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”.

What We Did Before NOAA 

Too often, we take for granted these things which technology has brought us.

You know, it’s great to have a fairly accurate, hour-by-hour forecast; especially in an area of the world where it’s been impossible to have any kind of accuracy in a weather forecast. And look at this, it’s on the phone!

But isn’t it all too easy to take it for granted?

Tonight whilst sitting the sunset, my nose and ears were getting really chilled, and I just knew from old folklore that we were going to get a frost tonight. The sky was clear.

All the things I’ve seen from so many decades of watching the weather, and those bits of folklore passed down from my grandparents say that we will get a hard frost tonight.

I was reminded of those times when we had ‘weathermen’, and not those mere readers of the computerized forecasts from NOAA. The local NBC affiliate tried a new idea instead of the typical scene of having a guy standing in front of a map. I still remember “KING’s Cartooning Weatherman, Bob Hale”. Bob could whip out a finished illustration in the five -to ten minutes they gave him during the evening newscast, and all while going through the area forecasts. Keep in mind, we had several different forecasts that had to be done: The Olympics, Metropolitan Area, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca,  Costal, and finally Southwest Washington forecasts. Even found an old photo of Bob on set:

First thing to understand here is that I live in the Pacific Northwest; one of the VERY most difficult regions in the world for weather forecasting.

In those older times, there were no such things as satellites. TIROS was launched in the early sixties; an East coast observation satellite. Weather was the most blackest of black arts.

It was easier on the East coast: there were more ships at sea and the Atlantic was more predictable. In the Midwest: you could look at was happening in Canada, and then add a couple of days.

But for us, there were no weather satellites; no photos of cloud formations, no idea of what was coming; other than what was sketchily available from the few barometric and sky observations of a very few offshore mariners.

It had been that way forever. Technology began to creep up on the problem, but all we did was add some sophistication and consistency to observations. Weather balloons began to be used; and in the case of a possible big storm, the big guns of sounding rockets were used.

But no matter how much the technology of those days could be applied, predicting our weather remained one of the hardest things in the world to do accurately. But there were a few whose minds could see and interpret the maps with consistent accuracy; and such insight was a Gift.

In the early seventies, I had a radio show, and I had my best-est of all best friends – Dan, whom I still consider my best friend of all time, on the show, to give his forecasts. In those days, we used terms seldom heard now; things like onshore flow, high or low pressure-induced wind pattern vortexes, and others. The thing is, Dan was right, almost all the time.

I still don’t know how he did it, but he did. And this was before the inception of NOAA and all their sophisticated satellites and computer models. Dan’s amazing mind on my little radio show beat all those TV weather forecasters almost all the time. I need to say this: There is a gift of some things of prescience about weather, and Dan had it.

And tonight, I just wanted to remember and to give credit (albeit delayed) where credit is due.

Thanks, Dan. Thanks for being my best friend.

I don’t know how many others appreciated your gift, but I do. And I wanted to make sure you knew that.

Socked-in Days

Our temperatures here on the side of the mountain have finally moderated to something like a year’s normal for this date. Our local weather expert notes that we’ve had roughly FIVE INCHES more precipitation / rain so for this year than normal, also.

There’s still stubborn, isolated patches of snow here and there, but I can now be outside without having to wear my heaviest coat.

Back in November, I posted a pic of our favourite local weather predictor, a wooly-bear caterpillar; his amber stripe covering most of his body. And he was right: we’ve had an unusually cold, snowy, Winter.

It’s not over yet: we have snow in the forecast for the middle of next week.

And today, we’ve been socked-in with clouds so thick you could barely see the trees across the back meadow. Rain, coming hard at times, only added to the depressing bleakness. Its cold distraction wasn’t welcome early this morning when I took a big plate of rolled-up sandwiches down to the church for a funeral in the afternoon.

