Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snowshoeing the morning after

Walking with dogs, I'm reminded 
it is the tenderhearted who know
how to turn this world
 toward the sun.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First snowshoe of the winter

Snow covered trees 
born on a hillside overnight
reach toward the pale December sun, 
like a prayer to the wrong god. 
Drop by drop, an existence trickles away 
until the next snowfall rushes across the land.

Northwest Wilderness Group

Shots from a second snowshoe hike the following day:

To understand the size and scope of Mt Hood, note the trees in the lower right hand corner of the second picture.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A View From Vista Ridge

You stand on a ridge looking east above the clouds. A sign, marking something about where you are, is there. But what does a sign know about where you are? 

Your skis lay at your feet. The clouds too. Icy volcanos, powerhouses for hundreds of thousands of years, lay dormant in the distance. You think how you, too, have become dormant. 

A wind blows across the ridge, intrudes on your thoughts. Your skis rustle on the ice next to you. You look out, toward Mt Jefferson, think how easy it was to shift into something else. The molten rock that once ran so hot beneath your feet, now cooled.

 Cooled, but not defunct. 

You step into your skis, point them downhill into the clouds.  

A dormant dream erupts once more.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ho No!

What does it take to string lights on a 14 foot Christmas tree? 1 ladder, 1 trekking pole, 1 bottle of wine, 1 Monday Night Football game, 1 Blazer overtime, and 2 good attitudes!

Mo, after a little too much eggnog. ;-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Sitting in the garden,
the sun on my face,

I find that the world

and all that's in it

sits still too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I received the blessing of the river,
the absolution from obligation and promise, 
as we walked alone - you and I -
along the water's edge 
on this Thanksgiving morning.

As you looked to the trees
for the owl we wouldn't see,
I thanked this good world 
for a moment, such a moment, 
when a symphony of birds 
played for the Great Blue Heron, the eagle, you,
and the little owl-
wherever she may be. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Dream Written

"Beginning August 1, 2013, I plan to live in a tent for 5-6 weeks. My goal is to hike the entire Oregon section (some 450 miles) of the Pacific Crest Trail. Sir Edmund Hillary, in his autobiography, wrote, "I have discovered that even the mediocre can have adventures and even the fearful can achieve." I want to see if he's right. What do you think? Interested in joining me for all or part of the trek? If so, get in touch. Let's see if we'd make good hiking partners. I won't take it personally if we don't and wouldn't want you to either. Let's talk."

I posted the above on Facebook today. I wanted to mark it here too - the day I first gave my dream its public legs on which to grow or fracture. 

 Wisdom is the first to sign up. With multiple training hikes under her belt, she's already earned her "trail name"- Trail Wisdom. 

On the other hand, Moesha, my 15 year old, lies down immediately whenever the pack is put on her. She's earned her trail name, too - Couch Potato! Mo's job will be to meet me at the resupply stops with a full supply of dog hugs and kisses.

I may wear out, but I won't rust out! 


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The River Last Night

Last night, right before bed, I went to the river. The rain from earlier still dripped in the trees, still shone on the rocks. Nocturnal birds chirped at the moon from their perches, not the call of a cold wolf's howl, but still, a call. To something. 

Another noise, a hushed snap, disarranged the quiet trees. A leaf, newly detached, floated to the ground where the mulch eaters waited with their thousands of little teeth. Those teeth, you see, like the falling leaf or the nocturnal bird in her perch, are a part of the natural chain of things- birth, death, rebirth. 

Today in New York, a friend bags his sea-stained, sand-wrecked possessions and hauls them to the curb for pick up. "I think it's time to live in an RV," he says. He had to evacuate his home on a blow up raft. "Could be worse," he says. His home, behind him, destroyed. "The trick-or-treaters still came," he says, and snaps a picture. He puts the picture up on Facebook, wishes everyone a Happy Halloween.

We too, a part of the natural chain. 

