Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Beautiful Day's Journey

Lucky me -- I ran into a dear friend at the Farmer's Market yesterday morning and he suggested that we travel up into the Cascades so I could say goodbye to them. I, naturally, was thrilled and quickly agreed, with the request that if possible he show me the Metolius River he'd told me about so often. Thankfully, he agreed. Off we went.

Our first stop was this magnificent waterfall on the upper MacKenzie River -- Sahalie Falls. I've seen it numerous times, and yet memory is never adequate to tell me just how incredibly beautiful it is. I have to be there, see it live and in person, in order to remember. Yes, that is a patch of snow on the right and the path down to the falls was icy and slippery but this sight was well worth the effort. As always, sound would add a great deal to this. I actually used my camera's video option and took a short video of this and maybe I'll try and figure out how to post it here.

There are several other equally beautiful falls and pools nearby, but the path was snowed over and we really didn't have time, so off we went towards the little town of Sisters, where we had a yummy lunch, browsed an equally yummy bookstore, then backtracked a couple of miles to the turnoff to the Metolius. This river is somewhat fabled in Oregon -- it springs full-blown at the base of a rocky mountain called Black Butte, then it travels about 15 miles, enters Lake Billy Chinook, which eventually flows into the Deschutes River and on into the Columbia.

As you can see, the weather wasn't overly cooperative for photography. Our first stop was the headwaters of the Metolius and yes, just to my left was the base of Black Butte and the source of the river. This is how it springs forth from that mysterious source -- full and flowing and equally quiet and serene and peaceful. In the distance a big, pointy snow-capped mountain poked its head out of the clouds for a few moments, but you really can't distinguish the mountain from the clouds here.

We drove on downriver and found this quiet, peaceful and totally beautiful section where we simply sat and absorbed all that peace and serenity for awhile before moving on. That may be Black Butte in the background, but I wouldn't swear to that. The only sounds here were the gentle gurgling of the water, birdsong and sometimes, wind whistling through the trees.

All in all, I could not have asked for a better day and the good news is that even though this was goodbye, it wasn't a permanent goodbye. It'll no longer be a 1-day excursion for me, but it'll still be there and once more I am SO grateful that I decided against Georgia and will remain in Oregon. So -- thank you, my friend, for this splendid, splendid gift.

Here's the video of Sahalie Falls. When I was recording it I forgot that the camera also recorded sound, so you'll hear my voice, briefly. It was also my first effort with videography so in that I leave much to be desired. I promise to do better in the future. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Redwoods, Wild Rivers, Home Again

Capturing the majesty of the redwoods with a camera -- much like capturing the Grand Canyon with a camera -- is truly an impossible task. Yet, the photographer in me is driven to try, always.

I never did find the little cabin in the redwoods this morning, although I found the road and followed the directions I never saw the place. It wasn't in the redwoods anyway, and I didn't feel too comfortable in the little community, so I didn't search too long.

Much like yesterday, this morning's trip was a symphony of nature at its finest. I was tooling along Hwy 199 peacefully en route to the cabin when I found myself at the edge of a deep gorge to the right and far into the distance, at the bottom of which roared an incredible green river whipped with the froth of whitewater. I could have killed for a photo of this, but there was no place -- absolutely no place -- to stop so I had to continue onward and let my heartbeat return to normal. A little further down a lovely old bridge lured me to the right, across the river and down to its side. Beautiful, but without the spectacle of drama of the entire gorge seen at once.

I was frustrated that I couldn't capture all that, but I did get right down to the water's edge and this photo at least shows the pure green color and the incredible clarity of the water. It is, of course, the Smith River, which happens to be the last major free-flowing river in California. If I'd had more time, I could have followed this road way back into the Jedediah Smith State Park and probably better views of the river, but alas -- I had an appointment to see the cabin so off I went. Another time.

A little further down the highway I found another gorge -- smaller and less spectacular, but filled with the green and white water nonetheless. Much like the redwoods, I found the camera and its operator not up to the task of capturing the fullness of this scenery. First of all, you'd need sound -- the rushing roar of all that water tumbling through the narrow sluice, churning and rumbling and echoing off the rocks. And then, a little motion might help. One of these days I'll figure out how to use the video feature on that little camera of mine.

After I gave up on finding the cabin, I drove back down 199 to the Jedediah Smith Redwood Park and stopped a couple of times because I just had to. First of all, I was driven to stop -- and secondly, there was no way I was going to get my body into redwood country without getting my feet on the ground and my hands on at least one redwood.

At my first stop I was greeted with masses of Trilliums, which are always a welcome sight. Such a simple flower, yet so beautiful in its simplicity.

Since there's no way to photograph an entire tree, I find myself drawn to the bark and breadth of beauties such as this -- which is actually rather small by redwood standards but still impressive.

