That Daily Challenge

 

Challenges are a part of life.
Sometimes it’s just
the act of getting up after pressing ‘snooze’ only once …
and sometimes
it’s soldiering on when
things hurt
and ache
and protest every move.

But the challenges call to us
begging us to meet them;
things we do, because we must.

Sometimes
these are great and spectacular things;
for instance, my (much younger) work colleagues have a different challenge: biking that trail, running those miles today…
and sometimes
the challenges are quieter, subtler;
but no less of an obstacle when seen from the right viewpoint:

one more day in defiance of the obstacles presented by aging,
helping another deliberately turn away from crossing into the despair of a chronic illness.

We are made for Hope;
we are made for answering
‘Yes’ to God,
the spark of life within us
unquenchable.

The call for each of us
is unique,
an encounter to be met
in the way that we are the one person who is equipped to meet it.

 

I still go out every night to heed that call;
out to read,
out to pray,
out to think,
out to be quiet
and know that He alone is God.

But sometimes I feel a reluctance;
the weather is harsh, inclement, cold wind-chill numbers;
I’m going to get cold and wet, and my arthritic fingers are going to hurt.
But I go.
For a few minutes, at least.
And after coming in, I reconcile myself to the sunroom
where it’s warmer and I can still feel a part of outside.
And I had a reward:
the warm indigo tones of an Alpenglow.

(I caught the colors in a way that shows how sometimes you have to fool the camera’s sensor).

But now I’m inside, my fingers are warmed up and working, and God is as just as present here as everywhere else. 

Acts 17:27-28:

27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

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Thankful to be working from home after a heavy snow

The last few days, we’ve had some little bit of snow; just enough to show an inch or two. Nothing to keep me from going to work.

But beginning yesterday morning, we got SNOW!! Thinking it would abate (like the rest has), I got in the car and went to work. After noon, my wife called to tell me that it was really beginning to pile up. “Oh? How much?” “About eight inches! And it’s still coming down like crazy!”

I made arrangements to work from home, and left as immediately as possible.

Good thing I did.

I commute via the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge, and although the crews do a valiant job of keeping the roads clear, it was obvious that they were beginning to fall behind. As I approached Mount Pleasant, (where the infamous Cape Horn overlook is located), I saw 40 cars in a long, slow-moving snake; all of them were following a number of semi-trucks that were going no more than 20 MPH.

I hadn’t wanted to drive Canyon Creek Road.

Most times of the year, it’s a beautiful, pleasant drive, especially in the fall; with all the big hardwood trees. But in winter, it shows a mean, nasty side: it’s narrow-shouldered, twisty, and dead-scary when it’s icy. The road drops off steeply on one side (into Canyon Creek), and there are NO guardrails. It doesn’t get any sunlight in the winter, and so if it gets icy, it stays that way. But the choice was to take another hour to get home, or drive it. So I turned up Salmon Falls Road on my way there, and saw that at least it didn’t look too bad. I began to relax a bit.

Turning onto Canyon Creek Road, it looked as good as Salmon Falls. So far, so good; maybe this will be okay after all…

Then I came round the corner which takes you into the deeper woods.

And the road disappeared.

There was about a foot of fresh snow, and no tire tracks from the ‘wanna-be-monster-trucks’ that are prevalent out this way. Nothing to guide me.

Two choices at this point: Turn around (risking going off into the canyon) or keep on. It was only about three miles to the main road at the other end of Canyon Creek, so I spoke a quick prayer for guidance, and settled back, settled down, and remembered all those country roads I drove in the fresh snow in times past. There are subtle signs in the landscape that will guide you, if you can be aware of them. This all came back to me in a moment of calmness, and so I carried onward.

And no, this is no time to be fiddling with the cellphone and trying to get a picture. If you want a simulation, look at a piece of paper on the long edge, and then bend it into a gentle S-shape. The upward flow of the S is the canyon wall continuing upward, the sort-of-flat portion of the S in front of you is about where the road should be; and the downward portion of the S is the bank falling into the canyon.

No guardrails.

There’s a certain quiet beauty in making the first tracks down a deserted country road. I relaxed into that, and kept my confidence in the car and in those abilities which I had been given and had practiced.

(Meanwhile, Subaru: this would be a great commercial for you guys.)

I eventually turned onto the main road from Canyon Creek Road; only a few more miles of driving the River Ravine and I’d be home. Meanwhile, I could tell that it was still snowing lightly, although the trees overhead were catching most of it. Once I came up out of the River Ravine and more onto the mountain where we live, I saw that I’d underestimated it: it was still snowing like mad.

