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.

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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.

Don’t see this kind of thing, all that often: A Double Rainbow

This afternoon, we had weather of storm, nice, storm, nice, storm… You get the picture. Weather typical of where I grew up in Western Washington. But today brought a special reward: a clear double rainbow.

This is one of those things where the light has to be just right, and the contrast good enough for a camera to capture it.


It was invisible only moments later when the clouds to the Southwest parted and the Sun bought the primary rainbow into full brilliance.

And then it was all gone.

Transitory moments are part of our existence; they are a great part of what we are. THIS is why I am forever urging you to get outside, go outside, no matter what the weather; and just be a part of what is happening in Nature.

God created it all; he still beckons and says, “Look what I have to show you, my child”.

The birds have returned!

The last couple of nights, I’ve heard a Ring-Necked Pheasant in the upper meadow. Today, I saw him in the back meadow, looking along the fence, picking up seeds from the dead blackberries.

He reminds me of the ‘lot bell’ that we had where I was an Apprentice Mechanic: we had hoses strung across the lot, and the bell would ‘ding’ when a potential Customer drove in…

This particular pheasant shrieks whenever someone drives by on our dirt road. He kind of reminds me of a temperamental character who always yells, “Get off my lawn!”

Meanwhile, a couple nights ago, I saw a murder of crows, chasing an eagle. But the eagle, zooming along the edge of the Ravine, executed a powerful, graceful, and gorgeous wing-over maneuver that just took my breath away. And the murder of crows could not have a prayer of following the eagle.

Although they all objected loudly, they lost the eagle.

And tonight, the eagle came back to perch on one of our oak trees. The crows were still loudly in pursuit, trying to drive him off. You can always tell when there’s an eagle on the vicinity, from the caphocophany of the crows. Even so, I managed to grab a shot of him, waiting patiently for the crows to give him space.

He’s in the top of that spindly oak, and you can see the crows, giving him a hard time.

A few moments later, he flew off; the crows giving a half-hearted chase, as they knew they’d won. For the moment.

The cold and the rains may have finally let up, for a while. And the raptors have returned, hunting mice and voles; bringing a balance to life on the side of the mountain.