The Sandy River, 10:30 pm

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Headache Blues

Cure for the headache blues -
     Take 3 Advil,
     If That Doesn't Work,
     Take Your Camera.

Downy Woodpecker

Fingerling Steelhead in the shallows

Banana Slug's first photo shoot

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Quiet Alter (Campgrounds in October)

Summer sacrifices offered,
taken by the sun,
until the sun itself is taken.
A quiet alter, an altar quiet,
the slowed heartbeat of winter
only up the road. 
Autumn falls early for winter
in the mountains.
A shared boundary, 
the overlap of time, 
a moment reflected on cold glass.

The frozen moment,  
delible in time, 
 holds for now, but 
permanence will never be its strength.
Meanwhile, the cocoon beckons.
Hibernation or an awakening-
what will it be?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Parents Come to Hawaii

Most of Kauai is behind me. At the foot of the Pacific Ocean, I sit close to a small wedding party. The ukulele player is plugged into an outlet on our lanai; because of this, we are invited to the party. Thanks, we nod, although neither of us want to, and probably won't, attend. Kindness, certainly, deserves more. Why don't I know how to politely decline graciousness? Say no?  Instead, I shrug with ambiguity, smile, proclaim thanks, and prove a no-show. I don't think I was raised this way. Both my parents, for different reasons, would have gone. My father to enjoy the toast; my mother the people. Perhaps that's why I'm unable to considerately demur such thoughtful spontaneity. My parents would never have done so. 

Tonight, my mother sits 6000 miles away from me; my father's ashes swim the seas. And I'm nearing 40. Still, my parents come. A mother's ear, a father's heart, forever trained to the call of their daughter. Show me what I need to know. My father, not frightened by death, nor my mother by distance, arrive knowing I will never be exactly like them-- they raised me with too much independence for that; yet I take what they give, shape it into my own, become more of who I am.  

The wedding party is surprisingly quiet. The uke player, now on guitar, strums his way through Margaritaville with jumbled lyrics. No matter. The palm trees sway with the song anyway, holding the music close before pushing it gently out to sea-- a jumbled number, in harmony with the world. Cradled by the trade winds, it slips quickly over the ocean. Gone, but not lost; for the well-trained ear, the prepared heart, always hears the call of its own. 

Mahalo Mom and Dad.  


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Gale Warnings

Even eagles have trouble in 40 knot winds. With a gale warning today that includes 7-9 foot seas, widespread rain, and heavy winds, we are grounded, anchored to land. The fishing trip canceled until this thing blows through town and up the passage. It's getting late in the year up here in Alaska, and everyone knows the fishing days are numbered. Soon, the cruise ships will turn their bows to more southernly points on the map and the chartered fishing trips will evaporate like drops of water on a campfire. A faint sizzle, the sizzle of summer, lingers for a moment, but the main splash is already faded. In Ketchikan, one must be ready to bend with the wind. "You take it as it comes, " they say here, "or, you take the ferry."

So, this morning I sit with a cup of local coffee and the wind, listening to an eagle calling out some story from its nest high in a tree next to me, and I try to write a story too, but all I've got are pictures today.

Sometimes you're lucky and you know a place. You think, 'I could show someone around this place' despite only visiting a few times. I imagine you here with me. If you were, I would show you a lake with a fire pit and its beautiful stone chimney lit each morning by an old man who lives nearby. I would take you to a rope swing, a pretty waterfall, and a quiet stream-fed cove where harbor seals try to get the best of the spawning salmon. I know an eagle's nest on a quiet beach far from the t-shirt shops and jewelry stores of downtown with a perfect piece of driftwood for making dreams. Later, we would stand at our car with quiet excitement at a cove south of town where the bears like to hang out, and then find a place just up the road where we like to hang out, and you would tell me what you know.

Perhaps we'd join the seals and the bears and the bald eagles, and fish the fish of long tradition and unmitigated determination.

Each one on board an honor and deserving of a word.

