The Story Who Came to Visit: RDP

Last month, The Darkness of Hills, The Lightness of Wings came to visit me for 25 days. Yes, that was a long visit. She spoke a little bit to me each day until she was 50,129 words long.

Story in Painted Hills, Oregon 14 26October2018

I started her as part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. That’s short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s a commitment I wasn’t sure I could make, but I did it.

I knew I wanted the story to take place in the late 1800s and I wanted to include a Chinese girl who moves to Oregon to work with her grandfather. He’s a doctor and she knows how to make herbal cures. That’s all I knew when I started writing.

I found my inspirations to build a story from several sources.

Story Kam Wah Chung  in John Day, Oregon 26October2018

To help create my main character, we visited the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. This amazing place was an apothecary in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s like a time capsule from the time period I wanted to focus on.

One of the medicines the main character uses is called Tiger Balm. This pain reliever, invented in China,  has been around since 1870 and its scent is calming yet spicy. I have a jar of it and used it when I got in a terrible bicycle accident years ago. Its unique scent reminds me of healing.

Story Ring Billed Gull MalheurNWR 2018

If it’s a story written by me, of course it includes animals. I thought back to a ring-billed gull I nursed back to health at Malheur NWR. I was there for four weeks as part of a 12-week immersive ornithology class. The seagull in my story is the narrator; a first person secondary character narrator. Am I crazy? Here’s an excerpt:

“So who am I watching from above? I have wings but I’m no angel. In fact, I’m a seagull and what happened that day changed my life. Here is the story of dark hills and light wings. Yes, my wings are a part of this tale, but on that day they weren’t so light. This tale starts with me but it has been passed down beak by beak.”

Story Magpie Drawing 2007

There’s also a magpie character in my story and I thought I’d write about a magpie and another animal. I considered using a badger since they live near magpies in my high desert home. I did a little research and found out I had made the right choice.

Huān 獾 is the Chinese word for badger. It sounds just like huān 欢, The Chinese word for ‘joyous, happy, pleased’ according to Chinasage. Magpies in flight are often portrayed with badgers and this represents happiness both in heaven and on earth. A picture of a perched magpie represents a wish for future happiness. This was a happy coincidence for me that I tried to weave into the story.

Story in Painted Hills 26October2018

We visited the Painted Hills, near John Day, for further inspiration. That setting added a touch of magic to my tale. The hills have a way of communicating with the main character in my story that only she can understand.

I used a little of this and that to build this story. The first draft is complete but the hard work of editing and rewriting has just begun.  Lots of hours to go.

I signed up to read from my book for five minutes at an event in Bend, Oregon in January. Yesterday I worked on editing four pages to present to the public. How long could that take? Much longer than you might think! I’ll let you know how it goes in January. Stay tuned…

Ragtag Daily Prompt – Build

Making a Splash: LAPC

As you wade through the waters of your life you often end up making a splash. Sometimes you make a big loud splash and other times you need to make a quieter one. Maybe only a ripple. Here are photos of quieter splashes I have seen in Oregon.

Making a Splash, Common merganser pair on the Deschutes River 2April2017

Common merganser pair on the Deschutes River

Making a splash, River otters, Bend, Oregon 19March2018

River otters at the High Desert Museum

Making a splash, Mule deer drinking from my water feature, Bend, Oregon 15July2017

Mule deer drinking in my backyard

Making a splash, Western grebe on the Deschutes River 21October2016

Western grebe on the Deschutes River

Making a splash, Trumpeter swan family at Summer Lake 1November2018

Trumpeter swan family at Summer Lake

Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Splash!

 

Viewpoints of Oregon: Photo Challenge

The challenge on Travel with Intent today is Viewpoint.

Here a few viewpoints of Oregon from places I’ve visited. Some are from places labeled as a viewpoint; others are taken where people stop to see a special view.

