The Owls Are Back!

Tonight, I am sitting out and reading, and I heard something I have been missing since Spring:

Owl calls.

From across the Ravine, I heard a Great Horned Owl hooting away, and later, his hunting call: “aaaaaAAAAAH?”

And later, another owl call, one I’ve not heard in a long time-perhaps a Snowy…?

The Hunter’s Moon is waxing, and the strong winds are making the leaves dance upon the meadows; Winter is coming quickly, and may it not be as harsh as it was last year.

Tonight, Deneb is bright overhead, and the winds have quieted, leaving a chilling cold in their wake.

The hills shift gently into chilly silence, as people finally arrive home from a hard day’s work.

I am fortunate to be here tonight to listen and observe.

God’s glory sometimes whispers quietly, in the cooling stillness of a darkening evening, rather than the blazing glory of a  spectacular sunrise.

May we always have the ears to hear the attestation of his love. Even in the cold and dark.

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Autumn Arrives… Bringing Back our Spotted Owl (With Photos)

So today is the Autumnal Equinox.

When I learned of this, I initially thought, ‘So what’, right?’  I’ve seen so many of these….

But tonight has been a serious bookmark on the change of seasons of this year.

First, the sunset was a study in subtleties:

And then… It was a God moment.

I heard the most quietest of sounds from the garden.

And there… Over there…. Yes, what’s that…? There was our local Spotted Owl. (Sorry for the crummy cellphone pic; you use what you have.)

I’ve been trying to see her for the longest time. And tonight, there she was! 

She was hunting mice…

.. And she was successful.

.A minute after this pic, I saw her quietly pounce on something next to the garden fence.

And after a few more moments, she flew away… no more than ten feet past me, with something in her talons. I wish I’d had my glasses on, but that’s the way these things are meant to be.

But I realised what a few special moments I have been privileged to witness.

And I do hope that the circle of life here on the side of the mountain, tightens just a little bit.

May you have…Good hunting. May God give you and your chicks success; so much so, that we may never have to kill another mouse again in an effort to keep them from getting into our house. 

Hazy and Smoky (with photos); and a change I can feel: Rain’s Coming.

This morning, I’ve been enjoying a rare privilege of sitting outside in the sunrise, with a cup of coffee and a dog companion.

The breeze is up; a welcome change from this summer, when all we had were lighter winds that heralded the change from hot to hotter; or from strength-sapping oppressiveness to I’m-glad-it’s not-so-awfully-hot-today.

We had a strong cover of smoke and cloud last night, so we didn’t get very cold; about 58° overnight. This morning we have an East wind of about 10 knots, varying up and down by about 7 knots each way. We have some light ashfall coming from the fires in the Gorge, but nothing like earlier.

The humidity is way down; in the high teens to low 20s. I’ll miss that, but I’m glad to trade it for cooler weather and rains to put out the forest fires.

Locally, the Archer Mountain fire is under control and is being slowly knocked down. This is the fire that is only about ten miles away from us and was raining ashes and blackened evergreen needles everywhere here for a few days.  There was a lot of concern about some of those ashes still being live, but thankfully, no secondary fires.

Now the haze and smoke are almost to the point of being oppressive. Our house is tight, and we’ve kept it closed up, but my poor wife is suffering terrible coughing fits. Out here, my eyes are streaming, and even the light effort of watering the flowerbed brings on coughing.

And right now, we have no health insurance. (This is a post for another time, and I need to let my rage at the Dilbertian COBRA payment system cool a bit before I write about it.)

Back to the weather:
Here are some photos of how things are right now. I’ll start with a few grab shots on my way home yesterday. I-84 is finally, finally, open westbound, meaning that my two-hour drive is finally back to an hour.

On the way home, anyway.

It’s still almost a two-hour drive to work. At about 50 MPH, as we’ll get some slowpoke up in front of about forty cars, someone who is completely oblivious to the line behind. Listen, WSDOT: If you want things to be safer on SR-14 in the Gorge, put up a few signs. I even have the slogan: “Keep a mind for those behind. If you want to go slow and sight-see, please pull over periodically and let everyone by.”

So back to the drive home. Here’s a shot when it was safe to grab one on the I-84 highway. I’ll say up front that camera angles won’t be perfect, as I prefer keeping my attention on my driving, rather than grabbing a snapshot. Visibility was about 2500 feet at this point, but in some places you had to be careful, because it would suddenly go down to 100 feet. You can see a big patch of smoky obscurity coming up:

These photos also show the great curse of automatic cameras: due to software tweaks, they see better than you do. Keep this in mind as you look at these photos. Things are quite a bit more obscure than you see here.

 

Here’s coming into Cascade Locks. Note how everything looks so deserted. Well, yeah, and smoky.

 

 

Crossing The Bridge Of The Gods. You can’t see the far end of the bridge – and it’s not all that long.

 

Looking East, toward Cascade Locks:

 

And looking West, toward North Bonneville. Yes, those are streamers of smoke from the forest fires.

 

Finally, home… And the Ridge is just a looming presence in the haze.

 

 

Oh yes, we can’t wait for the rain. It’s been since June 15th.

No, that’s not snow…

When I got up this morning, the sky was so smoky that it looked like sunset:

I did a bit of manipulation on this image to try to get it halfway toward how red the sun looked. The sun was literally as red as my umbrella, here.

