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Monday, May 28, 2007

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon - Painted Hills Unit

I walked into a valley of time.
pages of time written by volcanoes
a table of contents set down so long ago

I would have thought it was forever

ice, rain, sun and air – like a plague of mice
nibble at the pages
precious stories preserved in earth
washed away forever

heirs to life
we who still exist
winding through an intricate unbroken plot
always at the right place at the right time with the right skills

a churning molten core
birth pains
a hundred miles westward
earth breathes, breathes - ash into the sky
time and again
Technicolor vomit
or the afterbirth of a mother’s creation

Earth opens herself
we glimpse long hidden words
there is revelation here

the ancient sun
peers over a hill
illuminates the past
“I remember you”, it says
“when you were younger”
“you look different now”

As for man, his days are like grass:
He flourishes like a flower of the field;
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place knows it no more.*

*Psalms 103: 15-16

standing on a cusp of time
forwards and backwards bending out of sight
making as much sense as
a calendar to a mayfly

a graphic message in a bottle

cast adrift on the green waves of a continent

pretty good painting
for a painter with no eyes

waves lined up to the horizon
arrive at the shore endlessly
an essential pattern

Apply, lather, rinse, repeat

quick look close

too's gone

For detailed information about the Painted Hills, visit the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument web site:


I followed the URL (that Cynthia posted) to June Underwood’s gallery of Recent Work and had a wonderful experience seeing the Painted Hills through completely different eyes - acknowledging sights I missed or overlooked and adopting metaphors I never would have made. Mrs. Underwood’s hills are crazy-colored animated landscapes rendered with a refreshing childlike exuberance and originality that makes the mechanical act of photography look as creative as a copy machine. Perhaps it would be better to hear the artist’s own words, “. …the Painted Hills seem to me to be great primeval creatures, stretching and reaching out and rolling under and along the earth's surface. They are spectacular in part because we don't usually come into contact with the actual contours of the earth's flesh -- usually the "flesh" is covered with soil and grass and trees and roads and culverts and fences. To return to that primeval vision, earth in all its rawness, without clothes, without cover, is astonishing.”

See June's work in progress at:

See June's recent work at:

Or, to feel the pulse of June's S.E. Portland neighborhood, visit and be sure to check out the pictures of the John Day fossil Beds National monument scattered in the September archive.


  1. A woman I know from Portland did an artist-in-residence program there recently. Her work that came out of that place is amazing.

    Thanks for the poetry and images. It's another place I will need to venture.

  2. June Underwood is the artist. I am enthralled by her work:

    Make sure you also click on "Work in Progress" at the top of the page.

  3. Scott,

    These are amazing photos. As you know, I am now working from photos of various of the Fossil Beds features, but I've neither seen nor taken anything like you have here. They are spectacular.

    I will be writing you personally in a bit, but I needed to make an immediate comment about your photography.



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