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.


(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.

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.

Tools of the Trade

I wrote last week that I’d started a new job. The intervening free-time between then and now has been something of a whirlwind.

And that this is a new venture for me, to be a Contractor. Having worked with and supervised Contractors before, often on some job-sites, they’d be “that guy”: belonging, but not really belonging.

Not so for me, with this new outfit. They value each employee, and are small enough to recognise the contributions that each of us makes. There is a warmth and a camaraderie to the workplace that is refreshing. We enjoy a firm competitive advantage with our products, and we all are working to keep it that way.

I have also seen the care, ownership, and personal responsibility that everyone takes with everything that goes out the door: I was looking over a gimbal in a calibration mount, and chatting briefly with the engineer.

“This one’s going flying tomorrow”, the engineer told me with great pride in his voice. He then released the gimbal from the mount and packed it into a case with all the care with which a father handles a newborn.

I recognized it: He was working in his gifts, with the God-given Tools of his Trade. And it was a marvelous thing to see.

I went back to my desk, back to the mild frustration I’ve been having. I’m working on a User’s Guide, and I’m having to do it in a workaround manner. I can see the time I’m wasting, and being a high-performance person, it bothers me. I like to deliver value for my salary dollar, and I can see the gap between where I am and where I could be. It’s because I don’t yet have the particular Tools of my Trade. I’m being held up by new Information Services systems; one day, my write access to my working folder quit. It. Just. Quit. Working. I have the very great fortune to be The Very First Guy through a large number of simultaneously-newly-online, brand-new systems; and from the amazingly intricate contortions of the the results, I accept that it’s now my duty to find all the hangups. All at once.

As I sat and wrote a first draft of this post last night, I could feel God’s hand upon my shoulder, saying, “You are exactly where I need you to be.”

I will comment in a rather more direct manner that I am Case Number One, in front of more than fifty others, all in the same situation.

So in the meantime…. It’s been two weeks, working with the equivalent of a hammer and a dull screwdriver, but I am getting work done. I’m ready to rock and roll, doing typesetting and document layout; but I do feel God’s hand on my shoulder, with a gentle reminder that his timing is always perfect.

And I want to acknowledge the great efforts of the IS folks to get all of this resolved. Once they get it ‘fixed’ for me, others will be zipped right through all these difficulties. It’ll be kind of like when you’re pulling a stubborn nail from a board: it resists you greatly in the beginning, then all of a sudden, it gets easier, then next thing you know, it’s out.

But it’s been trying in the interim. I’m just admitting it.

I pray the same prayer when I’m impatient: “Lord, you obviously have a lesson for me to learn here. Let me learn this lesson quickly and deeply. Let me bring your wisdom into the core of me. Let me go forward with the change that this wisdom brings. And Lord, please… can it happen soon?


First day in the new job…

Okay, so sometimes things don’t go as we humans have planned. Especially when my new employer is switching several HR systems and practices, all at once.

But I’m used to this; having been a pioneer in several aspects of my old jobs. I’m used to working ‘beyond the known edge’.

(Wow, that sounds ‘Star Trekky’, doesn’t it…) But hey, I’m an old ST geek…

When I worked in Corporate Television, we frequently did ‘Internal Only’ stuff; things that sometimes made us roll our eyes, but we did it, knowing it was something that might have been (at the time), a proof-of-concept, that took us farther as a Corporation, and maybe did some good for everyone as a whole.

Successes and failures, I cannot discuss. Darn.

But I have to tell you, this new job has this same spine-tingling feeling of doing something great that will help other people in a positive way. 

And today there was the unfortunate red-tape matter of Access. To be able to do work (God’s) work in several documentation areas. I need access. But because of the red tape involved, it’s not happened yet. 

Tomorrow is another day. And I just look at this as God’s pause to lay upon me a renewal of the gifts which he has given me, and a renewal of the directions in which he has always pointed me.

May I do well, both for my new Company and for all who would benefit.