Muddy River

It was wet and 39 degrees at the Tualatin River Refuge Wednesday morning.  But I can never stay away for long.

Thanks to winter storms, the water is brown and running much faster than it was last summer and early fall.

I peeked under the rails of a footbridge, noticed this Great Blue Heron looking for breakfast, and took a dozen photos hoping to capture his face. He refused to cooperate but catching the elegant feathers on his body was enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The storms of the last two weeks were too much for a large old oak. The relatively new wetland overlook will need repairs.

Derry Dell Creek

 

Teddy and I meant to spend a few hours exploring Woodard Park in Tigard this morning. Instead, we stayed on the boardwalk at the end of Johnson Street and marveled at the Derry Dell Creek Restoration project.

 

 

 

Only a few years ago, Derry Dell Creek had become an ugly ditch that frequently threatened homes, property, and sewage systems. It was inhospitable to humans and wildlife, and it was a dead end for fish trying to move upstream.

 

Today, the creek is a messy, chaotic, living work of art; exactly what a healthy creek should be. It’s a piece of wild beauty in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood.

Now the creek is rich in inviting habitat for herons and many other birds.

There are streams of fast-moving water making ripples in the surface. The stream sometimes wanders around giant root balls and logs piled up like pick -up-sticks, other times it sits quietly at rest in pools. A pair of raptors nest in one of the tall trees standing over the creek

 

The restoration work received the Oregon State Land Board’s Stream Project Award in 2014.

 

One day soon, Teddy and I will go back to explore the rest of Woodard Park, and we will go back again in the spring to see what’s happening on Derry Dell Creek.

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A Pair of Eagles

A wild night of wind and heavy rain had flooded the paths in the oak savannah area of the refuge this week. Still, I counted myself lucky to be able to take a nice walk before the rain began again.

Thank to the storm the night before, the river was moving swiftly, carrying logs and debris. I rarely see any noticeable movement on the lazy Tualatin River. Drops from rain-soaked trees along the banks fell to the river, briefly expanded in concentric circles, then quickly disappeared before being replaced by others.

 

 

 

 

As I stood there, a single black goose flew over the river, reminding me of my ignorance in identifying waterbirds.

 

While walking to the river, I had seen a pair of Bald Eagles fly to the top of a tall fir overlooking a large pond crowded with ducks and geese. I’d first noticed the eagles because of the modest little chirrup sound they made as they landed. It’s a sound that doesn’t seem appropriate for such a magnificent creature. As for the ducks and geese, they didn’t appear alarmed, though I’m sure the eagles were planning dinner.

 

 

I left the eagles and took the path into the woods and out to the wetland viewing platform where I could see several ponds in the distance and a small herd of deer gathered together on the grassland about half a mile away.

On the way back, I glanced to my left just in time to see the eagles land together in a fir tree directly across the river from me. It is hard to miss the bright white plumage of the huge bird. One of the eagles seemed to be sitting low on a nest and the other sat beside the nest, tall and confident. I lingered under the dripping trees for a while just to savor the sight.

You’ll see them both in the picture above.

 

A Walk in the Park

 

Teddy was shaking and whining with excitement when we got out of the car at Cook Park. He knew this wasn’t going to be our usual neighborhood walk. It was cool but not freezing as it had been the day before. The sky was clear but heavy rains had left the ground mucky and Teddy seemed to gravitate to the worst puddles.

We arrived in time to see a huge flock of geese rise from a pond and circle the sky above our heads. I confess that I never get tired of their noise and chaos.

 

The little dog followed his nose from tree to tree, reading pee mail and gathering as many smells as he could. I have to wonder whether he remembers particularly delightful scents the way I remember the the lovely Egret we saw.

 

 

 

 

There are plenty of opportunities to glimpse the Tualatin River as you walk the path through the woods.

 

I stood  near the path,on the “civilized” side and peeked through the bushes into the wildlife area. It was a bit like straddling two different worlds and my favorite moment of the morning.

 

Snowberries always looks like Christmas to me, and we found plenty of them when we followed the path to Durham City Park.

