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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mt. Adams Fire (09-22-12)

 Mt. Adams as seen from the Cooper Spur shelter (Mt. Hood) on 09-22-12

Mt. Hood’s lengthening shadow, straining for the eastern horizon 

Smoke from the fire doing a pretty fair impersonation of clouds 

The timberline trail spirals on around the mountain 

Toyed with the idea of composing a shot here, but Lola the dog was feeling territorial 

Mt. Adams beyond the shelter 

Mt. St. Helens 

As night falls, the source of the smoke becomes evident 

The scale of the fire is slowly revealed as the sky gets darker 

An inferno about the size of a mountain 

Swirling winter clouds ride autumn’s cool night air into the valley, like circling predators patiently waiting for a flickering campfire to go out. 

Detailed information about the fire can be found here:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Seaside Improvisation

 A soloist improvises… accompanied by the ultimate rhythm section. 

It’s Matt’s birthday, and he’s arranged a gathering at the Seaside Hostel, and I’m under the impression that he doesn’t want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that it’s his birthday, but when I arrive (with a bachelor’s token chips, store-bought layered bean-dip and case-O-beer for the pot-luck) a flaming birthday cake is being presented and his musical friends are breaking into birthday song. Later almost everyone participates in (what I believe they call) a ‘Jam’.  I look on enviously, as if watching a favorite T.V. series… but on Spanish T.V. and I’m therefore regulated to reading facial expressions - of concentration, pleasure, and happiness – which all goes to point out how foreign and out of place I am, unable to speak the language.

Savoring the hope and necessities of social interaction, I miss the sunset. Later, self exiled to a vast tsunami-plain, I turn to other sources of illumination. Later, a stale blue- moon will wash the sky of its stars. 

Even though it is relatively early (by the standards of those who wake up with hangovers), the parks and their parking lots are already full of labor-day tourists by the time I enter Ecola State Park. Rather than wait for a parking space to open up at Indian Beach, I opt to take the trail…

…and see an arch I hadn’t really seen before.

Some people really like crabs. 

What I like to do here is, approach from a distance by horseback (usually with a beautiful mute named Nova) until I’m close enough to recognize the wreckage. Then I dismount from the horse and fall on my knees in the sand and scream something like, “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! Damn you all to hell!” 

My parents brought me and my brother and sister here once when I was a child. My parents were either entertaining friends, or being entertained, I don’t remember – we were sightseeing. Now my dad is long gone… and so are those friends … 

…and this shipwreck, already weathering over a hundred years of winter storms, seems poised to outlast me. 

Standing with ghosts besides the rusting red ribs of a shipwreck, riding the surface of the spinning earth into the dark night, imagining matter coalescing into generations of stars in the course of a 14 billion year long explosion…entropy suddenly becomes tangible – things run down - and though it makes me afraid, I know I have no place to run. 

I find the improvisers gathered around a fire, and like some parasite, I partake of the Gem├╝tlichkeit they've created.

A beautiful ninja girl expertly prepares a colossal double smore for me, and as they pick up their instruments, and as I shove my hands in my pockets to assume my usual wallflower pose, Jake hears my keys jingle and suggests, “Play your keys.” 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer throes

Chill evening air assaults patio clientele and bullies those who had forgotten about coats back towards shelter.

Body building birds preen and flex.

Prescient trees cover the woods in cotton blankets.

Fruit hangs heavy.

The calligraphy of clouds reveals their inherent schizophrenia.

In a kayak, warm…
cold beer in hand and not much wind…
anyone might briefly humor anthropic principles.

Here and there, waterfalls carve out cathedrals…

…while a captive river patiently, but unceasingly, seeks escape from temporary prisons.

Legions of trees march into the extended twilight.

Trees and water…missionaries sent into the wilderness to domesticate ancient, once sterile basalt formations.

Grass, in its own way, inscribes a record of the wind onto a transient notebook.

And finally, optimistic flowers bloom joyously in a desert…because they can.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Infuriatingly Meaningless Cliches: A John Day River Meditation

Sang the catfish:

When I was just a fry in school,
I asked my teacher, "What will I be?
Should I paint pictures"
Should I sing songs?"
Here’s what she said to me:

"Que sera, sera,
Whatever will be, will be;
The future's not ours to see.
Que sera, sera,
What will be, will be."

