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Oregon Pilgrim

writings on nature and travel

Dreamin’ of Summer

Sometime in early January, when all the hustle of the holidays is over, there is a downward turn in the spirit. It feels as if we may not ever see the sun again. We leave in the dark and return at dusk, and the sun makes its elliptical course across the horizon. Summer days are dim remembrances. So, I decided to travel back in my imagination to warm my winter-frozen heart.

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I recall the warmth of the sun’s rays juxtaposed against the crisp, icy cold of a mountain stream.

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In the high desert, a bit of shade offers real respite from the heat. We can find our perfect temperature by adjusting slightly to all-shade, partial-shade or full sun.

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Paul found his angle of repose.

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Golden Lake glows on a golden morning.

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The hike is difficult. But, we find most places worth going to are.

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These family adventures sure make this guy happy…

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and we all happy with him.

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Today, the sun didn’t sweep across the sky at such a galloping pace. We drive home in the light now. Every day gets longer and longer. I stepped outside and basked in the pale sunlight — still in my sweater, coat and scarf. Summer days are bound to come again. It’s a promise.

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The other day, we decided to hike even though the daylight was disappearing. Smith Rock beckoned. We brought the binoculars and our latest edition of iBird pro.

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Greta used her creativity in how to carry her water bottle.

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Birding for us means we stand around and argue about what we see or hear. We love it!

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It wasn’t a great time for birds — but we wandered together anyway, hoping for a surprise.

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Greta picked up some hitchhikers when we scrambled down the side of a hill.

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Paul’s favorite cologne is inexpensive and doesn’t come in a bottle. How many times have we left the rainy side of the mountains and as we come down the east side of Mt. Hood, Paul rolls down his window to inhale the sage.

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Barrow’s Goldeneyes fed and played in the eddies. When I watch a bird in the water, I feel peace on earth — all is well.

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Walking in the Rain

We visited Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge this weekend.

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We picked Elsa up from college and escaped for the day. The girls were happy to be together again.

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I always experience a strange and lovely feeling when we begin walking somewhere. Like anything could happen. As we neared the top of the viewpoint, it began to rain.

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I love the smell of rain on my wool sweater, on the sodden earth, on the dead leaves. Have you ever been walking, and it starts to rain, and the companions you’re with are so companionable that they just keep walking and allow the rain to say everything? I have.

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This one loves the rain. She glories in it. IMG_2201IMG_2203

The Winter Eagle

 

Some of my most enjoyable days have been with the Gerhardt family. We’ve counted shrike nests, banded owlets and eaglets, and visited nesting sites. Sometimes we stop for a delicious picnic in the outdoors. Sometimes we return to the Gerhardt’s home for a delicious dinner served and eaten in their lovely outdoor seating area. Time in the outdoors, observing birds, learning about their behavior from Rick’s extensive knowledge and his children’s amazing athletic abilities in catching the birds is more than a treat, it’s a gift.

So, I’m proud to share Nate Gerhardt’s film project: The Winter Eagle. Please view. Please donate.

 

 

Renaissance in Italy

Just one more tidbit on the Romantic poets

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Once Shelley’s body was drug from the Bay of Spezia and burned upon the pyre on the beach, Mary Shelley returned to England with her son, the sole survivor of four children. She struggled with depression and scraped together a living, often in need. Years later, she returned to Italy perhaps happier than she had ever been. Time had allowed the grass to grow over the memories of her loved ones and softened the pain.

She wrote in her book of travel writings, Rambles in Germany and Italy, about returning to the beautiful peninsula.

