Monday, August 31, 2009

Up in Smoke

I had written earlier some thoughts about Smokey the Bear, which I have tucked away for a more appropriate time. I show this photo of this symbol of fire prevention standing in front of the Bend, Oregon fire station as a tribute to all those who are working to stop the devastating fires in California.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Over my head?

A number of friends have asked for more pictures of the summit of Mt Bachelor near Bend, Oregon. As the above photo shows, it is a barren inhospitable place, seemingly devoid of life other than a few curious birds above and probably sneaky lizards and voles living among the rocks below. As Jacob from Ocala Daily Photo astutely commented in an earlier post, mountain tops have been the site of important scenes in native mythology and Judeo-Christian history ostensibly because it was believed that the further the ascent, the closer a person would be to divinity. This is easy to understand when, already exhausted by an arduous trek and breathing thin air, faced with an austere environment and the mundane world below, that the mind might more readily turn to "loftier" thoughts.
As I lay on my back from this spot and gazed sublimely upward, my reverie was distracted by a commuter jet, flying , I suppose, from Portland to Reno, leave its fluffy track across the heavens. It was not a sign from the All, but from science, which had trumped the old magic mountain and relegated it to a distant place in old books. It didn't matter to me. I still had to come down the trail before dark and appreciate the present one more day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Full Steam Ahead

There were many children playing at the water's edge today in Bend, Oregon, a typical hot August summer scene repeated in countless places throughout the world. Voices glorifying merriment blended in a cacophony of laughter, squeals and exhortations. Concurrently, amidst a swirl of colorful bathing suits, towels, sand and splashing water, there sat a few little ones alone ruminating over complicated sand projects or fixed in a reflective pose, digesting possibly the meaning of hurt feelings.
Today's photo for Watery Wednesday is of a neglected toy boat, resting aground at the edge of lapping water. I assume its small barefoot owner will return soon to send the sturdy trawler off onto the river for a new perilous adventure. In the meantime, it serves as one more poignant detail in our memory of halcyon days when we were young and enlivened by the cool, gentle shore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On High

After publishing three picture about last Saturday's hike near Bend, Oregon, I decided that it was time to test my stamina once again. I bought special hiking tennis shoes and poles and decided I would ascend to the summit of Mt Bachelor, which is pictured on Monday's and Saturday's posts. This photo, taken from a flat spot amidst a moonscape of volcanic rock, looks across at South Sister, my next quest. To tell you the truth, I became a little light-headed and felt tuckered out near the top. The air was thin and the steep path, strewn with rocks of various sizes, made walking difficult. By resting often, also out of necessity, I knew that eventually I'd reach the peak. Other than a few ravens spying me as potential carrion, this high place was barren, lonely and devoid of life. The view of course was majestic. Yesterday I spoke of why I hike mountains. Tonight, fatigued and sore, I realize that today's challenge affirmed my convictions. I feel healthier mentally and physically and more inspired by nature's brilliance.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sitting on top

For the past two days, I have been posting photos from a Saturday hike to Tumalo Mountain near Bend, Oregon. This shot of the summit shows the texture and color of the soil, its reddish tinge from pumice and lava-cooled igneous rocks. In the background looms the fractured and eroded volcanic dome of Mt Bachelor. On this day, the air was pleasantly warm with a gentle breeze, but in winter, temperatures and wind can make this a most inhospitable spot, although ardent skiers are known to pack their skis up here and find a line through the trees.

It is a strange, puzzling yearning to climb to the top of a mountain. I'm not sure the process can exactly be called fun. Hikes are often long, hot and exhausting and not conducive to smiling. It is work. Feet, knees and joints ache and there is anxiety about sufficient supplies and daylight, and the possibility of twisting something. Some of you are content to see someone's photo or look at the scenery from an airplane, rather than to make such a questionable effort on your own. That's okay too. Hiking is clearly not for everybody. So what is the appeal? I know there is much gratification in reaching the pinnacle, looking over the world below, and then returning safely down to the trailhead. It is giving voice to the little train engine in me that puffs, "I think I can, I think I can." I have chosen to challenge the narrow limit which my upbringing has set. I am capable of being the bear who goes over the mountain to see the other side to see what he could see.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Quiet time