As you can probably tell, the area was still shrouded in the morning fog that is the norm, and which is what helps these big boys grow and survive on this north coast of California. They love this weather.

I love these uprooted monsters, fallen in place, nurturing new generations, the shallow root network exposed to all the world and much taller than I am.

I didn't go in search of the really big trees, nor take any long trails. This was a simple 1-mile path right off the highway that satisfied the need for the time being. I touched a few, sat in the still quiet and just absorbed it all for a bit. Lovely. And a long way from Eugene so I had to hit the road north once more. The good news is that this state park is about a 25 minute drive from Brookings.

Aside from dropping off my rental application in Brookings, and stopping for gas in Coos Bay, this walk in the redwoods was the last time I was out of my car until I got home about an hour ago. Only took about 4.5 hours this time -- because I wasn't stopping every few moments to take a photo! I'm a little pooped again, but it was a lovely trip and a very worthwhile trip.

I don't think Georgia is on my mind any longer.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Guess I'm starting at the end, rather than the beginning, of this day but I couldn't resist starting with this photo taken around 4pm on the beach near the Port of Brookings.

It's been a picture-perfect, chamber-of-commerce day on the southern coast of Oregon: warm, clear, sunny and impossibly seductive and beautiful. Come hither, it says, loud and clear and often. And I'd love to answer that call.

The possibilities of things to do in this area are damned near endless, for an outdoor sort such as I. Expansive beaches, tiny river inlets that cry out for exploration, the wild and wonderful Rogue River all of 30 miles away in Gold Beach, wetlands and river mouths to explore in a kayak -- and the scenery certainly can't be beat! The Oregon Coast Bike Trail follows the highway for the most part, but veered off onto tantalizing side roads from time to time that I simply itched to follow. Would love to get back into shape to ride that highway to my heart's content, and I don't think it would be all that hard to do. The California redwoods are no more than 30 miles to the south, so I could visit to my heart's content. What's not to like about this?

Driving down here I tried to figure out how long it's been since I've been in this area, and it has to be at least 8, maybe 9, years. It's a trip I made often when I first moved to Oregon -- driving to Napa, or just to the redwoods -- but it's been much, much too long.

I do remember very clearly the first day I drove up this coast. It was in May of 1996. I'd driven west from Atlanta at a very leisurely pace, stopping for a week at the Grand Canyon, a few days at Sequoia National Park, a week at Yosemite, stopped in Napa and nobody I wanted to see was in town, so I kept driving north up the coast highway. A day in the redwoods and then across into Oregon and jaw-dropping scenery that pulled me into its magic and hooked me forever. It wasn't a pretty day, weather wise. On the contrary, I drove all day in a wild wind and rain storm and wasn't phased by it in the least, other than the effort of keeping my car on the road because of the wind. I simply didn't care -- the coast was/is so beautiful, weather didn't matter. I thought then -- and agree now -- that this has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of highway that exists anywhere. Simply breathtaking between the California border and the town of Port Orford. Beyond that, the road travels inland much of the time up to Florence, but down here, you're right on the water, with all the surf and rocks and nature anyone could want.

Lets start this day at the beginning, more or less. I realized when I hit the little village of Mapleton, just inland from Florence on the Siuslaw river, just how much I really love coastal river estuaries. They sing to my soul, call me toward the peace and beauty that is so natural to them. It wasn't a new realization, merely one I tend to forget until the sight is before me. This photo is Florence, from the Old Town area.

If this is a trip for seeking, for soul-searching -- and it very much is that -- this was the first inkling that I was on the right track. Every inlet, every glimpse of the ocean afterwards simply built upon that inkling. By the time I reached Brookings the anticipation was incredibly high.

I stopped at a variety of towns with ports and river estuaries and thought I'd remember which was which, but I'm afraid that's not the case. I'm pretty sure this is Bandon, but I wouldn't swear to that. Bandon was about where the weather changed from showers to blue skies and warm weather. Well, warm by Oregon standards, anyway. According to my car, the outside temp here in Bandon was 49. The highest I saw it all day was 55, but it felt much warmer, even outside on the beach. The banana belt lived up to its reputation today. I do realize that might all change tomorrow.

I know this is Bandon -- I took a little scenic route from the port area and found this incredible beach. This was definitely the high rent district, and there was a 'for sale' sign on the road where I stood to take the photo. One of the beauties of Oregon is that every mile, every foot, every inch of beach along it's 350 or so miles that front the Pacific Ocean is public property. You can lay out a small fortune and buy a beachfront property such as this, but no amount of money will buy you that beach, or give you the right to control access to that beach. I don't remember which of several far-thinking governors brought that particular legislation to pass, but I'm forever grateful he did.

Not sure where this is. Gold Beach? It was after Bandon and before Brookings, and that doesn't leave many options. That would make this the Rogue River estuary.

