What We Lost in the Fires

DAVID RYDER/GETTY IMAGES Phoenix, Oregon

September has been a gruesome month in my home state of Oregon. We were traumatized by wildfires and smoke that began Labor Day Weekend staying in our homes for 10 days to avoid breathing the toxic cloud of air that descended over the state.  Thousand of people were evacuated from their homes.  The fires ravaged over a million acres of land burning several 2800 structures including homes and businesses.  About 11 people lost their lives.  Many are homeless and without jobs. The towns of Detroit Lake, Talent, and Phoenix were decimated as with many communities up the McKenzie River Hwy.  Many of the larger fires are still burning.

Particularly heartbreaking to me is knowing that some of my favorite places were hit especially hard; the Breitenbush Hot Springs Community, the McKenzie River corridor, and the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and Wilderness.  These were places that recharged my soul.  Nature will renew them- but not in my lifetime.  It looks like my ashes will be scattered among the ashes.

Continue reading “What We Lost in the Fires”

Bidding Farewell to RBG

We lost a giant this last week. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at 87 years old working tirelessly for womens rights and equality up into her death. She was a lion in a diminuative, soft spoken body. Her passing was a blow for many of us.

330px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_2016_portrait

RBG legally orchestrated women’s’ rights and equal rights in this country after overcoming tremendous discrimination in her own career. 

rbg

Ginsburg was one of the first eight women to enter Harvard Law School and was told by the dean they were taking the place of qualified males. Even after graduating from the top of her class, she could not find a job because of her gender. With the help of her supportive husband, she persisted, raised two children and ultimately rose to the Supreme Court. She continued her hard work to her death sleeping only a few hours a night. Ginsburg survived cancer two times and followed a rigorous workout twice a week with her personal trainer. RBG became sort of a pop icon for her famous dissenting opinions on the Supreme Court becoming known as “The Notorious RBG.”

rbg sticker

To learn more about her life watch RBG, the documentary on Netflix, it is truly inspirational as well as the dramatized movie “On the Basis of Sex.” She has been a role model for us all, especially women young and old. Learning about her life gives hope and offers a welcome reprieve from the current events.

Losing someone of this character leaves a hole in the universe. I think this poem by Maya Angelou sums up the magnitude of this loss.

WHEN GREAT TREES FALL

by Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Alanna also blogs about sustainable living at onesweetearth.art.blog

What One Can Learn From an Octopus…

I watched an incredible movie last night- truly such a piece of art in so many ways I thought I would try to spread the word. The movie is called “My Octopus Teacher,” available for streaming on Netflix.

Here’s a summary courtesy Wikipedia:

My Octopus Teacher takes viewers into a world few humans have ever seen. In 2010, debilitated by adrenal fatigue, Craig began free diving in a freezing underwater forest at the tip of Africa. As the icy water re-energised him, he started to film his experiences and in time, a curious young octopus captured his attention. By visiting her den and tracking her movements everyday for months, he won the animal’s trust and they developed an unlikely relationship.

As the little octopus shared the secrets of her world, Craig became first witness to the beauty and drama of a wild creature’s life and in the process, underwent an incredible mental and physical transformation.”

Everything about this movie was stunning, the cinematography, the story, the narration, the octopus. It was like watching poetry. It made me ask the question, are we humans smarter than an octopus?

If you want a break from the ugliness of the world right now, this is a great movie to watch.

Alanna also blogs about sustainable living at onesweetearth.art.blog

As Oregon Burns

We are among the lucky. Thus far we have only lost power and internet service. There is a fire a few miles away but it seems to be holding. My heart goes out to those who have lost everything and the 500,00 who have had to undergo the stress of evacuations.

As Oregon Burns

A dry wind howls from the east

We extinguish the candles

 and do not sleep

As Oregon burns

A black cloud draws across the sky like a flat curtain

Led by the dark horses of the apocalypse

Continue reading “As Oregon Burns”

Of Voles and Holes

Image courtesy https://www.thetimes.co.uk/

If you have country property here in my corner of Oregon, you have probably noticed an explosion of small mammals, including ground squirrels, rats but especially voles this year.  Rodents have population cycles peaking every few years and then falling after the predator population catches up to them.  This is a banner year for voles

Voles are rodents, bigger than mice with smaller ears and short tales.  They are chiefly vegetarians munching on roots, nuts, young plants, and bulbs.  They are proficient tunnelers.  You don’t want them in your garden.

