The Penultimate Travelers- the Furred, Feathered, and Finned

Travel for humans, for the most part, is a lifestyle choice.  We travel the earth to seek &fall experience, new destinations that pull on our hearts.  But humans aren’t the only travelers on this planet.  When it comes down to it, we are totally put to shame by those in the animal world where travel is mandatory.  For many, the mysterious urge of migration calls some of the earth’s smallest inhabitants to take journeys unfathomable to our minds.arctic-tern-1249243_1920

  • Consider the Arctic Tern who flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year.  Monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles through several generations from regions throughout Canada to one small mountaintop in Mexico to spend the winter.  Pacific salmonsalmon-273062_1920 are born in mountain streams and swim down to the open ocean only to return years later.  They travel the hundreds of miles to that very spot where they hatched, to reproduce, & subsequently die.  The pull of migration affects tiny hummingbirds, whales, caribou, wildebeest & many other species too numerous to name.

butterflies-807551_1920As a trained naturalist, and as I ponder my own motivations for travel,  I wonder what it must be like for one of these creatures when one day, they wake up and its time for them to leave?  What do they experience when often they must depart the only place they have every known to embark on an unfathomable journey of such physical magnitude?

I wrote this poem thinking of a bird during its first migration & what it might be like….

 

 FIRST MIGRATION

A sliver of a moon

Shimmered off my left shoulder

As we pumped our wings

Rhythmically, silently

Through the darkness of the frigid night.

The urge unexplained

Tugged on my soul

& led me onward, North

Guided by stars

And the pull of the earth.

leaving the familiar behind

An unknown destiny awaiting.

I revel in the freedom of flight

Trusting the whispers from deep within

I follow the others to a foreign land

On a course mapped by generations before me.

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The Reluctant Traveler

On Saturday, June 3,  I will board a plane for three weeks in Ireland.  I feel both excitement and anxiety about this trip for I am a reluctant traveler.  You see I have this IMG_0749cozy little life in living in an old farmhouse in rural Oregon.  I don’t always feel that need to get away for I am “away.”  Mind you I will always jump at the chance to go camping, hiking or kayaking in the Pacific Northwest but heading across the ocean with a tourist guidebook in hand does not attract me.

Yet every few years I feel that pull to experience the unknown, go to a far off place and savor the sights and culture of someplace foreign.  The one caveat is that I need to travel with purpose, rather than being a tourist bouncing from attraction to attraction. I require a mission and an opportunity to learn about a new country from “the inside out” rather than just be a casual observer. When I was in my 20’s, my work in wildlife research & as a river guide required me to travel to the far reaches of bush Alaska.  Past adventures have also included numerous solo Spanish language immersions in Central America and Mexico with homestays with local families.  Once I traveled to Northern Guatemala alone, arriving Christmas night to a home in an impoverished town to participate in an environmental project there.  In 2013 I walked the Camino de Santiago from France through N Spain with a friend to mark my 60th birthday.  This type of travel is often uncomfortable but offers such opportunities for perspective & personal growth.

patharrisblackThis coming trip will not offer such extreme physical and emotional challenges as my previous journeys. I will make my way from Dublin by bus to the Ballinglen Art Center in the small village of Ballina to take a weeklong mono-printing workshop from artist Ron Prokrasso.  Three friends will join me at the workshop’s end.  We will spend 2 weeks traveling about NW Ireland in a rental car staying in several cottages we have reserved.

It will be a fabulous trip but I am already missing my “spousal equivalent” of 17 years, my two goofy dogs, the stray cat that comes to the porch every night to be fed, the hummingbirds that frequent the porch feeder, my studio & all the other ingredients that make up the life that I cherish.

IMG_0748But I will allow myself to be uprooted for a time to be pruned and enriched by the wonder & challenge that travel can present.  I hope to grow as an artist and bring back a host of fond memories as my souvenirs and a lot of new artwork.  Until then, I better get packing!clover-445255_1920

 

Weekly Photo Challenge- The Evanescence of Water

Walk a half mile down the McKenzie River Trail from Clear Lake, Oregon & you will come upon a treasure of waterfalls and azure pools.  I like to stop & gaze at the dance of the water, infinite incarnations in the blink of an eye.

