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Monday, December 31, 2007


I got a new waterproof, breathable jacket for Christmas so I took it out for a test drive on the Wahclella Falls trail. The canyon walls rose on either side of me as I followed the path in along Tanner Creek. Heavy dark clouds scraped across the treetops enclosing the chasm below in a dark gray gloom.

Ice fell from the sky. Soft hail accumulated on the ground here and there. Like water overflowing leaf clogged gutters, streams and rivulets of instant tributaries poured into the valley.

The rain-jacket did an admirable job of keeping exterior water out, but I’m afraid no current technology is sufficient to dissipate the sweat produced by a feverish semi-fat man.

It seemed I had only got started, when the trail forked upward to the left or downward to the right. I chose to head upward and was soon surveying the lower trail as it snaked its way through an evident landslide.

The unremitting precipitation was making it difficult to keep my camera lens dry. I found a dry spot on my t-shirt and wiped the big drops off. I heard a noise behind me and whipped around to find an unassuming old man offering me an umbrella. In retrospect, I think maybe it was Picasso, but I guess I didn’t recognize him with his clothes on.

My first view of Wahclella Falls.

Some of the clouds were so dark that I thought perhaps night had come.

I took about fifty pictures of the falls, but almost all of them suffered from over-exposure so that all the detail was lost in the white areas. Over and over again, this created a featureless white void as a central focal point of non-interest. I tried to combat the loss of detail in the white frothy water by shortening my exposure times, but this strategy resulted in an associated loss of detail in the shadows. I was getting frustrated, especially because I’m pretty damn sure Picasso knew exactly how to fix this problem, but he continued his policy of not speaking – encouraging me to experience the fullness of ‘the journey’.

The trail looped around so that I could see I would soon be traversing the territory I had previewed from above. Periodically, I’d look back and try to find some award winning angle of the falls that nobody else had thought to shoot, but I didn’t find one, and I started feeling embarrassed, especially with Picasso patiently holding the umbrella for me.

At first I was also embarrassed about the umbrella. I didn’t think any self-respecting Oregonian would be caught with an umbrella in the rain. But time and again, the umbrella allowed me to take pictures without getting drops all over the lens, even when I tipped the camera upwards. When other hikers passed me, I’d say, “It’s not for me, it’s for the camera!” Usually, they would just kind of squint and step way, way out of my way.

For a brief moment, it looked like the clouds might break, and a rich yellow glow permeated the mist.

I felt happy for a minute – anticipating the sun.

But it began to pour.

Monday, December 24, 2007

BEAVERS: Next of Kin

She Who Watches Over - S.W. Washington - April 2004

Human representatives often pride themselves for their uniqueness among all animal species. But the very things that make humans unique are probably extremely recent developments. Huge egos, large brains, and the physical apparatus required for effective speech seem not to have appeared in hominids any earlier than 500 thousand years ago.

pictograph / petroglyph? / whatever - S.W. Washington - April 2004

The ability to use these physical attributes is even more recent so that language and speech and the propensity toward symbolic thought can really only be thought of as new evolutionary experiments.

Even so, metaphorical or symbolic thinking does seem to go hand in hand with a level of consciousness that appears to transcend common animal existence. Consequently vast segments of humanity have been led to posit an additional, supernatural, god granted element (often referred to as the soul) associated with the human body. No other animal builds complex cultures and civilizations and therefore it is reasoned that humans must hold a position at the apex of evolution/creation. This assumption is often suggested in humanity’s sacred writings.

Renegade Cows - Mt. Adams - S.W. Washington - Sept. 2007

Ironically, one of the benefits to owning a soul is that it makes it easier to justify eating animals that don’t have souls.

Or it makes it easier to make hats out of them.

Willamette Falls @ Oregon City - Jan. 2006 (Click on the image to view a somewhat larger version)

We like to point to our technology as evidence for the power of our big brains, but don’t quite grasp that the end result is no better and often worse than what other animals accomplish with instinct.

Beaver dam @ Bybee Lake - Northwest Oregon - (Click on the image to view a somewhat larger version)

Beaver construction projects actually turn out to be beneficial to life.

For little mammals with no obvious language skills, beavers have an extraordinary list of engineering accomplishments. This dam is the first in a series of dams or locks that shape one of the inlets to Bybee Lake. This dam apparently controls the water level around the beaver’s home lodge (located in the upper right hand corner of the photo).

Below the dam, additional locks and secondary dams control the seasonal variation of water levels. Massive beaver dredging projects maintain an open channel to the lake, even in the summer.