Viewpoints of Oregon, the Painted Hills near John Day 26October2018

The Painted Hills in eastern Oregon

Viewpoints of Oregon, great horned owl nest south of Burns 6April2018

The view of a great horned owl nest south of Burns

Viewpoints of Oregon, the view of Mt. Hood from Highway 26 14October2017

The view of Mt. Hood from Highway 26

Viewpoints of Oregon, the view from Lava Butte 4Sept2014

The view from the top of Lava Butte

Viewpoints of Oregon, the view from Gray Butte of the Cascades 8May2018

The view from Gray Butte of the Cascade Mountains

Viewpoints of Oregon, view of the Sisters from Bend 24September2017

The view of the Sisters from Empire Boulevard in Bend

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed: LAPC

In Yellowstone National Park, much of the wildlife is hidden from view. You have to look carefully to find the animals and sometimes they will reveal themselves to you.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed, Elk in the Lamar Valley 1June2018Elk in the Lamar Valley are hidden as they blend into the landscape traveling along a ridge top.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed Elk 1June2018However, when they cross a pond they are revealed. The splashing water draws your attention and their pale colored rumps make you take notice of them.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed, Sandhill cranes 1June2018From a distance, this just looks like two lumps in a field. Sandhill cranes’ plumage helps them stay hidden from view.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed, Sandhill cranes 1June2018However, when they raise their head and you see their distinctive silhouette and red cap, they are revealed.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed Pronghorns 1June2018Pronghorn have bars of white on their coats that somehow help them stay hidden from view. These two does are wandering near the river’s edge.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed Pronghorns 1June2018However, when you see them close up, their markings are clearly revealed.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed Grizzly bear 1June2018Sometimes all you see are tiny specks in the distance. You try to zoom in as close as you can with your lens but they still remain hidden. The white arrow in this fuzzy photo is pointing at two grizzly bears hundreds of yards away.

Yellowstone Hidden & Revealed Grizzly Bear 1June2018However, these magnificent creatures are revealed when you visit a place that helps conserve them. This image was taken at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. I don’t think I would want to be that close to a grizzly on a trail so I will settle for this view.  😉

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Blending In – Or Standing Out?

Fun photos: Photo Bloopers 3

Fun photos

It’s time for some fun photos to go along with the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge theme of Just for Fun. Here are some of my photo bloopers for your enjoyment. This is what I do with some of my photos that don’t turn out quite right.

Fun photos: Grizzly & ravens, West Yellowstone, MT October2018

Grizzly bear and ravens at West Yellowstone, Montana

Fun photos: The Three Gossips at Arches National Park, Utah October 2018

The Three Gossips at Arches National Park, Utah

Fun photos: Swallows at Summer Lake, Oregon October 2018

Swallows at Summer Lake, Oregon

Fun Photos: Close up of western juniper bark, Bend, Oregon October 2018

Close-up of western juniper bark, Bend, Oregon

Fun photos: Three mallards in the Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon October 2018

Three mallards in the Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon

Fun photos: My cat, Motor, recovering from his broken leg October 2018

My cat, Motor, recovering from his broken leg

For past Blooper posts, see…

Fun!: Bird Bloopers

Photo Bloopers 2

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center

Learn about the natural world by visiting Sunriver Nature Center

Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory is a great place to learn more about the natural world. This small interpretive center is on the west side of Sunriver, Oregon. It’s in an area that includes pine forests, meadows, and the meandering Deschutes River. The “edges” between these habitats are good places to see wildlife.

 

You can observe local wildlife by walking the trails on your own or going out with a guide. The Sam Osgood Nature Trail winds around the property. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for trumpeter swans. Guided bird walks take place every Saturday morning in the spring, summer, and fall. I have been on several of the walks. You’ll see waterfowl in the pond, raptors flying overhead, and songbirds along the walk. Great gray owls have been spotted in the area occasionally. You never know what you might spot on one of these walks.

 

 

There are also programs for families and kids. There are Kids Nature Camps for kids 4-10 years of age at certain times of the year. Family programs might include offerings such as Family Birding, Aquatic Explorations, and Eco Bike Tours. During the school year, staff travel to nearby schools to give presentations.

 

The Sunriver Nature Center building has live animals, diorama displays of local habitats, hands-on exhibits, and a collection of rocks with a focus on meteors. Their collection of live animals includes birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Birds of prey are used in daily educational talks in the amphitheater.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

This is a licensed rehabilitation center so there may be some birds not on public display. With the help of staff and volunteers, the birds get much needed medical attention. If possible, they are released back into the wild.

