Monday’s Meander: Home/What It Is

This photo of (Re)called, an installation work, shows Naomi J. Falk working on a quilt made of porcelain “bones’ and fabrics in an art exhibit. It is in memoriam of the American soldiers who died in Iraq. Naomi is my daughter.

It brings sudden tears to hear that we have now lost 500,000 people to COVID-19, more than both World Wars and the Vietnam War combined. In one year. I think of my own family–how I would feel if one of them died from this monster virus? Devastated. When considering today’s post topic, all I could think of was home. Where my heart is, family. I am listening to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”; it was played at my wonderful mother’s funeral in 2001. I’m glad she and several others missed this pandemic…they had lived through the influenza and/or polio pandemics. If you find and play Barber’s tender, gorgeous masterpiece, perhaps play it in remembrance of those lost this past year or whomever you love who is gone.

Below, some of my family, most still with me, gratefully, but many passed on. Life…so full of events and people –and so fleeting. I am grateful for all the pictures I take and keep.

In the first group from l. to r.: my oldest sister and my brother-in-law; my oldest brother playing flute–all now deceased; my youngest daughter and me; son with his son and a niece; my only surviving brother and sister-in-law.

Next, l.to r.: My only surviving sister, who has dementia; my husband; group shot of two daughters, a son-in-law and me; oldest and youngest daughters; son and me.

L. to r.: much older shot of a granddaughter with Wolfie; an old shot of another granddaughter as well as of two grandchildren, running; my big sister and my oldest daughter; son and daughter-in-law at their 2019 wedding. .

L. to r.: Marc, husband, with twin granddaughters; a daughter walking towards camera & another with back turned (we have 4 & 1 son); two daughter and myself during one East coast visit.

Thank you for indulging me. I have a tremendous number of printed and digital photos, as one might expect at 70. I write about my family at times, but today felt the need to go back in time and see them–face-to-face contacts are so much fewer anymore, as we know. All people have families of various sorts. You surely love them; I hope you tell them often, too, as we do to one another. Families are complicated because human beings are so amazingly complex…but oh, how they matter.

Marc and me. Grateful.

Monday’s Meander: Menucha’s Rustic Charms

I went to the Menucha Retreat and Conference Center during early spring, and the serenity of the grounds was strong enough to linger several years.

The land was homesteaded in 1874 by John Painter, an English sailor. Situated above the Columbia Gorge with its namesake river, the property was bought in 1914 by Julius Meier, a wealthy businessman (Meier and Frank department stores) who later was a Governor of Oregon. The estate became well known following the first family residence being built in 1927. The property was a country retreat for family and friends, and political figures visited, including Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Meiers mostly took up residence in warmer months.

The home and land were originally reachable only by the river where Native American culture thrived (and salmon was abundant). Then the first Northwest highway was carved out of the Cascade Mountain Range in 1913. It runs 75 miles through the Columbia Gorge and past Menucha.

In 1950, the First Presbyterian Church of Portland purchased it with the family’s blessing. The estate was named by the Meiers, and since “Menucha” roughly means “still” or “peaceful” in Hebrew, the church kept it. The ecumenical center serves as retreat for about 400 Judeo-Christian groups (thought it serves not only these groups) per year. The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (though the original home was destroyed by carpenter ants). Not grand but more rustic, the structures are sturdily designed in the Pacific Northwest style developing during that time. The primary retreat center’s interior is attractive but it is the outdoors that draws me. The grounds are rolling and green and forests encircle it. And it’s well kept with a small front garden; the land is 700 feet above the river.

In early spring Marc and I wandered around the grounds following an Easter week dinner and other events. The wind blew fiercely at times but steady sunshine warmed us. We were pleased to have finally visited a place we had only ogled from the car for years. Though not now attending the church we did then, anyone can book a room for their individual restful retreat. Perhaps when the pandmeic is well addressed we’ll look into that. Weddings are also held there, as well as conferences for nonprofits, family reunions and arts workshops.

In addition to this great fireplace where meals can be made–and hot dogs and marshmallows roasted– and served at nearby tables, there is a well maintained pool overlooking the Gorge.

There is an old stone labyrinth that we walked.

Some of John Painter’s fruit trees live on.

It is a good spot for meditation and restoration, as its name indicates. We finally bade farewell to Menucha–until another day.

Monday’s Meander: A Wetlands Haven

I mentioned to a friend that I had gone back to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, an urban refuge not far from us–though it feels farther out in country. She asked what wildlife I saw. When I noted birds and a few others creatures, she laughed and said this hardly constitutes “wildlife.” Of course, she is wrong–she’s not much into outdoor life and not fond of birds (she has been bitten, even attacked, oddly). I wish I could share with her all I see here, as I was in heaven. My spouse and I are fascinated by birds and the many sort of critters sharing this place. The clouds here are also varied and interesting, the light lovely as the day goes on.

I saw herons, eagles, Canadian geese, many ducks, a salamander (newt) and garter snake, and heard bullfrogs.

Back in May 2020 we had a good visit, also; those pictures are bright and lush. (I posted those on WordPress, as well). But the subtle contrasts of winter scenes tantalize my eye and mind, as well. The riparian forest, wetlands, and lowlands comprise over 1800 acres. These are home to over 200 species of birds, 50 of mammals, 25 of amphibians and reptiles and a large assortment of insects, fish and plants. There are old oaks and pines as well as grasslands and lowlands. Since we have had tremendous rains recently, the Tualatin River had spilled over, flooding some areas. Additionally, certain areas are closed in winter for migrating birds.

As one enters the refuge, there is a lovely trail. One can walk 3.1 miles when all trails are open. Let’s head out.

Below: evidence of industrious beavers; fast garter snake; rough-skinned newt (skin emits a poisonous toxin).

Viewing platform partly crushed by this huge tree–recent storm damage.

Click to view the slideshow, below.

Several other wetlands enthusiasts were about.

Heading back to the entrance and viewing area, the light turned pale honey to amber; the air was just enough sweetly gentled to open my jacket and smell far off but early hints of spring.

(A handful of these shots accompanied Friday’s poem about how healing it was for me there: Friday’s Poem: At the Refuge)

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.