I didn't take many photos of the inland side of the highway, seen in the background here. Rolling green hills dotted with sheep or cattle, cranberry bogs around Bandon, lots and lots of farming and living off nature in this part of the world.

And of course, fresh seafood everywhere, for sale right on the docks.

This is the Port of Brookings -- no doubt on this one. I'm really impressed with the overall charm of this little town, particularly with it's waterfront area. There's a lovely boardwalk area with shops and restaurants, a public fishing and crabbing dock, and the lovely beach in photo one above.

Many of the little towns I passed through weren't all that charming. Beautiful natural settings, absolutely, but without the personal, man-made charm of this town.

I could live here. Would like to live here. Now I just need to figure out how. I looked at one place to rent today and was ready to take it sight-unseen just because of the yard and view. Unfortunately, the inside was butt-ugly (think 1960s era Harvest Gold appliances, for starters). It was tiny, with almost no living space and no closet, but it had a shared laundry room with the house in front and I could have gotten creative and made the space livable. I think. There was a nice fenced yard with plenty of space for a garden, a large deck, a fab view of the waterfront/port area below, even an outdoor but glass-enclosed area that would have all kinds of possibilities, year round. So what, you ask, was the problem? Aside from the tiny, butt-ugly inside, I am not enamored of the shared utilities aspect of the place. I've lived in that kind of situation before, and one has absolutely no control over utility cost or usage. I don't use much, but if the other unit does, then I end up subsidizing their usage. I'm not fond of that. Plus, the total utility cost was incredibly high, almost totally offsetting the low price of the base rent. I'm still considering it -- possibly only as a place to land, short-term.

I also looked at a senior housing complex which might be doable. There is an apartment available, although it's at a higher rate than I'd like. The manager wasn't there, and I knew in advance she wouldn't be, but she invited me to go inside, check out the 2nd floor library and 3rd floor rec room, which I did. Both are lovely -- the rec room has an ocean view, large TV, lots of cushy seating, a big kitchen and a couple of exercise machines. I have filled out an application for this one and will drop it off tomorrow. This may be my best bet.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to drive down into California and see the little cabin in the redwoods, which sounds wonderfully romantic, but not overly practical. Still, I'll have a look at it and hug a redwood or two along the way. My heart is pulling me to the coast -- not sure I'd be happy for long in a lonely cabin, even if it is in the redwoods!

I think that's it for now, folks. It's been a long day and I'm crashing but totally happy. And to think -- when I woke up this morning I'd pretty much decided against the trip but an email conversation with a friend in Florida seemed to turn me around. I resisted because of money -- then realized I really needed to do this or I might regret it forever. And I would have done just that!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Holiday and a Road Trip

My goodness, what a week this has been! Lots of uncertainties, as the last post showed rather clearly. Much of that, I think, was caused by a bad combination of stress and long-standing lack of sleep/rest, which in and of itself causes stress. One of those vicious circles we all hear about.

The good news is that I feel better today, although sleep was seriously missing for most of last night. All the indecision, the stress, are making me look deeply inside and question so much, and I have been narrowing in on what's important to me, what I want and need as well as what I do NOT want and need. It's all good.

Since I have a three-day weekend, I'm going to hit the road tomorrow and drive south down the Oregon coast to the little town of Brookings, just north of the California state line. It's an area I've been drawn to for a variety of reasons -- not the least of which is its 'banana belt' climate. It's a charming little port town, picturesque, and within easy driving distance of the redwoods, and not too far from Napa and even Eugene -- all the places I love about the west coast. It's a great location. I have numerous apartments to look at along the way -- all affordable, tax-credit housing for low-income seniors and families. And on Saturday morning I have an appointment to see a little cabin in the redwoods down in California. It's in an extraordinarily beautiful part of the world -- big redwoods everywhere, the fabulous Smith River, just lovely. The cabin is small, but may be doable. Hard to tell until I see it. There's also a little 'mother-in-law' cottage behind a larger house in Brookings.

I don't know if any of these will work for me, but I feel the need to give it a try before I take off for Georgia. Friends say the worst that can happen is that I'll get to Georgia and end up coming back to the west coast -- but I don't see it that way. I really don't see me making another cross-country move, so I need to get this one right, if I'm going to do it. I'd rather make a move to Brookings or elsewhere in that area and have that be temporary -- move on to Georgia if I find I still need to do that. Cheaper and easier in the long run. So -- stay tuned for results of this trip. As of today there is a wireless card installed in my laptop, so I'll be mobile and able to upload photos on a daily basis.

One thing that has become crystal clear is that staying in Eugene is really not an option for me, as much as I like it and as much as I'll miss it. There are simply too many unhealthy emotional ties here that need to be broken, and that can only happen with many miles of distance. I'm very comfortable with that, finally! And it's about time.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Eugene Saturday Market

A Eugene tradition since 1970, the Saturday Market is a collage of artisans, entertainers, farmers and much, much more. It's the happening place in Eugene every Saturday during it's run, which began yesterday for 2009.