The damp this afternoon drove me to our little sunroom this evening so I could sit and read, practice the presense of God, and try to listen just a bit. And look what was waiting for me…

Again in the Psalms, from Psalm 37:7…

Be still in the presence on the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

So I spent some time in sharing what was in my heart: worries about being out of work so close to retirement, health for my wife, (whom you may recall has Congestive Heart Failure), wondering if I have reached the end of my race, or if there is other service for me to gladly perform.

I laid all these concerns at the base of his throne, but I am the first to admit that my hands won’t easily let go of them.

In trying to do so, I turned to other reading, trying to ignore the inability to see anything outside.

But patience with the weather paid off! For bare moments, we got a break, and the River of Clouds was there-if just for a moment-shouting, “God IS!!”

I grabbed the closest thing that would make a picture, for this lasted only moments. (You should be able to click to enlarge.)

And it was a tremendous lift to my spirits.

May it be so for yours.


Our Pastor was talking about a book called, “ReWilding“. Maybe I’ve been practicing this for years, in urging you to go outside and just marvel at what’s around – get wet, get cold, get wet and cold; get hot, but get outside and just get peaceful.

Moving fully into Fall, this is that time of year when it can be exhilarating and soaking, often within a few minutes of each other, when being outside. And there are many marvels, outside.

And the cloud patterns get really interesting. Here are a few from the last few weeks, culminating in a series of snapshots last night at sunset, which show how fast things can change on the side of the mountain.

The Indian sneeze:

Rainstorm Coming:


It’s time to marvel at being able to watch God at work: The River of Clouds is being formed, and it happens in a different way, every time. I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time. These snapshots are no more than five minutes apart. This then becomes one of those “Watch the hand of God at work” moments.

Clouds begin to shear off the tops of the hills, rolling in groups down the far side of the ravine. First a few…

Then more…

Then they’ve piled into the ravine, forming The River of Clouds…

And the sun quietly sets on the River, as clouds sweep across the far side of the Ravine as if gently guided by an outstretched hand.

Lord God, I marvel at your work. Thank you that I get to see and to share these things. May your Name be glorified.  amen.

Likely the last barbecue for a while, maybe for the season

Here’s a fun story and a few tips for barbecuing along the way.

I found a couple nice steaks in the markdown section of our local store some time ago, and last night seemed to be the best time to bring them out. There’s rain in the forecast for many days ahead.

In times past, I’d barbecue at least a couple times a week, but that hasn’t been happening for us, for a while.

So now, a barbecued dinner is even more special.

I use a chimney starter and Weber’s starter cubes, or newspaper if I run out of starter cubes. This gives me a quick, nice clean fire, with none of that horrible, gosh-awful lighter-fluid taste. That stuff just can’t be any good for you.

Even so, it took a while for my charcoal to get going; I realized it was maybe a little damp. I often buy a few bags of charcoal at a time, and keep all except one in the garage. That one bag gets to live in a fairly-good-sealing box on the deck. But even then, moisture can invade it. Damp charcoal is tough to get going well, and even then, it doesn’t have the heat output that good dry charcoal will have. My next step will be to use a garbage bag and keep the deck charcoal in that.

A quick aside: I can save a little of my charcoal from one fire to the next by just closing down the vents in my Weber. This practice saves some small amount of charcoal, and the hold-overs stay dry. But I know a guy who takes the charcoal and drops it into water, in an effort to save money. And then because he’s destroyed the charcoal’s ability to make any heat, he has to saturate these mushy blobs of wet carbon with lighter fluid. I try to gracefully decline any of his offers of “barbecue”…

My favorite way to cook potatoes (we had Yukon Golds around) is to use a Weber foil drip pan (they’re strong, inexpensive, and they come in packs of 10). I prep the potatoes by just giving them a good scrubbing, then dry them off. I sprinkle a few pinches of Stephanie Izard’s Rub #1 on them and give them a liberal coating of oil, letting it just run off and into the bottom of the foil pan. The steaks also get the same treatment – couple pinches of Rub #1 rubbed in, and an oil coating, then they’re ready to go.

