Sunday, August 30, 2009

Indian Heaven Wilderness


August 29, 2009

We left a sunny Trout Lake to drive just a few miles west to one of our favorite trails, which leads to Indian Heaven Wilderness. There, we found a more classic Pacific Northwest feel: damp, green and overcast.

The first ½ hour of the hike is up, up, up, until reaching a promontory with a 270 degree view that, normally, includes Mt. Baker and Mt. Adams. Because of the clouds, we had more of a 90 degree view of the vast forrests below. Then, we marched on, through huckleberry bushes, bear grass, meadows and evergreen trees. We made it to the pure mountain lake, pictured above, were we paused for awhile before walking back.

It had been nearly three years since we hiked this trail.

More photos at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157622187829984/

Trout Lake Zen


August 29, 2009

Travel to Thailand provided my initial exposure to Buddhism. The ornate temples are irresistible tourist attractions. Then, a traveller notices the beautiful and gentle spirit of the people of Thailand (or Laos), where the vast majority practice Buddhism. No one ever started a war in the name of Buddha or Buddhism. So, Allyson and I were curious about the opening ceremonies for a Buddhist Abbey here in Trout Lake.

(Among the ironies of Zen Buddhist Temple opening here is that an evangelical neighbor is currently in Thailand trying to teach them they should worship Christ. Today, a Thai monk was among those participating in the opening ceremonies of the abbey.)

Buddhists do not worship Buddha or any one or any god. It's more about teaching yourself to remove the clutter of life and focus on the moment and do good works. Meditation goes hand in hand with Buddhism, and we were there at a time when they did a group meditation of 30 minutes of silence.

Here's the drill. The goal of meditation is to rid your mind of thought, which is impossible. It was suggested that we view a thought as if it were a stick in the river: acknowledge it and let it flow down. We were instructed to sit with a straight and engaged spine, as if we were holding the celiing with our heads. Cast our eyes down about 45 degrees, but do not close them. Place our hands onr our laps, with left over right, and thumb-ends touching. Deep breathing in through the nose is encouraged.

Casting my eyes down 45 degrees caused me to gaze upon the name of the manufacturer of the chair in front of me: LIFETIME. I failed at acknowledging the name and letting it float away. Instead, I started playng Scrabble ® with the letters: lift, melt, fee, etc. Many many words. That mental exercise took up at least ½ of my meditation and confirmed me as a failed meditator.

However, I may have redeemed myself, at least in part, with my approach to he young fly that became enamored with me. On the nature shows, wild lions seem to tolerate flies all over them, but most humans will try to brush a fly away, or swat it with intent to commit flyocide. Nevertheless, I thought this fly might actually provide me a good exercise in mental discipline. If I could maintain my position and not let the fly bother me, that would bode well for not getting distracted by jerk-like tactics in court or other places.

So, when the fly landed on my shirt, I acknowledged it and let my thought about the fly drift away. When the fly landed on my face, I thought, "So what? It's just a fly, and the cow pies in this valley are organic." When the fly wanted to explore my nostril, well, that was a bit too much for a meditating neophyte, and I had to exhaust a big breath out my nose. I trust the sound was not perceived as a disrecpectful sigh.

With the fly pestering someone else, my mind was free to notice more words out of LIEFETIME, including meet, tile, file, feel, etc. . . .

Actually, the 30 minutes passed quickly. It was probably better for my mind and spirit than sitting in front of the television for 30 minutss clicking through commercials, sports, old movies, and nature shows, which, I sometimes as a night-time sleep aid to clear the mind.

We are pleased to have the Abbey as another resource in Trout Lake. The work they are doing on their farm is quite impressive, with the vegetable guardens, fruit trees, egg-laying chickens and other things. The prior owner converted the barn into a wonderful space, which is now used as the temple. Also, it will be nice have the option to explore Buddhism if we chose to.

©2009 by JM.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trout Lake morning


August 28, 2009

A pleasant drive east through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and then north long the White Salmon River and bucolic farmlands got me to Trout Lake yesterday.

