A decorated tree: Thursday Tree Love

I saw this decorated tree near Sisters, Oregon. There was a nice contrast between the rough brown ponderosa pine bark and the delicate tufts of fluorescent green lichen.

A decorated tree October 2020

Thursday Tree Love

Marvelous Malachite up close: LAPC

Today I’m sharing close up photos of marvelous malachite. According to geology.com, malachite is a “green copper carbonate hydroxide mineral.” The site also refers to its striking green color and that’s why I collect it.

This first piece has a rough texture and interesting shape. For scale, it measures 1.5 x 1.0 inches.

Marvelous malachite up close January 2021
Rough green stone close up January 2021

The second piece is opposite of the first – rounded shapes and smooth textures. It measures 3.75 x 1.5 inches.

Marvelous malachite up close January 2021
Close up of green stone January 2021

The third piece is a cube that’s got interesting lines viewed from different angles. It measures 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 inches.

Marvelous malachite up close January 2021
a green stone cube January 2021

The last piece is an antique watch with a malachite face and band. Malachite has low hardness so it’s relatively easy to work with in making jewelry, carvings, etc. The watch face measures 1.0 x 0.75 inches.

Watch with malachite January 2021
Watch with malachite January 2021

Can you understand why I collect pieces of marvelous malachite? I love its green color and variety of textures.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – It’s a small world

What birds do you C?: Bird Weekly Challenge

What birds do you C in this post? The Bird Weekly Photo Challenge this week is birds that start with a “C.” Can you guess what each bird is? Answers are at the end.

1. This hawk likes to hang out around bird feeders to pick up a quick snack of songbirds. It’s a medium-size accipiter that lives in forested habitats

Cooper's Hawk September 2015
Bend, Oregon

2. This songbird’s name comes from its habit of foraging through piles of discarded grain. It’s common throughout parts of Europe and Asia.

What birds do you C March 2020
Carrigtohill, County Cork, Ireland

3. This songbird lives in colonies; usually near a water source. They collect mud to create unique gourd-shaped nests.

swallows in Yellowstone January 2015
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

4. This seabird, with its striking black and white plumage, is often described as a “flying penguin.” Other species in this family of birds include puffins and auks.

Seabirds in British Columbia February
Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada

5. North America’s largest shorebird is often seen inland, far from any ocean shoreline. Its name reflects a distinctive part of its anatomy.

What bird do you C near Burns, Oregon
Burns, Oregon

Answers: 1. Cooper’s hawk 2. chaffinch 3. cliff swallow 4. common murre 5. long-billed curlew

Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Birds that start with a C

A blooming cosmos up close: Macro Monday

A blooming cosmos

A blooming cosmos is one of my favorite sights to see in a garden. We had several colors of cosmos in our garden this summer, but this magenta-colored flower was my favorite. I love how the color contrasts with the bright yellow center. The bees appreciated them as well.

Macro Monday

Music from my singing dog – Happy Howl-idays!

My dog, Tesla, loves to sing along to music. She especially likes harmonica music. Here’s her version of Jingle Bells.

You may not be able to hear it very well in the background, but here’s who Tesla was singing along with. This talented musician plays 10 Christmas carols in 5 minutes.

May music find its way into your holiday celebrations.

Where words fail, music speaks.

Hans Christian Andersen

25 Day Christmas Challenge – Day 25 Christmas Morning

Birds on my Christmas tree: LAPC & SS

Many of us won’t be celebrating the holidays with close relatives, but we’ve grown closer to bird “families” in our yards. Interest in birding is soaring and people are flocking to this activity during the pandemic. I’m sharing the joy of birds in these photos of ornaments I’ve collected over the years.

Bluebirds capture the essence of the sky in their plumage. I’m hoping we have more bluebird days to look forward to soon.

Birds in my tree 19December2020
Mountain bluebird

Flocks of whooping crane birds fill the landscape with their unique “unison” call. Maybe people can heed the call towards unison in the upcoming year.

Whooping crane ornament December 2020
Whooping crane

Spotted owls swoop through a world full of uncertainties on outstretched wings. Finding the right course is not always easy.