The Oregon Observatory

The Oregon Observatory offers spectacular views of daytime and night skies. There are opportunities to see galaxies, nebulae, and planets and their moons. The observatory has a large collection of telescopes available. Kids can learn about astronomy through visits, classes, and through community outreach. Look at these amazing photos from the observatory! Hours vary – click here for the most current information.

A few sights to see at the Sunriver Nature Center

Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

One of my favorite places to hang out is near the bird feeders. You’ll see lots of birds, and an occasional squirrel, taking advantage of a free meal.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Here’s a room where reptiles, amphibians, and insects can be viewed.  It’s called the Creature Cave.

 

Birds of prey can be seen up close and personal in their enclosures.  A building was constructed recently to house and exercise the Center’s raptors.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Check their website to find out about current events and to register for camps and walks. Staff and volunteers take some of their wildlife ambassadors (like the great horned owl pictured below) to events in the area. Sunriver Nature Center is a non-profit that depends upon donations. Click here to donate.

Visiting Sunriver Nature Center, Sunriver, Oregon

Looking up at Fort Rock: LAPC

Looking up while looking back

Fort Rock Look Up 20May2015

These images from Fort Rock, Oregon focus on looking up. In this photo you see what a town from the early 1900’s may have looked like. Buildings were moved to this site to create the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society Homestead Village Museum. Each building is decorated with artifacts so it’s easy to imagine yourself stepping back in time.

Fort Rock Look Up 9June2016

Pioneers were promised rich and fertile land. That was not the reality in this arid high desert. Many settlers moved away after unsuccessfully trying to cultivate the land.

Fort Rock, Oregon

Yet some stayed and learned to love the land. In this photo a sage thrasher perches on a shovel next to a re-created pioneer garden. Listen to the thrasher’s beautiful song here.

Fort Rock Look Up 4 10June2016

Fort Rock is a prominent land feature that settlers looked forward to seeing. Some pioneers who settled there cannot imagine living anywhere else. The ever-changing skies make even those of us there for a short visit look up in wonder.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Look Up

Antelope bitterbrush in bloom: Friday Flowers

Bitterbrush blossoms

Bitterbrush Blossoms in Central Oregon 9May2018

The antelope bitterbrush appears to be reaching for the sky in this photograph. This plant gets its common name due to the fact that it is so important to wildlife. Deer, elk, moose, mountain sheep, and pronghorn (antelope) browse on its small three-toothed leaves and use its dense growth for cover. It’s also important for deer mice, kangaroo rats, sage grouse, and Lewis’ woodpecker.

Mule Deer browsing on bitterbrush & sagebrush 9March2018I have seen plants over twelve feet tall but in my yard, they only reach a height of about three feet. My “landscapers” love to prune them. In certain parts of this plant’s range, bitterbrush can comprise up to 91% of mule deer’s diet in September.

Friday Flowers

Outdoor Bonsai: Artful Miniatures LAPC

A sculpted garden of outdoor bonsai plants

I saw these outdoor bonsai trees on the High Desert Garden Tour in Bend, Oregon this summer. I marveled at the artistry that went into sculpting these plants. Though I’ve seen bonsai trees in the past, I was pleasantly surprised to see tree species that grow locally sculpted into small replicas of full size trees. You can see why they are referred to as “living art.”

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Small is beautiful

Red fox in action: Lens-artists challenge

A lucky sighting of a red fox

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

We saw this red fox in Yellowstone National Park in June of this year. This is the Rocky Mountain subspecies, Vulpes vulpes macroura.

The red fox is not seen often in the park because they are nocturnal and they blend into their preferred habitats along the edges of meadows and forests. The females nurse their kits during late spring and this may have been a female out looking for food. Foxes usually use dens created by other animals.

Fox kit, Yellowstone National Park

We were fortunate to see a female with kits on another spring visit to Yellowstone. Litter size averages four to eight kits. Vixens gives birth in late March to April.  Both parents care for the young through their first few months of their life.