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Evanescent

On The Way

It was the late 1950s and America was on the road.  My family was one of them.  Some of my fondest memories were from these times and our many camping trips to Yosemite National Park & beyond. This one’s for you, Dad…..

“Are we almost there yet?”1309f33c20927d222859100d29bb9db5

I whined to my parents as we motored down seemingly endless highways

punctuated with Burma-Shave signs,jack44

Jumbo Orange stands and other odd roadside attractions.

We traveled to the pace of a ’56 Chevy Station wagon

two-toned Red & White

unbuckled with my older brother in the way back
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windows rolled down

stifling heat & wind flapping about our ears

while we sang songs in harmony

& read piles of comic books

rejoicing in those stops

with dripping ice cream cones

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on the way to that perfect camp spot under shady pine trees.

We slept under the stars on army cots

tucked in thick sleeping bags lined with red flannel plaid

waking to the “shhhhhh” sound of the Coleman stove.

We waded in creeks turning over rocks exposing odd bugs yosemite-post-card

& released crude sailboats made of wood scraps &  white rag sails

into the current past our tin can waterwheels.

It was a wild wonderland

for a young girl with legs as spindly as a colt’s.

Now looking back to those years from the arc of adulthood

“Are we almost there yet?”

We were there

We were there all the time.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Walking Heritage, The Camino de Santiago

cmaino mapFor centuries Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe & beyond set out to walk often hundreds of miles to the shrine of the apostle, St. James whose remains were said to rest in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Santiago, in northwestern Spain. Though many routes crisscrossed Europe, the most well-traveled route stretches 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port in France over the Pyrenees through Basque country and then onto Galicia.camino albergue

The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims wear them on their packs & they are on all the way markers for the trail.

In modern times the trail has been popular with hikers and bikers all over the world for a variety of reasons, Some travel just for recreation, others during a transitional time in their lives & many for spiritual reasons.  It is still popular today among Catholics.  In 1987 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in “albergues,” similar to youth hostels.  At each albergue you get your pilgrim passport stamped.

camino startIn 2013 I walked 250 miles of the Camino with my long time friend, Deb,marking my 60th birthday.  We skipped the middle part since we only had 2 1/2 weeks.  It was a pivotal experience in my life. We started in France with many other pilgrims beginning the long trek from the charming medieval village of  St. Jean de Port crossing the Pyrenees the next day.

Some of the many memorials along the way.  Deb is leaving a special stone in the Pyrenees in memory of her father.

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The pass above Pamplona

Scenes along the Camino….

The End of the Journey- for most, the Cathedral de Santiago, for me – Museo by the Sea (in new shoes.)
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The Poetry of Loss

There is no roadmap through grief.  I find peace through writing after the recent passing of my father.  Here are two poems…

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ON THE DAY MY FATHER DIED

I heard the earth sigh

Above the splash of tears

His spirit slipped away quietly

It’s shell worn from years of living

It was lifted by the cadence of prayer

Then finally free

He ascended

Into the arms of angels

And as we mourned him by his bedside

The heavens welcomed his spirit

Unencumbered by flesh

Finding peace among the stars

Forever in our hearts.

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THE GRIEF WASHED OVER ME

Like a strong wave of the sea

My face hit bottom

My cheek scraping the coarse sand

I stood up and was knocked down

Over and over again

Until I released to the ocean’s power

And washed up spent upon the shore.

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Weekly Photo Challenge- Reflections on Waldo Lake, Oregon

Waldo CairnsWaldo Lake is one of the many gems of Oregon. At 5,414 ft in the Oregon Cascades, it’s the second-largest & deepest lake in the state & is known for it’s pristine, crystal clear water. Waldo stones in waterIt’s a magical place.Waldo butterfly

Reflecting

Waldo sunset