovely Monterey and next-door Pacific Grove.

Monday’s Meander: Spring Keeps Unfolding Along the Willamette River

For some reason I have lately been having problems downloading iPhone photos to my Dell laptop. These few show a small array from the wonderful walk yesterday as it edged towards mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. There were more shots of people fishing, of flowering bushes and 6+ feet tall graceful grasses and others… In any case, I am grateful we could get out and enjoy this. About a quarter of the sparse number of walkers had masks on. There was plenty of room to keep our distance–a little lonely for this time of year. Many cyclists of all ages sped by. Heartening to see kids on their bikes having fun.

Such a relaxing couple of hours outdoors! Spring perhaps means more than ever.

It was less empty than it appears…but in ordinary times, this area would be full of folks barbecuing (there is a covered picnic area just left of photo) and gathered in groups to chat. There were several dog walkers (I didn’t want to intrude upon snapping a pic) and a few couples and families on pathways alongside the water. We all found the relief of beauty and other peaceful moments, as well as friendly nods or greetings as best we can.

Until next time–be safe, stay connected to others, keep nurturing hope and spread small kindnesses.

Warm regards to all,

Cynthia