Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bring on the Rain

It could be argued that there are only two seasons in Oregon: the rainy season and summer. That's a bit of an overstatement, but as we enter into the rainy season it struck me that a bit more creativity will be needed in finding things to take pictures of. After all, while it may not be possible to ever get enough photos of Mt. Hood in all its summer splendor, the same can not be said for a wet sidewalk. I wonder if it wasn't something like a watery reflection that gave CS Lewis some inspiration for The Magician's Nephew (if I've got my Narnia trivia right, that is). There are all kinds of alternative realities out there, most of them just happen to last only as long as the puddle they're contained in. Sidewalks aren't the only place to find other universes staring back at you. A lot of the office buildings near where I work are rather space agey in their interior design (I swear the designer of a certain block of office buildings spent way too much time watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine), but the outside does a great job of reflecting the trees that dot the parking lot. Just think of the white stripe as the Star Trek touch. Sometimes it just depends on where you stand. At a workshop I went to a few weeks ago, the instructor talked about seeing the world as an ant, a dog, or a bird. She wasn't advocating running around in costumes as if caught in a Halloween time warp, but just to think about how those three creatures see the world. The shot above isn't exactly from an ant's point of view, more like a Chihuahua. Below is a Golden Retriever's view on the world.

The sky this time of year can do some great things for pictures. Sometimes the clouds roll across the sky and
the sun makes a surprise entrance only to retreat into the background, rather like someone who bursts into a room in the middle of a deep conversation and blushingly makes their way to the nearest exit. A few days ago, a fog crept into the morning sunrise. It took only about seven minutes for it to totally cover the trees beneath me as I waited for the sun to come up over Mt. Hood. There's something so beautiful yet mysterious about fog. Maybe it's all those Sherlock Holmes stories I read as a kid (Hound of the Baskerville's anyone?). This weekend I spent a wonderful morning outside in the rain. There's nothing to describe running when it's about 55 degrees out and the rain is gently falling. There are a number of wooded trails on this route and I love to stop in the middle of the forest while a mist moves along the path and the sound of the water overhead drips off the leaves. I'm sure this statement will come back to haunt me around January, but on days like that I really don't mind that it will be raining for another five or six months.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rain and/or Shine

 Fall and spring are the times of year when you never know what to wear. Just because the ark floated by your window does not mean that in 10 minutes the sun will not be shining. Add the appropriate temperature adjustments for both rain and shine and it's easy to see how you could walk out of the house with a wardrobe trunk that would make any Vaudeville performer proud. Yesterday's sunrise was as unpredictable as the weather. I left the house and drove to a nearby area where a house is being built. The backyard looks onto both the lake of Lake Oswego with Mt. Hood vying for attention in the background. Even more importantly, no trees obstruct the view, and a tree free view is difficult to come by. The only problem was that, unbeknownst to me, the workmen also had Saturday hours. Silly me to think I'd have that view all to myself at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. The view was actually rather disappointing because of all the clouds, and after sinking in the mud for a few minutes, I drove home. However, as I pulled into the apartment complex, there was a glorious light coming from the east. So, back to the old standby viewing area, complete with obstructing trees, to get a few shots before it was too late. It started raining on the way home, which set the tone for the rest of the day. The target walking area for Saturday was the St. John's Bridge in northwest Portland, and then on to Sauvie Island. The St. John's Bridge is a suspension bridge built in the late 1920's. It's Gothic spires easily make it one of Portland's most recognizable landmarks. Up to now I've only admired it from a distance but had yet to photograph it. Portland's skyline is easily visible

from St. John's with the Steel Bridge in the foreground. The clouds really put on a good show yesterday, in between rainstorms that is. The goal was to walk from Cathedral Park, across the bridge, and to Sauvie Island. It didn't look that far on Google, no more than a few miles or so. As I walked along Highway 30 (in the bike lane, not to worry), I got out my GPS to see how much farther there was to go. Imagine my surprise when it said nine miles. Hmm, a twenty-mile round trip wasn't quite what I had in mind. I turned around and headed back to the car with the newly formulated Plan B on the agenda: drive to the park and ride at Sauvie Island and walk the two miles to the Pumpkin Patch. That turned out to be a good plan because coming over the hills to the west were dark clouds and with them some pretty serious rain drops. I was very happy not to be walking along the road with all those cars splashing me. It had mostly quit by the time I got to the island (and I must have had a bad address because it would have only been about 14 miles, which wouldn't have been too bad). Sauvie Island is an agricultural area connected to the mainland by a bridge with a colorful orange arch. It's known for its wildlife refuge as well as pumpkin picking places (say that three times fast), and I'm sure most of the residents dread the month of October as all the city folk come zipping along the narrow two-lane road to tromp around in the mud, buy produce, and get lost in the corn maze. It's a lovely area though and one I should visit in the summer when Mt. Hood is out. I was last at Sauvie Island two years ago on a beautiful, warm October day and the traffic was literally at a standstill. I
made much better time walking (one particularly burly man in a big pickup asked me if this was the way to the Pumpkin Patch, I hope he didn't think it was a bar). But this year because of the iffy weather, traffic zoomed by, totally oblivious to all the beautiful things to look at. The Pumpkin Patch itself, is a rather commercialized outfit with the corn maze, a big barn to buy produce in, complete with shopping carts, an area for kids to pet farm animals, and of course, pumpkins.

