Monday’s Meander: Looking Back at a Snowy City Christmas

Yes, native Portlanders do consider this a major “snow event”! And most who live in the Willamette Valley (and not from northern states) are quite skittish about going out into it. I love our rare snowy times, no matter how light the snowfall is. It might be lovely to have a brilliant white Christmas again. I grew up in snow each winter and have been thinking of the way it changes things, makes the landscape more mysterious and perks up senses and mind. And toughens you up with it’s frequent subzero temperatures, tiny “darts” of pelting snow and howling winds–and treacherous icy roads and sidewalks. There are times I am nostalgiac for the beauties that it can offer. But not too often.

We do get a few days of “dustings” or even more interesting winter snows in Portland metro area–a bit more so where we live, 700 ft. above sea level. (These shots are from our former neighborhood, close-in city center, taken a few years ago.)

I came across these while brwosing my photos and wanted to share them today. It has been raining a great deal–the more usual case–and suddenly snow looks wonderful. But only now and then. I lived with knee-and-thigh-deep snows in my childhood, youth and young adulthood. I more enjoy our temperate weather of the Pacific Northwest. I can just drive to mountains to enjoy fresh snow. I think we have the best variety in Oregon–the ocean, mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes, and the high desert.

The most beautiful snowy sight, perhaps, is Mt. Hood’s shining peak–seen from a city viewpoint!

Monday’s Meander: Rainy Irvington District

My daughter, Alexandra, had a day off from her work and, despite wind and rain, we set off for historic Irvington District, our old home spot for many years. Since moving to more suburban areas (that at times feel more like small towns) neither of us visits this area too often. I’m sharing today’s quick pictures not because they’re great–they are not; I was snapping away as we walked fast–but Because I don’t often post city shots. Plus, it is quite different from where I now live and I have fond feelings for Irvington. She and I also enjoyed a good time out and about–despite our half-soaked pant legs and shoes! (It has rained a huge amount the past three weeks, and some Oregon rivers are nearing or already have reached flood stage.)

One thing I appreciate about Irvington is that few home owners–despite the fact that they love their gardens and trees–seem bothered by good amounts of fallen leaves. They pile up tremendously before being removed–after they are all shed, usually, which is sensible. And they are so attractive, to me. Where I currently live, many men with deafening leaf blowers have at it 2-3 times a week, and most yards tend toward more pristine and seem less unique….and I do like to plow through colorful piles.

Below, note two abandoned hammocks, l. My daughter, right, moves on as I pause to snap photos.

Above, a turkey made of pumpkin to greet visitors.
A metal art work in the right front yard. The downpour can be seen easily at the blue house, and also below.

This is a desirable close-in neighborhood that offers some of the oldest homes in Portland, and there are Arts and Crafts homes, mini-mansions and cozier bungalows. I admire the variety, the homeowners’ personalities shown, only a smidgen of which is shared today. It was a thoroughly happy walk with Alexandra–we seldom have free time to share with only one another (she works full time, has the twin toddlers. And since she spent over a decade growing up in Irvington, it made our afternoon even more special. Until next time, Irvington….

Below: a parting shot from 11-11-2016– minus the windy, chilly downpour, and trees holding onto more leaves.

Monday’s Meander: Where to Go with Sorrow? To Snow and Candles

My nephew, Reid, died the first week of December. It was several years ago but once more he appears in the middle of my mind. His living and dying: both were hard, both perhaps longer than he wanted. I will never know. In truth, I understood him less than I imagined though I felt his burdens’ weight as I talked with him. He took refuge in my house awhile after one hospital stay; I took him to 12 step meetings. He was carried along by and troubled by life –powerful emotions, a puzzle of thoughts, and demons of addiction–until he was in his forties. He had a passion for life–music, skateboarding, movies, reading. Much more, and so many things unknown to me. I loved him as I knew how; we all loved him, yes. But despair can outweigh all the rest. Reid plunged from a bridge into the swift Willamette River, into silent darkness of a rainy night that was moving toward pale morning.

