January 12, 2014 § 2 Comments
The limbs of the Pacific ninebark sway in the wind and on board one arching branch a Bewick’s Wren sits like the figurehead of a ship. He’s a brave and bold figure at that as the wind tosses the spray of the branch and the wren holds fast. His bill is a bowsprit facing the ship into the wind and the waves. That slender bill lifts as it calls out in song as if this ball of feathers is a lighthouse rather than a wee winged sailor. Amid-ship the beam of the ninebark is firm to ground. Its dense wood and roots act like a keel holding it steady. It’s a favorite vessel for many a bird. Most shelter from the weather deep in its tangled cinnamon spars. But the wren’s place is on the prow. He’s on watch with only a respite or two to visit the galley where’s he’s challenged by the other shipmates. Even the black-capped chickadee can unseat him from his feast for the wren’s bravery is bent on challenging the wind, not other passerines.
One can only hope that the easy courage and grace of the wren could be theirs when a storm hits. Would I still keep cheery watch and sing such a hale and cheeky song with a gale in my face and a rocking boat beneath my feet? Or would I like the other birds seek shelter amidships until the storm has passed? I may find out as life’s storms are always brewing. But, then I know too that the cloud breaks always come with their silver fringed cumulus and crepuscular rays. The breeze always softens, sometimes into the doldrums. And the whitecaps smooth into silk. So I think I’ll choose to be present and accepting of waves and calm alike with the Bewick’s wren as my shipmate.
January 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
The moon is a thin crescent, waxing if I’m not mistaken. Orion sits a little more upright these days, and Jupiter blares on the eastern horizon. Earlier this afternoon the low-angle sun brought color to the cool sky. Northbound jets left con trails crisscrossed by resident geese. I mention these things not because they’re remarkable occurrences but because it is unusual to see the sky, and the happenings aloft, through our winter clouds.
The green band of land that lies west of the Cascade crest and north of the California border is famous for its winter rain by rule. Yet, there are exceptions to each of nature’s rules and this rain-year we’re lagging woefully behind in precipitation.
Our mountains should have six-foot shoulders of snow this time of year but instead we’re all shrugging our shoulders at the barely six inches of snow barely clinging to winter. The creeks of Portland’s West Hills are behaving as if in their mild summer mode. Instead of tumbling torrents that threaten to burst beyond their channel, the streams whisper rivulets as they casually mosey to the Willamette River. The Willamette is flowing low and relatively clear of turbidity and debris. The loess mud of the hills too is out of sorts. Instead of the slip silt of most winters the trails are firm, even dry in places.
I’m not worried yet. We still have several months of winter ahead and one good February storm could restore the snowpack, streams, and miry mud, to normal. Besides, it’s not as if it hasn’t been cold. Our temps have been near or below average. Cold pleases my polar bear soul. I revel too in the fact that this dry weather pattern keeps the wind at bay.
Less rain and lighter winds means that the wood pile remains dry and cured. The fir wood carefully stacked outside last spring migrates indoors log by log. A large stack sits between me and the wood stove. Cold is fine outdoors but has no place inside. It is the cold outside that makes sitting by the fire on a winter’s eve oh, so pleasant. So, time to put another log on the fire, nod out the window at the setting moon, and then pick up my knitting as I sip some tea and nosh a little almond cookie.
The evening is promising to be lovely; the New Year will be what it will be but I’m expecting lovely ahead too. Here’s wishing you a year full of seeing the cup as half full regardless of the rainfall, chill, or if you’re sitting south of the equator, blazing sun.
Happy New Year
November 28, 2013 § 5 Comments
I’m a little impatient about waiting for the cold weather to arrive. Below freezing temperatures appear to be stalking the rain that follows this cool dry and sunny patch. I’ll be thankful for just seeing another day dawn but ask me to choose and I’d say that nothing beats being out for a little exploration on a chill autumn day. The cooler and crisper the better.
Rather than wait for the cool to arrive, I go to it: up to the mountains, where the adiabatic rate guarantees lower temperatures. Indeed, when the sun shines through the bare alder onto the spring-fed Tyee, you may almost be fooled into believing you can unzip your coat. But, just a few feet from the bank, the marshy ground is frozen. Rime heaves out of the boggy soil as if in a spasms. Frost gilds the leaves of the few perennials still holding onto their greenery as if hoping for a halt to winter. Fallen maple leaves are plastered to the trail, parchment thin and waiting to scribe the tales of the passing elk. By spring they’ll be invisible, their script known only by the detrivores that finish them off.