It’s a hard song to sing with a hook in your lip.

Scott setting out from the Service Creek Launch Point
Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Lee

…are often perceived as a metaphor for Life.
Except in the case of this particular river, we’ve had to acquire a permit to float on it and we’ve exhaustively studied its map ahead of time. Between Kip and Uncle Rico and me, we have GPS locations for where we’d like to end up each day, and we’re pretty sure we know when the trip is going to end.
So it’s going to be a very loose metaphor – a three day vacation over a predetermined path.

Also unlike ‘Life’, it turns out you’re not supposed to leave any poop at the campsites on the John Day River so you have to bring along a special poop bucket (15 bucks and therefore a communal poop bucket) to take it all out with you. The yoke for my canoe, the specially shaped crossbeam with a neck shaped notch in it (that allows me to carry the canoe as well as serve as my seat when I pilot the canoe solo) finally yields to the ever increasing mass of my ass and snaps – an accusatory ‘crack’ echoes back and forth across the valley walls. Fortunately, the poop bucket makes a handy alternative captain’s chair. There’s gotta be a sermon in there somewhere – piloting my canoe down the river of life from the vantage point of my poop bucket – but I don’t see it yet.

Kip in his trusty Marauder, taking a veritable bounty from ‘Life’

Uncle Rico in his beer ladened Aqua-pod, displaying his fishing form. Since beer is not naturally found on this section of the river and comes from ‘beyond’, then metaphorically speaking, the freezing cold cans symbolize blessings or answers to prayer.

We coated small-mouth bass filets in Louisiana fish-fry powder/breading and pan fried them. It was maybe the third time in my life that I was able to make a meaningful contribution to a community meal by using my fishing ‘skills’.

Capturing, killing, cooking, sharing and eating fish…is probably the original idea Jesus had when he came up with communion.

After eating fish in this fashion, I’d like to punch Ronald MacDonald once in the face for each filet-O-fish sandwich I ever bought and shout, “liar!” 

It was hot out, and even after the sun dipped down below the hills and the frogs began broadcasting their incessant demands for sex up and down the river, there was no appreciable change in the temperature. So I decided to follow Uncle Rico’s example and sleep out under the stars sans tent. Even then, the sleeping bag proved to be too warm and so I unzipped it completely and used it like a blanket…and there under moonbeams so harsh they cast shadows, I learned that I was by no means at the top of the food chain.

The whine of tiny insect wings, the gentle tickling of a spider’s legs, and the unidentified scuttling noise that made scorpions live in my imagination left me feeling like a defenseless piece of meat, a few pounds lighter in the morning due to blood loss.

Set amidst barren, sometimes painted hills, it soon becomes evident that rivers aren’t metaphors for life….they are life. We are like red blood corpuscles that must continually interface with the Earth’s circulatory system.

Kip casting in the cool of dawn before the sun finds us in the shade of the valley.

Kip and Uncle Rico standing on the shore of camp number one, monitoring the cat fish lines.

The catfish eyes the pliers and tries to puzzle out their purpose. While not as sharp as a hook, the pliers do have a jaw-like aspect to them and the catfish feels a growing sense of unease. He tries to whistle a happy tune, but his lips are too dry. Instead, the catfish whispers agonizingly:

It is what it is.

Sometimes, I just don’t have words.

Towards afternoon of the second day, towering anvil shaped clouds stood here and there on the horizon, bobbing and weaving, looking for a way into the valley. 

The shade provided by a passing cumulonimbus cloud was welcome.
We paused to enjoy the warm rain…
…listened to the thunder tumble down the hills…
...watched impossibly large raindrops splash into the river.

Photo copyright 2012 by Fred Lee

Kip finally qualifies for his submarine commander license.

Horses greet us at campsite number two.

Uncle Rico and a Catfish – the catfish is on the right.

The sun kisses the mountains goodnight - leaving a brief warm, red-lipstick imprint.

Thank you Earth.
You were a wonderful host.

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