Teddy must have been happy. He trotted along happily beside me on the way back to the car.  At home he had to submit to having his feet washed before he found his favorite soft spot (my favorite chair) an napped for a few hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Dawn

I was at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to greet the dawn this Saturday morning. There was no rain, but the air was cold and the dampness from the rains we’d been having seemed to penetrate my warmest jacket and gloves. Trees held plenty of water from the rain and one or two icy drips managed to run down my neck until I wrapped my scarf tighter.

There are not many leaves left on the trees, but there is still a colorful carpet of leaves in some areas, and they serve to soften the sound of the gravel path.

I startled a small flock of juncos and sparrows rooting around on the gravel path. They flew into a bush, waited for me to pass, then immediately went back to sorting gravel.

According to the weather service, dawn would be at 7:18. At exactly 7:20, with the sun burning softly through the fog, a roar rose from the refuge ponds. It was the sound of many geese and water birds rising together in response to the dawn. Perhaps there were thousands of them. I can only say there were so many that they didn’t sound like geese. For just few moments, sounded instead like the roar of the crowd in a huge football stadium during Superbowl. I’ve seen huge flocks of geese before, but I’ve never heard anything like the roar they made as they first roused themselves.

The geese seemed to rise in waves, some appearing to fly away from the refuge but many staying overhead, low in the sky, circling, stretching their wings, milling around and around, not minding the fog. There were so many geese overhead I worried about what might drop on my head. In the end, luck was with me.  A noticed a heron who seemed to resent the noisy early morning ritual as he fled for more peaceful territory. After thirty minutes most of the geese had settled back down and quieted. The ceremony of celebrating dawn was over.

The spectacular wakening was the gift I had come for, so was the small herd of deer I nearly stumbled into, and the juncos and the sparrows. I seldom anticipate what I will see when I walk in the refuge. Instead, I wait for the gift I will be given. I am never disappointed.

Early Fall

Teddy and I celebrated the second day of fall  by walking the Gettman Loop around the Chehalem Glenn Golf Course this morning. It had only been two weeks since we were last there yet everything has changed. Cool air and an overcast sky might be tiresome in a few months but they are invigorating this early in fall.

Aside from a dried up Bachelor Button hanging on a brittle stem near the path, the wildflowers are gone. Although many trees have barely begun changing color, the forested path is already accepting a carpet of crisp yellowed leaves.

The bridge showed signs of some repair done after the windstorm earlier this  month and there was plenty of debris in the form of branches and heavy limbs that had been moved to keep the path clear.

The forest was quiet this morning. Teddy curiously nosed a large green Pacific banana slug and a single Gray Squirrel hid behind a fir for a few minutes but the squirrel’s beautiful tail curved around the trunk of the tree and gave him away. He reminded me of my 21-month-old grandson who covers his eyes and believes we can’t see him. After a few minutes, the squirrel came out of hiding in order to scold us. We were probably interrupting winter preparations.

 

 

In a Time of Pandemic

On a recent Sunday afternoon the family took a walk trough Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville. The park was open and there were several small groups enjoying a  beautiful spring day while maintaining social distance and mostly wearing masks.
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We walked in sunshine for quite a while and then we walked in the rain. It was a short but delightful break before returning to home and quarantine.
More than ever I have been conscious that the only thing that matters right now is the moment. Where will we be tomorrow? Will the economy collapse completely?. Will we or our loved ones get sick?
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Though most of us are making sincere efforts to follow health, social, and economic best practices, we have no real control.
We have never had control. We only do our best and after that what happens is what happens.
What we can do is relax our expectations while holding on to our dreams and desires. Life really does happen in the moment and the terrain constantly changes.
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Living life well is doing our best at any given moment, not looking at the good times as the life we are striving for so much as being present for what is and for whatever comes next.
There is nothing new in these thoughts, but being reminded can help.
It really is about the journey, not the destination, and what a joy that is (when we remember), because we spend every moment on the journey – and the destination is the stopping place.

Presence

My walks always begin with the expectation that I am about to discover a “gift.” I am never disappointed.