The elk browse here but today only their icy foot prints and scat lay witness to their preference for this place. My footprints mix with theirs in the one or two thawed pockets of loamy soil. I worry not about soaking my feet, as I would have last summer. Instead, there are no worries, just the rustle of leaves and ice underfoot and the whistling of the wind in the bare branches above. This is the feel and sound of gratitude. As I bushwhack back to the car my earlobes are icicles, but my heart and soul have been warmed by the woods in its readiness for winter. For me, this is Thanksgiving.
November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
Years of wildlife spotting have trained my eyes to dart skyward at the slightest motion and to study each dark form perched in any tree. Which means this leaf-fall time of year becomes a tad daunting for my senses. Falling leaves are not initially distinguished from birds and other flighty animals. I reflexively avert my gaze at the mildest flutter, expecting a chickadee, a nuthatch, even a sparrow, only to see yet another leave dropping to the ground.
And that dark speck sitting in the tree, it’s not a robin, it’s a golden pear. It and a few raindrops are all that remains in the hold of this tree. But, it drew and held my attention as I sorted out just what kind of bird it was, or was not.
On calmer days the eye-darting is occasional. A few leaves fall from the giant poplar by my window. One at a time they descend. One at a time they fool my reflexive gaze. On stormy days the deluge of leaves keeps me looking out the window constantly. My eyes skip from one leaf to another, and another as the foliage drops like snowflakes.
Then, there’s the bonus. In the midst of that leaf watching my eyes are drawn to the next leaf. It’s moving upwards…wait, that’s not a leaf. The motion on the bark of the tree IS actually a bird and an unusual urban bird at that. I know the Brown Creeper the instant I know it not to be a leaf. Slender and brown and creeping up the bark .(Aptly named.) It climbs then turns showing its white throat and breast and drops to the base of the tree only to resume climbing. Up it goes. Pausing. Climbing. Then to the base again.
It’s been over 15 years looking out these windows and today is the first time a Brown Creeper has graced our home. They’re not unusual birds in the woods. In fact, I think they’re fairly common, yet always delightful to watch. They’re especially charming when they’re in a group of two or three and peeping messages at each other. And it’s always delightful to be in Brown Creeper habitat; a place of mature trees and wild things. But it stopped by today, in the middle of the city, while my eyes were darting wildly around and surprised me by not being yet another leaf.
November 13, 2013 § 4 Comments
Once upon a time I stood tall and straight, feet firmly planted in a future of hope and usefulness. I was purpose-built but saw my potential beyond that destiny. While the steady westerly winds sculpted those around me, my identity was of one unflappable, indestructible, iron-clad child. Oh, I was a sight, so handsome and admired.
But time passed and with it my utility. Decommissioned and left to decay, left to the devices of aging and weather, I still stood with my identity, grasping my dignity, unwilling to surrender by value.
Looking in the mirror tells me I’m old. I know my feet are no longer on solid footing. I see the results of days, and months, and years of abrasive breezes and rains. But, I hold fast to the hope I will still be seen by others as I still see myself: unique, gritty, and strong.
November 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
Time carries on with the transformation,
Telling me change is a dimming light, constant by minutes a day.
Last week’s green is today gold, what was gold is brown.
Those brown things on the ground just wither away.
The air cools, the wind blows.
Step outside where a slapping chill remains as the cold front passes.
Or there’s the rainbow to the west and then to the north:
Eastward marching showers use fleeting paints on the cumulus sky.
The sun, crouching in the south works past the eaves to warm the room.
No matter how I orient, it’s autumn in my gaze.
November 2, 2013 § 3 Comments
This week it was announced that the US Winter Olympic Team would be festooned in all US produced clothing. Not only is the clothing from the US but the fiber itself is too. In fact, it’s from one of my very favorite local fleeces – wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch. I love their wool more than ever having knit 2 more sweaters, and numerous hats and gloves with it. So, in honor of that announcement, I thought I’d reblog this post I did a couple of years ago.
Originally posted on peregrination:
A few years ago a started knitting. I’d learned as a child but never developed the skill. This time around when I started I was just looking for something to do when I was watching (too much) TV. I’ve thankfully weaned myself off of the tele and am into knitting now in a big way.
Not long after I started I set the goal of learning to knit socks. Living with a contrarian, I’m often reminded that the conveniences of modern life may not always be available. If (or when) the economy really crashed, society would take a big turn and we’d be living in a world with fewer industrial niceties. Somehow, for me making socks symbolized my ability to be self-sufficient in that new reality. I had the crazy (or was it brilliant?) notion that if I could knit socks I would never be without in the world. I’d be able to create small luxuries for myself and loved ones.