Thank you Lord for getting me home safely. Glory to your name, Jehovah-Rohi…

And this morning I was up pretty much at first light to start working from home. Dara was happy to be out, frolicking in the deep snow. I could get an accurate gauge on the depth, then: Above her chest in the deep spots where it’d drifted (2′), and below her chest where the wind had scavenged it (18″). The “Dog-Gauge for snow depth” is pretty accurate, since it’s sampled from all over the meadow.

I grabbed a photo from the kitchen window, and I’ll attach it.

Winter Alpenglow

Time for a bit of poetry – it’s been a while.

It is a fleeting moment
between sunset and the hard blue
oppression of the dying day
and twilight’s cold approach,
fading into the reality of Night.

The ocean of air in which we as people of God’s Creation live
breaks relentlessly against the shores
of the mountain
upon whose side I live.

The background rumble
is a reminder of how small I am;
each roaring crash of a wind gust
is a reminder of how alive I am.

I am thankful for
warm clothes
a place to sit, rest my knees, and to behold all this;
as if it were the first time I had ever lived it;
and a warm, snug house in which to retreat
and the warm embrace of my loving wife
for when the cold becomes too much for me.

My sweet dog-companion is hippety-hop with delight,
she having had plenty of time for sniffabout,
and ready to give up her guard duty over me
for the comfort of a nice, warm bed.

Inside, looking out,
I cannot help but marvel
at this wonderful place in which
we are so fortunate to live, laugh, and love.

 Thank you Lord, for the privilege of living here. Thank you for looking after us, in this place of wildness.

Well how about that! A White Christmas!

In my more than sixty years, only twice have I seen a White Christmas.

Until now.

This is only the third time I have seen a White Christmas. (I had to grab this shot from the home office window – everything else is iced over.)

Living here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather is some of the most unpredictable – and changeable – in the world. We have a unique position between the ocean and tall mountains, which makes for unstable weather.

Yesterday, I would not have believed that this cold would stick around long enough to keep snow on the ground for this morning. I had gone down into town and it was nearly 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and the ground was dry! Not even a hint of the rough conditions up here on the side of the mountain.

But we live on the snow line. And that just got proven once again.

Last night, I couldn’t even go out. And I can stand some pretty severe stuff. But… The wind was gusting past 30 knots, and driving snow before it. It was the kind of stuff that stings the skin and wants to get in your eyes. Temperature was in the mid-20s, making for a wind chill in the low to mid teens.

I went into the sunroom to try to grab a shot of the conditions, which would be considered a blizzard, had the snow been falling at a higher rate. As it was, the snow is powder and is being picked up and drifted by the wind:

Just a few moments after I grabbed this shot, the rattle of freezing rain began to sound against the windows. I knew that by morning, it would be treacherous to walk out there.

But this morning, we have a warm house, the makings for a nice Christmas breakfast, and warm hearts for each other. A roast is curing in the garage fridge for dinner tonight. Dara snoozes happily on the bed.

We take time to pause and remember the coming of the Light of the World, Everlasting Saviour, Prince of Peace.

And to marvel.

A White Christmas! How about that.

New Weather Station Finally Installed

My wonderful wife got me a new weather station a while ago; I’d been waiting for my nephew to be in the area and we’d install it together. But I just couldn’t wait any longer, so I started thinking about how I’d do the install. Several things had to be taken into account:

  • The weather station has to be completely clear of ground turbulence. This is something the old one wasn’t.
  • I have to be able to get to it to service it; to clean out the rain collector, and every few years, change the backup battery.
  • It has to be in a location where it samples the weather from the Ravine – the winds are different down there by the Ravine, as are the temperatures. I’ve seen as much as a 4° difference in temperature, plus wind velocity differences of as much as 10 knots.

In thinking about how I’d put it up, I came up with the idea of using an extendable painting pole – perfect for the job, as it’s UV-resistant, it collapses down to a usable height for servicing, and if the weather station gets knocked off-angle (due to a bird landing on it or some such thing) it’s easily re-pointed to the right direction.

The weather station requires about a 1-1/2″ pole for mounting. The end of the painting pole is much less than that, but if you remove the last extension segment, the poly-material that makes up the top clamp is exactly the right size. You have to have a sharp knife (I didn’t think to try a hacksaw) to slit the poly-material so that the last extension segment will pull completely out. Then the U-bolt for the weather station not only grips the poly-material, but locks everything nicely in place. This leaves you with a single-extension painting pole that is stiff and stout enough to support the weather station.

Here’s a photo of it in action last night. Dara is on sniffabout here, and so is included for ‘cute factor’.

(Click to enlarge and zoom in.)
Some statistics: The new weather station is a Davis Vantage Vue; the painting pole is a two-extension-segment fiberglass and aluminum model I got from Amazon. Both are Made In America.

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.