On the positive side, they aerate the soil and distribute nutrients in the soil layers.  My inner biologist recognizes their role in the great circle of life but my outer gardener is extremely frustrated.  I am perhaps the first person to write a poem about vole holes?.  Adding a bit a humor has made the situation in my lawn more tolerable.

Continue reading “Of Voles and Holes”

The Art Of Bothering

image courtesy BBC (RubberBall / Alamy)

Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any crazier, it has. The issues confronting this country (and the world beyond) makes one tempted to roll over on ones back, legs up in defeat. I need not mention them. You all know- especially in the USA.

This enormity of disasters makes one wonder- is it all hopeless? What good can I do that will make a difference? I’ve been thinking all this week about this question “why bother?” This is what I came up with…

Continue reading “The Art Of Bothering”

The Art of Flying During a Pandemic

I did not have important business to attend to, a family emergency, or anything pressing that required me to get on an airplane and travel during this Covid 19 pandemic.  That fact was, I was going nutty fruitcakes having been so restricted for so long.  I NEEDED TO GETAWAY. I guess this would come under the mental health category.   After venting to my sister outlaw (former sister inlaw), Jean, a couple of months back she said “why don’t you come up to Juneau for a visit?”  A trip to Alaska and a lot of hiking in the wilds sounded like just the ticket.  Before I knew it I had gone online, cashed in some frequent flyer miles, and then was to be on my way August 5th for a 6- day trip.

I have to say that before I departed I consulted my inner “riskometer.” I knew I would be forced to be closer than was recommended to strangers, but I also knew that Alaska Airlines had HEPA filtration and offered every other seating.  All passengers and crew were required to wear masks.  That combined with the N-95 masks and face shield I just purchased to wear would make my risk of acquiring the virus very low.  Juneau, Alaska also had a very low infection rate.

The fashionable N-95

Approaching Juneau

When I left I was self-contained with my PPE, hand sanitizer, and enough food so I would not need to purchase anything to eat.   The Portland, Oregon airport had maybe 20% of its normal traffic.  I felt secure there.  The first leg of the trip to Seattle I had an entire row to myself.  Now Seatac airport, a major airline, hub was a different story.  It seemed to be more like at 80% capacity.  The gate of my departing flight was fairly crowded with its share of sloppy maskers.  I waited outside of the gate area in a sparsely occupied alcove area and then waited to board last.  As advertised the middle seat was empty.  I did not accept the offered drinks from the flight attendant and avoided using the lavatory during the 2-hour flight to Juneau.  On arriving I got a Covid test required from the State of Alaska.  Then Jean and I were off for some adventures.

On the Perserverance Trail
The MendenhallGlacier
A wet day on the Treadwell Trail
Spawning slamon

Every day we were out hiking rain or shine and there seemed to be way more than the former.  It didn’t matter.  It was so nice to be out in nature and such a beauty- not that the Willamette Valley in Oregon isn’t beautiful.  This was a different beauty- a total change of scenery. We saw a beaver, 4 black bears, including a mama and baby, a beaver, porcupine, spawning salmon, bald eagles, ravens, and a plethora of wildflowers

 Three days later my covid test came back negative which made socializing less stressful. There was no going out to eat nor shopping which was fine with me.  Being outside was what I needed in cooler weather than what the Oregon summer was serving up.

I’ve been back home for over two weeks and no Covid.  For me, this trip was worth the calculated risk I took. I’m in a better frame of mind and feel refreshed. This pandemic is going to be around for a while – probably at least another year or so. In my late 60s, I don’t want to lose two years of my life to this pandemic, but I don’t want to lose my life either. So it continues to be a dance with risk, being safe but not paralyzed with fear.  I can hardly wait to look at this time and talk about it in the past tense- while being healthy.

Alanna also blogs at onesweetearth.com

Pandemic Ponderings with a Pen

After months I’m getting used to the “new abnormal” ……

One thing I forgot on this list in P is for PROCRASTINATION. How can I have this much time and get so little done? Tomorrow is my current default goal.

Alanna also blogs about sustainability on One Sweet Earth

Artwork by the author.

