Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Muddling Through Winter Toward Spring

I was right here today, glory be! Out in fresh air warmed by copious and democratic sunshine, it’s illumination awakening all.

I pride myself on not being prone to emotional changes due to weather’s fluctuations, and am alright with the rainfall we get half the year, mostly. But after our historic ice and snow storm over a week ago, and 2021 still unfolding within a tenacious pandemic–well, the weather finally got to me. There has been such damage all about us. I keep taking pictures, as if daily documentation will help to accept it. I know broken, splintered and fallen trees and bushes will heal, come back–or they will not and decompose as nature intends. Still, I got good and tired of it all and by the looks on people’s faces the last couple weeks, I was not the only one. Even diehards out there in the elements get to that point where they start to hunger for greater sunlight, sans wintery cold edged with constant damp that defies outdoor comfort– until the blood gets moving good and fast. I walk every single day at a fast clip, an hour at least, unless physically unable. But that doesn’t mean I am thrilled every minute during winter drear.

Then, today: the sky cleared of clouds and bloomed fully with light. Today it was as if sunshine brought forth the beauty hiding out in us, as well as the landscape. People actually spoke to one another in passing, not only a nod of the head or, as I experience in my immediate neighborhood, a raised hand held two seconds at chest level like a circumspect salute. This time: “hi” and smiles–I could see past masks that energy called happiness sparking their eyes. One woman and her family paused when I spotted a dandelion, and then gawked, too, and noted how cheery a thing, a sign of spring, how wonderful to see it. I had to agree.

We know it’s only a brief reprieve. It’s February in Oregon so we’re going to have lots more daily rainfall and chilly temps a couple more months. Or more rain with a warming up. More teasers with brilliant blue skies, softer breezes. Today it was 52 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps a tad more as the afternoon wore on, but you’d think it was 68 degrees. People kept arriving as if we were going to a giant picnic or an outdoor concert again. Some were wearing shorts or were jacket-less. (This is a typical Oregon thing for younger ones when the sun comes out. I almost expected to see sandals.) People were skateboarding, playing volleyball and tennis, running, walking overjoyed dogs. We visited the community garden–there are many in Portland metro areas–and a couple gardeners were looking things over, ascertaining the state of things after the Big Freeze, and planning what was next.

It was like my entire body experienced a long, easy sigh of relief. Not to mention mind and spirit. It wasn’t just the blue sky. It was being around others as they played, talked, joked around. Seeing children having fun, hearing their whoops and wild shouts was a joy. It felt close to a normal day even though most wore masks, or stepped away and off the path respectfully if they were not. We all wanted to just be for awhile…to breathe, smile, look about, live in the present without fear or sadness or numbing boredom. If we can’t replenish ourselves, how can we keep our heads and hopes up? It may be as simple as noting small wonders and giving over to the moment. Sharing greetings with passing strangers, persons who are also just looking for refreshment and peace. Good will. We can get through a great deal if we keep finding ways to refill our souls and kindly care for our bodies each day.

It was a perfect afternoon in a place I love to visit. Gabriel Park is large with good trails and meandering sidewalks, encompassing woodlands as well as green rolling hills. I realized I long to see and hear a baseball game sometime before too long…just the sound and appearance of lots more people living in the open may make me cry–this, from a person who is content with plenty of solitude. But one can overdo that, too, as we have found out.

Here is some of what I saw today. I hope you enjoy my photos. The first set is in slideshow mode. (Forgive small spots on a couple shots–I haven’t found a safe way to fully clean my lens…)

Edge of community garden area–and there’s a dog run park behind this if you look closely.
Things lie in wait….

Below: what sort of tree grows like this…from that stumpy center, with so many elegant branches? Haven’t a clue, yet.

The cedar, below, is one of several at the park that are enormous. I offer a comparison to my height…wow. I love these old trees. In the next shot, the interior. Kids go into the trunk area to hide and play– and I have seen a few grown ups go in–some were smooching, of course!

Back through the woods.

All the plants soaked up that sun.

Before too long, new leaves will be opening along graceful and strong branches, and flowers other than early rising crocus, snowdrops and a few “daffies” will be opening up to show their faces. We will get out there again.

Monday’s Meander: Elegance of Trees at Champoeg State Heritage Area

Champoeg State Heritage Area is 615 acres is chockfull of delights. Since we are more used to forays through more densely forested trails, we were immediately drawn into wide open fields, wetlands and forests that fan out from the Willamette River. Many paths were paved, also not as usual for hikes, and some of the area was spruced up, likely due to campground facilities nearby.

It is known for its 130 bird species, including the western bluebird, and is a historical site. In 1843 it became the site of Oregon’s first provisional government. A small town flourished there until swept away by flooding in 1861. Now, well favored campgrounds offer many tent campsites, yurts and cabins as well as space for RVs to set up. The campsites were full up.

Closed Visitors Center.