Spotted owl ornament December  2020
Spotted owl

Cedar waxwing birds travel in groups known as an “ear-full.” Wearing ear-to-ear masks benefits everyone.

Cedar waxwing ornament December 2020
Cedar waxwing

Snowy owls have a “sit and wait” hunting strategy. It pays to be patient to reach your ultimate goal.

Snowy owl ornament December 2020
Snowy owl

Ring-necked pheasants have adapted well to living in a wide variety of situations. Roosting apart now, leads towards flocking together later.

Birds in my tree pheasant ornament December 2020
Ring-necked pheasant

Lens Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – And here comes the holidays

Sunday Stills (SS) – Lights

Sheepdog & pine basket: First Friday Art

To help celebrate the holidays this year, I’m sharing two pieces – a sheepdog & pine basket. I painted this Old English sheepdog on a rock for a friend. Doesn’t it look comfortable? This breed’s fluffy coat makes them appear much bigger than they are.

Sheepdog & pine basket

I’m portraying this rock on a small pine needle basket that I usually display on a wall. Though I’ve made pine needle baskets before, I didn’t make this one.

This piece was in an antique store so I don’t know its history. I love the pinwheel pattern in the center. Some unknown artist put a lot of time into creating this basket. Its delicate center, surrounded by the strength of the bundled pine needles, is tied together with radiating lines of tiny stitches.

Pine needle basket

First Friday Art

Hope you liked my sheepdog & pine basket artwork this month. Do you have artwork you would like to share? Include a First Friday Art tag on your post.

Igneous rocks up close: Macro Monday & SS

The following images of igneous rocks up close were taken in my yard near Bend, Oregon.

Igneous rocks Bend, Oregon November2020

What’s an igneous rock? Geology.com describes them as being “formed from the solidification of molten rock material.” For example, granite, gabbro, basalt, scoria, and obsidian are all types of igneous rock.

Igneous rocks Bend, Oregon November2020

You probably notice some of these rocks have round bubble-like holes in them. These “vesicles” form when gas is trapped within the melted rock at the time it cools and turns solid.

Interesting rocks Bend, Oregon November2020

As you can see, there is a lot of variety in texture and color in the igneous rocks in my yard. The rocks pictured are small enough to fit in the palm of my hand – the perfect size for collecting. 😉

Interesting rocks Bend, Oregon November2020

Macro Monday

Sunday Stills – Texture

Petroglyphs & pictographs in Harney County, Oregon

In April 2019, I went on a field trip to see petroglyphs & pictographs in Harney County, in eastern Oregon. This is one of the many trips offered as a part of the Harney County Migratory Bird Festival. Our guides that day were Bureau of Land Management archaeologists, Scott Thomas and Carolyn Temple.

One of the first things we learned was the difference between petroglyphs and pictographs.

Pictographs

Pictographs, like the images shown below, are painted onto rocks. These works are generally drawn with red, black, white, or yellow paint.

Pictographs frequently include depictions of animals. For example, the drawing at the top of the picture below appears to be a lizard.

petroglyphs & pictographs, Harney county, OR

Other works are classified as rectilinear abstracts. This form regularly includes straight lines, zigzags, lines resembling a rake, squares, chevrons, and other elements.

Pictographs in Harney county, Oregon April 2019

Abstract styles are fairly common in the northern part of the Great Basin. The pictograph below shows examples of the curvilinear abstract form. It includes circles, curvilinear meanders, dots, arcs, tally circles, together with more complex figures.

Rock art in Harney county, Oregon April 2019

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs are made by grinding and pecking rock away to form an image.

Abstract forms are also common in petroglyphs. These may include circles, connected circles, dots, curvilinear meanders, in addition to zigzagging and straight lines.

Petroglyphs in Harney county, Oregon April 2019

Our guides referred to the petroglyph below as the “super 8 movie camera.” Can you see the resemblance?

Petroglyphs & pictographs in Harney county, Oregon

Zigzagging and straight lines are carved into the rock at the top of this petroglyph.