This morning, it is peaceful, except for the gang activity in the neighborhood: first one deer then all seven trespassed on our property and scavanged their way through the neighborhood, taking whatever they wanted. I figured photo documentation might help in the prosecution of their criminal acts. Lord knows, we've been victimized by the theft of bird seed and the torture & murder of store-bought plant life. ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jackson Browne Concert


August 22, 2009

We're pleased that a new Brew Pub with good food opened on the Washington side of the river, in White Salmon. It saved us from cooking before driving, east, up river, to Maryhill Winery for the Jackson Browne concert.

Another gorgeous night in the Columbia River Gorge: perfect temperature, pastel sky and dramatic scenery that changes every few miles: from fir covered slopes, to rocky outcrops and oaks, to no trees and golden grassy hills. The Maryhill venue is terrific, and we plan to go next summer, too.

Photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621998795737/

Friends Tim and Michelle and their neighbors had tickets for the general admission grassy amphitheater, so we hung out with them before the concert and during the break. It's always a pleasure to spend time with them. They work hard and smart and are enjoying the fruits of their labor, including a private airplane to transport them without hassles to the great parks of the Western United States and Canada.

Jackson Browne and his band performed without a warm up act. (Thank goodness, because warm up bands can be tepid, and we don't seem to stay awake past 10:00.) The band cosists of talented professionals, who put on a great show lasting nearly three hours. Jackson Browne mixed his ballads with some high-energy favorites that got the crowd going. His backup singers can knock out some great lyrics with power and beauty. Too bad they were featured less this concert than the one in September. I suppose that JB knows people at summer concerts want old-time favorites, and the women have more to sing in his newer songs.

Unlike last month's Counting Crows concert, the reserved-seat crowd took a long time to get out of their seats and dance in front of the stage. I attribute that to the artist, music and crowd all being more mellow. It's hard to videotape unless there is a crowd for cover. Fortunately, the timing was right for me to capture "Cuba", (link below) and a couple other good ones.

Video at: http://www.youtube.com/user/merrick792#play/all/uploads-all/0/ZY2zLUCOYzI

Bird Creek Meadows


August 22, 2009

In 1855, we took control of most of the land in the Oregon Territory, which then included the state of Washington. One of the treaties included a map for Yakama Nation land. Someone "lost" the map for decades, and a phoney survey cut the Yakama Nation out of another 121,000 acres. Decades after they found the map, Richard Nixon returned to the Yakamas 21,000 acres on the east side of Mt. Adams, where lies Bird Creek Meadows.

Over the rivers and through the woods we went today to hike in that gorgeous wilderness area. It includes everything from shady forests, to delicate streams decorated with tiny wildflowers, to the most massive rock in the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Adams. Along the way, we can see 60 or so miles south to Mt. Hood.

Powerful rivers can be found in many places, including where we were today. But one of the things that makes Bird Creek Meadows special are the gentle, fragile streams that could not withstand grazing by cattle..

The diverse hike is one of the highlights of an area full of great trails. More photos from today are here.

Thank you, Yakama Nation, for keeping it mostly pristine and open to us. Thank you, Dr. Sparling, for returning to me my ability to hike.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Undersea World of Carl the Pirate


August 20, 2009

Underground in Portland, where no natural light enters, there’s a strange world. It’s an imaginary world. Walt Disney created Disneyland. Dolly created Dollywood, and Michael Jackson had his Neverland. Just think what any of them could do if you said, “build a playland for children, but your budget is $100.”

You might end up with miniature golf in the dark, with black lights providing just enough illumination to see the florescent underwater world of long-dead pirates. Carl’s 40th birthday provided the excuse for adults -- with, otherwise, relative sound minds -- to enter this world. It was Olivia’s brain child to keep her husband (and the rest of us) feeling young at one of his decade birthdays. It was fun for all.

We returned to their well-lit home in the woods to enjoy dinner and conversation, some of which included people sharing their latest apps for iphones. John B. has 70+ on his phone, including children’s books and one that measures the distance on real golf courses between himself and the hole. Unfortunately, it provided him no advantage in the undersea world of Carl the Pirate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Funky Lake Oswego ??


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On a word association test, a local psychologist would raise her eyebrows if she said “funk” and you said “Lake Oswego.” The two words go together about as well as “Cynthia McCain” and “Hip Hop.” Nevertheless, the nearby park in Lake Oswego hosting tonight’s free concert offered up what was billed as funk music. As someone who has a playlist entitled, “Too Funky,” I had to go and drag Allyson along.

