The start of our winter was mild with temps in the upper 50s and sunny skies. The bulbs were fooled into poking their heads up a month early. I worried about another summer of unseasonably warm temperatures and drought. The snowpack was low. Now our familiar Western Oregon weather has returned. Rain and even a little snow dusts the yard. There was even enough powder snow where friends and I drove up to Mount Hood last week for a day of cross-country skiing. I haven’t been able to do that in years.
I celebrate winter. This is my creative time. It is a time to come inside, literally and figuratively. Nature needs rest and renewal and so do we.
THE RAINS CAME
And the humans complained
But not the Earth who soaked the sky water deep into all its pores
Nor the trees who quenched their thirst in grateful gulps from deep roots
Nor the bulbs gathering strength for their dazzling spring displays
Nor the deer hungry for tender green grass
Nor the salmon longing to swim upstream
Nor the bees dreaming of anthers heavy with gold pollen and pistels leading to chambers of sweet nectar
Nor the seeds shivering with anticipation of their impending emergence
Nor the bears conjuring images of plump berries in their sleep
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus
The Fall Equinox has passed and I am absolutely thrilled to be deep in the autumn colors. This is the season where I am released from the obligations of tending to biomass. Living on acreage in W. Oregon we have our share. We have a big garden, an orchard, lawn and flower beds. It’s a place where plants like to grow.
The rains have begun, the garden is torn out, the flower beds are mulched for the winter, and the firewood is in and stacked. This frees up more time to concentrate on my artwork, writing, and music. I sing in a women’s choir and we are getting ready for our holiday show. Additionally, I play the bodhran, an Irish drum and am learning to play the tenor guitar. Travels are finished for the year. It’s good to be home.
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.
It’s tomato time here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The only advantage I can see of the hot summers we have been having is that the tomatoes love them. Growing good, delicious, organic tomatoes is an art form and I have gotten good at it- actually a little too good. Frequently I get tomatoes over a pound and they aren’t even the beefsteak variety. But, there are only so many tomatoes the two of us can consume. We have a freezer full now and they are still coming on. Finding the extra homes other than the compost pile has gotten to be too much effort. Next year I will have to go down to three plants. The varieties I grew this year….
Sungold- (cherry tomato- so sweet!)
Amish Paste (Prolific and huge)
Brandywine (the best slicer)
Black Krim (great flavor)
Really, I can’t take all the credit for the success. I’m just conducting a series of variables that I have figured out to be a good “Tomato Artist.” I need to thank the following contributors to my bodacious tomato harvest:
Quality heirloom tomato starts
My partner for tilling the raised beds, hauling manure, and installing a drip system
The sheep up the road for their great poo
The cows and horses down the road for the same
Our composted kitchen scraps
The earthworms and microbes for decomposing the above
The earthworms again for aerating the soil and leaving their casings
The farmer that raised the straw that I much with
My own two hands for their labor in planting & tending
To be honest, I am feeling burnt out on gardening right now. There is something so satisfying about growing your own nutritious and tasty food but it is work. Usually this time every summer I swear I’ll take next summer off. Knowing me, come spring the lure of fresh tomatoes with basil and dill will lure me back again.
“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.
On our way to our favorite coast getaway in Yachats last week, we stopped by the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. In their display tidepools, they had specimens of the prolific sea life in the Oregon tidal zone. There was a wonderful selection of sea anemones, starfish, mussels, and sea cucumbers to view and touch.
A collection of an unidentified shellfish on a piece of driftwood that I found on a beach
Earlier in the week on a local walk, I paused by Bide a Wee Farm to admire the adorable newborn lambs and their friendly caretaker llama with a class 3 underbite. Smiles for everyone in an Oregon spring!