Rock art in Harney county, Oregon April 2019

Significance and age of petroglyphs & pictographs

You may be wondering what these petroglyphs and pictographs represent. No one knows for sure. Some believe they document a specific event, such as a successful hunt. Others believe they were part of a religious ceremony or group history. However, they may also have been created as an artistic expression. All of these theories may in fact be correct.

It is also difficult to determine how old these images are. Sometimes researchers can use the lichens growing on the rocks or C-14 dating to age the petroglyphs and pictographs. When they studied rock art in nearby Lake County, they got a lucky break. Ash from the eruption of Mount Mazama 7,600 years ago covered the images. As a result, this helped them determine those particular images were at least that old. Creating rock art is an ancient practice that has existed for thousands of years.

Petroglyphs in Harney County, Oregon April 2019

Preserving the images and seeing them in new way

Our guides made a point of reminding us how fragile these images are. For instance, if you touch them, the oil in your skin can cause pictograph paint to deteriorate. Permanent damage has occurred as a result of visitors making rubbings of carved images. Unfortunately, as we witnessed, images in rural areas are often used for target practice. Due to the negligent actions of a few, access to some sites is limited. Our group helped preserve the images by documenting what we saw only with photographs.

The guides mentioned a really cool way to see more of the faint drawings. If you go to dstretch.com, you can get a plugin that allows you to “see” pigments impossible to see with the naked eye. I was out of cell range and couldn’t get the plugin but others had it. Wow! You see images where it looks like there are none. Impressive. Maybe next time…

In a High Desert yard: LAPC & Weekly Prompts

Like the rest of you out there, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. This week I’m featuring photos taken in a High Desert yard near Bend, Oregon.

If your gaze is focused downward lately, look at the elements of earth in a new light. This layer cake rock is interesting in color and form.

Igneous rock boulder 15November2020

As your gaze moves up, notice the textures you may have overlooked. The multilayered bark of juniper trees always catches my attention.

In a high desert yard May 2020

Though we can’t be together right now, we get the opportunity to watch those who can. These Eurasian collared doves are sharing a tender moment.

Eurasian collared doves May 2020

We can smile at those taking advantage of the situation. These two mule deer bucks are pausing to share a drink while my dogs are inside.

In a High Desert yard - 2 bucks September 2020

And when all seems bleak, we may be rewarded by lightness at the end of the day. Spectacular sunsets are a surprise worth waiting for.

In a High Desert yard - sunset October 2019

If we keep looking up, things should get better. In a High Desert yard, this splash of color emerged after a dark storm – a special gift from Mother Nature. 😀

Rainbow over junipers June 2020

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Found in the neighborhood

Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge – The Gift

In the morning light – 4 haiku: LAPC

In the morning light
Fireworks light up the fall sky
Amazement above

In the morning light sunrise October 2020
High desert sunrise

When the day breaks bright
We find our comfortable place
Basking in its warmth

Pixie-bob cat October 2020
Pixie-bob cat

In the light of day
Our differences stand out
Yet we share our songs

In the morning light - Songbirds drinking water
American robin, house sparrow, cedar waxwing, & lesser goldfinch

In the morning light
Snow melts from prickly branches
Revealing warm hearts

Snow on high desert cactus October 2020
Cholla & prickly pear cactus

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – The sun will come out tomorrow

A walk into fall: Pull up a seat challenge

This week I took a walk into fall at Pine Nursery Park in Bend, Oregon. Saw lots of beautiful fall colors and a comfortable bench along the way.

A walk into fall in Bend, Oregon
Pine Nursery Park fall color

Pull up a seat photo challenge Week 43

Shooting stars up close: Macro Monday

Shooting stars up close

Shooting stars up close. Wildflowers blooming on Glass Buttes in the High Desert of Oregon.

Macro Monday

Encounter with an Eurasian eagle-owl: BWPC

Eurasian eagle-owl

Being able to participate in an encounter with an Eurasian eagle-owl was one of my favorite things on a recent trip to Ireland. You have the opportunity to see various birds of prey up close and personal at the Dingle Falconry Experience, located on the Dingle peninsula.

Owl in flight in  Dingle, Ireland March 2020

This bird is a female named “Fluffy.” Eurasian eagle-owls are one of the largest owls in the world. Females, which are larger than the males, measure 30 inches in length. This owl’s wingspan is typically 4 feet 4 inches to 6 feet 2 inches.