Lessons From a River

“A good river is nature’s life work in song.”
― Mark Helprin

River doodle by the author

If there is one place that will give me a sense of peace, it is in the presence of a river.  Besides being beautiful, rivers have an uncanny way of calming the spirit no matter what kind of dither you are in.  In the infinite haiku of moving water, we can let go.

Clear Lake, Oregon

My favorite river in Oregon is the McKenzie.  It is born from an underwater spring in Clear Lake high in the Cascade Mountains out of Eugene. From Clear Lake, it tumbles down a fantasy of waterfalls, disappears for a bit into the lava bedrock, and reappears in Blue Pool, a deep touramaline pool that gathers all kinds of visitors to admire its beauty. Eventually, the McKenzie becomes a big river. It tumbles down from the mountains in a sparkle of rapids, calming as it flows into farmland before it flows into the Willamette..

Upper McKenzie R. waterfall

Every year we take a trip on the fourth of July to camp by the McKenzie.  Part of that trip includes one or two runs down the river in our inflatable whitewater kayaks.  We skipped last year as my spousal equivalent had a series of knee surgeries.  We were both nervous about this year’s run down the river as our skills were rusty.  In the end, we both agreed that if we didn’t buck up and get out on the water we would never forgive ourselves.  There is the feeling of being by a river but being ON a river is the ultimate experience.

Off we went and in 50 yards hit a class 2.5 rapids, a rough way to warm up.  We paddled through the waves as they roiled up around us.  My adrenaline was buzzing until my mind and muscle memory kicked in and I thought to myself “oh yeah, I can do this!”  The following rapids were pure fun. We had lunch on a gravel beach with wildflowers around us.  It was a memorable run and probably will be the high spot of our summer.  I’m so glad we got over our fears. 

Rivers are great teachers, so full of metaphors.  Here are a few lessons I have learned from my numerous rides on their liquid paths…

Pick a run that matches your ability but is still challenging.

Have at least one buddy that will watch your back.

Go with the flow- watch where the main current is.  It takes less effort.

Keep your sights to where you want to go.  If you fixate on a rock, you will hit it.  Aim to the side.

Stay committed in tough water and paddle with intention.

Find a peaceful eddy and take a break now and again.

Enjoy the scenery.

You will fall out of your boat occasionally.  It’s okay.  Get back in and keep on going.

The river is always changing.

The white water is what you’ll remember most.

The author

Alanna also blogs about sustainable living at One Sweet Earth

In Defense of Doing Nothing

Take note…none of the great sages, prophets, and saviors ever became enlightened by being busy. They renounced their worldly possessions, headed out into the desert, sat under trees, and retreated to caves high up in the mountains. They fasted, prayed, and meditated- basically doing nothing for extended periods. In this solitary, inward experience they became one with themselves, nature, God, and ultimately fulfilled.

In contrast, our culture encourages productivity. The more we achieve, the more we are valued even to ourselves. We are always heading towards something -graduation, career, children, children leaving home, retirement, and acquiring more stuff. We were never encouraged to just BE and Be with our be-ness. Therefore a great deal of our society thinks happiness is always beyond the next bend. For example- “When I______________(fill in the blank), I will be happy.

Being a victim of this frame of mind, I started my sheltering in place journey with a “Super- think of all the things I can get DONE!- writing art, gardening, fitness, etc.”.  Then I started to go crazy with all these added expectations.

I concluded that productivity is overrated. You get something accomplished and then 3 more things go in the queue. The carrot remains out of reach. What I needed to do was slow down and find a nice cave to curl up in with no paper to write a to do list on. Savoring the moment is where it’s at. It’s likely we won’t get this type of “opportunity” again.

Now I have granted myself a time to go “fallow.” I haven’t gone off the rails, nor am I enlightened, but I have lowered my expectations.  Oddly, this takes a bit of mindfulness.  Old habits die hard, but overall, I am happier and enjoying the ride alot more…

and it is such a relief!

Small Acts of Rebellion

Not flossing before bed

Saying no to the news

Watching a movie first thing in the morning

Staring off into space

Going braless

Making bad art

Writing bad poetry

Using BAD two times in a row

Being happy

Refusing to give up

Find Balance

Alanna also blogs at One Sweet Earth

Doodle by the author