Sunday, April 29, 2018

A shoe full of slush

The pungent smell filled the room with a heady perfume, casting me back to my childhood and that house back the lane. Sweet purple flowers drooped from branches, calling to butterflies and hummingbirds. It is the beginning of warm weather. The rebirth of summer knocking on the door.

This time of the year I love to watch Oregon come alive with color. My son's yard is a glorious array of lively inspiration. A small white butterfly flits across the yard. "Look, MeMe," Emma yells. "It's cookie! Cookie came back!" Yep, Cookie seemed to have returned. Well, not really but truly to a small girl and boy who called and waved to the little white butterfly last year. Not aware of the life span of butterflies, they were thrilled to see an old friend.

I was thrilled in the spring when Dad would come into the house with a yearly surprise. A big cocoon latched on to a twig was placed it in the backroom with Dad sometimes adding one or two more during the next week or so. Days would pass, and we would forget about the brown casing propped up in the backroom. Then one day he would call us. Huge cecropia moths would be flapping their wings stretching from their rest in their small sleeping bags. They spanned the width of Dad's large hands. Creatures that seemed to have four huge eyes displayed beauty unrivaled. We knew Dad would set them free so that nature could once more renew herself.

Perhaps spring should be called Awakening. Flowers, newborn livestock, trees once more in leaf, grass that seems to grow faster after a winter's sleep. The spirit awakens to the newness it remembers. The air is sweeter and a new vitality seems to affect every part of our lives.

There is another facet of spring that not everyone thinks of. As a child it meant that we would be taking more drives to just roam the countryside or go visit friends or relatives. We piled into the old, black Packard and headed off to adventure. It was not only adventure. Those times were wonderful family times. We all sang together and listened to Mom and Dad tell old stories or point out landmarks we had seen many times over the years. We later realized that these were the most intimate times we had with my parents. Dad's tenor would begin, and we would all fall into our harmonies. It was as it would be in the summer, when once more we would fall into the routine of field work and chores creating a difference harmony. The harmony of a farm family. We didn't mind. Winter had kept us inside. Spring called to us, and we answered with gusto.

I found a quote just for you, since your winter has been a very long one. Enjoy.

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. - Don Larson

Monday, April 23, 2018

The door is open

The song greeted me as soon as I opened the door. Open the door. Song. Close the door. Silence. I did that about five times then determined that indeed two birds were singing their little hearts out to the sun's warmth coupled with the smell of spring. Needless to say, the door stayed open.

Most of the country, including you on Neff Road, have had a long, cold winter. We in Oregon have had cool, rainy weather. And, contrary to belief, the weather here is not always rainy. In fact, Oregon is the 39th wettest state. So, for a state that had not met its needed rainfall this year, we found it all in April. On Wednesday when this column comes out, it is predicted to be 86 here. Where's my sunscreen!

The weather affected those in that house back the lane. Weather was often the topic of discussion. Farmers depend on good weather for healthy crops and money in the bank for the long winter. A dry year and plants struggle. I remember walking the field with a bucket of tobacco plants replacing those drooping and dying. Livestock seemed to feel the weather. Grazing land was sometimes meager. Rain kept animals in the barns. Farmers often could not plow due to wet fields. And erosion accompanied dry, windy weather. The land coupled with the weather either made it a year of bounty or a year of struggle. We creatures felt the fear of lean years, hoping to hang on until the weather changed.

I remember those nights lying in my bed just praying for a breeze to pass through the window. Just a faint breeze tickling the sheer curtains would have been a blessing. I tossed and turned finding sleep an allusive bedtime companion. In the winter, I prayed that the heat in the one radiator upstairs would reach my bedroom. Comforters piled high, I snuggled into a cocoon wishing for the days when I shared a bed with my sister June and had her warmth to keep me warm. The people in that house back the lane on Neff Road felt the weather even though we were sheltered.

The weather affects us all. Depression sets in when we have too much of any type of it. Grey days. Hot days. Snow that seems to never end. We hibernate waiting for spring. We hibernate waiting for a breeze. Rain comes as a relief. We smell it before the first drop strikes the earth. We stand in it and revel in the freshness we have missed.