Guide at Dingle Falconry Experience Ireland March 2020

The guides tell you about the life history of each species at Dingle Falconry Experience. In addition to the eagle-owl, they had an Irish barn owl, a peregrine falcon, and a Harris hawk the day I was there. You stand in a large circle and the birds fly to each participant’s gloved hand.

Owl being held at Dingle Falconry Experience March 2020

The Eurasian eagle-owl is brought to each participant. That’s because she is heavy! See our guide supporting my wrist when I’m holding Fluffy? Eurasian eagle-owls weigh 2.7 to 10.1 pounds, with females on the heavier end of the scale. Barn owls weigh 0.9 to 1.4 pounds in comparison.

If you’re ever in Dingle in County Kerry, Ireland, try to make time to participate in this unique experience. It’s one you will never forget! 😀

Bird Weekly Photo Challenge – Short legged birds

The Oregon Garden in late summer: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is to pick images that go with five possible words. I chose to use all five.

I am featuring pictures from a late September trip to The Oregon Garden, in Silverton, Oregon. It’s an 80-acre botanical garden that is beautiful to visit during any season.

This mixed border is an “exuberant” mix of colorful flowers of various sizes and textures.

The Oregon Garden mixed border September 2018

This planting looked “comfortable” with every plant spaced out so you can appreciate the details.

Landscaping in botanical garden in Silverton, Oregon September 2018

These chrysanthemums are “crowded” together in a quilt of color.

Chrysanthemums September 2018

This landscape is “growing” red as fall approaches.

The Oregon Garden September 2018

The cactus garden is “tangled” with the spiky leaves of prickly pear.

Prickly pear cactus in Silverton, Oregon September 2018

It can get crowded at The Oregon Garden, so if you don’t want to get tangled in traffic, plan your visit for a comfortable time of day so you can experience this growing attraction with the exuberance it deserves.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pick a word

To see how our efforts have paid off in our own growing garden space, see Garden of Plenty, posted a couple days ago.

Outdoor pronghorn painting: First Friday Art

Outdoor pronghorn painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020

Here’s an outdoor pronghorn painting I did in our backyard. It’s the first Friday of the month so it’s time to share your First Friday Art. If you have artwork you would like to share, use the First Friday Art tag.

We have an 8 x 16 foot shed in the backyard and it had a boring blank west-facing wall. It needed something to make it more interesting. I thought of painting a pronghorn, one of my favorite critters.

Out building prior to painting near Bend, Oregon August 2020
The shed prior to painting

I developed an appreciation for pronghorns many years ago when I did fieldwork at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in southeastern Oregon. Pronghorns, AKA antelope, are native in parts of western North America and they’re common at the refuge.

Steps taken to create the outdoor pronghorn painting

First I brightened up the side of the shed with some leftover light blue paint. Then I sketched out the pronghorn from pictures I had taken, supplemented with other source materials.

Sketch of pronghorn July 2020
First sketch

For some people doing the initial sketch is easy, but it’s not for me. Do you know what the picture below is?

Eraser dust on plywood July 2020

Eraser dust! I did a lot of erasing and redrawing.

The next step was back painting the silhouette of the pronghorn. I used an off white paint – more leftovers – to help the colors pop.

Back painted silhouette by Siobhan Sullivan July 2020
Back painted pronghorn

Next I sketched over the white paint.

Sketch over back painted painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020
Sketching over back painting

Then I painted in the big blocks of color and added shading. The last thing I paint is the eye. It can give a painting life.

Outdoor pronghorn painting by Siobhan Sullivan August 2020
The finished pronghorn painting

A dead juniper branch and igneous rock collected from my property helped the painting fit in with our High Desert setting.

Juniper branch, rabbitbrush, & rocks near Bend, Oregon August 2020

There will be more High Desert creatures added to this piece. I’ll start work on a badger, black-billed magpie, and golden-mantled ground squirrel.

I filled up some of my empty space (and empty time) creating this outdoor pronghorn painting. Hope you are finding time to be creative!

