Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: First, the Winter Walking

Not everything is sharp-edged, roped with worry or

shaken by the sight of winter’s familiar greying

as it gathers a curtain of chill, soon

to dissolve in staccato of raindrops.

A wool-bound fisherman at the river knows this,

and those nodding as they clip along the river walk

and the dogs that collide with me, all glad noses and tails

before they strain toward seagulls far from sea

that traverse this other water throughway.

I can’t help but be happy. I’m stuffed with nourishment

of wing and leaf, damp and moss, the wind a soft slap

on my cheeks, a tweak of muscles and bones.

Late light crystallizes the far horizon as I go.

November flows to the south where

waterfalls release the hurrying. These hills

settle deeper into irrevocable green.

It’s a lesson that comes when we see it,

the seeping brightness inside torrents,

rich mud snugged to asphalt and cement,

minty scents of winter with smoky autumn.

I am given this balm, ancient reassurance

as the river wends its way through wood and field.

There is kind remembrance of winters that have shone,

and will shine, and this poultice of rain and platinum clouds.

And, too, a daily circling up with love despite

tribulations, which one by one will

fall to earth and water,

stone and ash beneath our feet.

All photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2020

Monday’s Meander–on Wednesday: Japanese Garden’s Fall Finery

Long established in Portland, this Japanese garden embraces 12 hillside acres by densely wooded Forest Park. It has eight different styles of gardens, and is considered unusually authentic. Although designed in 1963 and opened to the public in 1967, it was not entirely completed until 1980 and, I learned today, then fully opened the same day Mt. St. Helens erupted.

For decades I’ve gone to the garden to enrich mind and spirit, to absorb its deep tranquility and study its intricate design of balance amid the elements, its expert aligning of texture and color. After 9/11, it was the only place I could find relief for some time. Though this was the first visit in months due to the virus and a closure, it was worth waiting for–everything was sparkling and refreshed, the grounds pristine. Nature was still shaped during the closures, but it was clear it had flourished while devoid of scores of humans visitors.

I decided to edit most of these very little or none, leaving deeper shadows and diffuse light with really natural color saturation. I wanted you to experience it as I did last week, during its fine autumn display.

I leave you with a peaceful view of Portland as seen from the Japanese Garden. I am holding this in my heart as the week goes on.

Monday’s Meanders: Hark! To the Volcano!

Since most of the smoke from the terrible wildfires has dissipated for now, it is a joy to once more climb the hills, take in lungsful of fresh air and feast our eyes on the terrain. We undertook a Sunday outing at Mt. Tabor, a volcano in the city limits. Though still too dry, it was great to see the colors of life everywhere.

The Boring Lava Field, a 1-2 million years old volcanic zone, underlies Portland, OR. with 32 cinder vents and several small shield volcanoes. Portland metro area has four dormant volcanoes. Mt. Tabor, right in city limits, is not very high at 634 feet but there are still good views at top. (The towering, snow-domed Mt. Hood, 100 miles to the east of us, is on the U.S. short list of “very high threat” volcanoes. Though it hasn’t erupted for about 220 years, there was again activity in the mid-1850s; it is still monitored closely.)

A reservoir and the city below. This is a popular Fourth of July fireworks viewing spot.

Mt. Tabor has many old fir stands and other wooded areas, plus open meadows which embrace dirt and paved trails. There are three water reservoirs that a long while supplied drinking water but now are offline. These manmade lakes are still maintained for their attractive features and are a draw for visitors. Three main trails are marked; we took the Blue Trail, the longest loop at 3.31 miles. We meandered among shady trees, dry grassy meadows and on moderately demanding trails. Many other folks were reveling in blue skies and warm temperatures.

Lamp posts are located on the trails as they are open until midnight. Never have hiked that late!

Early fall cannot be denied with fallen leaves that crunched beneath our feet, the faintest cooler edge to some of the breeze. The earth smelled of fall!

Nearing the top, there are more open areas.

Please click for slideshow, below, to see the city and hills from the top.

Still near the top, the trail descends slowly to a children’s play area and a small amphitheater (not shown). This is very popular for family gatherings and picnics. There were three birthday or other parties in progress.

We headed further down the trail, then rested a bit on a slope where many were sunning and visiting. It was good to see so many people feeling peaceful and sociable–though there were those, ourselves included, who wore our masks much of the time.

Please click for a slideshow and enjoy groups relaxing–and pretty views of the water and beyond.

We wound up by the main reservoir which always intrigues me. It was a public water source for so long, yet it is lovelier that something so utilitarian–tranquil to look upon.

One last gaze over the lowest reservoir, below, and the city backdrop with foothills of the Coast Range, then home again. A perfect afternoon of gratitude for all we still have in Portland.

Monday’s Meanders: Portland’s Loved City Center…

First the pandemic hit Portland as it has everywhere (though less heavily-so far-than many big cities). Over the past few days nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis have occurred in many major cities and in Portland. Curfews are again in place. It is a time of even increased sadness, anger and anxieties. This blog is not about current events or politics but I have intense feelings accompanying my thoughts about the current state of it all. However, I do write about and post photos of the metropolitan area. Today I need to offer photos that reflect more peaceful, happy spring and summer days. It is an energetic, creative, open-armed city that I have known and loved most of my adult life….I hope it stays this way, but can at some point heal and become even better.

Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Living a Peak Life

Photos, Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2019

This morning I sip from a mug of Chai tea on our expansive balcony above terraced land, looking around and down the sudden slope, then beyond to shadowy foothills. I close my eyes. This resident wind is tender or sharp, easy or pushy. My hair swirls about; dashing along my neck a tingle of coolness is ruffled with warmth. The rising land still holds its rocky, earthy muskiness–out of which a coyote or skunk may emerge as if from hideaways–and floats upwards. A brighter fragrance–far-drifting new cherry tree flowerets?–joins in. Air currents are full of promise and mystery–palpable power–as it weaves through firs and red alders, grazes ubiquitous ivy which climbs over hillock and gully.

A hammer contacts wood in chirpy rhythmic fashion. The drone of a circular saw thrums beneath hammer’s affirmative strikes. Someone is stapling shingles, another broadly mowing. Soon a dog, then two and three voice approval or perhaps dissent. Robins and crows compete, flit and swoop then call and respond. Mourning doves utter throaty yet subtle refrains. Squirrels chit and chatter, rush along tree limbs. Of which there are so many my mind feels forested with greens and browns. The woman next door is sweeping her balcony, long strokes that make me think she is distracted by the horizon. My eyes fly open.

Two orange butterflies dance a romance in mid-air. There is, as ever, a veritable feast for the vision. Verdant land, with more to be revealed by the looks of budded limbs. A gleaming blue sky paints space above Coast Range foothills; they proudly reveal simple elegance. In the distance, a motorcycle–Harley-Davidson cruiser?–speeds up, drives on then downshifts, rounds a curve for steep descent to the valley, belches a satisfied growl. Soon a child spirals across a street, there is hard contact and response of a basketball, while a father’s laugh is reassuring of his love.

All of these spring signs have given me joy for as long as I can recall. Contentment is close to follow a shock of giddiness. Spring was not very gentle in my childhood Michigan and could be problematic despite the dreamy fever it brought. In Oregon, it sneaks into being, a balm spreading upon day and night, a surprise of sunlight here and there, a slow drying out of air and dirt and then more colors popping out. Blooms never really end here, but they prevail with more gaudiness and grow bigger in heat.

March in 2019: the advent of spring arrives after last acts of spotty snowfall or icy drizzle. It follows, for me, more death knells, then illnesses and pain which riddled my psyche as well as flesh. Added to the mix was a frustrating moving experience (and costly), undercut by rounds of sleeplessness. Spring is a relief even when it seems overdue, even if it feels lean. I can wait long no matter what. I rub the cocooning wintry dark from dim eyes. I reach for rejuvenation and find it. I look, behold.

But I studied the mirror the other day (not recommended after hard winters). Deeper and more lines bracket eyes and mouth from all that gritting of teeth (those left) and squinting of bloodshot eyes, a daily praying for strength and courage, shameless pleading for a truly good rebound. I am looking–becoming–older. And I am moving on, if not free of body’s complaints then pleased with more upsurges of energy. And a deep motivation to embrace our new home as well as the future and what it will offer (our daughter’s twins, for two wonders; care of both soon to be nervously/attentively/happily experienced…). I can do anything I must do, believe anything I desire to believe in. I make my own life become what it shall. The aching inside and out will lessen or be accepted, managed. Not only the great scheme of nature is resilient. We human animals daily take part, too, and we try hard until the very end, even excel at the labor of it.

So, spring arriving like an exquisite hope come true has made the demands of winter worth enduring–as it is for any who dwell within a land that brings chilly/rainy/dark/snowy winters. It is the soft singe of heat that is longed for, a soothing flutter of wings, the rustle and sweep of things growing in designs and hues that break through after hibernation.

When I walk here, I see snow-capped Cascades on the eastern side of where I live. At this surprising 800 feet–after living at sea level for over two decades–it feels like we reside in a grand high place. I see: resplendent Mt. Hood. A reshaped-by-volcanic-spews-yet-lovely Mt. St. Helens. And is it Mt. Baker there, too? Glimmering white crowns above jagged granite blues of enormous ranges. One cannot help but be raised up by peeks into beauty while moving through sunshine.

There is a system of trails atop these undulating hills. I explore them daily, pull on trail or tennis shoes and take off as if I know where I’m going. I trust that I will find my way. I have a good inner compass, am not floundering in wilderness. I recall landmarks as I go. There are fine houses interspersed among pathways and briefly admired, but trees and creatures captivate me. Swing of arms and squared thrust of shoulders, two light feet and an elongated back take me where I care to go. Mind as clear as spring water follows this beat; chest fills with heart’s power. I clamor my way up and up winding, steep ascents and then I rest, gulping piney air. I hope to find musical brooks; there is a lake and the meandering river nearby. I lack nothing much, if anything. (Perhaps the sea, a short drive away.)

My well-seasoned body is regaining strength and new boldness with daily forays. My spirit is flooded with pleasures. I sink into bed with thankfulness. How much can the flesh and being hold of sorrow and elation and wonder? So much. So much. We need to welcome it all, open the windows and doors of home.

Who could have known what we needed was such a change, then guided us to such a good place? In the core of my being that constant hunger for forested land and wilder creatures with an outdoor life right within my reach rang loud and clear. My husband, Marc, also believed more nature with its authenticity and intrigue was needed. Now. So here we are. The city is close enough, while we awaken each day feeling far from it.

I came home the other day sweaty, my hair tangled, hands a little dirty, my brain and camera stuffed with ideas and images. I will take you with me as I learn the places and ways here. Enjoy now a little of what I have just begun to know.