In many ways, it's a step back into the 70's, and that's not all a bad thing. Tie-dye rules and starts young in Eugene. People from young to old, straight to gay, conservative to liberal flock downtown with the same purpose and sense of joy.

One never knows what the weather gods will offer for opening day, but when they smile with the first warmish, sunny day of spring, look out! Throngs of smiling, happy faces, children dancing to the music on stage, all enjoying some or many facets of the market, which basically encompasses 3 full city blocks, corner to corner, end to end.

The Farmer's market is a huge part of Saturday Market, having its own 3-sided block and offering everything from fresh produce to baked goods, chocolates, goat cheeses, freshly-picked wild mushrooms, bedding plants, flowers, and more. Much more. This is always my favorite haunt, although I do have an opening day tradition which is lunch at Ritta's Burritos, another long-standing Eugene tradition.

This isn't the clearest photo -- I just had to aim and shoot, the unaccustomed glare from that big light in the sky was too much! This, however, is the fungal bounty of the Oregon forests -- wild mushrooms of all varieties, whatever is out there at the moment. I see a few morels, some oyster mushrooms, something that looks like yellow foot, and more. Later in the year chanterelles will cast a golden carpet through old fir forests. Yes, I've spent many happy hours in the past trudging through those fields of gold and filling several large paper grocery bags with treasure.

These people are heroes in my mind. They raise wonderful pasture-grown beef, chickens, raw milk (and its products such as butter and whipping cream), pork, lamb, sausages -- all kinds of wonderful things. And they do it all using the best possible natural farm processes that insure the health of their animals as well as the health of their land. It's a true family enterprise.

A small portion of the Farmer's Market bounty.

My lunch. Totally impossible to eat without a fork, and utterly delicious.

Lots of nostalgia out there for me yesterday. Not my last Saturday Market, but I'm certainly on countdown.

I bought a painting I've been looking at in a store window for a couple of weeks, something that is, for me, very evocative of Eugene in general and Saturday Market in particular. As I was explaining to the woman in the store why I wanted it I choked up, filled with emotion about leaving all this behind. She was terrific -- said there was a grieving process for everything, even if it's something we choose to do. And she is so right. I've done a lot of grieving, expect that there will be a bit more before it's all over.

In the meantime, it's a beautiful, sunny day in Eugene that promises to be warm. The sun is pouring in my east-facing windows and I'm going to walk to Safeway in awhile for my weekly shopping. Just because I have a car doesn't mean I have to drive.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Kuti Hut at Bhavana Society

Doesn't this look totally and utterly peaceful and serene? It is a forest Kuti Hut at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia, a Buddhist monastic center. Several of these individual huts are scattered around the property as an alternative to the dorms, offering solitude for retreats or perhaps even residency.

Residency here has appealed to me since I first discovered it about a year ago when I was looking for such a place. I still find it appealing. Fortunately for those of us like me who tend to rush into things, they require that a person attend several lengthy retreats prior to requesting residency. I signed up last year for a retreat, but ended up with a conflicting commitment here in Eugene and had to cancel. It's also a very difficult place to reach without a car, or without renting a car for the length of your visit.

I just signed up for another retreat beginning June 3, a 4-night women's retreat, which will be different for me. I typically avoid anything that is focused specifically toward women, for some reason, but why not? It's also the first one they offer that I might be able to attend. I don't have a confirmation from them yet, but expect there will be no problem. I requested a Kuti Hut for my residence, and also requested that I be allowed to extend my visit for a few days after the retreat is over. That will give me the sense of residency, rather than retreat. The two are quite different, in that more work is required of residents than of retreatants.

They have 50 acres, criss- crossed with hiking paths such as this. Again, it looks utterly serene and peaceful and draws me to follow wherever that green swath might lead.

But then, winter brings snow and I'm not all that fond of snow, so perhaps some extended summer residencies might be more appropriate for me. Or perhaps, like so much in life, I'll find that the fantasy is much more appealing than the reality. We'll see.

The Society teaches Theravadan Buddhism, which is what I have studied and enjoyed for the last four years, and I look forward to the experience with them this summer. My past meditation retreats have been at far different places, ranging from the simplicity of the Northwest Vipassana Center in Onalaska, Washington, to the lovely but far more commercial Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, California. Neither is a monastery, nor has resident monks or nuns! This should be a very different kind of experience.

There is much about the monastic life that appeals to me, as a lay-resident, not as a nun (only men are monks). It might be a nice compromise, and there is no cost for living there. Our way is paid by working about four hours each day.

I certainly need some of that peace, that mindfulness, and the availability of the resident teachers. It's only two months away!