Can it, indeed, be true, that I am about to revisit Italy? How many years are gone since I quitted that country! There I left the mortal remains of those beloved — my husband and my children, whose loss changed my whole existence, substituting, happy peace and the interchange of deep-rooted affections, years of desolate solitude…

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Spanish Steps & The Creed of Love

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The Spanish Steps or Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti are a grandiose creation where several groups of people can lounge on them without blocking traffic. The steps aren’t actually Spanish but got its name from the Piazza di Spagna which was named after the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. The French actually gave Rome the steps along with the church at the top of them, Trinita dei Monte. Leave it to the French to design another icon to be remembered for all time. The Spanish Steps serve as an excellent place to stop, rest, take some pictures, or people-watch.IMG_5647

It is also a place to take in some history and to reminisce about romance.
Approaching the Spanish Steps from below, you’ll first encounter the ‘sinking boat’ fountain, Fontana della Barcaccia, which was completed in 1627 by famed sculptors (father and son) Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The shape was…

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Shelley, the Romantic

I’m finally writing again but in a different capacity. Here is the latest post I’ve written for Elida’s blog about Italy.

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So, you’ve gone ahead in your imagination and sat upon the Spanish Steps. You’ve listened to the trickling of the sinking boat fountain just as Keats did from his room at number 26 Piazza di Spagna. You’ve sensed the painful gut-wrenching finality as Percy Bysshe Shelley did when he heard the news that Keats had died. You felt keenly his loss as a friend, as a mentee, and also to the world for a man so promising, so on the verge of inspiring the world. Perhaps you’ll walk into the Keats-Shelley House and contemplate another time — The Romantic Period.

In response to the Industrial Revolution and the cold, intellectual Enlightenment, a new and restless spirit  pervaded the consciousness of the leading people of the time. In a world where the walls were closing in by discovery, defining, sorting and classifying, a rebellious awakening arose in which people sought the…

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Week 32: Giss

In Malcolm Gladwell‘s enjoyable read, Blink, he builds a case for how to “thin-slice” situations. By honing our abilities to focus on small, but important, things, we can make quick and correct judgments. We have words to describe this particular gift of reading deeply into the narrowest slivers of experience. Basketball players have “court sense”. Napoleon and Patton had “coup d’oeil” or “power of the glance” when making sense of the battle field.

 

 

 

The ornithologist David Sibley says that in Cape May, New Jersey, he once spotted a bird in flight from two hundred yards away and knew, instantly, that it was a ruff, a rare sandpiper. He had never seen a ruff in flight before; nor was the moment long enough for him to make a careful identification. But he was able to capture what bird-watchers call the bird’s “giss” — its essence — and that was enough.

“Most of bird identification is based on a sort of subjective impression — the way a bird moves and little instantaneous appearances at different angles and sequences of different appearances, and as it turns its head and as it flies and as it turns around, you see sequences of different shapes and angles,” Sibley says. “All that combines to create a unique impression of a bird that can’t really be taken apart and described in words. When it comes down to being in the field and looking at a bird, you don’t take the time to analyze it and say it shows this, this, and this; therefore it must be this species. It’s more natural and instinctive. After a lot of practice, you look at the bird, and it triggers little switches in your brain. It looks right. You know what it is at a glance.”

 

Birding with experienced birders I find this to be true. I’m begging the bird with telepathy to sit still while I lock it in my binoculars so I can see the nape of the neck or a flash on the crown and Scott Smithson (who we’ve had the pleasure to bird with a few times) will casually tell me what it is without lifting his pair of binoculars to his eyes. He doesn’t even squint to see it. The lighting is bad but it doesn’t matter. It’s unnecessary. In a glance, he knows. 

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(Paul and I have to use equipment and squint):)

 

 

 

Now, I know I have my own areas where I can grasp the “giss” of a situation. Ingrid might leave the table, pouting, because none of her sisters will listen to her, stomp upstairs, loudly abusing them because “they never listen and no one ever listens to her and I’m always the one left out and …” and I know in a glance that her sisters have nothing to do with it. So I force a hug upon her and hold her until the struggling stops and change the subject, talking of other things, until I can convince her it is time for bed. She’s tired. She needs some sleep. Wherever we focus, our minds become more practiced in being able to make snap judgments accurately and so promote our success in that situation.

 

 

 

 

 

But where I wish I could get at the “giss” of a situation is in just plain ol’ ordinary life. Those who are great seem to have an early grasp of their destiny and rocket to it with lightning-like quickness. For me, it definitely feels like forty years wandering in the desert. I mean, I’m not complaining too much. It’s been wandering in the beautiful high desert with a beautiful man (inside and out) and beautiful girls (inside and out) and with health and loving friends and family. But, as to my destiny, I’ve wandered. Sometimes I romanticize the notion by calling it a pilgrimage, but other times I wonder whether I’m just unwilling to admit I’m lost.