Really, I wanted to share, as usual, outdoorsy rambles, attractive pictures. But I find I cannot. Instead, I have found a few winter pictures, quite unlike the views outside my windows right now–green, damp, sunny to partly sunny with more rain on the wind. But they feel right: snow is quintessential December in my dreams. I burrow in this month between outings. And candlelight, oh, the flames tinting the greyness orange and yellow. It is a gentled magic, steady but mutable, rich and clarifying.

There is something about snow and candles that move me in unique ways. Still me. Then rouse me.

December’s onset brings Reid back to me a little. (It also, conversely, brings to me my mother’s December birth date: juxtaposition of death and birth dates is like seeing two birds of different colors and flight patterns move across the sky.). I can recall his smile when he was convivial, happy, at times–for a time. His eyes bright and dancing. And then, the obdurate pit of sorrow. There is our enduring complexity of family ties and lovingness. And this being alive-ness, and remaining alive, too, when others leave.

We have had or heard of too much death this year, I know. But, seemingly irrelevant to this post, I still want to offer snow. But to consider its shapeshifting beauty, its softness, its welcoming spirit, its austerity and daunting challenges that can offer victory. Like when I ice skate and fall and start off once more. That long slide on the toboggan, uproarious with laughter, into glittering white fluff, or a crunch of iciness. Oh, I long for it sometimes. It doesn’t snow much where I live in Oregon–though Mt. Hood dazzles me in the distance all winter long on my walks. But I grew up in snow, heaps of it, five foot drifts of it in the Michigan country. I made small houses of snow. So when it snows here I return to the shimmer and drift of winter’s wild glory. It eases a knot in me.

It somehow brings Reid to mind, too, hands stuffed in his packets, a half-smile, solemn eyes. Maybe it is the blood we have shared: cold plains of northern Midwest, the mountain and valley greens of Oregon.

The candles here are for Reid. But I light many for others, as well. And want them lit just for darkened days and nights, so they may be ignited with simplest joy more often, and for a prayer for peace shared among those of us who remain. Sit with that flame and remember: we have such capacity for hope and courage.

This year has been so much more arduous than what we expected. Millions in the world suffer from depression and though 2020 has brought us all to moments of great uncertainty and worry, too many feel pushed to the very brink. Suicides have increased greatly during the pandemic. If you feel suicidal or know anyone who shares suicidal thoughts, or mentions even a vague, possible plan to die, please seek help now. If you know someone who needs even kindly support, offer a listening ear, a helpful hand. There is nothing better than the community of humankind when moved to support and aid one another. Let’s be present for each other as much as we can–no charity is too small a thing–and listen to our own hearts as much as possible.

Monday’s Meanders: Walking an Aged (Suburban) Volcano/Giving Thanks

One view from Nansen Summit, Mt. Sylvania

Our travelling days are on pause, but we can walk daily into the embrace of nature within our neighborhood. If all trails were completed, we’d knock off a robust 8 miles. This is very hilly country with plenty of steeper ascents and descents. There are also several tributaries of creeks emptying into the Tualatin River and Willamette River and Oswego Lake. Walking carries us around/about an extinct volcano, our old-timer Mt. Sylvania. When we first moved out here, I was amazed every time out I discovered more paths that interconnected and took me pretty places. You can never get lost; the paths intertwine.

As a refresher for older readers and intro to new: Mountain Park is an award winning area of Lake Oswego, OR. designed in mid-to-late ’60s. It covers 200 acres of land–forest, riparian and wetland. And it culminates in the extinct volcano’s summit elevation at 975 ft. with panoramic views walking around the path. Well, that’s isn’t very high….but since Portland metro is in a valley, it is here. (Driving down to city center, my ears actually pop…a swift descent.)