Before nightfall, we would roast an onion and a piece of fish on the grill, listen to the sea birds. Later, we would shuffle the cards, playing hand after hand long into the night, until eventually, we find our pillows, although not before setting the alarm clock to keep us from sleeping a moment longer than necessary in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Gale warnings don't stop us.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Ketchikan, Alaska

Approaching Ketchikan

Moving with clouds, the sun unfolds within. Yet, the clouds remain, for they are a part of all of it too.

We bargain with sun gods and strive for radiance, but without the gray, I wouldn't be me. And you wouldn't be you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Ketchikan, Alaska

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Duck Tales - new blog!

Check out my new blog if you like college football, especially the Oregon Ducks:

Hopefully, it will run until January! ;-)


Friday, August 31, 2012

The Return to Presence (Day 1 & 2)

The first two days of the Return to Presence (aka Leave of Absence) have set the tone. On Day 1, instead of attending an inservice at Benson High School, I was fitted for a backpack, the Deuter ACT Lite 40 + 10. A pack yearning to be filled with adventure.

Better than a new tote!

On Day 2, I rafted the Deschutes instead of returning to my little office in the kitchen at Lincoln High School.

My kind of office - a high ceiling, negligible walls, and a floor that lets you jump in!
Hanging on to thanks and gratitude (and a little bit for my life!) at Oaks Springs. Life is good!

Duck season opens tomorrow, every game, every stadium.  


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yocum Ridge

Graded as a 16 mile, difficult hike with an elevation gain of nearly 4000 ft, Yocum Ridge scared me. Not enough to ignore its call, but enough to stop at the ranger station for a map, bandage up the two toes that promised blood and blisters if left ignored, and remind myself I would quit if needed. Not that I needed reminding- for better or worse, I'm fairly comfortable with quitting.

With so much focus on the mileage and degree of difficulty, I overlooked the other descriptors attached to the trail, such as beautiful, remote, a perfect solitude. Funny how the brain concentrates on potential obstacles when preparing for something, yet recalls mostly the feeling of sweet accomplishment once the business is complete. Yes, we remember the labor and hard work involved, but the true tangibility of pain is gone. Whereas, the pleasure of accomplishment tends to last long into the future. I wish my brain would remember that more often.

The Yocum Ridge Trail begins by sharing the Ramona Falls Trail for the first four miles. Two pretty paths through the woods that follow little streams or the Sandy River, depending which way you go.

Ramona Falls, a veil of watery lace stitched with light, shadows, and time.

Ahh, don't we all wear that same veil?

From Ramona Falls, it was onward and upward - four miles, but all uphill. Having been to Ramona Falls a handful of times, I knew what to expect from the first part of the trip, but everything now was new ground. That gets a hiker excited.

After a 450 foot elevation gain on the Pacific Crest Trail in little more than a half mile, we hit our mark. The PCT continued left for the California/Mexico border more than 2000 miles to the south. We veered right. I'm glad we didn't miss our turn!

Elevation 3900'

As we climbed into higher elevation, the trees changed and we began to see the start of what we hoped awaited us in the alpine meadows ahead - wildflowers.

A 700 year old Noble Fir at about 4300'
The picture is not the quality this tree deserves, but between my limited ability and only my iphone, the fir was out of luck. Now that I look at this, I wish I thought to capture some of its massive diameter - a diameter that stretched at least 20 feet around. A noble fir indeed.

We walked, the sun shone, the flowers bloomed, and the hills were alive. Julie Andrews herself would have been amazed! Then the show really started. We arrived at the first meadow, and it was spectacular.

Somebody joked about the poppies from the Wizard of Oz. You almost had to joke; otherwise, you might cry. It was that kind of beautiful.

The delicacy and tenaciousness of life embodied by the Mariposa Lily. 
In six weeks, these meadows will have snow. 

