Tag: Oregon

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Black and white 1930s photograph of kids in an Oregon campground

Kids in an Oregon campground, 1930s. Photographer unknown.

[Note to regular visitors: I’m taking a break from the blog for the next week or two. I’ll be back in later June.]

The Doors of the Year

The final days of the old year and the first days of the new make a magical interlude. The big holidays, with all their obligations, expenses, and stresses, are over. The regularly scheduled life is kept at bay a few days more. You can feel the air gently shift around you as the door of the old year swings shut and the door of the new year opens.

A few photos from the interlude:

Sledding at Mt Hood, Oregon

After seventeen inches of lowland rain in December, the last days of the month were clear and cold. We drove to Mt Hood to sled and explore.

Raven and snowy landscape

In the mountains the gray jays watched us from the fir boughs and the ravens came to investigate.

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

The second day of the new year we drove an hour south to hike at Silver Falls State Park.

Hiking down a frosty trail at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

The trail into the canyon grew frosty.

Black and white photo of a fern covered in frost

The ferns and mosses were cloaked in filaments of ice.

Icicles hanging overhead along the trail

The trail became treacherous where frozen streams crossed it, and we passed under curtains of icicles.

Douglas firs at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

We found the sun again back atop the ridge in a fairy forest of Douglas fir and western hemlock.

Bird footprints in the snow

Two or three inches of snow fell at home the next day. The birds left their footprints on the covered porch in the backyard.

Home and the Woods

From the window of my home office I look onto the backyard and the patchy remnants of a lawn ravaged by an unusually hot summer. There is a dwarf Japanese maple, a slim pillaresque juniper, the leafy stump of a ginkgo tree that someone tried and failed to kill, a jasmine vine reaching for the beams of our covered patio, and a tree which I’ve been unable able to identify but which looks like it grew from a Dr. Seuss book. On one side of the house is a modest rhododendron and on the other a rose that’s gone feral in a gap between fence and garage, its branches reaching more than seven feet high.

The birds we see are familiar enough. There are evening robins and no end of crows; there are scrub jays and hummingbirds, chickadees and the tiny amiable bushtits that move in  groups through the trees like a softly peeping choir. One bird we rarely saw in the San Francisco Bay Area but see every day here in Portland is the northern flicker. The flicker is a woodpecker the size of a scrub jay with a spotted breast, a gray head, red wing and tail shafts, and bright red malars (in the male). In the spring mating season, flickers drumming on your home’s wooden siding will tell you if you have an insect infestation that needs addressing.

I have this idea that I ought to map it out and write up a natural history of our little territory, naming all the species of plant and animal that make themselves at home here, and those we see passing through. I’m curious to learn to what degree fall and spring species overlap, and to track our summer visitors against our winter visitors. My daughter got a jump on me and has already begun naming and describing the neighborhood cats in a little book of her own. There’s Carbonel, for example, a bony black tom that lives up the street; around the corner is Titus, a fat light-gray tabby patterned like a snow leopard.

Sometimes I think about the forest that grew here before Lewis and Clark paddled through and people like us began settling the area. Walking the neighborhood in the evening with my family, I imagine us passing down ghostly aisles of fir trees. But while the wolves and bears may be gone, replaced by dogs and cats, the forest itself isn’t really gone. It’s only changed. The trees are still standing in the form of 1920s bungalows like our own, built with beams of old-growth wood and shingled in pine and cedar. Like so many creatures of feather and claw before us, we’ve only made a temporary home in their branches.