When wolves were introduced into the park, many coyotes were eliminated by the wolves and this may have caused an increase in the number of foxes. Coyotes prefer sagebrush and open meadow habitat and hunt more by day so they don’t compete as much with foxes.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

 

The red fox is the smallest dog-like mammal in the park. The males weigh 11-12 pounds and the females weigh 10 pounds. They average 43 inches in length. Most foxes live 3-7 years but in Yellowstone can live up to 11 years.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 1June2018

Foxes can have a wide variety of coat colors–from red to black. Their thick tail aids in balance and they use them to signal to other foxes. Foxes wrap their tail around themselves in cold weather to help them stay warm.

Red fox, Yellowstone National Park 4June2015

Red foxes have a varied diet. They feed on voles, mice, rabbits, birds, amphibians, eggs, carrion, and some plants.  Animals that prey on foxes include cougars, wolves, and coyotes.

Video of a flying red fox

Here’s a National Geographic video of a fox hunting in the winter. They have extremely good hearing and listen for animals beneath the snow. When they sense prey, they pounce or “fly” to catch it under the snow.  Flying Red Fox 

Lens-artists Photo Challenge – Action

 

 

Ascent: Climbing Explored Exhibit

Reaching for the sky in the Ascent exhibit

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Sometimes you may have looked up at rock climbers on Smith Rock (near Terrebonne , Oregon) and wondered what drives them in their quest to reach the top. This new exhibit helps answer that question. Ascent: Climbing Explored, looks at the history, evolution, and culture of climbing and mountaineering in the West. What began as scientific exploration, grew into an activity people take part in for sheer joy of the experience.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a journal entry from John Muir. Muir taught people about conserving wild places through his eloquent writings. In another section of the exhibit, the artwork of Thomas Moran is featured. The paintings he created of Yellowstone in 1871 helped to establish the world’s first national park. The artwork and writings of early explorers were the “social media” of their day. Artist Sarah Uhl, also featured in this exhibit, presents landscape art that is a continuation of themes first presented by 19th century artists. James Lavadour, of the Walla Walla tribe, did the bold bright paintings of mountains near the exhibit entrance. His paintings, and the clean lines of the exhibit, bring a modern look to the displays.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

A bit of history related to climbing

Many of the objects displayed in Ascent are on loan from the Mazamas. The Mazamas climbing club was founded in 1894 in Portland. William Gladstone Steel was one of the driving forces of the organization.  From the start, they have played an active role in conservation. The Mazamas club was also ahead of the times in allowing women to enroll as full members. As Steel said, “No climb is complete without them.”

One item featured in the exhibit belongs to the company founded by rock climber Yvon Chouinard.  In 1970, Chouinard purchased pre-made Rugby shirts and affixed his brand name onto them. You can see one of these shirts near the van scene. He later had great success with Patagonia, the company he created.

There are two large display cases that show historical and current gear used in mountain climbing. Some equipment has changed little, while other items, such as footwear and climbing rope, have changed radically. One of the most significant changes was in the materials used in shoes. Since the 1980s, they have become significantly lighter.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

Different techniques of climbing

Climbers and mountaineers are always looking for new ways to see the mountains. In the 1920s, methods to reach the summit included using metal spikes, known as pitons, into the rock. One of the hands-on displays shows protective gear climbers use to anchor themselves to the rocks. While pitons  and other equipment help make the sport safer, some prefer to “clean climb” without hammering things into the surface they climb over. The bolts cause damage to the rock from repeated placement and removal.

In the 1970s, climbers lives revolved around climbing. They preferred to free climb, using only their hands and feet. We called these athletic climbers “rock jocks” when I was in college. Climbers were often referred to as “dirtbags”. Dirtbags often lived in vans, such as the one in the exhibit, and some experimented with drugs.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The drive towards ascent

Climbers are driven to reach summits despite the risks. As one climber quoted in the exhibit said, “It breathes life into me.” Climbers climb for many reasons. The physical and mental challenges are just a part of the experience.

Certain locations, such as Yosemite and Smith Rock, are particularly challenging and draw in climbers from all over the world.  The Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) rates the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest level. By the 1950s, this scale was further refined with the addition of decimal points and letters.

