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!

How I’m Seeing It Today

My head is full of pictures, those recently snapped as well as those saturating the media. Additionally, there are those arising from music heard and night dreams, from daily walks and greater journeys. I fill my head with images in magazines, from photography shared by others on blogs and elsewhere, from the spare art work I design in my mind and at times on paper. More visual than some, less than others, I am apt to think in images at some point even as ideas are swapped in live conversation. Yes, language is the tool that build foundation and habitation within which writing works and thrives. Words are conduits that provide emotions, postulations and hard facts the heft of expanding life. Yet intellectual inquiries, stories or poems do evoke pictures, unleash mentally constructed scenarios. I as well as others read books, in part, due to that very expectation. We want to be taken into another place or time for a rich experience, another life or few with attendant differing viewpoints. Open a book and discover stages being set and soon you are absorbed by narrative, each act and part played out as you become them as well as an invisible figure within an unfolding scene. Yes, miraculous words.

But it’s clear we are animals that rely heavily upon visual data. This begs the question about what we truly do see and also store in our memories. It also asks us how it impacts each person from that moment. How do news images provoke and shape the tenor of our days and nights, our very thoughts? How about films and television, art and even live theater? There has been much debate about the violence in our country and it is most distressingly hypnotic when we see it on a huge screen.

The Las Vegas massacre was horrific beyond any imagining, the latest in mass murders and worldwide terrorist attacks. Firearm-related deaths are increasingly numerous the past few decades in the U.S. There have long been protests about the entertainment industry depicting vicious and deadly violence too often. Sometimes I go from the news to a television show and find there are disturbing similarities. How did this come about and why isn’t it being responsibly addressed by scriptwriters and producers? I find it hard to believe that an everyday man or woman longs to be engulfed by such shows. I promptly change the channel or just turn it off. There is less and less I care to watch so carefully choose films or a series. Even then, I can be bamboozled by first scenes and finally have to give up.

This is the point when I face my responsibility for my own well-being. And for what I create, both for me and any readers. There are topics I write about frequently, things that have mattered to me professionally or personally. Not easy subjects at times, they center on physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness or its ruinous lack. I evaluate how healing has occurred and how to continue to take care as well as how others might improve their lives. And since violence personally has impacted my life, I do not seek it though I do note its worldly presence. I may have been a counselor who remained very calm when faced with a bitter, aggressive client but inside I was swamped with sadness, compassion; weary, too, of the pain and misery I witnessed.

The powerlessness we often feel when catastrophic events occur can be paralyzing. The overload of images and reports can become numbing, even take over sleep, then intrude on wakefulness. If we actually live through such events, it is magnified a thousand fold, encompasses everything. For the rest, it’s natural to note increased stress and even depression when indirectly immersed via the news. We may worry daily about the state of things. If we are prayerful, those prayers become more intense and frequent. Yet we have choices–to take action, to help improve the lives we inhabit as well as others’. How best to do that besides donating money to various charities or causes, or being politically more active?

An editor and author I know and respect, Jessica Morrell, shared on social media and also in her essay that those who write need to keep writing, to not let the world’s debacles, crises and sorrows mute our voices ( I agree and  commented that “to not to write is to signal giving up.” We can use pain and worry to fuel worthy artistic responses. To fashion greater commitment to change while mining more hope. To feed the life-renewing energy even one beneficial action can instill. A powerful state results from being present and practicing empathy in daunting times. It is critical for me to maintain an internal and external balance by instigating positive creative activity. It is at the core of my being, this urge to care as well as create in an often bedazzled yet beleaguered life.

Decades ago, a therapist I met for a first session looked at me long and hard, then said, “You’re carrying the grief of the world inside you.” It first startled me–that she’d easily found vulnerability, that pulsing kernel of love and also of despair. In the quietest places inside it rang out as true. Tears suddenly flowed. The larger world spun within me, yes, because what I had experienced countless other people already had for centuries in one way or another. And what was not yet experienced I could imagine, connect to in the nerve center of who I was. There had to be an outlet for all that, one that didn’t any more destroy me (as addiction had nearly managed).