The “Sonic Funk Orchestra” describes itself as a “12-piece horn-driven party machine.” “Time machine” might be a better description of the disco play list that included K.C. & the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, and Donna Summer. The band was good at what they do. I’d agree with their own description of the “tight and choreographed 4-piece vocal section” and a good horn section.

But it was disco, not funk.

On the way home, Allyson made the mistake of asking me what the difference was, which give me the opportunity to imitate James Brown and Parliament and play some Chaka Kahn, Isley Brothers, and Nikka Costa.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jay & Gloria's 50th Anniversary



August 16, 2009

In Hollywood, they award lifetime achievement Oscars®. For the rest of us, 50 years of marriage is a lifetime achievement. My wife and I have been married for16 years, (six GOOD years to each other) so we know that longevity is not a given. It takes compassion, love, patience and many other virtues.

Today, we celebrate the lifetime achievement of Jay & Gloria, which includes, not only, 50 years of marriage, but the upbringing of three children, who carry forward the positive virtures inclulcated over the decades. Even today, although their children are fully grown, Jay and Gloria establish standards by their example.

The party was excellent. Perfect weather, great venue, great food and a loving crowd.

photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39474118@N06/sets/72157621955098401/

Shel's 70!


August 15, 2009

Uncle Shel is 70. A good excuse for a party and family gathering. So, Aunt Bobbi rented out the UC San Diego Faculty Club for a great event. A roomful of dear friends and family of Sheldon. Good food. Testimonials.

The event gave Allyson and I a chance to reconnect with cousins and her Aunt Arlyne. Many say Allyson and Arlyne look alike, and there is a family resemblence. Cousin Nicole was there, as were Cousins Todd & Alison, Elan & Jill, Derrick & Gene. Derrick & Gene live very interesting lives, going all over the globe to study and teach. Their upcoming 6 months in Israel might tempt us to take a trip there, too.

The Long Beach contingent arrived late for good reasons outside of their control. That's another story for another time.

Sibling Dinner


Pictured Above: Carol, Allyson, Linda Scott, Steve, Todd Deann


August 14, 2009

At 7:00 am on Scott and Carol's back patio, the first sound I notice are the caw, caw, cawing of gulls across the calm water. Next, a few cars drive along the other side, the road between this inlet and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Next, I notice the quiet disturbance of water: two single-woman sculls cruise by. More gulls, crows, and the neighbor's sprinkler system gets going.

It turned out to be a great day. We had some quality time with niece Rachele along 2nd Street. Of course, we enjoyed time with Carol, Scott, Steve & Linda. I even got a quick “hello” out of niece Zara.
We topped it off with a sibling dinner: no kids or parents, and another walk (not necessarily in a straight line) along 2nd for frozen yogurt.

Travel to California


08/13/09
  I was able to snatch the exit row seat with no row in front.  Then, one of the last people to board was the woman who was assigned to 13F.  She kindly let me stay.
The couple-to-be-celebrated, Jay and Gloria gathered us from the Historic Long Beach Airport, and we selected Koi Japanese Restaurant for a hello dinner. Much later, after a trip to Laguna Woods, we drove back to Long Beach and join Carol, Scott, Steve, Linda. We even got a quick hello and goodby from our nieces Zara and Rachele.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Home cooked > best restaurants.


August 12, 2009

Eloping means that one side of the family does not have to meet the other side of the family. So, it took 6 years for Steve & Linda to finally meet Ann. They hated her. No, just kidding. Like everyone who knows Ann, they really liked her and could see that she is a sweet person.

I have to say, we’re doing better all the time at home-cooked meals. The food tonight was better than even the good and expensive restaurants. Of course, the atmosphere of being at home and everyone pitching in makes for a better experience, too. Linda made a terrific ravioli dish; Allyson made a great chicken dish; Ann made a great blueberry crisp for dessert. Everyone helped clean up and put things away.

Steve, Linda and I also spent some time in Lake Oswego today.

Family fun balances work and other responsibilities

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Family in the Pacific Northwest.