After all those years of soaking up the sun, I find my skin damage makes me angry that we did not know that sun exposure was harmful. I now know that much of the illness I had as a child came from allergies and changes in barometric pressure that affect me. After all these years, I am very aware of how weather affects me. Weather. It affects all living creatures.

The weather is no longer ours to depend upon. Changes are happening, and we are learning how to adjust. Animals are disappearing as their environments change. Glaciers are disappearing. Water is rising. Island people are searching for places to move their tribes as their land disappears beneath the sea. The great coral reef is dying, not to be revived. The ocean warms and food sources for sea life suffocates. Satellites circle this ball we live on and track its changing surface. The change in climate will not go away.

So as I warm up this week, I will keep my mind on the big picture. Not everything is the way we want it to be, and we can't make it change. Well, we can. Maybe not a big change but making wise decisions on the way we live can allow us to be proactive.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore has been shooting Photo Ark (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rare/) for eleven years. He is capturing photos of animals endangered and those almost extinct. Those so rare that he must climb mountains and hike through impossible terrain to capture them. In many cases, they are the very last of their species. There are many fighting to save this planet. As we struggled on the farm wondering what the crops would do and if we could survive the winter on the productiveness of those crops, we have to wonder with the changes in the earth, how soon we will be on the extinction list. The extremes in weather, the rising and warming seas, the loss of incredible species are signs of the earth crying out. The question is, "Are we listening?"

The door is open.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Depth of field

There's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.- Sarah Kay

We sat looking over the blue Pacific. Shades of blue melting together from shallow to deep. A slight wind pushing sailboats across the horizon as an occasional sea lion bobs to the surface then disappears. I missed our Oregon coastline on this beautiful ocean but savored our moments as we watched nothing but water, knowing that we were receiving a gift. A gift of the deep blue sea.

Loren was invited to participate in Rfotofolio Depth of Field at a gallery in Carmel, California. So we packed our bags, photographs and eagerness to get out of Oregon rain and headed to Monterey. Sometimes things work the way they are meant, and you don't quite get it until the moments have passed. Our three days in the beautiful sunshine were filled with such as these.

This new life of mine with this gentle spirited photographer is an adventure for both of us. He has the seeing eye of the camera, and I have the words to accompany his gift. We are an indomitable pair. Our conversations and observations definitely have depth of field. (Depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp. For me, it narrows down the area that you look at in a normal view but what you might end up finally focusing on in a wider view.) I know Loren will correct me if I have this wrong. So where Loren focuses on life through a lens, I see it in all its possibilities.

Loren spent time with a very prestigious group of photographers, while I soaked up sun and visited with a very sweet lady named Sele. In a matter of minutes, we had covered life, politics, religion and relationships. On the surface we had nothing in common. Peel away the layers, and both our lives were enriched. I came away from that afternoon and evening with many new friends. Those I will in likelihood never see again. 

We enjoyed the beauty and uniqueness of Carmel then spent time at the Monterey Aquarium. In Carmel, we saw a town filled with beautiful buildings and people. In Monterey, we marveled at what lies beneath the beautiful, blue Pacific. We sat overlooking the ocean drawn into the sheer loveliness of it. We wondered what it would be like when the water begins to rise with global warming. We were concerned that the water temperatures are rising. What then of the lovely life that lives below that deep blue sea? This was a new depth of field. 

Our seats on the way home were on different sides of the plane. I was tired and not really wanting conversation. I heard Loren laughing across the aisle. He had made a new friend from Pátzcuaro, México, who was visiting in Portland. The young lady next to me finally made me talk (hard to believe, huh?). She is a preschool teacher from Vancouver. In just a few minutes, we were sharing pictures and stories, ways to engage young children, marriage and twins (her having a twin brother). Parting we finally exchanged names. Two more people we were gifted with to share our lives for just a bit of time. Our depth of field truly focused us in on people who were just part of the mass when we first boarded the plane.

What is your depth of field? What do you see when you focus on something that is near to you? Do you look beyond and find a new point of focus? Do you find something interesting or even life changing in the view? I learned a great deal about photography and people on this trip. I learned a great deal about me.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.- Mother Teresa