Hey waitasec, you say. Aren’t you supposed to oil the grill grates like they do all the time on TV?  No! Weber specifically instructs for their kettles (like my good old Platinum here), that you oil the food, and not the grate. I’ve followed this advice for years, and have yet to have any problems. All I do is heat the grate for a couple minutes, then brush it with the grill brush before I start. The grates clean up perfectly, and our food comes out great this way, plus I’m not taking chances with singeing my hair off.

Sorry in advance for the crummy cellphone pics, but that’s what I had at hand. Here we are, ready to go:

I believe strongly in a two-level fire, and once the coals were dumped out and raked out, I put the potatoes in to start cooking. In goes a handful of smoke chips; I don’t bother to soak them either. What a rebel, eh?

Set the timer for 45 minutes…

Time to turn over the potatoes, and add another handful of smoke chips. Steaks go on to sear, 3 minutes per side. This next snapshot was at flip-over time. (Had to give up and use the flash, but it lets you see how the two-level fire works.)

Well, you might say, what about that big flame at the left? Is that a flare-up? Isn’t that going to wreck your steaks?

Nope. With a Weber kettle, open flames can’t exist with the lid on. That’s why they’re so good at smoking and adding smoke flavor. If you have flames, just put the lid back on.

I moved the steaks off the direct heat to oven-rest over by the potatoes for another five minutes, then all was ready for the table.

Today it’s raining hard, and it will be raining for probably another week. So the other half of this dinner will be enjoyed tonight, while we watch it rain.

When the clouds close in – take 2…

I diligently try to publish posts which are complete and whole. This one defied that convention, so I’m doing a rewrite.

A couple days after I posted the original of this, I read some wisdom from Tony Dungy that struck me so strongly that I needed to include it. Here then, is the rewrite to include Tony’s wisdom. The message is so strong that it demands it.


You would think from the photos I’ve shared that it’s always pretty weather, or seasonable, or worthy of positive comment in some way.

I have a couple of photos here are indicative of those which I don’t share. Last night it was raining lightly, and the clouds were rolling in from the ravine and are about to fill the back meadow with white obscurity.

These are those times when the clouds close in, up here on the side of the mountain; and it’s very difficult to see anything beyond the edges of the meadows. It’ll be just a few moments now, before everything becomes obscured.


And as the quiet descends, it opens the door for some wisdom from Tony Dungy. I am quoting as literally as possible (with a couple edits for brevity and for flow into this posting) from his book, The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge. This writing comes in response to 1 Kings 19:11-13, New International Version (NIV)
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

The world is full of loud voices trying to get our attention. Usually the loudest are the ones least worth listening to. When God spoke to Elijah, He did so with “a gentle whisper.” That’s how wisdom usually comes to us.

Whether it is God’s voice or the counsel of a friend, the words we most need to hear are the ones we actually have to make an effort to listen to. No matter how many friends you have, you probably only turn to a few when you need advice: my wife, good friends who give honest feedback and sound advice.

But most of us let a few other voices affect us too. The opinion of the crowd sometimes weighs more than it should. There’s no shortage of internal voices either: ambition, power, wealth, revenge, greed, pleasure, compromise, and self-centeredness. In one respect or another, all of these voices—whether internal or external—are simply expressing the ways of the world. And they can be noisy and relentless.

In order to hear true wisdom, we have to ignore some pretty loud words and listen to the subtle ones. Learn to tune in to the quiet voices that consistently speak truth to you. First and foremost, that’s God. Practice hearing His gentle whisper. But also listen to the counsel of those you trust: your spouse, your parents and other family members, your close friends. These people know you well, they have been with you in the valleys and on the mountaintops, and unlike many other voices, they want what’s best for you.

I would propose that sometimes when things go silent, God is encouraging us to listen to him and therefore to hear something other than what we see front of us.

So now I am back to looking at what little I can see of the meadow. And it is at times like this when I cannot see the ridge … or even beyond the edge of the meadow, that I am reminded that he speaks in the echoes of the quiet.

More importantly, the words he speaks will remain.