Approaching Yocum Ridge Meadow, Mt. Hood, and lunch. My shoulders look stiff!
                       Yocum Ridge Meadow. 

Man is but a small moment. 

With legs burning and stomachs growling, we stopped to have lunch at 6000 ft. My broken apart, cold tortilla never tasted so good!

 I look at Mt. Hood probably 300 times a year. I also ski, swim, snowshoe, snowmobile, and live on it. Yet yesterday, to hear its glaciers moan under pressure and to witness a rock slide on the opposing canyon wall, the mountain seemed an entirely new discovery.

Peaked out at 6200 feet.

Tom, our living field guide on all things flora and fauna.

Yocum Ridge was an outstanding hike. It works you - we started at 8 am and returned to the cars at 715 - but it rewards you with a soul-filling beauty that lingers long after being off the trail.  I was happy I didn't let my initial insecurities keep me from trying. I never once thought about quitting until I was about a mile from the car on the return trip when quitting wasn't all that appealing anyway. My knee hurt, my toes were crushed, but mostly, I was tired. Those things I can live with. What would be harder to live with is allowing an ambition to shrivel in the grass, to wither and contract, before it ever has a chance to grow. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Site on Clam Gulch

This post about an evening with friends on Clam Gulch is out of order because I had to collect pictures from numerous devices- no easy feat in a place where the internet moves slower than a glacier at best, but appears most content to simply stand stubbornly still. Oh, life on the edge (network)!
How we even landed on a beach in Clam Gulch to hang with two proud Eskimos, one from the north and one from the south central part of Alaska is a story that began five years ago in Nome. Kimi and I picked Nome from a map of Alaska as a destination for spring break. When most people were packing bathing suits and shorts, we packed x-country skis and snow pants, and headed north. We knew nothing about Nome except that it was on the water and Alaska airlines flew there. Perfect criteria for a vacation!
The town was crowded and full of life when we arrived. Little did we know that The All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 404 mile dogsled race that occurs every 25 years, was about to start. That meant no available seats at the pizza place that night! That's when I noticed a woman waving at us. I checked behind me, positive I was blocking one of her friends from joining the party, but there was only a wall. I pointed questioningly at myself and Kimi. She nodded, waved us to her table, and invited us to sit with her and her friends. Folks, we were about to meet Josie Stiles, our first and favorite Alaskan friend.
On our current trip, as it turned out, the way things sometimes do, Josie happened to arrive on the Kenai Peninsula from Nome at about the same time we arrived from Portland. She would be camping with a friend for a few days on Clam Gulch, a beach on the way to Homer where we were headed. Could we stop by and could we pick up a 12 pack of Beck's? Yes and yes!
In a few hours on a beach along the Cook Inlet thick with fog and Alaska rain, we dripped with laughter and fun more than we dripped with raindrops. From unexpectedly cleaning two halibut in a small freshwater stream to staying warm from a coal-driven fire (the coal came off the beach) and eagles flying overhead, Josie and her amazing friend, Donna, gave us yet another unforgettable time in Alaska.
See for yourself!

Carrying wood from across the fresh water and COLD stream to the fire

Getting closer!

About to get toasty!

A couple of fishermen caught two halibut and asked us to clean them.

Donna is up for the job, but not before bargaining for some of the catch

Doesn't get much fresher than this.

Mmm, tasty halibut tacos cooked by Chef Josie

Clam Gulch, AK - a beautiful place made better by two beautiful women - thanks Josie & Donna!

Update: In rereading and thinking about this post, I realized I missed some sort of essence about our time on Clam Gulch. The essence of standing in the rain around a campfire with friends, new and old, amazed it can all get so right; of watching a Yupik woman clean fish, the knife guided by a culture and old traditions; of beginning to understand how the Inupiaq know their land intimately, and can start a fire from wet driftwood and coal that comes from the sand; and finally, the essence of the question - are we really here - needing to be asked over and over again because the answer is nearly unbelievable.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Clam Gulch, Alaska