There’s a huge forest fire a ways to the East and a little to the South of us. I understand from the news and from the USFS site, that it’s at Indian Creek, over on the Oregon side of the Gorge.

This afternoon, the winds have shifted so that they’re now coming from that direction, and we’re starting to get fly ash from the fire.

We have both white and black ash falling from the sky, the death-song of several Sections (as in the surveying term) of forest, dying by fire. Many of the dark pieces are recognisable as burned pine needles.

It’s coming down at a rate equivalent to the beginning of a good snowfall. In a way, it reminds me of some 40 years ago, when we lived about 30 miles north and west of here; when St Helens went off.

But with all this stuff blowing about, you look before you take a deep breath. Just like you did then…

 

And I’m now glad that I mowed yesterday.

I see all this stuff falling out of the sky, and I cannot help but think of the brave smoke-jumpers and wildfire fighters; and those who support them. It was driven home to me during a trip to The Auhtamum (look it up and go there – it is an incredibly beautiful place, managed by those who protect and love the wildlands!).

May God protect and help you, as you go into harm’s way to save lives and land. May his hand and his spirit be upon you, telling you to turn toward where you should go to fight this fire; and may he give you strength, speed, and endurance. And when the time comes, to tell you where you need to go, to be safe. 

 

************

Update, Tuesday evening: The fire jumped the Columbia River and there is now a hotspot about 10 miles away from us. The smoke is worse, the ashfall worse. We’re not worried; there are a lot of rocky areas in between us and that fire; plus crews can get to this spot a lot easier to control it. The real challenge is on the Oregon side of the Gorge, as that stuff there is straight up and straight down. There are no easily accessible places, and the smoke is so bad that water-bombing it is impossible.

What we really need is a good rainstorm. And maybe we’ll get on on Thursday.

Deafening Quiet

This last week, we’d been building up to 100°+ temperatures. And we hit them for sure on Sunday.

I went out to sit and read (in the shade) and to just get some time being still.

I’d read through one devotion and had started reading my Bible-in-a-year Bible when something started tickling at my consciousness.

I put down the book and listened.

Silence. Near silence. No birds, cars on the main road down below, no river sounds from the Ravine (it’s been so dry that the river is really low and slow), no neighbor’s dog yapping, … Nothing.

It recalled those times in deep winter when there’s snow on the ground which muffles everything.

Except the heat was sucking the life sounds out of the immediate world around me.

I would have felt a chill at that, except I was too hot for it to be a possibility.

But when I went in, some of that quiet came with me.

This is why I urge you to get outside, get out of ‘the bubble’ inside. Get out and be in the world. Let all the subtleties of God’s Creation speak to you; even if it is in just a whisper.

A Painful Surprise, Courtesy of the Neighbor’s Goat

Yeah, you can laugh at me now…

The neighbor (the self-centered renter) let his goat get out again. It was wandering along the road when I came home last night, calmly eating the dusty St. Anne’s Lace weeds along the edge. I pulled up in front of our community mail locker and got out. My hair was disheveled and sticking out all over from driving the last few miles with the windows down.

Seeing me, it bleated and shambled over. I scratched its head and turned to get my mail out of my bin. There was a key to one of the parcel lockers in with it, and it fell on the ground. I took a quick step over to it, and the goat backed up a couple feet.

Thinking I was safe, and facing the goat, I reached down to retrieve the key. I looked down, forgetting for just a moment that you never take your eyes off a goat when it’s close.

Suddenly I was aware of this ripping sound, and half a second later, the pain seared its way through my skull. OW, DAMMIT! I looked up to see the goat, which had backed up a couple feet because of my loud exclamation, with a mouthful of my hair, chewing in thoughtful contemplation.

I put my hand to the side of my head. He just missed my ear, and there was a thin patch where he’d taken a bite. No blood, thank God. At least his goat teeth cut the the hair (sort of) and didn’t rip it out. But MAN did it hurt.

It kept hurting even after the application of some self-medication in the form of an adult beverage (or two). Today, it’s tender but not near as bad.

Yeah, you can laugh at me now.

Hey fellas, don’cha think that’s just a little low…?

I had just sat down to begin my devotions a bit early last night when on the far side of the mountain came the rhythmic thunder of low-flying rotary-wing aircraft.

Military.

Really low, coming really fast.

Then the first of three Apaches was roaring overhead, at not more than a thousand feet, and going like his hair was on fire. Second one, similar height and similar speed.

I grabbed the phone and made a photo, just in time to catch the third one, blasting along behind. Guess my news-shooter instincts are still good:

You can just see the leader and the second in the flight in this shot.

Oddly enough, it was almost 27 years ago, when we were building this house and I was outside one afternoon doing cleanup, when a similar thing happened.

The trees on the mountain weren’t as tall, and you could easily see the top of the mountain. Ours was one of just a very few houses, and in the evenings, you could see the huge herd of deer making their way across the ridges and the mountain.

I heard something coming, and turned to look. The deer began to scatter, and suddenly an Apache pops up over the mountain, they’re flying nap-of-the-Earth. The guy is no higher than 300 feet, and he’s coming like a freight train.

With a full war load. Rocket canisters, missiles, nothing’s missing.

And just by coincidence, he’s flying straight at me.

Yeah, it took me a couple minutes to catch my breath.