 

 

 

In the old days, the stars, seers, strange prophets, angels, and other clear-sighted beings spoke into people’s lives. Today, we scoff at such things and whine about how we’ve nowhere to go. How I wish for a Flannery O’Connor character like a one-eyed priest to come into my room and point a thick finger at me and tell me what’s up.

 

 

 

Still, I have hope. As I become a master at grasping the “giss” of how to love my family and as I keep poking at the “giss” of what is really important in life as I write, perhaps my destiny is just around the bend. Or, I might find the path I’m walking is the destiny I’ve been searching for all along.

 

 

 

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Week 31: Keep On

I don’t have much to say. I’m starting a new job. I’m managing the homeschooling of our four daughters.

I’m trying to be strong for a husband frustrated with his life in the world.

His little brother committed suicide a few days ago.

We are all stunned. It can’t be true. Where did Lil’ John go?

I feel tired. And very sad. And small. And irrelevant.

Sometimes life feels so … absurd.

I can’t even believe the stupid, pointless thoughts which run through my head.

There was once a time when people held a cohesive set of values and people could find meaning in the world. I would have been successful in such a world.

But I live in a world where no one agrees upon anything and we’re all okay with it. There is no form to work with. Life is void and without meaning.

I have to dig very, very deep to discover what matters.

It takes so much time.

And my beliefs must stand alone without the bolstering of a common culture, either to condemn or affirm who I am.

This too, shall fall or be abandoned. It is a tower of Babel — everyone affirming each other in their isolation.

We speak different languages — not just in the world or in regions, but within families and within ourselves.

Obviously, I am very low.

I am angry and I’m not sure why.

My gut says just one thing, don’t give up.

So I won’t. I’ll keep on. I’ll walk in faith that every small choice matters. I’ll believe I count.

I may not know what will come of it. But I must trust something will.

I’ll keep on, though I don’t know why.

Because I must. Because it matters.

Sometimes I imagine I’m paving the way for a great age to come — like the Dark Ages before the Renaissance. The Renaissance gets all the glory but it was all on the broken back of the years before.

Perhaps these are the years before.

If anything confirms we matter in the vast universe, it is an untimely death, for the hole is so utterly visible when he is gone. He didn’t think he mattered.

He mattered.

 

Week 30: Things I Know

Today, I found a crumpled piece of paper at the bottom of my briefcase. This is what it said.

Things I know:

* I am a writer

* I am a reader

* I have committed publicly to complete a novel

* I love sports

* I teach because it pays

Things I don’t know:

* whether I’ll succeed

* whether I have talent

* what I’m supposed to do

* how I’m supposed to live

I write little notes to myself all the time and leave them all over the place. When I find them, I feel like I’ve traveled in time to the future to encourage myself or guide myself. Life is not linear; it’s circular. I’m not much wiser than when I was fresh out of college. The same lessons I needed to learn then, I’m learning again … and again … and again.

August is almost over. My master plan was to have finished my novel and begin looking for agents in the fall. I declared publicly I would finish the novel in my post Pledging.

I didn’t make it.

I got 75 pages done but I’m only through chapter four and a lot of it is crap.

I kind of feel bad about it.

But this failure tells me something about myself.

With all that time “wasted,” and no real results or end in sight, I still want to write.

I’m not giving up. Not ever. Writing is becoming more a part of me. I can’t really picture myself without it. It’s part of my makeup.

So … I’m making a new pledge. I’ll be done by Christmas. I’ll look for agents at the beginning of the year.

Some of you made pledges when I made mine. Anyone do theirs? If so, congratulations. If not, would you like to renew it? And if any of you need to declare publicly for the first time what your secret dreams are so you’ll be brave enough to do them, I invite you to declare them loud and clear right here.

I am a writer. This I know.

 

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