Therapy can be helpful but I had to keep writing poetry and prose and songs, dance, make art, explore and use as a wellspring the lavish complexities of nature. That and more often reach out. There is nothing like helping others to hew a healthy path away from our own self-centered issues. We identify with others or at least empathize when we have shouldered burdens and grappled with our own monstrous moments. There are many ways to accomplish this. We each have leanings, talents and yet-hidden resources we can develop. We just need to make opportunities to try our hand at something useful or beautiful or honorable.

I used to worry about being of real service. Sometimes I still do, feeling what I now offer can never be enough–this pecking away at the keyboard and letting the sentences float into a virtual atmosphere. This amateurish taking of endless pictures, this offering up of my vision as single moments of an embracing faith and wonderment. But it’s largely what I can do in this world. It is the joyous challenge that propels my life.

Once when I was in my twenties a former in-law asked if I would “ever learn decent domestic skills–can’t you even darn socks? Can you only write poetry?”

“Yes, that’s all,” I answered, hurt and embarrassed (it was mostly true, I had little talent for those duties) yet felt fierce as I held my head up. “Because I am working on being a poet, not so much a housewife.”

I learned how to fix torn and broken things in all sorts of ways eventually, how to make roast chicken dinners and can fresh tomatoes, plant flower seeds and split wood, make a lasting fire from old furniture when every pipe froze and the good wood was gone. But I wrote poems as much as I could and anything else so moved to write. It didn’t occur to me it wasn’t at least as necessary to nourish heart and soul as it was to feed the stomach–and this is what I taught my children from the start. It is important to make something from nothing, to recognize and create beauty for its own sake, to delve deeper for truths. To use time and abilities on endeavors that may not ever garner worldly rewards. Because we are not just bellies and brains, sinew and bone.

What I do will in fact never be “enough” but I don’t have to be the only one trying to do anything. All over this world there are scores of others forging creative roads into new territory right this moment. Sharing inspirational stories in print or around a warming fire. Negotiating peace or demonstrating revolutionary lives, perhaps with potent essays. We cannot live well if at all in the world without these flares of hope. And so I keep on writing, taking pictures of all that moves me, whatever might have some value. I join each day a vast community of doers and dreamers. Now more than ever, we must take action.

Remember the images I spoke about at the beginning of this post? It seems as if I focused more on writing yet each sentence has been accompanied by an image in the multitasking brain. Still, I also took a lot of photographs over last week-end in the three-dimensional world. Let me share some of what I saw–a small offering, a little balm. (And please click on each circle to see full photo.)

Peace to you, wherever you live and strive and love.


July 4th–and An Isle of Biodiversity’s Pleasures

Beautiful farms upon entering the island
Farmland upon entering Sauvie Island

It was a good day, one made of cooling clouds that accompanied my morning walk. Voluminous fluff of grey and white soon parted to make way for sunshine, light turning all amber and toasty. Now it is a fading back light to the end of day. ‘Tis the 4th of July in the U.S.A. It has been a day of lazing about, grilling and enjoying tasty turkey burgers, my dill potato salad and corn, keeping company with some of our family. I can hear bombastic fireworks and can envision the brilliant displays. We’ve attended countless displays over time so opted out since most grandchildren were elsewhere this year.

Tangential thoughts linger, though. Independence Day: what that heralded and how it happened, what it still means. It’s complicated to consider and a demanding a topic for a short post. I think of the real implications in juxtaposition to Native Americans as my mind tosses about divergent responses. There is much to ponder just as there is much to study and question regarding the history of the world, how land and culture is altered repeatedly so that entire peoples have been impacted on every continent. Became changed and also became change makers. Americans were once–and still often are–immigrants, by and large, a topic rife with conflict these days so many places.

I also think of the motley crew, that bunch of aristocrats, scholars of various means, visionary ragamuffins and assorted trail blazers who fought for and won self-rule. And managed to create a document called the Declaration of Independence that made it all official in 1776. England watched and must have wondered what on earth next. Turns out, plenty during 240 years. American born (a happy mix of German, Irish, English, Scotch predominantly), do remain and shall be. I love this place and the diversity of peoples. I dearly hope for the better parts to gain firmer ground and more troublesome ones to improve.

That said, I find myself coming back to what I love here and now. All I really want to do is share pictures of a place husband Marc and I visited over the week-end: Sauvie Island, about ten miles northwest of our city.

It is one of the biggest river islands in North America, and the largest freshwater isle in our country. It is a rich agricultural area that supplies a large population with wonderful fruits  and vegetables, and flowers (U-pick, too). We saw many gathering armfuls of lavender, buckets of raspberries and blueberries. We find the best pumpkins there for Halloween and have had a blast picking strawberries and apples.

The island has a large wildlife preserve and a few sandy beaches along the Columbia River side (one clothing-optional–a surprise the first time we stumbled on it) and even a lake. Sauvie Island is situated within the Columbia and Willamette rivers, as well as the Multnomah Channel, where houseboats line up at water’s edge. On a clear day, you can see neighboring mountain peaks in Washington and Oregon, including Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood.

This time we took a two mile loop within Wapato Greenway State Park, part of a 12,000 acre Sauvie Island IBA (Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, having met an internationally agreed upon set of criteria). It lies within a one hundred year floodplain of the Willamette River. The landscape types include: open water, oak savanna, hardwood forest, upland prairie, riparian woodland, wetlands and grassy meadows. Each displays unique, attractive characteristics.

It was a very hot afternoon; I wore my wide brimmed hat this time and we took plenty of water and a snack. There were some dive bombing mosquitoes–not that common in much of Oregon and controlled in this area–but not enough to be bothersome if we kept moving along. (I used bug spray before entering, just in case; Marc seems oddly immune.) Bees were industrious and plentiful.We walked in search of even a few of one hundred species of birds that thrive there. Their wide ranging songs were startling and so melodic. We always carry binoculars but could identify very few as they flitted and hid, true to bird nature. There was a great blue heron. There were several kestrel nest boxes noted but no kestrels seen. We did see a lot of evidence of black tail deer. Coyotes apparently roam; I kept my eye peeled to no avail though they tend to nose about everywhere.

Here are a few photographs taken as we explored via winding, at times nearly overgrown trails for over two hours. We often return to this island as there are such wonders to explore. If there was more time I’d add more– but this time I hope enjoy a taste of Sauvie Island’s voluminous delights!

A sinuous insect-buzzing trail
A sinuous sunshine-and-shadow, insect-buzzing trail.

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We trekked along a channel of the Willamette River for awhile.

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The boating life– I am an aficionado, myself!

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A very old, huge white oak on oak Savannah acreage.

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There are numerous areas of marshland.

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Grassland meadows studded with flowers and bees.

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Marc: Isn’t that a warbler?

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Peace: a moment of partial shady repose as temps hit 85 degrees F.

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Mt. Hood–we call it simply The Mountain

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An osprey nest, one of many. Oregon has lots of ospreys, a delight to watch fly, to hear the whistling calls.

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Mount St. Helens is in WA. state but close to us–a volcano which famously blew in 1980, and has been agitated since. We have, I believe, 5 active volcanoes in our NW area. And one extinct right in our city that is now a beautiful park.

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Multnomah Channel, past of the Willamette River. The Columbia and Willamette converge but the Columbia flows to the Pacific Ocean perhaps 90 minutes from Portland.

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An idle day’s end fantasy: to live in a houseboat! I took far too many pictures of them with their tidy boats…