I can’t take you to every park and greenspace today. But I’ve posted often about area trails. The photos here are recent–some taken today–and highlight parts of what I enjoy about living in this emerald paradise, on the volcano’s slopes. (Portland, FYI, has other volcanoes.) A majority of Mountain Park trails are paved and wide so it’s an easier time of it…especially appreciated during sodden winters with near-daily rains through spring–and handy for the mandate of social distancing, even outdoors. Let’s get walking.

I love the mossy rock walls along many paths.
This shot and the one below…show a part of
…the neighborhood’s largest greenspace, undergoing restoration and storm water management.
This view of another portion was taken a couple wks. ago–leaves were still hanging on more. Like taking a break here on a bench, wandering along the narrow tributary behind greenery.
Note the well-fed squirrel on the right of the wood pile. He looks…utterly stuffed.
The ubiquitous but pretty ivy…cannot keep it at bay for long.
A lovely park for dogs with their people. It is actually downhill to this fairly flat spot.
People leave painted rocks along the path for all to enjoy.
Glimpses of the Coast Mountains beyond foothills–1.5 hours from us is the Pacific Ocean.

Got to keep on moving! I pulled a leg muscle two weeks ago and it’s finally healing! It was tough to sit out the hiking I crave–state parks became more beloved this summer and fall. Now it doesn’t bother me to climb stairs and hills so I at least can relish faster, longer, more challenging walks again. Walking–and hiking– cures almost anything that ails me, keeps me wide awake to mysteries of this earth and the pleasures of movement. Marc caught me, below, as I crossed a favorite bridge.

We have several tunnels under streets for safe passage. Marc is making his way through one.
The other side–one for each direction.
I paused and considered this path. We like this climb up but it gets very muddy. Since it becomes quite steep, it is easy to slide back in spots . Waiting until it stops raining a couple days!
The view of the sunset beyond the living room window when we got back.

We were home in an hour, a common walk time. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of our wintry neighborhood walks. It can seem overfamiliar at times, but I feel fortunate to have easy access to trails/pathways–I walk out our door, go uphill or downhill and take off. My long ago repaired heart has gotten even stronger since, according to my cardiologist, I am completing a kind of circuit training here–and longer, more arduous hikes in the country. Being 70 is pretty good–despite aches and twinges that come and go– as long as I can walk and hike nearly every day! It is that valued.

Looking forward: I hope to have time to write the post on Wednesday, as usual. But that depends on how my baking goes. Since we aren’t gathering our big family for Thanksgiving due to the state lockdown/risk of contracting the virus, I have baking plans to help make up for it. I’ll share the results with my adult children and grandkids on Thursday.

Well, be kind to one another, practice self care. Live in peace as much as possible. I am counting my blessings daily despite challenges. I know you will find yours, too. Despite losses and sorrows we must bear sooner or later, we keep on, kindle hope in any small way. It is better to live in good faith with gratitude–and I thank God for the breath to do it–than to give up and miss all the moments of splendor we can find or create.

PS I have an anniversary today: after ten years of WordPress posts, I still very much appreciate your presence. Thank you for being here, to partake of my life and to let me enjoy some of yours in return. I have gotten through many trying times and celebrated wonders and triumphs while creating and offering these stories of healing and hope. And I have had much fun participating in the blogging world! So many fascinating people living rich lives–and people overcoming huge odds and making the world a better place. From my heart to yours, do take good care. I sincerely hope you can feel the love for life and humanity that I mean to share with you.

Monday’s Meander: Glorious Trees and Houses of Autumn

I am sharing a neighborhood walk today–its colors, style and Halloween scenes. Since moving from historic Irvington neighborhood March 2019 after over 25 years, I’ve made it a point to return there each new season. Some of the graceful houses are over one hundred years old; Queen Anne, Period Revival Bungalow/Craftsman and Prairie School styles predominate. I love the architecture, towering trees, lush lawns. Enjoy the views!