The actual walk to get there is more the purpose for the trip than the Pumpkin Patch itself. After looking around and tromping through the muddy parking lot to find the exit, it was time to head back home. The rain had ended by this time and it was a beautiful walk back with the sun shining full on the trees with the dark gray clouds behind them. I hope the people who drove by yesterday took a moment to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Enter the Gray

The inevitable finally happened, the blue skies disappeared behind a wall of gray clouds and the sun became a distant memory. Okay, that's a very melodramatic way of saying it's going to be raining for a while and there's not much that can be done about it. I went to a photography workshop yesterday afternoon, and one of the things the instructor said to do was embrace the overcast sky and the lighting it affords. That sounds potentially soggy to me, given those gray skies' penchant for moisture, but she does have a point. If you can't make the sun shine, you might as well get used to it. Given the looming clouds, this morning's sunrise wasn't really on my radar. However, when I looked out the window it was obvious there was more going on than expected. The autumn trees peeping up from below added some welcome spots of color, and I was glad I had dashed out of the house in my rather unkempt state to capture the show. What a great way to start a morning. After church and lunch, it was time for that favorite activity of grocery shopping. I am hard pressed to think of a chore I dislike more than spending money on stuff that I then have to figure out what to do with, cook, freeze, etc. To make it a little more entertaining, I decided to go for a walk in the local area and see if there was anything interesting in the neighborhood. 
Fall and spring are great times to find colorful patches in yards, even if the skies are gray.
This particular "patch" was kind of hard to miss. From the sign on the driver's side door, it was somebody's swap meet treasure. I'm just curious if the wife was as excited as the husband over this rare find.  A little farther down the road there was what appeared to be an abandoned orchard, with neglected apples drooping over the post and wire fence. Next to that was a peaceful trickle of water (for now, soon it's likely to be a raging torrent), and alongside that was a stately willow tree. I went back the same way I  had gone because quite often you miss something the first time around, as was the case today. I saw bright orange blobs out of the corner of my eye and realized a pumpkin patch, in various stages of being harvested, was growing behind someone's house. You never know what you're liable to find growing, grazing, or clucking in various parts of Portland.

This next story has nothing to do with any of the pictures, and in fact there are no pictures to go with it but I'll see what I can do with words. Yesterday was the last weekend for the local farmers' market, which is always a sad occasion because it seems to add a note of finality to summer's end. I was walking up the street carrying a load of corn and green beans and realized I would go right past the strawberry bushes that are planted alongside the road. Surprisingly, there were still a number of green berries and new blooms to be seen. Farther down the road was an elderly man with a gapped-tooth grin and absent-minded professor hair. I've only seen snippets of Back to the Future, but just envision Christopher Lloyd at this point. He called me up to where he was sitting amongst the strawberry plants trimming the extra long runners. Seemingly oblivious to the soggy ground he sat on, he introduced himself as Roger and held out a gloved and rather grimy finger for me to shake, reminiscent of a pinky swear. He then gave me several of the plant cuttings as well as instructions on how to plant them. I thanked him and said goodbye. As I walked on, Roger's voice followed me as he continued singing a little tune, with strawberries apparently being the main subject. Considering the condition of those plants, they obviously enjoy Roger's singing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the Way to the Dance

This past weekend it was time to once again pile into the car with a group of friends and take off for another Scottish Country Dance event. This time the road led to central Oregon and the Bend Workshop and Ball (which is actually held in Redmond, but that's another story). It was decided that we would stop outside of Redmond at Smith Rock, Oregon's version of Colorado's Garden of the Gods, although Smith Rock has the added beauty of the Crooked River flowing along the trail. We pried ourselves out of the car (six people in a van is fine but after awhile rigor mortis starts to set in). We all trooped down a rather steepish trail to a bridge that went across the river and the rest of the hike. On the other side of the bridge, the trail split three ways, to the left or right was a trail around the base of the rocks or in the middle was the trail that went up to the top. At this point we split into two groups, the flatlanders and the climbers. The trail started off at a reasonable incline with steps appearing every now and then, lots and lots of steps.  It was rather disconcerting at first to realize we weren't yet even with the parking lot, but after awhile we regained the altitude we had lost when going down the first part of the trail. After about 3/4 of a mile, we were at the top and enjoying the view. While walking along the top, we passed another hiker who told us of a different way down. We continued on the trail, and soon it was beginning to curve sharply downwards. Before heading to Smith Rock, I had read about a formation called monkey face. After hiking to the top and not seeing it, I figured it must be in another part of the park. Then all of a sudden it
dawned on me that the tall spire right in front of my eyes had a rather simian appearance. I found out later that when you see it from the right angle, it looks even more like a monkey, but a happy one as opposed to this face that looks like it's about to eat the mountain. We made our way down, soon we were walking along the banks of the river. The temperature was perfect and it was a wonderfully pleasant place to
be at that point. Real life was only a distant memory, at least for a little while. We continued along the trail where the sound of crickets or some other once familiar insect made a noise I know I've heard before and always associate with peaceful summer evenings. The river turned back toward the way we'd come and as we came around the corner, we were greeted by a sight of towering rocks reflecting in the water below. The exposure was a little tricky with the sun and shade vying for attention but this shot turned out reasonably well considering the circumstances. Soon, we met up with the others who had been walking along the river and made our way up the hill to the parking lot. I'm not much of a math person (as in not at all) but great friends, beautiful surroundings, and some free time add up to a perfect way to spend an afternoon.