Note how silt and sediments are pushed to the sides of the channels.

Beaver construction techniques utilize wood acquired from their extensive lumberjack operations as well as local mud and clay.

Beaver canal to the open lake.

Back door to beaver lodge.

Underwater tunnel system exposed.

Ambitious tree felling project

Tree harvesting.

Distribution of resources - overland and overwater.

Beaver infrastructure

Waterfront property.

It all raises a question. If a beaver can build homes, dams, locks, roads, tunnels and canals – if a beaver can harvest and transport timber – if a beaver can plan ahead and store food for the winter – if a beaver can safeguard his family from predators – how is it that a beaver isn’t actually conscious?

Maybe consciousness like our own is only a matter of degree – and not the divine impartation of a magical element.

Maybe one day, we will see clues that our fellow mammals are taking the first steps to human-like consciousness. Perhaps here we see evidence of the first beaver inkling of the ‘linkin’ log’ concept that will allow future beavers to construct log cabins instead of lodges.

Here we might see evidence for a developing sculptural sensibility.

The resemblance between this unfinished beaver sculpture…

…and this famous Egyptian sculpture is remarkable.

Possible beaver-made duck decoy.

Just screwing around, or are beaver scientists beginning to unravel the secrets of the double helix?

In Stanley Kubrick’s movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a mysterious black monolith teaches a band of hominids to use tools. One of the hominids throws a bone ‘smashing implement’ into the air. The bone twirls up into the sky where it gradually morphs into a space craft. The whole technical evolution of our species is implied during the artful passage of a few seconds of celluloid.

Perhaps here in a similar fashion, on the bank of Bybee Lake, these implements mark the birthplace of beaver consciousness…

…as they struggle to come to grips with the ‘lever principle’.

Is this an example of beaver engineers using levers to raise rock obstructions out of their navigable canals?

Is this a beaver traffic signal?

Is this a beaver depiction (top left quadrant near the midline) of slumbering carp?

Is this a beaver rendering of James Dean?

Only time will tell.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


My apartment sits at the base of an extinct volcano…at least I hope so. With luck, the tectonic plate that Oregon rides upon has migrated far enough to carry Portland past the molten magma furnace that fueled Mt. Tabor in the distant past. If you weren’t looking for it, you might not recognize that a small amphitheatre and basketball court are built in the throat of a cinder cone.

The following images are arranged in geographical order. The images begin at the public stairwell at the north entrance to Mt. Tabor Park. The route will follow the stairs up to the top of Mt. Tabor, then over the top towards the south. From there, the path will meander down and to the west, stopping to visit each of Mt. Tabor’s reservoirs in order of altitude. While the route through space will be orderly and sequential, the path through time will be random and perhaps jarring.

Sunrise – View from public stairs – Oct. 1, 2006

Sunset – view from public stairs – June 5, 2007
Night Rain - Public Stairs, North Entrance to Mt. Tabor – Dec. 1, 2007

Mt. Hood - From the top of Mt. Tabor - Dec. 3, 2006

Foggy Night - Top of Mt. Tabor - Nov. 8, 2007

Night Meditation - Top of Mt. Tabor - Nov. 8, 2007

Winter Bench - Top of Mt. Tabor - Jan. 6, 2004

Downtown Portland - From the top of Mt. Tabor - Jan. 16, 2007

Reservoir 1 - Jan. 16, 2007

Reservoir 1 Control Room - April 8, 2006

Big Pipes - Reservoir 1 - April 8, 2006

Fern & Ivy - Reservoir 1 - Jan. 6, 2007

New Shrine Elements – Reservoir 1 – Dec. 15, 2007(See also Reservoir of Memories

Night Reservoir – Reservoir 5 – July 25, 2006

Ironwork Shadow – Reservoir 5 – Sept. 27, 2003

Red Berries for Carolyn – Between Reservoir 5 and 6 – Dec. 15, 2007

Split Reservoir – Reservoir 6 – April 8, 2006

Split Reservoir at Night – Reservoir 6 - July 25, 2006

Waterline – Reservoir 6 – Sept. 27, 2003

Moss Ring – Reservoir 6 – Dec. 15, 2007

Evidently Not a Boat Ramp – Reservoir 6 – Dec. 15, 2007

Particulate Sunset – from westward slope of Mt. Tabor – June 5, 2007

The Narrative Image NAVIGATION AID

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All text and images appearing here are protected by copyright (unless otherwise noted), s.d. 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.