Ascent exhibit High Desert Museum, Bend Oregon 2018

The first ascent of Smith Rock was made in 1935 by Central Oregon resident Johnny Bissell. In the 1950s, national attention came to Smith Rock after Madras residents Jack Watts, and brothers Jim and Jerry Ramsey, established climbing lines on the peak. A 650-acre state park was created at Smith Rock in 1960 to conserve the site. Though many considered the various routes “climbed out” by the late 1970s, Alan Watts, Jack Watts’ son, started developing top down routes. At the time, they were considered the hardest routes in the world with a YDS of 5.14a. One of Watts’ routes was featured in 1986 on the cover of Mountain, an influential climbing magazine, and climbers soon flocked to Smith Rock.

Rock climbers come in all shapes and sizes and one display features information on adaptive climbing. Climber Mark Wellman was the first paraplegic to summit El Capitan at Yosemite. Gear has been modified over the years to meet the needs of climbers’ specific needs.

The next generations to ascend

Ascent6 15May2018A large climbing wall for kids is a popular part of the Ascent exhibit. The wall is for future rock climbers between the ages of 5-12. The kids I saw were thrilled to climb up the blue wall studded with colorful hand- and footholds. It was almost as if they were climbing for the sheer joy of the experience.

 

This is a reprint of a July 2018 article in High Desert Voices, a newsletter by and for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. To see more issues of the newsletter, go here.

This exhibit at the High Desert Museum runs from April 28 – September 9, 2018

 

The Toad Queen: FOWC

Emerging from the earth

Spadefoot toad emerging from the earth 4May2018

The Spadefoot Toad Queen

The ground trembled beneath a stunted sagebrush shrub. The Toad Queen emerged from her burrow to a changed world. Clouds of smoke hung over the land from a wildfire. The spadefoot toad gazed at this new world through golden slitted eyes. Sand tumbled down her spotted back.

A purple larkspur plant stood near her burrow. Its head of flowers tilted toward the earth, wilted from the blistering heat.

The Toad Queen heard a meadowlark singing nearby. The song stopped abruptly, interrupted by a fit of coughing.

“What happened while I slept in my burrow?” She glanced around at the desert landscape.

GreatBasinSpadefootToad 4May2018She and the other spadefoot toads had pulled moisture from the soil as they slept underground and it helped them survive. Other creatures had not been so lucky. The carcass of a sage sparrow fledgling lay near her burrow. A few feathers clung to the tiny dried out body.

“Wind and fire are taking the water from the land,” her mate said. He had emerged from his own burrow. The toad shook the sand off the black spades on his hind feet.

“The sun is drying everything,” she said. “We must call for help.”

A call for help

Her mate called the spadefoot toads. His loud croaking call carried far over the sagebrush steppe. Other toads joined in and soon the air was filled with a chorus of croaks.

Over their heads, dark clouds collected in the smoky skies. Thunderheads formed. The patter of rainfall on the earth woke other spadefoot toads. They emerged from their burrows and joined in the chorus. The air was alive with the energy created by their song.

Rain fell, dousing the fires. White smoke rose from the burning trees and shrubs doused by the rain. Hours later, the fire was out.

“Thank you,” the Toad Queen said. She smiled at the group of spadefoot toads gathered around her.

Steens mountain tour, western meadowlark eastern Oregon 6April2018The meadowlark alighted on a greasewood shrub near the Toad Queen. His melodic song of gratitude echoed across the landscape.

Renewal and change was coming to this land, but it would take time.

FOWC – Energy

Patterns in water: Lens-Artists Challenge

Hard and soft patterns in water

To me, this image of patterns in water looks like the chiseled profile of a white-frosted creature from another world. The shape is echoed in the shoreline across the stream.

Patterns in water Amber Echoes 2June2018

Amber Echoes

This image looks like an alien planet where worlds float on pale greenish-gold islands anchored by strong strands of green. Once the worlds are full, they detach from their moorings and float away.

Patterns in water Floating Green Worlds 2June2018

Floating Green Worlds

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Patterns