Brothers Stage Stop: Monochrome Monday

Brothers Stage Stop in Oregon July 2020

The Brothers Stage Stop, in Brothers, Oregon, is a little oasis in the high desert an hour east of Bend.

Monochrome Monday

My sanctuary through the seasons: LAPC

In my sanctuary
Spring arrives with a symphony
Birdsongs and blooms

Chives in bloom in the spring, near Bend, Oregon 2020

Summer arrives with a sizzle
Glowing and grand

Sunrise over my sanctuary Bend, Oregon 2019

Fall arrives with fireworks
Blazing and bright

Fall leaves near Bend, Oregon October 2018

In my sanctuary
Winter arrives with a whisper
Quiet and cool

My sanctuary in winter near Bend, Oregon 2020

Lens Artists Photo Challenge – Sanctuary

Outdoor Horse Sculptures: LAPC & Sculpture Saturday

Summer is a great time to go see outdoor horse sculptures in Bend, Oregon. Here are some of my favorites.

This mare and foal sculpture by Bernie Jestrabek-Hart is at the High Desert Museum. Constructed of barbed wire, this piece portrays a tender moment in a work that is strong yet delicate. Bernie wrote the book, Creating Realistic Works of Art with Barbed Wire , to help others interested in working in this medium.

Outdoor horse sculptures Bend, Oregon
Mare & Foal by Bernie Jestrabek-Hart

This draft horse standing within three large circles of steel is by Devin Laurence Field. Horses played an integral role in Bend’s logging industry. Devin painstakingly constructs each steel piece in a process that includes cutting, forging, pressing, welding, grounding and polishing. This sculpture is in a roundabout in the northeast part of Bend.

Sculpture Bend, Oregon July 2020
Might of the Work Force by Devin Laurence Field

Artist Danae Bennett-Miller drew her inspiration for this piece from her husband, who was a buckaroo. “Buckaroo” is an Anglicized version of the Spanish word vaquero, which means cowboy. Danae created this piece using a lost wax method of casting with bronze and glass. This piece is in a roundabout on the west side of Bend.

Outdoor art in Bend, Oregon July 2020
Bueno Homage to the Buckaroo by Danae Bennett-Miller

This sculpture of two draft horses pulling logs pays homage to the importance of the logging industry in Bend’s past. It’s by Greg Congleton and it’s in Farewell Bend Park. It’s constructed of many surprising metal pieces including gears & sprockets, spoons, a garden hoe, and a 1923 Oregon license plate.

Two Bits 4Dec2016
Two Bits by Greg Congleton

This sculpture is also by Greg Congleton. It’s located right outside the Tumalo Art Co. gallery. Greg grew up on a cattle farm in Paulina, Oregon and draws on that background for his creations. According to Greg, he’s been told that he’s “a strange mixture of artist, architect, engineer, and humorist.” Yes, I agree!

Outdoor horse sculptures Bend, Oregon July 2020
Charlie by Greg Congleton

If you like outdoor art, be sure to check out the outdoor horse sculptures in Bend. They are fantastic! 😀

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (LAPC) – Summer

Sculpture Saturday

Art at the Amphitheater in Bend

Art at the Amphitheater , Bend, Oregon November 2018

When I walk my dog in the Old Mill district, I always smile when I see the art at the amphitheater. The Les Schwab Amphitheater is the main venue for large events in Bend, Oregon. Minneapolis artist, Erin Sayer, painted the crow on one side of the stage and the owl on the other.

Fellow Minneapolis artist, Yuya Negishi, assisted her. Yuya painted a dragon mural on the side of a building across the river and another mural on a staircase.

Owl mural in Bend, Oregon December 2018
Artwork on utility box in Bend, Oregon November 2018

Even the utility boxes are painted.

There’s a big, open field in front of the stage.

Art at the Amphitheater , Bend, Oregon November 2018

The Deschutes River runs behind the stage. Here’s a view from across the river. Those silos on the right side belong to Deschutes Brewery.

View of amphitheater in Bend, Oregon November 2018

Events are temporarily postponed or cancelled because of coronavirus. Huge crowds, such as these seen at Bend Brewfest, often fill the fields at events.

