Summer and Fall, shaking hands

I think of the seasons, sometimes like affectionate brothers, sometimes like atagonistic brothers; shaking hands. 

Sometimes the embrace is warm, hands gripping forearms; sometimes it’s fingers, barely touching fingers. 

This season, it’s a warm embrace. (So far.)

The sunset tonight seemed symbolic:

A gentle fading of colors…

And a gentle handoff of Summer, to Fall…

And tonight, it is as if Fall is stepping up to embrace Summer, as if to say, “it is my turn now”. 

The crickets are in full song, applauding Summer as it exits; the winds herald Fall’s entry, bringing showers and rain and cool, gray days. 

The chill air presses upon my summer-accommodated skin, cooling me so much that it drives me inside.

I marvel at the work of God’s hand, in that he made us adaptive to so many different different environments; even though I am “cold” now, I’ll be the same kind of “cold” when there’s snow on the ground.

Tonight, I can see Vega and Deneb overhead. Other constellations just hint at their presence through the cloud cover.

Thank you Lord. Thank you for the things we can see, and for those which we cannot see. 

Advertisements

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. 

RAIN! Finally, rain…

Tonight, I can sit outside and take a deep breath.

Just take a second and think about that…

You don’t realize what an incredible privilege that is, until you’ve had it taken away from you for a few weeks.

While you contemplate that, a side story: 

I went to our church very early this morning, because we’d had an outfit in to add some extra speakers to the farther ends of the Sanctuary, and incredibly, unbelieveably, they left it with NOTHING working. Anywhere. Everything dead. How could anyone with a conscience do this? Something had to be done to FIX this. With God’s help, the original setup was working ok, just in time for worship…

So back to our story: After worship, I got in my car. As I walked out from worship, I’d noticed that the air in Camas had cleared greatly.

And I expected my car to be mostly as fresh. But when I sat down in the car, I noticed how badly, how terribly, it smelled of forest fire smoke… And here I’d thought that I was keeping the car well buttoned-up and mostly fresh inside. 

Shows you how wrong I was.

But tonight, outside, I can breathe. Look at how the rain has cleared the air.

You can see the far side of the Ravine, and it were not got the clouds, Silver Star itself. 

But I can take a deep breath without coughing. 

Thank you Lord.

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.

Home by Sunset

Those of you who know where I live, are familiar with many of the stories of the Columbia Gorge.

Since I now work in Hood River, this job and its commute come with a certain set of challenges.

For the last couple of weeks, we have had huge forest fires in this area. Those fires have been no less than 10 miles away from our house.

But the worst fires have been on the far side of the Gorge, making it difficult to get to work; because the main arterial between me and work has been closed.

Normally, I cross at The Bridge Of The Gods and proceed up I-84 until I get to work.

Tonight, I left work at quarter to 5, thinking that maybe I might duck the worst of the traffic. However I was very wrong.

It took me two and a half hours to get home. 45 minutes just to cross the Hood River bridge and to get to the Washington side. Ye gods, this is reminiscent of my old commutes from Portland…

But I made it home by sunset. Which is important to me as it is the ending of the day. And a reason to be reminded of home, heart, and hearth.

Sunset…

(This is the best I could do, with the crummy cellphone camera)

And finally…

Home, for that place in which I am rooted;

Heart, for the love of my life, who awaits me, and is always glad to see me;

Hearth, for all those things which enrich my life, like a canine-companion who stays out with me, even though she’s afraid of the dark.

And it reminds me, that there is no better thing than to be home with the one you love, and just to be … home.

A Luminous Evening

Tonight, for the first time in many evenings, has had less smoke from forest fires in the air.

I will for now set aside:

… all the teachings we’d had as kids in the fifties and early sixties (especially growing up in an area where logging and proper forest management was The Most Important Thing) …

…and Smokey Bear saying, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”… 

…and the undereducated, self-centered, incredibly childish, unintelligent, likely cause of all this…

And I turn to these things:

I can almost see the far side of the Ravine, and it’s easier to breathe out here.

Here’s a photo which attempts to capture the luminousness of the moment:

In spite of this, some reality here:

Fires still rage on both sides of the Gorge, but at least the winds have finally shifted, and are blowing the fires back onto lands already burnt.

The Archer Mountain fire is about ten miles away from us, but I have a peace about it: there are hundreds of acres of fields between us and it, fields which can be backfired as a buffer. Plus there are many brave souls whom God has empowered as firefighters, between us and that fire.

As I’ve been driving to work, passing the command post every morning and night,  I think of all this bravery; and now raise my hand in blessing:

May you all have eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to understand, hands to do, and strength to carry out these tasks which God has set before you. 

You are the people, this is the time; go and do: may God have his hand upon you.

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.