Yesterday, I posted a photo of the Mt Bachelor ski area looking South from Tumalo Mountain. Looking North from the same location near Bend, Oregon, are some other ancient inactive volcanoes. On the left is South Sister, in the center is North Sister, and to the right is Broken Top. There are many more majestic snow-covered peaks along the spine of the Cascade Mountains, including Mt Hood, Mt Rainier and the famous Mt St Helens, which violently erupted in 1981. This countryside is an outdoor person's paradise. There are numerous trails accommodating all levels of hikers and mountain bikers, plus abundant crystal clear lakes and streams for fishing. Animals still abound, especially deer, elk and bears, of course ever more concentrated, but not to the extent found in more urban areas, where wildlife habitat is massively degraded. When I gaze from this spot, the world doesn't look overpopulated. In fact this view seems almost timeless. Then again, I know there are no Paiute hunting parties out there, no villages where natives sit, telling stories or roasting meat. There are only finely equipped backpackers, who have parked their SUV's in forest service campgrounds, embarking on a modern excursion into nature.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Above it all

This morning I drove west from Bend, Oregon to hike Tumalo Mountain. It is a small volcanic peak adjacent to Mt Bachelor with a moderately steep and arduous 1 1/2 mile trail. On my descent, I looked across at the Bachelor ski area and saw the winter white paradise barren and scarred. This ancient volcano's summit and cornice reach 9,000 feet, about 3,000 feet from its base. The terrain is generally not considered as challenging for skiers or as steep as in the Rockies, but the snow is similarly dry and powdery. On this warm August day I was reminded of the upcoming season when I, either alone or with friends, will again pit myself against the elements and ski downhill filled with bravado and joy. Today though, I had indulged in the pleasure of walking in the open air up through clusters of pine, across fields strewn with basalt and pumice, amidst fading wildflowers, to a spectacular vista above the timberline. There I felt equally alive and sensed in the late summer wind the tune of nature's lovesong.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inside insight?

This evening I wandered over to Summit High School in Bend, Oregon to take a few pictures. The buildings were all locked and the athletic fields and tennis courts closed. In this space which, during the school session, is normally awash with young energetic people, there was now a sterile empty area further compromised by copious amounts of cold, hard, thin structures. In the above shot, the chain links invite the eye, but not the body, to go beyond. It sends a firm message, often expressed poignantly through signage, to keep life out. Fortunately though, art rescues us from such negative sentiments. The angles and shapes of the diamond screen, railing and imposing foreground fence create together an elaborate, imaginative metal design. It takes us inside and provides a more interesting way to view the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anyone there?

Looking East on Monterey Pines Drive in Bend, Oregon this evening, this rosy cumulus cloud adorned the evening sky in time for Skywatch Friday. It reminded me of Aristophanes' comedy, The Clouds, written around 420 BC. In the story the Chorus plays the role of the clouds and recites in amazing lyric poetry a quizzical commentary of the proceedings below. The play itself is a spoof on the current Athenian educational system and Socrates in particular, where sophist arguments defied common sense and "head-in-the-clouds" ideas could easily turn right and justice into folly and wrong. If our clouds today listened to various legal and political arguments and could talk, what would they say of our world? "Nothing new under the sun" I suppose.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Latte Dah!

I probably am not the first to post a picture of a Starbucks on a city blog, but this one, in northwest Bend, Oregon has special meaning to me. Practically every morning I come here, read the paper and chat with a number of good friends before starting on my day's adventure. Like so many other people, I tank up here in the winter before going up to the mountain for skiing. or in summer, it is a usual starting point for a bike ride. In this post I don't feel like discussing the merit of coffee drinking and the dangers of caffeine nor is this the time to talk of the domination of corporate America over the little guy, or the exploitation of workers in Brazil nor of the destruction of rainforests for coffee plantations. These are all worthy themes. Today I appreciate the freedom of expression that I feel there. I am excited by the numerous activities of Starbuck's numerous patrons, some sitting alone reading, some on laptops working, others visiting with friends, and a few participating in loosely organized discussion groups. Along with an assortment of kayakers, cyclists, hikers and shoppers, this gathering place, in it is own way, becomes a place where people affirm the goodness of life and figuratively and literally "smell the coffee".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hitting Rock Bottom

After having been told that my Bend, Oregon, posts have often been much too serious, I decided to Bend over and show you my juvenile side. While driving on Canal Boulevard, the old highway between Bend and the neighboring city of Redmond the other day, I spied this address on the side of a small warehouse. I can not be sure what is inside its walls but the thought worried me. I considered stopping and shopping, but I suddenly realized I didn't want to spend any money.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Music in the Air

