Monday’s Meander in Autumn’s Palette: Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Preserve

I had so many enjoyable outings over past week-end it was hard to choose just one to share today. Marc and I always look forward to roaming Steigerwald Nature Preserve in Washington and especially the fall. We had a perfect day for roaming and wildlife scouting. We were met, however, with changes in the habitat. Strewn about were large tree stumps and roots and logs, for one thing. (Slide show below for a panorama of beauty.)

We learned that this year begin a $22 million habitat restoration that will entail reconfiguring a floodplain of this Lower Columbia River area. The refuge will be reconnected to the natural ebb and flow of the mighty Columbia; 2 miles of US Army Corps of Engineers levees will be lowered to natural levee height. A major reason is to allow six species of salmon and trout as well as lamprey to better benefit. Nine hundred acres will be restored over 3 years. Placing woody debris is part of preparation and invasive vegetation management has begun. We are excited to hear of the improvements and partnerships that are involved in this huge project for supporting wildlife and for greater public viewing.

I hope you enjoy the walkabout and will visit if you can do so.

Friday’s Quick Pick/Photos: Good Earth, How You Move Me

Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson, copyright 2018

Last week-end, Marc and I made our first early spring trek to check out Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge in Washington State. We visit at least once a season to investigate the bird activities and walk among the marshes and grassland, as well as absorb partial view of the Cascade Mountains and portion of the Columbia River. I grew more excited as we neared the turn-off; this nature preserve shares small surprises each visit as well as peaceful beauty.  Many people flock here to enjoy the wealth of the offerings; they are always friendly and usually share what they have experienced.

There is almost more water than trees but alder and fir trees as well as groves of stark black cottonwood are attractive in fields and along the river. We will return when they are fully leaved, but before the summer sun bears down upon us with fiery heat.

Far from being accomplished birdwatchers, we still try to identify our sightings. This time we noted a bald eagle perched high above, blue herons in the marshes, Northern harriers hunting as well as red-tailed hawks, watchful kestrels and a bold scrub jay, and the elegant outlines against brilliant sky of charming swifts. And scores of Canadian geese as well as the requisite mallards and buffleheads. We enjoyed many I could not quite capture on film or name. The harriers were majestic and powerful and flew very low over land, then abruptly rose and rose above treetops countless times. I could barely move for the awe I felt. You’ll find the harrier in the 3rd, 13th and 14th photos. They tend to hover right, almost seeming still, before diving to kill their prey. (Unlike red-tailed hawks which ride the thermals, spiral up and then execute a very rapid dive to prey.) The smallish kestrel stands atop a post. I suspect you all know a bald eagle and heron.

I find the high wild grasses stunning, and love to listen to and watch them sway, shimmy, rustle, sigh and bow in the strong Columbia Gorge winds.

You can see shining Mt. Hood a few times, a dramatic beacon to those of us who live here (though one of many great peaks we can see on a clear day).

There were also a couple of interesting outbuildings beyond the enclosed refuge as you can walk for miles and miles along the rushing river.

Good Earth, how deeply you move me…

Steigerwald Spring March 18 062

Days of Loss, Treasures Revisited

All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson copyright 2017

I’m not able to write fiction today; it takes me 6-8 hours per short story posting. It might be feasible if I propped my eyes open all night, even made a pot of coffee but I drink that substance sparingly so that’s out. I’m a bit weary but have now paused after hours better spent–have to say it as today it is certainly true– with my extended family than at this computer. And believe me, I am madly in love with writing. (Posts this short are like teasers; I always long to pick and play with more and more of those acrobatic words.)

But it’s Memorial Day. A day set aside in remembrance of those innumerable ones who have given their lives defending our country. And it is a somber day for other reasons.

Over the week-end in my city two brave people’s lives were lost while stepping in to defend two teen-aged, apparently Muslim girls who sat on a train enduring hate mongering. A third man is still in hospital with severe injuries. The perpetrator–who spewed racist epithets and threats then resorted to deadly knife violence when well-meaning strangers intervened–was soon arrested. But what was done was done and so fast. This happened not that far from my neighborhood, on public transportation that thousands routinely take to get to work, to home, to see friends, to attend events. It is a horrific crime, a nightmare of a reality to victims’ families and friends. To the witnesses.

And then I think of Manchester. And so many other places and persons, countless intolerable losses that permeate our earth, this home we are to share.