We set out on a portion of the 8.6 mile loop trail. many were doing the same walk, as it was the quintessential autumn day, cool and bright. I was enthralled with the many types of deciduous trees, being more used to pines–and the rich light that sifted through branches and washed over open land. The colors were rust, yellow and orange as well as our NW green. A banquet for the eyes. The air was fresh–it was healing just to breathe that air, as is generally the case when walking in nature. But this was an exceptionally beautiful day.

We left the trails and headed up to the Manson Barn and Farmstead, with garden, from the 1860s.

I will return to this lovely place even when it rains as the trails make it easy to walk a good distance in any weather.

See you next time!

Monday’s Meander: Sauvie Island Time

Beautifully green Sauvie island: this was the place on Mother’s Day I wanted to enjoy a few choice hours. It was a great change from my usual mid-May visits to ocean beaches or Columbia Gorge, (both closed due to coronavirus). Here one can enjoy several bodies of water; smaller Tualatin Mountains west of island as well as three major peaks and Cascades in the distance; meadows and farms; and birds and other creatures all in one fell swoop.

Only about 20 miles from our home, this large river island is situated between the muscular Columbia River on the east, narrow Multnomah Channel on the west and the good-sized Willamette River at the south (which passes through Portland and close to our current habitat). The island is one of the largest of its type in the US, comprised of rolling grasslands, scattered woods and lush farmland over 24,000 acres. There are also 7 lakes I counted on a map; I only saw a couple when once in search of an uncrowded public beach.

The whole island can only be described as fecund and bucolic.

L., Mt St. Helens which famously blew its top in 1980 and R., Mt. Adams–both in WA. state. One can occasionally see three at once–the two above plus Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

Temperature was upper 70 degrees Fahrenheit; breezes were tender on the skin, grasses rustled and danced; birds vocalized their near- symphonic offerings. Horses, sheep, cows all grazed contentedly. We drove around and feasted our eyes; we normally stop at several sites within the large Sauvie Island Wildlife Area but some were closed off. This time we visited Raccoon Point. There were very few people there. We waded through sweeping areas of tall grasses but there was one beaten pathway to follow.

We saw red-tailed hawks and American kestrels while gazing into the treetops and water into near-blinding sunshine, but in prior visits have spotted sandpipers, herons and egrets there, as well as bald eagles.

Moving along via car, we enjoyed more countryside and then the channel, where dozens of houseboats are anchored, along with boats.

As the afternoon ended, I thought briefly how this time of year I am mindful of three family members who passed away so very close to Mother’s Day. It was for once a perfect day: to think of them with love and affection, to have gratitude for their lives as well as my own and more. We were both satisfied by varieties of sensory offerings and tantalizing though familiar scenes. All in all, I felt fulfilled on Mother’s Day, and this was on top of wonderful earlier visits–if rather distanced–with our adult children and a few grandchildren.

I hope you enjoyed our mid-May meander!

Monday’s Meander: Down Old River Road

We often enjoy a saunter –or power walk, depending on weather or inclination–that takes us down our area’s Old River Road. This time we also ventured a different direction and discovered a few new sights. One was the cottage above, seen again below. Another was this fancy pink bench right up to road’s edge–no bus stop or pathways. Just a bright bench in case you need a pause. It made me wonder who actually had sat at a woodland byway that does get residential traffic.

A couple of footbridges are crossed along the way. one with an impressive fringe of ferns. I tossed some leaves that twirled down to their destinations. It is that sort of walk…

But the real surprise was this totem pole…

and this delightful home, circa 1918.

I am enjoying every moment of dry weather we still have left in the Pacific Northwest, as temperatures drop, the winds pick up and cold morning fog sets in. Soon the rains will hit and linger for a few months. It is what it is–every season has its beauty. But, my, how I will miss the bright skies and long, hilly walks around and about our small city. Enjoy your week wherever you are. Yet I also keep in mind any Californians who are suffering significant losses again from the raging fires. May rain visit soon, fires be contained and come to a halt!

Friday’s Quick Pick/Photos: A Peek into My Old Neighborhood

It was inevitable that sooner or later I’d end up nosing about the old neighborhood of Irvington in Portland. We moved into woodsy ex-burbs on 1st of March; it’s not as if we’ve been gone ages. But when an appointment took me back and weather cleared plus I had time, of course I was going to check out a proliferation of new blossoms among old sights. I expect more within a month or two and will return. In our new digs we have greater vistas and different plant life as we are higher, nearer mountain foothills– but with fewer flowers, so far.

Hope you enjoy absorbing the sights, as I certainly did (though I am still pleased with our move).

All photos ©Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2019

If you made it to the bottom, a PS: our youngest daughter is delivering twins next Tuesday, so I may be absent a couple of days–unless I post Monday. But I will be busier than ever after this so writing may be less of quantity but, hopefully, still retain some decent quality. And to say I am excited about the additions to our family may be a true understatement…! I will share some of those new experiences.