Monday’s Meander: Winter’s Rising River

Flooding from Oregon’s rivers is fairly common, especially during the rainy season from early November until about May. I live amid two major rivers and several smaller ones. A river patrol boat was scanning the water and shore of the Willamette River during my last river walk. Heavy rainfall has raised water levels off and on the past month. I keep an eye on it, too, as I walk alongside it. Official flood stage for the Willamette, a major tributary of the Columbia River, is 18 ft.

I was privy to a major flood in 1996, when I worried the river would roar up the 20 blocks from riverfront but, fortunately, we were spared. The level now isn’t so bad. However, another issue that I read about today is sewage spillage when we get a lot of rain. For 16 months the river was sewage free, longest time ever since a new overflow containment system was completed in 2011. Until yesterday. There finally was some spillage, due to heavy rainfalls’ impact. The river was closed for a few hours. Not so newsworthy an event, though, I guess: it used to spill over frequently during heavier rains before that billion dollar project. Still, it makes one think twice of dangling a hand in the river during these months.

Those dark clouds above are common and look scarier than they are. They’re typical of heavy rain clouds here. They began to disperse over the duration of the walk. One end of the river can look clear and bright; the other quite foreboding. We do get some doozy rainstorms with winds around 15-20 mph. ButI love that about the Pacific NW. One never knows what one will see and experience when out and about. Moody rivers, undulating valleys, towering mountains. But flooding is a concern, too–now and in the spring from snow melts.

This one is wonderful as it serves diverse purposes. It splits off the mighty Columbia (which acts as Oregon/Washington state line) and divides our city into east and west sides. It flows for about 187 miles; we live in an area southwest of city center. It tends to be quieter here, but not lately. It has been more turbulent and fast-moving, floating logs or detritus along the way. I kept my eye out for river otters and seals but saw no heads or sleek, long bodies poking above water this time.

These pictures were taken during a walk four days ago. Currently, the river’s water level is 7.8 feet, not as high as then since the rainfall diminished to almost nothing for three days. We even had sunshine and much less mud for once. Minor flooding is not much of an issue now in my area, affecting mostly low-lying banks and beaches. The water was calmer in the beachy area below the main entrance to George Rogers Park–a summer recreation spot.

Let me show you some of what I saw, starting with a trickling waterfall. The greenery still looks lovely in December. And there is much mushroom growth.

The clouds moved about and there were glimpses of what the following days would bring–more light and varied landscape color, far less of the deluges.

Very few people by the beach, excepting a few kids chasing ducks and geese and tossing stones into the river. It cheered me to see them having fun despite the cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit) and damp and sweeping bursts of wind closer to the river.

A lovely trellis and arbor configuration is at the entrance to part of the George Rogers Park before one gets to the river. I was quite taken by this view as landscape and sky were on the verge of a beautiful twilight.

Headed back home, a brief glimpse of a few of the mountains and foothills which circle our valley and Portland metro.

I have walked many parks this winter so far, and have more to share with you in coming weeks. Even deep blue skies that sparkle above the emerald greens of this good earth.

Monday’s Meanders: River Magic/Dusk, Twilight

I’ve walked later in the day recently, mostly to avoid heavy rainfalls, and find the river more beautiful than ever as the winter sun begins to set. These are taken at stretches of path along Foothills Park, an apt name. A section closed during summer for updating reopened; it has been a pleasure to enjoy it again. I hope you like these peaceful offerings.

May peace and beauty comfort you in your daily labors, and amidst these tumultuous times.

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 Meanders: September River Light, with Love

I’d love to share a slew of photos of my wonderful twin granddaughters, almost 18 months old and running about, giggling and squealing, gabbing their twin baby speak. We spent two happy hours yesterday in a pretty park. Alas, I am not allowed so on to today’s topic: my love of rivers.

On Sat. I embarked on a brisk walk along the Willamette River–often a route to explore. That day, voluminous cumulus clouds and warmer fall light were quite lovely. Fall has begun to come into its own. (We still have temperatures in mid to upper 70s Fahrenheit after days of needed soakers –great for firefighters to help contain remaining Oregon fires.) This last wave of heat will end; chill rain will dominate by end of October or early November. Winter, grey and damp, and yet not without its charms.

Above, the top photo reveals people gathering above the beach area. There are stairs leading down to a partly sandy stretch, accentuated by large rock formations along and in the river. During summer, scores of people come to swim, kayak, and various boating activities. Kayaks are rented out of the two blue crates at left side of the second photo–now closed up for the coming winter. I regret I didn’t rent one–each summer flies by and I just don’t get out there…next year! Being in almost any boat draws me.

I’ve shared photos of this area with lots of folks swimming and lounging–even during this summer of COVID-19. Everyone has craved more outdoors and the river, it seems. Now groups are on the wane, though boaters will long commandeer the waterway. Fishing remains popular.

Below, up the stairs and near the entrance of the area, stands an old iron furnace operated from the mid-1860 for about twenty years. It was the first iron furnace on the Pacific Coast and turned out 42, 000 tons of pig iron. Oregon Iron & Steel failed as a business after the 1893 financial crisis, one of the worst in U.S. history.

From here there are pathways–one dirt into the woods and another paved. We often take the paved one for a longer outing, as it connects to Old River Road where few cars go by and walkers enjoy a walking lane–and earnest bikers speed by.

The walking lane is delineated by the white line but this gentleman took to and owned the road–as many do in order to keep good social distance.

Below is a spot we have seen deer, and to the right is a glimpse of an old white house I covet…

I was on the lookout for more leafy color but that is yet to come. So it was time to wind up the walk, back where I started, feeling content and happy…

….but wait—-a last gaze at the serpentine, peaceful river as clouds bunch about treetops even if, lovestruck as I am, I’ll return soon enough.

Monday’s Meander: Elk Rock Garden of Bishop’s Close

Once or twice a year I post about this graceful, fully accessible garden spread over 13 acres. It changes wonderfully over seasons and displays a fascinating mix of botanical life. The house was built in 1914 by a Scottish businessman, Peter Kerr, to resemble a Scottish manor. It was built along the Willamette River to also give a good view of Mt. Hood in the distance. At his death in 1957, his daughters decided to give it to the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon, with a provisory clause that the garden be open to visitors.

Wandering there gives rise to deep peace. Join Marc and me as we stroll about on a recent visit.

Outdoor altar for the Holy Eucharist, for staff at the Diocese ; it is covered in kiwi vine.