So I felt strongly this was a time to even more appreciate those who matter so much to me. To pause in prayer and slow way down. I put aside thoughts of writing and now here I sit thinking. What visits me with increasing familiarity is that mixture of sorrow, incomprehension, gratitude laced with tenderness. Inside my essential being remains glowing embers of hope. I don’t always see why, but faith in goodness is rooted there. What language can muster any order or sense from cavernous depths of human despair? Such pain nonetheless can reveal in its darkest moments a relentless, fierce pursuit of hope…We work to believe and find strength as we connect through the haze of doubts.

So I shared ordinary activities today that mean so much. I gathered with family to share a table full of good food, and hugs, ideas, anecdotes, experiences, passions. We are all talkers sooner or later and it can go on a long while, wave upon wave.

We spoke of the violence. But we also talked about rock hunting (saw new ones my son brought), health and healing, true love here and in the beyond, books, beading and jewelry (niece), yard and electrical work, dill potato salad (I make a good one) and delicious chicken linguine and baked beans with unusual ingredients. Packing up and moving to new homes, making custom T-shirts and hats (son and sister), print making (sister-in-law) and photography. Carburetors (one brought as a gift) and vintage cars and motorcycles rusting or running. Being an active jazz musician at seventy eight (brother). House painting jobs and the risk of carpal tunnel. Pyramids, aliens (son, his partner, niece’s partner). Outer space exploration versus earth sciences (I was thinking of this more than speaking). Grandchildren growing up and away, skateboarding (son is a pro), jumping on a trampoline (I enjoy with grandkids), learning to drive and also driving as downright irritating. Also learning to play piano to better compose music. Cherry and marionberry pie with ice cream to savor, even admire. And mentions of those not present: they are always missed. Dogs abounded, which was good. My sister’s attentiveness, smile, and hug were better. I enjoyed her fun yard art; she likes to paint creatures salvaged at estate sales.

If there were captivating characters ready made for short stories… well, beloved relatives could fit the bill fine. A family, as we know, is designed of custom- created individuals sharing genetic, historical and/or emotional material. And how fabulous that is, you have to agree. Except when you feel it may not be so all that, or not all the time. We all have opinions and viewpoints, after all. We can find ourselves at cross purposes and out of key as well as filled with exquisite harmonies made by all (which has layers of meanings for me since we are a musical crew).

I am glad to report today was like a satisfying gift bonus, as when you open the main package and then discover goodies hidden about the expected one. It was reassuring and invigorating to mingle with those who are interesting, goodhearted, often (dryly) humorous persons. And who feel like real friends, not obligatory ones.

Add in packed-with-info phone calls and lengthy texts that count for more time shared–not all are family members who reside in Oregon. Space can be healthy and good except when you really want them all with you. Close, safe.

This long week-end also afforded more time with my overtaxed, oft-traveling spouse. And since the hard and daily rains have ended and we’ve been able to get out and about more, we revisited a few places we love. Birds singing their small hearts out was exquisite, even poignant; how they moved me. I leave you with scenes from nature’s variety which proves a constant source of renewal. So I can be and do better. So we can go out and love even truer. Bravely, despite risks. This is basic wisdom. Other peoples in other times have used it well; so can  we.

Noble Woods, Steigerwald, Vancouver Lake 100

Friday’s Passing Fancy: For Wild Grassy Seas

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A swishing dance of barest stems was
perhaps nothing but a passing of the wind
and yet it came to me as kindness.
Sun with great dome of warmth blessing all,
flowery or buggy face a measure of its power.
It was welcome that I sought, leaving worries,
adding nothing to my thought than
assurances of earth’s own wisdom.

Those fine, secret hours. A promise of unity,
and forgiveness of capriciousness.
The girl I was, the ways I yearned–
heaven to lie among those favored
ones, creatures and plants gathered
without malice or demands.
It was no less than sovereignty
of beauty, ease and genius of this planet.

But it was only half (if that) a story then.
The lives of humans proved felonious
as well as courageous or reconciling,
gave or took such scarlet blood as well as love.
My own life was like others: peaks and rills,
made of rust, of lightning, midnight and morning stars.
These things meadows told me, too,
as I lay lolling in its wilder, grassy seas.

So I am reaching toward sweet if resting grasses
and their counterparts who advise: patience.
Abundant, brave spring will circle back.
I will let the world turn in its shadow and silt
’til messenger dawns arrive, bring us to thaw,
bestow upon us each a deeper truth, dear God, once more.

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(All photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson)