The Power of Water

A month ago we walked out in our wetland and saw a few inches of water collected in the deeper end where the cattails grow. The red-winged blackbirds with their liquid call were already in residence, and the marsh wrens (the reed canary grass chokes the stream beneath the berm offers them an easy nest) scolded, half-heartedly. But mainly we saw what wasn’t there—water. That, of course, has changed. The wet season has arrived in spades, as everyone along the Willamette knows.  Just a few days ago we tried to reach a stranded friend in both pick-up and canoe to little avail—the Mary’s wandered convincingly—inspecting Read More

Mountain Quail ….

In March 1806, on the return journey up the Columbia River, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition shot a previously un-described species of quail near Beacon Rock, 10 miles east of today’s Portland.  Lewis wrote “last evening Reuben Fields killed a bird of the quail kind.. it is rather larger than the quail or partridge as they are called in Virginia….this is a most beautiful bird.”  A specimen of this bird was subsequently given to the famous illustrator, Charles Willson Peale, and included in a series of sketches of wildlife encountered by the expedition.  That illustration is currently kept by the American Philosophical Read More

Lean times …

Outside, beyond the Christmas lights, the cookies and fireside snacks, the long season of short days sets in.  Leaves mat and blacken the ground, stars appear before bedtime, and frost etches bent grass in the fields. It’s a hungry time too—the easy seeds are gone, the berries a summer memory. Even the rosehips are blown, and the few remaining apples lie shredded in the weeds along the drive. I suppose birds make their peace with the season and its lean times, although more of their larder vanishes, irreplaceably, every year, pushed to the margins, paved or ploughed: and every year, there is less to lose. Read More

Late Fall in the Valley …

Working on my computer, trying to complete paper work that I have neglected during our extended October summer ….   I keep looking up and out of my office window at the Willamette River and the rain and wind-blown leaves.   The dark overcast skies, brisk winds, and leaf colors seemed to have just  appeared.  I don’t remember any transition from the tee-shirt sunny days of working in my garden and hiking along forested trails to our late cool, fall rains and leaf raking.  Unlike some, I gravitate to our fall/winter weather.   I resemble my late golden retriever who used to settle comfortably by the fireplace, his Read More

Nature’s Gallery

This time of year we live in the gallery—every turn shows nature lavishing on us its ironic exuberance, made all the more poignant because we know winter will soon slowly unpaint the scene. Shakespeare’s observation on this brilliant decline–   “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, to love that well which thou must leave ere long” comes to mind, as does Hopkins’ “Million-fuelled, nature’s bonfire burns on.”  And it is glorious, there’s no question. We stop in our tracks at the sight of big leaf maples bursting into gold.  Miraculously, this all comes back to us year after year—or will, if we take Read More