Monday’s Meander: The Grotto, a Meditative Walk

From the start, you can tell this is no ordinary walk in the woods. First off, there is the name, The Grotto. The history indicates that a young boy prayed for his mother’s life after she nearly died in childbirth and when she lived, he promised God he would build a shrine. Years later he joined the Servite Order and was sent to minister in the Archdiocese of Portland, OR. In 1923 he found acreage that was appropriate and work began on carving out a cave for an altar in a 110 ft. basalt cliffside. The 62 acre property was developed by the Catholic Church over time, including gardens and a Grotto Monastery of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary atop the cliff. There is daily mass held, retreats offered, weddings in the pretty church and many special events for surrounding communities. The Servites remain active in work and prayer at the monastery.

The well attended Church on the ground level.

In order to fully enjoy the gardens and a view of the Monastery, as well as embark on a contemplative walk, we take the elevator up to the clifftop. The view upon disembarking is expansive, allowing one to observe parts of the city and the Cascade Mountains (on the Washington State side of the Columbia River).

On the Upper Level are opportunities for a prayerful experience with the Stations of the Cross, a Meditation Chapel, a labyrinth, the monastery and a few cultural shrines of Mary, as well as lovely green and floral garden walkways. There are ponds and flowers, a few benches to rest upon. The birdsong and towering trees are wonderful.

The Monastery

The labyrinth is designed to replicate France’s Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth. I had never walked it; it isn’t a quick or easy meditation to do. But I was truly awestruck by photos of Chartres as a young teen and later as an art student in college, and ever after longed to go there, to experience it scared beauty in person. But I may never do that. So this time, I walked this labyrinth and took my time. Though others came and went and a couple started then quit walking it, I was fairly oblivious. Soon the labyrinth pulled me in and I followed the complicated turns, step by step. I kept on, up and around and back and forth and toward to center again. I felt its quietude, its unique power. I can’t explain why. I stood in the center and felt deep calm. I followed the way out and as it ended I was deeply moved, with the surprise of tears arriving.

We completed the walk through the gardens in an hour, grateful for cool breezes and pervasive silence, the prayerful texts and the opportunity to contemplate the many ways God can be sought and discovered.

We had come full circle and decided to end with the Meditation Chapel before taking the elevator back “down to earth”. We chose to stay outside as many people came and went. There’s a wall of glass on the western side of the chapel and the view is excellent. It does make one feel like a small speck in the scheme of things. And yet, a part of the scheme and counted.

Monday’s Meander: Crystal Springs in the Heat Of Summer

Each season embodies exquisite offerings and certain places show them off well. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a good example. I visit this garden in SE Portland three or four times a year. By Mid-July, the rhodies’ and azaleas’ bright, voluptuous blossoms are gone, but other native flowers, abundant greenery about the spring-fed Crystal Springs Lake and many waterfowl (some varieties were “missing”–migration, perhaps?) bring beauty to the fore and entice many visitors.

Once a test garden, the first rhododendron was planted in 1917; there are now over 2500 varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants, all of which were donated (or bought with monetary donations). Rocks used for water features and other displays came from Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. Gently winding pathways make for a leisurely walk through lush landscaping. Weddings also can be conducted on the property–a reception was about to commence as I walked through. (Temptation was strong to take photos of the elegantly dressed women and men…but privacy, after all!)

I hope you find the sights as delightful as I did firsthand. I will return in autumn if not before.

Another peaceful outing that made a good difference in an ongoing journey of healing from life’s bruises…even as they seem to keep coming. Have a week of similar good moments if you can.

Monday’s Meanders: A Blooming Lavender Heaven

A couple of weekends ago, despite temperatures soaring again to the upper nineties, Marc and I took to the country. I had decided I wanted fresh lavender. There were several good choices as lavender grows abundantly in this area but I chose Mountainside Lavender Farm. We enjoyed talking to the congenial owner–he was extracting/making lavender oil– and gathering our own fragrant bunches. His little store wasn’t open due to the pandemic but a few items were set out to peruse.

I have to confess that I have had a lifelong fear of bees. It isn’t at phobia-level but I was stung many times roaming barefoot in clover-strewn grasses as a child and have also gotten stung as an adult. I could hear the bees busy at work, a vibrating buzz throughout the lavender plants. There was a sign stating that you cut your bouquets at your own risk, though the owner stated only a handful get stung each season. Marc and I procured baskets and scissors and headed out. He was less concerned, so I thought. I determined I would find a way to get my blooms without regret! When we got to the beautiful rows of standing purple stems, we hesitated. It was quite a suite of bee labor song–perhaps, I thought, they were happy out there, too. Marc started down some wider spaced rows. I was close behind and when he hesitated, I suggested we get right in there and simply ignore them. They were clearly busy. So dive in we did.

I tried to snap photos of clusters of the boundless bees, and was surprised when I failed to capture them–I guess they move too fast!

I was right–just pretending confidence, watching them do what they do, calmed my fears as I reached deeply into plants to hold stems and then snip them off. They didn’t bother us but kept right at it or flew to the next stem or plant. There was plenty for them–and for us. But it was hot, then felt much hotter out there after a hour. We hydrated often, and finally sought shade. I watched others as Marc found the owner to chat–there were only a few folks but they seemed to enjoy themselves, too.

We wandered a bit more before buying our bouquets, sachet and soap.

Until next time, Mountainside Lavender. Our living area at home is now filled with the comforting scent of dried, sweetly pungent lavender.

Monday’s Meander/Daydream: Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

What is on my mind is Colorado, and how awe-inspiring its sights are. It comes to mind partly because I saw exceptional footage of creatures on a PBS nature show last night, with mountain goats blithely climbing and jumping about in the mountains, and partly because a daughter is living there for the summer, as she has before, with a close friend. I visited parts of Colorado as a child, as an uncle, aunt and cousins lived in Greeley. And I travelled through the state and camped in my twenties. Then in 2018, I visited Colorado Springs. It was transfixing if occasionally intimidating to visit this important mountain range again. Altitude sickness began past 9000 feet as we kept ascending to higher points; the city is at a manageable 6000+ ft. But it was back in the city again that I fell most ill. Still, it was wonderful to see all that I saw. These rough hewn peaks put things in a certain perspective. They dominate the view, rim the horizon around the attractive, lively city. ( I also have enjoyed the Rockies in Idaho and Canada.)

Such bravery, ingenuity and heartiness–and perhaps audacity– of those who settled there very long ago, both Native and much later, non-Native peoples. Like mountain goats, one had to find sure footing, take constant chances and then go for it–or lose out. I admire that. And, of course, the landscapes about and beyond the city. (And those clouds! We also have fast-morphing clouds in OR., due to our own mountains, valleys, and different zones.)

Pike’s Peak (over 14,000 ft.) in the distance, this view magnified greatly from downtown Colorado Springs..
Here and below, on our way, bouncing up the roads in a Jeep to Pike National Forest, and eventually well over 9,000 feet. Wild, raw land the higher one travels. I wondered over the laborious lifestyle of ranchers that high up and so isolated.
Back in Colorado Springs, where everywhere you turn there are the Rocky Mountains towering over all. “Majestic” covers it.
A beautiful Broadmoor Hotel terrace–a luxury resort with lush grounds. More photos of this impressive place another time. My daughter, her friend and I sat and sipped tea overlooking this area as twilight transformed into peaceful evening.

I will return one day, better prepared for altitude changes (it was quite rough but ended in 24 hours) and ready to explore more wilderness, culinary and cultural gifts.

Monday’s Meander: Into Springtime Meadows and Woods

I am getting the itch–like so many others–to travel farther than a couple hours from home. But I admire both field and woods, and when you add a ribbon of river flashing here and there a simple amble is irresistible. Though we have many such areas to explore nearby, each displays a special character. This one is comforting and delights my eye with the many textures and shadow and light. Champoeg State Park was closed since a catastrophic ice storm in mid-February. We drove out in hopes of finding it re-opened (the website was confusing). We weren’t sure what we’d find, as forested land everywhere has suffered losses. And the ice not only immediately felled thousands of trees (one upon my car…), but did enough damage that they continue to crack, then suddenly break apart. So off we went and were pleased to find it open. Our last visit–with a post created–was in November 2020, right before winter’s chilling rains were steady and daily.

There were many trees down, with gaps that created enlarged new portals through the woods. There were broken branches here and there but most damage was cleaned up. We’ve seen bare spots in other natural areas…and often huge mounds of chopped trees near the trails. But this was not so at Champoeg–they’d trucked broken and shredded branches and downed trees elsewhere (look for one picture with the fence and see a few piles in the distance). We could gawk at the river more readily. The meadow, dense with waving tall grasses, seemed broader and brighter than during last summer’s visit.

Since our granddaughter passed away April 16, and a grandson has fallen ill with Covid-19 (thankfully recovering after 12 days), we’ve needed greater restoration of spirit and body. Perhaps you will enjoy this look about as I have. It encourages happy thoughts every time we visit there!