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Sometimes the gift is a song sparrow enthusiastically singing his little heart out near the top of a shrub. Rarely it’s a glimpse of two bright-eyed baby raccoons hiding under a sidewalk drain, peeking at Teddy and I as we walk down the street in the early morning.

Sometimes the gift is the brief sighting of a doe or the mid-day surprise of a large Barred Owl staring at me through a tangle of branches.

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Most often the gifts I find are modest; a small patch of violets in the grass, or a particularly charming mushroom I’ve never seen before. I notice them because I’ve chosen to pay attention during my walks, to be fully present,  because I’m looking for the gift. These small experiences stay with me for at least a day, sometimes for years.

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From now on, I plan to begin my days as I begin my walks, confident that I will find gifts in the midst of cleaning the kitchen, folding clothes, watering plants, laughing with family, coping with small irritations and social distancing, working in the yard, visiting dear friends over Zoom, and watching the baby discover the world.

If we expect something delightful, we will find it. That’s what I learned on my walks, and it’s what I hope to remember more often.

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Close to Home

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Teddy

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Most of us have been sequestered during the last couple of weeks, preoccupied with the health and well-being of our loved ones and ourselves. Some have been busy providing health care and other critical services.

Thanks to wet weather,  Teddy and I have stayed close to home on our walks.  It’s been an opportunity to appreciate spring in the neighborhood. Waving at neighbors and greeting them (from 6′ away) is one way to hold on to a feeling of connection.

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Despite the human state of anxiety, the natural world has moved forward and suddenly it is spring.

Teddy stopped to examine pee mail the other day and I noticed tiny red maple leaf buds beginning to stretch and uncurl, ready to meet their season in the sun. Other trees are heavy with so many blossoms there is enough left over to carpet the ground.

Small white daisies adorn  neighbor’s lawns, and daffodils are already nearly done blooming.

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I noticed a robin, just one, sitting and singing from the most prominent peak of each house on the block. One robin for each house. I admire the robins for their equitable distribution of territory.

 

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Peace that comes from getting close to nature can be as simple as stepping outside and paying attention. I hope you are clinging to good things, the people and things that keep you grounded while we wait for this strange time to pass, and it will pass. Be well.

 

False Spring

I’ve been sick and tired of the cold, gray, wet world we’ve been living in for weeks. Then, as though to answer a prayer, the sun came out to play for an entire day recently!

By early afternoon, I only needed a light jacket to be outside. The streets had filled with children riding bikes and scooters, tossing balls, and celebrating the arrival of sunshine.

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Grownups were walking dogs, and greeting each other on the street. There is a particularly friendly ambiance in the air when an unexpected sunny day follows weeks of cold rain.

Teddy and I eagerly left the house planning a long walk around Gettman Trail, but we were barely out the door when he began favoring his right front paw. For his sake, I opted for the shorter walk around Shaad Park. His limp  disappeared by the time we got to the park making me wonder if the little dog had a reason to fake it.

The last time we visited Shaad Park it was a cold and foggy morning (Cancelled Flights). Teddy and I were alone on the hill that day. there were no hikers and no children using the playground.

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This sunny day was different. Grandparents sat on a bench near the playground watching children use the slide and play in the sand.

With the fog gone, we found brilliant views waiting for us on top of the hill. Teddy and I stood by ourselves soaking up warm sunshine and fresh air, feasting our eyes on the  valley and the hills surrounding it.

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Blue Jays, perky little wrens, and Robins flew noisily from one large old oak to another. They were far too busy to pose for me. The ground was wet and sponge-like from recent rains. Muddy water threatened to fill my shoes but I took the soggy path anyway.

I knew it wouldn’t last of course. It’s not really spring just yet. That sunny day was just a short reprieve from the monotony of winter, but it did remind me to be patient.

In only weeks, the birds will begin the busy nesting season, daffodils will push through moist warming soil, and lipstick-red tulips will brazenly declare true spring. Thanks to a little taste of sunshine the other day, I’m willing to wait.

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There’s almost always a delightful collection of Tonka Trucks in the sand pit. They are only temporarily abandoned. The owners had been called home the afternoon I was there.