Brewfest in Bend, Oregon August 2018

The flower border along one side of the field is spectacular at certain times of the year.

Flower border in Old Mill district of Bend, Oregon September 2017

Accommodations for entertainers at this venue are unique. They are old boxcars resting on a section of train track. You can see the old train station, built in 1911, across the street.

Accommodations for entertainers in Bend, Oregon April 2019

Here’s a closer view of the train station on a winter day. Now it’s the Art Station, managed by Bend Park and Recreation District. It offers art classes for adults and children.

 Art Station in Bend, Oregon 9March2019

Art at the Amphitheater shows up in many forms including murals, concerts, colorful flower borders, art classes, and locally brewed beers. 😀

Many shades of obsidian: Weekend Challenge

There are many shades of obsidian in nature. The Weekend Challenge from GC and SueW, and their monthly color challenge for June, is the color Obsidian.

By coincidence, I was out in the yard yesterday morning rearranging some of the obsidian I’ve collected at nearby Glass Buttes. Here in Bend, Oregon, we recently had a huge storm with high winds, rain, and hail. My rocks all had a nice bath. 😉

Here are few portraits of obsidian rocks in my garden.

A piece of black obsidian in with the ice plants. I like to pick up pieces that have interesting textures.

Many shades of obsidian. Black obsidian & ice plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

Here’s a larger piece of black obsidian tucked in under the mint plants.

Black obsidian & mint plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

Here are a trio of mahogany obsidian rocks.

Mahogany obsidian from Glass Buttes, Oregon May 2020

Here are three smaller pieces beneath a cholla cactus. Spotted mahogany colored rocks, like the middle piece in the photo below, are called leopardskin obsidian. If that’s true, is the striped piece on the left tigerskin obsidian? I don’t think so!

Go to OreRockOn and look under the Obsidian & Knapping for Sale tab to see pictures of many varieties of obsidian.

Obsidian beneath a cholla cactus. Bend, Oregon May 2020

This is green sheen obsidian. It has stripes of green color crossing the black.

Green sheen obsidian . Bend, Oregon May 2020

This piece of silver sheen obsidian is being guarded by a prickly pear cactus. Silver sheen, and other types of obsidian, have a sparkly iridescence when you tilt them in the light.

Many shades of obsidian. Silver sheen obsidian . Bend, Oregon May 2020

This gunmetal obsidian, next to an Oregon sunshine plant, blends in with the color of the gravel. Gunmetal is solid gray in color.

Gunmetal obsidian & Oregon sunshine plant. Bend, Oregon May 2020

These are just a few of the many shades of obsidian located an hour away from my house. Lucky me!

For more on Glass Buttes, in eastern Oregon, see Glass Buttes Obsidian Field Trip and Glass Butte Dragonglass . I Like Rocks! shows more rock pictures taken in my gardens.

My Mount St. Helens Adventure: FOWC

On May 18, 1980, a trip to help band golden eagles at the Yakima Canyon in eastern Washington turned into an unexpected Mount St. Helens adventure.

Mount St. Helens, Washington March 1980
Mount St. Helens in March 1980

The adventure begins

I was part of the Young Adult Conservation Corps, working for the Washington Department of Game in Olympia, Washington. We spent most of our time in the office, but we took occasional field trips. One of the wildlife biologists invited four of us to help him band eagles and we were excited to get out in the field. 

Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara
Virginia rail by Becky Matsubara

     We piled into John’s Volkswagen van and took off for eastern Washington. John suggested stopping at Crab Creek Habitat Management Area, 20 minutes south of Royal City, to do a little birdwatching before driving south to meet the biologist. We stopped and saw yellow-headed blackbirds, cinnamon teal and other kinds of ducks, a short-eared owl, and two Virginia rails with a newly hatched chick.

Google map showing location of Mount St. Helens & Royal City, Washington
The red marker indicates the location of Mount St. Helens and the yellow marker shows the location of Royal City, Washington.

     We drove along the road bordering Crab Creek. There was talk of taking our raft down the creek. Nobody could decide what to do so we pulled off the main road onto a minor side road a half a mile from Smyrna. We had no idea how long we would end up staying on that side road.

