I learned to look for cairns when I began backpacking in the Sierra Nevada at a young age. Cairns are little towers of stacked rocks to mark the way of a path or trail. In the Sierras, they are especially helpful when traveling cross-country away from the main trail. They are a welcome sight on the granite terrain, knowing you are headed in the right direction.
Since my backpacking days, it seems my entire life I’ve been looking for cairns, literal or metaphorical. Now I build them, usually with my group three other women friends that I been adventuring with for going on over 25 years. Usually, these are for more spiritual reasons, sometimes to mark the passage of a loved one. It is a treasured ritual we have adopted. Below are some of the cairns we have built or come upon.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Over the July 4th weekend we took our annual trip camping up the McKenzie River here in Oregon. The river has its beginnings at Clear Lake, from springs that immerge from lava tubes at the North end of the lake. It then runs down a steep grade in a series of gorgeous waterfalls & pools before running free. The water is sparkling clear. Being by the McKenzie River is healing, but being on it and part of its energy in our kayaks is akin to a spiritual experience.
I find peace in rivers, especially the McKenzie. They provide inspiration for my art & poetry.
The River Called to Me
With a voice born out of eternity
Fluent in all languages
By my sparkling water
A silver ribbon in a dark forest
“McKenzie Rapid”- Gelatin print & stamps over pen & ink. The feeling of being in the midst of a rapid in a kayak is so exhilarating. I tried to capture the energy here.
It rains a lot in Western Oregon. Until this weekend it has been a wet few weeks. One can hear a good deal of whining about the weather by this time of year. For me, I just roll with it. Knowing we are having adequate rainfall and an average snowpack provides comfort to me in these times of “climate insecurity.” The lakes will fill, the Salmon will have water to run in and a myriad of creatures and plants will be happy in the dry months yet to come.
I have been feeding the wild birds around my house for years. In the morning I watch them from my bed as I sip my tea. There is also a feeder hanging in front of my kitchen window giving entertainment as I wash dishes. It’s a meditation of sorts. There are the usual year round residents and then the migratory birds as they make their way North or South in the Spring and Fall. I never tire of watching them.
The Chickadee stated its presence in the branches above
I fill the old mossy wooden feeder that hangs from a tree limb
With an abundance of shiny, black, sunflower seeds
From the bucket hanging on my arm.
The chickadee knows me
I am no stranger to the birds here
The nuthatches, jays, juncos, hummingbirds
We are neighbors, friends of sorts
They go about their business and I to mine
hanging laundry, working in the yard
As I gaze from my window
I delight in their flit and flutter about the feeder
For the 24 years I have lived on my tiny farm in rural Oregon, I have witnessed a gathering of crows in the Eastern sky late in the days of the warmer months. They are always flying South, as with some purpose. Sadly, the woodland hills have been stripped in recent years for vineyards, so the nightly event has gotten smaller. I’ve always wondered where they go and what mischief they might be up to. Finally, I’ve gotten around to write about it.
THE CROWS COME AT SUNSET
From all corners of the sky
Black silhouettes winging together as a noisy flock
On their way to their secret destination
Which I long to know
I imagine they are sent from the spirit world
Spies in the sleek bodies of birds
Black as shiny coal
From beak to tail
They find their nightly roost
In the high branches of leafy trees
An avian barroom full of raucous cawing and flapping of wings
As they share the events of their day
The news comes as far as the cold lands of the Far North
To the dry, pastel arroyos of the Southwest
all the way to the crowded cities of the East
Stories they observed from the world of humans
Comedies born from intelligence gone bad
The jokes and stories are centuries old
recycled with different characters
Told with such squawking hilarity
That feathers loosen in the crows’ wild animations
And float earthward beneath the branches
The party goes on as the sky turns dusky to dark
Stars slowly appear
The birds’ black eyes grow heavy and their voices silent
Then all that can be heard is the sound of crow breathing