The Art of the Cairn

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.

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How to be a “Tomato Artist”

IMG_1093It’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)Garden Basket1
  • 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
  • gloves-1252355_1920The rain
  • The sun
  • 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.

IMG_1041'11 Fall 002

 

 

 

 

The Artful River

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“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 HesseSiddhartha

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.

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The River Called to Me

With a voice born out of eternity

Fluent in all languages

Come

Rest

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.

 

 

jumping salmon tile raku
Salmon Run Raku

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WP Photo Challenge: “Prolific” Sea Life on the Edge of the Oregon Coast

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.

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A sea cucumber is in the top left quadrant, the bright red organism to the far left is a Strawberry anemone

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A collection of an unidentified shellfish on a piece of driftwood that I found on a beach

Prolific

WP Weekly Photo Challenge- A Smile for Lambs & Llamas

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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!

Smile

Seeking Solace in Nature

IMG_1585In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings last week (on top of everything else going on in this country) I needed a big hug from nature.

Off I went with 3 other women friends to walk in the Opal Creek Wilderness Area.  This place has been a refuge for me for years.  It is tucked up in the Cascade Mountains about 30 miles due east of Salem, Oregon.

This is one of the largest old growth forests left in the United States and the largest in the Western Cascade Mountains in a watershed virtually untouched by loggers saw.  As a result, stunning Opal Creek runs sparkling clear through its rocky course through this forest wonderland of giant Douglas fir, W. Hemlock, & W. Red Cedar.

IMG_1601The Shiny Rock Mining company operated in the midst of this forest in the 1930s from the “town” of Jawbone Flat. In its heyday, about 50 souls lived & worked there.  The relics of the town still remain.

By the 1980s, timber companies were eager to log the area.  Friends of Opal Creek, an activist organization dedicated to preserving the watershed to a wilderness area, was formed.  I joined up.  For the next few years, I made many 4-hour roundtrip drives to lead educational hikes to the public along with other docents in an effort to expose and educate the public about why we should preserve this gem of an area.

The strategy worked.  Eventually, with public pressure, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon IMG_1608pushed legislation through Congress in 1996 before he retired forming the Opal Creek Wilderness Area.  The Shiny Rock Mining Company deeded over their holdings to the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center whose mission it is to educate children and others on the value of old growth forests.

Today it is a sanctuary for many including myself and a myriad of flora and fauna.  Walking through this forest cathedral, the four of us absorbed the healing power of nature and our souls were washed clean, at least for a while, from the cascades of Opal Creek.

It was good to know, there is still beauty in this world.

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There is Still beauty in this World

Seek it in the wild forests

IMG_1574Where the only news you will hear

Are the songs of birds

And the shatter of chipmunks

 

Let the music of cascading waters

Soothe your soul

As you tread  in a green world

Lined with lush moss, rocks, and ferns

A winding trail beneath your feet

 

IMG_1617 (1)When you look up through

The cathedral of conifer branches

And the stained glass window of the vine maples in their sunset hues

Know that nature will endure

Beyond the world of man

 

Saying Good Riddance to Summer

It used to be my favorite season until the last couple of summers.  We here in Oregon have suffered unusually high sustained temperatures with our wildlands burning.  It’s been tough on the psyche on many levels.  Autumn is my new best friend.

Oregon Summer 2017

The summer left Oregon in hastecloud-2179323_1920

Like an old friend that paid a visit

Then had a falling out

The rains of autumn quickly came to take her place

Quenching the land’s thirst with violent downpours

 

The summer had betrayed us

Bringing unrelenting heat and drought

forest-1161868_1920Thousands of acres of parched forests burned with such intensity

It filled the hot air for days with acrid smoke

Staining the sky, stinging our eyes, making us cough

 

We longed for the familiar temperate comfort of the season

In a gentle land

Safe from extremes, full of verdant beauty

But now our ramparts have been breached and we are unsure

As we wade through this occupation of climate extremes

 

The summer left in a hurry

autumn-209479_1920Maybe to gather strength for next year?

Whatever the reason

As the leaves tinge with orange and yellow

Our relief is palpable as we wake with the morning’s new chill

We  welcome the prelude to winter’s coming