Yellow-headed blackbird Rising above the mist 6April2018
Yellow-headed blackbird

     We got out of the van to check out the creek and noticed what looked like a storm brewing in the west. John, who was familiar with the area, said that if we rafted the creek, we would see more than we could by car. The rest of us were hesitant about rafting if there was any possibility of rain. As we stood there trying to decide what to do, a “storm” drifted into the valley. John kept saying it wouldn’t matter if we got a little wet and kept insisting we should raft the creek. We still couldn’t decide what to do.

  At around 8:30 a.m., we heard what sounded like two sonic booms. We figured the sound came from the nearby Yakima Firing Range, where the United States Army did training exercises. A little while after that, we heard thunder and Dave and I thought we smelled rain. This was Sally’s first time in eastern Washington. She had recently moved from Pennsylvania, and we were busy explaining to her that sometimes big thunderstorms move through eastern Washington. By this time you couldn’t see the far end of the valley and lightning crackled across the sky. John mentioned that he’d gone to college in Ellensburg, an hour west of us, and thunderstorms were common. The rest of us believed him at that point, but we had concerns about the storm.

Uh… that’s not a thunderstorm

     The clouds kept moving in until they covered half the sky. Electrical wires overhead buzzed from the electricity in the air. The buzz would get louder until a flash of lightning and a peal of thunder would rock the valley and then the buzz would start again. Meanwhile, the clouds overhead looked like someone had spilled an enormous bowl of gray-colored popcorn and it had spread across the sky. We started talking about how we had never seen clouds like that. Dave, who was from Alabama, said it looked like a tornado sky.

Ash cloud from Mount St. Helens' eruption, 18 May 1980
The ash cloud

As we talked, the clouds changed again. Now they looked like gigantic fists pounding down on us. By this time, John had given up on rafting the creek and he ran to the van to get his camera. I asked him to grab mine, and we both took pictures of the amazing clouds as they formed overhead. If you followed one it would move downward, exploding into a black haze.

     The immense dark clouds now covered about three quarters of the sky. It was dark overhead, and the only light left was in the east. The effect was that of an eerie sunset, but it was 11:00 in the morning. The darkness continued to move across the sky until only a sliver of light remained on the horizon.

Mount St. Helens, Washington March 1980
Mount St. Helens in March 1980

     At about this time, Sally said she felt something falling on her face. She asked us if we felt it and we said “no” but one by one we felt something falling on us too. John turned on the radio in the van. It said, “In case you haven’t heard, Mount St. Helens has blown.” We looked at each other in disbelief and John let out a hoot and said the mountain “had finally done it.” Several weeks before, we had taken a quick trip to the west side of the mountain for a planned Mount St. Helens adventure. On that trip, we took pictures of the mountain venting steam.

We were excited and didn’t know what to do next. Everyone decided we better get into the van when the ash fall got heavy. It was also getting dark out. The ash was coming down so heavy it was impossible to go out without something covering your mouth. We were 120 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens, directly in the ash’s path. Lightning still flashed every once in a while, spreading in a horizontal direction, like fingers reaching across the sky. The flashes were the only outside light we would glimpse for many hours.

The long dark day

     It was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The time was around 11:30 a.m. We didn’t know how long we would be there so we only turned on the radio every once in a while. The disc jockeys were excited about the eruption and played songs like “Volcano” by Jimmy Buffet and “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. I remember part of Jimmy Buffet’s lyrics in particular: “I don’t know where I’m going to go when the volcano blows.” We had one beer in the van and shared it in a toast to the volcano. We got out a flashlight and spread a map outside to collect ash.

     I lit a candle lantern but a little while later we dug out John’s Coleman lantern. We only kept the light on for brief periods of time because it would get too hot in the van. Whenever we opened the window, ash and mosquitoes would pour into the van. We wondered how long we would be in there and what we would do to pass the time.

     We talked about what we were experiencing for a while. If we hadn’t been near a radio, we could have thought this was a nuclear explosion and that stuff falling from the sky was radioactive fallout. With the sky being so dark and everything so quiet, it would have been easy to think it was the end of the world. We should have been in a panic, but we were calm about the whole situation. The darkness surrounding us had a kind of presence, but it wasn’t a frightening one.