August 11, 2009

At times, we can feel isolated living in the upper-left corner of the country with family scattered all over. This summer, Allyson and I are feeling like family is just down the road. First, Lorie and Pat came to our corner. Now, Steve and Linda are in town, and we are enjoying their visit.

Last night, we visited Washington Park with our lawn chairs, food and beverage. There, we drank in a beautiful summer evening with a thousand or so other people listening and dancing to the Patrick Lamb band. Patrick Lamb made sure to mention “Patrick Lamb” about a dozen times during the Patrick Lamb concert.

It was a great atmosphere, and we enjoyed the evening. Although, I might not agree with Patrick Lamb’s suggestion that when you want party, hire the Patrick Lamb band. Good but not great.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Outdoor movie


August 6. 2009

When I bought tickets for the outdoor movie at Hotel Deluxe, I did not realize that the park district offered free movies in the park. Of course, the park districts probably do not offer booze or have a warm-up band. The booze and the price of admission probably keeps down the number of children from dozens to zero.

Before the movie, we met John and Kim and Steve for dinner at Gilt. Always good to see them. John and Kim joined us for the movie; they left before we did. We left before the end, too. The movie was too campy, and it was getting kinda cold.

I’d seen the ads for these movies-in-the-parking-garage before and wanted to try it. So, we did. A planned night out is good, regardless of whether the actual night rates a “10” on the scale of 1 to 10 or something less. Looking forward to (presumed) fun bouys ones attitude. Any excuse to get out is probably good, especially when it involves others.

The band, Black Heart Moon was pretty good. Movie was bad, but I guess we knew it would be. Event was interesting.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy to help those who try.

On West Burnside and 4th, a guy with towels and a squirt bottle offers to wash windshields for $1. We tire of grungy panhandlers, whose outlandish looks disqualify them in the eyes of many employers. This man differed: clean clothes and an aura of dazed determination. Unemployed family man? Fifteen minutes after my “no thanks,” I circled around for a $2 cleaning. I respect – and want to support – a person who tries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vagabond Opera trumps weasel lawyers.


August 4, 2009

Yesterday, I spent too much time dealing with jerk lawyers. Today, I brought their conduct to the attention of the court. Then, it was time to do some positive things.

A workout was good.

The free concert at Washington Park was good. It is a wonderful amphitheater, and the walk through the Rose Garden is always lovely, not to mention a reminder of our wedding. It is a great night, with the heat wave broken.

The band was a talented hoot. Vagabond Opera is its name, billed as neo-bohemian cabaret. Very original look. Interesting sounds. Good musicians who seem to wink at their audience. At times, they are reminiscent of Pink Martini, substituting accordion for piano. At other times, they were reminiscent of a klezmer band.

After a quick peak at the concert, a home-cooked halibut dinner helped get the bad taste of weasel lawyers out of my mouth.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Papa Haydn X 3


August 1, 2009

After enjoying a delicious crab salad with fresh ingredients from Portland Farmer’s market, we went to Cathedral Park to enjoy another of the dozens of free concerts around town this summer. Tonight’s music was courtesy of the Portland Festival Symphony. In its 29th season, this summer’s concerts are devoted to “The Genius of Papa Haydn.” This reminded us of the restaurant named Papa Haydn, on NW 23rd Avenue, which is known for its desserts.

After listening to two Haydn’s and a Beethoven, we crossed the bridge over the Willamette River, and went directly for dessert. Afterwards, we joined many others who were walking around on a hot summer night in Portland.

Heat Wave


July 31, 2009


We’ve had the hottest weather in the Willamette Valley since I moved here 25 years ago. People were going nuts, waiting in line for over an hour to buy fans and air conditioners. I’d never wanted an air conditioner up here until this week, taking pride in the cool night breezes that scrub out the heat from the bedroom.

Like every place, movie theaters provided relief. I saw "Away we go” and “Public Enemies.” Then, I decided it was time to take advantage of the Oregon Coast.

When I arrived at the Cape Lookout trailhead, it was 60 degrees and foggy. I decided that would not work with my shorts and t-shirt, so I drove a few miles south to Pacific City, where sunshine and 70’s lured people to the beach. Maybe Oregon’s ocean is too cold for swimming, but it’s great as an air conditioner.

On my return, I drove through Oregon’s wine country, with a quick stop in the cute town of McMinnville.