Last night, folksinger legend Joan Baez performed in Bend, Oregon and Tapirgal, who contributed the second photo, and I attended the concert. For me and others, it evoked deep melodic feelings and memories about the past. This was not a hand-clapping, foot stomping nostalgic event for those of us whose lives were dramatically impacted by the sixties, nor was it a convocation with the like-minded. It was more a reckoning that we were still alive, just older. Joan Baez's voice still resonated clarity, power and magic, not with the same intensity of earlier times, but spoke the same message of hope, love and affirmation of life in a combination of old and newer tunes from a variety of genres. For me the highlight was her electrifying rendition of The Band's "The night they drove ol' Dixie down, and the people were singing". On this night I felt gladdened by the music and enriched by a sense that my past and present have meaning into the future.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

For your eyes only?

Last evening I sat down on a bridge crossing a pond at the Old Mill District in Bend, Oregon and took this picture of the sunset and its reflection through a wire mesh railing designed to keep small children and pets from falling into the water below. The resulting grid of colors and shapes is my offering for Scenic Sunday. This picture is for the eye alone. Sometimes words are fingerprints on crystal clear glass.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Evening Repose

On my way home I stopped at Drake Park in Bend, Oregon, and looked across Mirror Pond and decided to make this evening view the subject for Skywatch Friday. It was a quiet time by the water. The milk glass globe streetlamps glowed above empty park benches, the resident geese had tucked in along the grassy water's edges, and a restless nighthawk veered above me through the enveloping darkness like a frightened phantom. Here by the sky's remaining light, I felt the gentle touch of nature's power to close the shutters for awhile and allow the weary to rest under its mauve-gray comforter.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rolling through town

I have been asked why I rarely post pictures of the houses or commercial district of Bend, Oregon. I suppose I will eventually. The thing is, I am forever captivated by the incredible natural scenes which compose Bend's backdrop. Taken from a secluded spot at Second St. Park, the Deschutes River refreshes the town from the heat like a sweet cool drink. Residences are nestled along the banks, many incorporating native plants, lava and basalt rocks into their landscape. There are a few fishermen and kayakers who frequent this spot, but for the most part, it is simply a tree-lined stretch of clear clean river pleasing to the eye and a rich habitat for small trout and birds. It is easy here to appreciate Green.

Monday, August 10, 2009

soothing sights

I felt this evening I needed an attitude adjustment, so I decided to cool off by posting a picture of some small lenticular clouds, which are common over mountains and lakes in the summertime. I am not sure whether there is enough red for this picture to qualify for Ruby Tuesday, but I'll let you be the judge. Sometimes the beauty and soothing quality of the outdoors acts as a palliative for worrisome thoughts. It helps me sometimes find perspective and more loving reflection.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

wet paint?

I have taken other pictures of this flag-adorned bridge crossing the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon, and posted them on my blog. The color of the flags keep changing, with this week featuring purple, red and yellow. Like plumage on a native headdress, these colors grace the visage of the river's surface and enhance its perpetually tranquil quality. Those who pass by on the riverwalk and, like me, glance into the water, must smile at the magic of this reflection and marvel at its gaiety.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

You Are My Sunshine...

After having been away from Bend, Oregon for a week, it was great to return and see so many yards and greenspaces filled with sunflowers. There is something magnetic about these giant clusters. Their color and shape are a joyous expression of late summer. As the hot weather has withered earlier flowers, leaving sad, sered remnants, clusters of sunflowers exhibiting the original "happy face" emerge with large green welcoming hand-sized leaves. The landscape is bejeweled by these majestic plants topped with golden orange sun loving ornaments. The season is richer for those who appreciate them on Scenic Sunday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For the Birds!

While sitting outside of Starbucks this morning, I noticed a nest of swallows almost directly above me. Little fuzzy birds sat patiently for mother to return. As she approached, the little ones squealed and opened their beaks in anticipation of a "grande insect latte". It was difficult to take a shot in focus with my little Nikon Coolpix since I stood on a wobbly chair, pointed upwards, and waited for several minutes, my arms aching. Finally, mom circled about and came in for feeding. Clearly this hungry threesome look like singers, but their plaintive cries were hardly melodious. It was satisfying to capture this moment.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Just for You

One of the joys of hiking is to discover wildflowers along the trail. On a recent hike near Bend, Oregon, this natural bouquet provided me a treat for Mellow Yellow Monday. I usually take the time to look carefully at the petals and see their shapes and texture. I always hope to spot honeybees and watch them work. Then, feeling satisfied, I know it is time to move on down the path and am gladdened by the experience.