Monday Meander: Grief as Companion for a Birthday at Jenkins Estate

It has been 11 days since our family’s loss. I keep walking, communing with nature. It is the only place I get real relief that means anything, something tangibly good and cohesive, fascinating and reassuring. Something powerful that does not unduly distort or painfully challenge, usually, what arrives with each day. Someone somewhere wrote that beauty is in itself a wonder but in the end it means nothing much. Not so for me. Nature’s offerings–even homelier parts–reflect the strange, abundant and always numinous to me. A walk or a hike, and explorations via boat ride, train ride or flight, even a drive in the car, a spin on a bike…these open my view and mind, and instruct me in more collaborative thinking, allow me to reach far beyond those sharp borders of ego-centered self.

I like to move and see and find things out.

Today, then, because I awakened again with tears and because it is my birthday, Marc and I visited the Jenkins Estate which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, built in the early 20th century on 68 acres. There are several outbuildings as well as the house (which is only partially visible here) in a style common to the NW for country gentry. We saw only a little of the grounds–rain threatened–and we will return. But today there were brightly greened trees and plants with scattered flowers abloom in the redolent, damp April dirt. I had wanted to see a garden today, but I am in love with the woods; it was a good walk.

And I took with me the weariness of loss; my husband walked slowly, as well. Often we are silent these days.

Grief is collective over time. And at times–especially since the pandemic– it seems to vibrate under the surface of all. I have felt it all my life, everywhere and in everyone, within all tableaus of life. As a therapist once pointed out to me, I carry grief for all life even as I celebrate living. How can it be otherwise? I truly haven’t always felt it frightening or depressing or damaging–and not endlessly. I feel it as part of intense, continuous currents of life. It has made me scream out or has sent me to my knees. But it also echoes a song so ancient, so profound that its ethereal yet earthy call evokes recognition not only of inevitable dying but of the potency of living and mysteriousness of becoming…from the moment we arrive until the moment we take our leave. So we are ever in the process of gathering close and letting go. I know this. We all know this. It doesn’t get easier, really, each death. It gets more familiar, a visitor we recognize and so let in, if reluctantly and with eyes cast down at first. But looking at it in its center becomes perhaps less daunting, less unsettling. Perhaps. It is a reminder: the transitoriness, evolution of beginning to ending to secret beginnings. For we know what was, what is now, and only guess at the years, the vistas to come.

I am 71 today. Every day I live is valued and lived in tested faith and a shimmering hope. I live inside this blood and bone, and deep within the spirit of Love, despite my paucity of wisdom and unnecessary desires.

Our granddaughter was 28 ; she knew loss before passing on, and such vivacious life.

Next time I return I will share more photos, offer other experiences. I only wanted to put down a few words, say a small hello to my fellow bloggers and readers. I wanted to say Krystal Joy’s name, to honor her being. The funeral is very soon. I am as grey shadow with marrow deep sadness but, too, I know she is free of a myriad burdens of humanness. The tricky ache of it.

We have so much invested in life’s ongoing and often random travels–even as we know all is temporal in this world. It is so worth it to me. May it also be worth the effort to you.

The Gate House, my favorite spot so far.

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: Back to Bishop’s Close in December

I am thinking daily of family and holidays, as are most. And photos surfaced of a wintry walk through Elk Rock at Bishops Close, a place about which I have posted often. It is a delight– the grounds are seamed with trails and rocky steps, shadowed with hideaways, and gentled by trickling water and a small pond or two. My last visit here was shared on WP in July this year.

The Scottish estate house always impresses a bit–it is so stolid and commands a respect. Elk Rock, its garden, is perhaps the oldest and biggest (13 acres) private garden in Oregon. It was managed from 1897 until 1957 by businessman Peter Kerr who developed his estate and grounds. It is now used by the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.

In summer the air was bright, the plants and flowers waving in warm breezes. This time winter’s veil is lain over all. The quietude of December wandering is deeper. The air sharp, the river that wends it way below a bit more forbidding, birdsongs more silenced. Yet I am drawn to it as much in this season as any other. It is a place to think as one climb’s about and to long pause and admire nature’s work.

These photos date back to 2016, the day of Christmas. Naomi was visiting from S. Carolina where she was/is an art professor; Alexandra was visiting from CA. where she was PR manager at an arts center. And since I appreciate Bishops Close as well as my adult children here is that mosey. (Not all family like personal photos shared so those are discreet.)

An altar used for outdoor Holy Eucharist.
View of Mt. Hood, across the Willamette River, seen from the back lawn.

On my refrigerator is a sticky note left by Naomi last year before she flew back to S.C. after Thanksgiving. I’d had the luxury of seeing her three times in 2019. On that note she wrote: “Bye, Mom! Love you! See you again before too long. XOXOXO-Na.” I left it there to enjoy looking at– never thinking it would at least a year more. But I’ve not seen her once since, nor another daughter, Cait, in VA., for an even longer period of time.

So it is that we begin a new sort of Christmas or other religious holiday. No doubt you will agree: one primarily of the heart and spirit. We can manage it, though, can’t we. Make sure to get out and take good walks, no matter wintry or other interesting weather. I will be out there with you, as well as right here.

