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. 

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.

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.