Monday’s Meander: Hello, Oceanside!

For 28 years, I have immersed myself in the pleasures of this stretch of Oregon coast. I fell in love with the village of Oceanside–tucked into a hillside–shortly after moving to this state. One of my sisters long owned a vacation home on Whiskey Creek Road not far away; another family member still owns a second home at another village, Netarts, a stone’s throw from Oceanside.

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge

Marc and I have stayed for long week-ends many times–but not this year. Thankfully, we take plenty of day trips. I posted a few pictures in July along with other beaches. Here is a fresh batch from a visit last Friday. I hope you like visiting with me! (There may be a few spots on photos where salt spray landed–I missed a few on my lens…)

Top of a headland.

I hadn’t climbed up the rocks in awhile and so made my way through goose barnacles at Maxwell Point. They live on rock in inter tidal zones. I don’t want to kill any, but likely you know some sea life can inflict painful scratches if a hand or other part of skin gets scrapes–and are prone to infection. (Had one once that took weeks to heal.)

Three of my views, below.

This tunnel was made by an early 20th century family as part of plans for a fancy resort. That didn’t work out–but it’s still used to connect the main beach to a smaller one. The falling rocks can be a hazard, but the trip to the other side well worth it. Agates can be found there, there are small caves to explore and other sea gifts.

Once emerged, this is the south side of beach. When the tide is extremely low, one can walk around the Point, at left. There is a rather large cave around the corner, unseen here due to higher tide.

The man and his sons below were having great fun–and that water is not warm!

Below is the other end of the lovely beach–some call it “Star Wars” due to the geological formations.

One good way to get to that area is over a huge piece of rock. But the tide was lower, so I walked in waters around it.

Lots of bird colonies–one reason why it is a protected area.
Castle by the sea
Back on the other side where more people tend to congregate.
Farewell, Oceanside-until we meet again.

On the way home, more sights to savor…

Dairy country and Tillamook Mountains on way back up and onward.
The diversity and beauty of nature is succor to the soul.

Monday’s Meander: To the Seaside We Go!

Finally. It has been ten months since we visited the Pacific Ocean, despite it being barely an hour and a half away. You know how it was back then–there was work, family obligations, trails to traverse in any direction, activities of all sorts to jump in and enjoy. But being outdoors is now perhaps the best way to engage with many bountiful offerings. And we have waited for opportunities to partake of the pleasures–i.e., the fewer knots of people (sadly), the better. The time felt right; off we went.

Neskowin

Marc and I met up with a daughter and her family at ocean’s edge for starters in Neskowin, a village of 170. Neskowin Beach State Recreation Site features a long lovely beach and Cascade headland with good hiking trails. Our goal this time was to breathe the salt sea air, walk beaches for miles, casually rock hunt, enjoy surfer activity and admire the might of ubiquitous waves rolling in. And enjoy the twin toddler grandchildren’s first real experience of the Pacific Ocean. (Only indirect photos of them–safety first.) You can see pleased Grandpa Marc in the red enjoying them; the other two are the protective, loving parents. (We wore masks around family, an abundance of caution–later we did not with few people near us.)

I was amazed that one ran laughing into the water often and tried a couple sand snacks, while her sister more enjoyed squeezing the fine sand between her toes and toddling about. But they sure were happy, as were we all.

A few more shots of Neskowin Beach before moving on below. First up is Proposal Rock, well known in Oregon. A hotel on this beach capitalizes on the theme.

There are always reminders to beware of sneaker waves; never turn your back to the sea, never let your kids go out unsupervised.

After the twins and parents had enough fun, Marc and I moved north up the central coast. We had seen only smatterings of people on the beach thus far, but Pacific City/Cape Kiwanda was another story. You will note swimmers and surfers, while the actual beach was nearly crowded. We stepped out for only a few moments then headed for Oceanside, a favorite place.

We arrived about 6 pm and availed ourselves of Oceanside’s fine beaches as the sun began to sink bit by bit. Dramatic, thickening clouds bunched together–no rain while on the beach, a miracle, but it became windy and chillier. And broodingly mesmerizing, which I love about the sea.

That’s right, get a shot of the photographer/writer, too.

Marc searches for rocks around/inside shallow caves as they are often left behind as the tide recedes. We used to find an abundance of amber or clear agates on this section of beach but not in a long while.

A couple bird-watching.

Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is a bout a half mile off the shore of Oceanside. Many seabirds live there. Birds include cormorants, Western gulls, storm petrels, tufted puffins, and pigeon guillemots and in the past, tufted puffins and common murres. But Bald Eagles’ comeback has caused them to swoop in and disturb their habitat and prey upon the colonies and many have moved on. Numerous stellar sea lions make this their northernmost breeding site around the huge rocks. (We saw none this time.)

Below a few shots of seabird havens. Graceful cormorants are lovely to see in action.

We always hate to leave Oceanside and as it was we didn’t depart until 8 pm. We lingered and bid farewell–until next time.