Okay, now what?

     As it became more and more clear that we might be stuck where we were for a while, we started trying to think of things to do. We were lucky we had plenty of food because our plan was to meet four other people and we had enough for everyone for four days. We couldn’t cook anything, but we had plenty of vegetables to snack on and peanut butter and jelly to make sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were the easiest things to make. Dave, who once worked as a camp counselor, sang us a camp song about the sandwiches in his soft southern drawl.

Peanut butter & jelly sandwich 10 May 2020
Peanut butter & jelly sandwich

     “First you take the peanuts and you crunch ’em, you crunch ‘em… For your peanut, peanut butter and jelly. Peanut, peanut butter and jelly.”

     He cracked us up because of the funny way he sang and danced to the song. Dave pretended to pick grapes, crush peanuts, and spread peanut butter and jelly onto bread. Every time he said the word “jelly” he raised his voice for emphasis. It was easy to imagine how his rendition would entertain young campers.  

   After that, we started telling dumb jokes and singing camp songs. When we started running out of those, John said he thought he had a deck of cards in the van. He found them, and we played cards for a long time.

     We would shut off the light every once in a while because of the heat and to check if it was still dark. It was early afternoon, and the sky was pitch black. When we opened the van door and turned the light on, the mosquitoes and moths would come inside again. We spent a long time trying to get rid of the mosquitoes. They were big ones! As it got later in the day, we thought about sleeping arrangements. We rearranged our gear, including the rubber raft, cooler, and bags of food, to find a place to sleep semi-comfortably.

Meeting some local wildlife

     Around this time, we heard a big thud against the side of the van. We looked at each other and when we realized none of us had made the noise, we rushed to lock the doors. I don’t know why, but everyone had the same thought at the same time. We wondered if something had run into the van. John turned on his headlights and we saw a duck lying on the ground. It must have flown into the van because it couldn’t navigate in the darkness. The duck was flapping around like the collision injured it, so I jumped out to check if it was okay. The bird flew off after a couple unsuccessful attempts so it must not have been hurt too badly.

Young swallows in Bend, Oregon 14 August 2016
Young barn swallows

     A little while later, when we had the light on, a swallow flew around the windows like it was trying to get into the van. The swallow perched on the windshield wipers for a while and then it would flutter around again. The animals were feeling the effects of the heavy ash fall. John and I thought about the Virginia rail chick we had seen that morning. It was so young it wasn’t yet able to stand. It was likely covered by ash now. We would see more effects on the local wildlife when we woke up the next morning.

     By evening we were getting restless and eager for some sign that we would see the light of day again. At around 8:30 p.m., we got a brief glimpse of the landscape. It was light enough to make out the hills surrounding us, but not enough to see very far down the valley. The quick glimpse showed us the ash covering everything, and it was still falling. Dave and John set out a tarp to collect more ash. The map we had laid out earlier had about ¾ of an inch of ash on it. Darkness came again as night fell. The night was quiet and starless.

A glimpse of light after Mount St. Helens eruption 19 May 1980
A glimpse of daylight in the evening

A new day

     We woke the next morning to an unfamiliar world. It was like a layer of gray snow had covered the land. Before, the plants had been green and growing and now they were a pale gray color and bent over from the weight of the ash. The ash covering the ground was nearly two inches deep. The consistency was like baby powder. If you picked up a handful and threw it in the air, it would stay suspended for a while. If you stepped onto it, it was like moon dust. It would whoosh around the sides of your shoe and when you moved your foot away, a deep and perfect print would remain.

Cinnamon Teal 30March2018
Cinnamon teal

     As we looked around, there were signs that animals had been very active during the night. Everywhere you looked, you saw tracks. It’s too bad we didn’t have a field guide to animal tracks with us because this would have been the perfect opportunity to use it. Rabbit, mouse, and bird tracks ran in neat lines across the ash. Several tracks formed intricate designs like those of the beetle we observed trudging across this new ash-covered world. It would do loops, turns, stop, and then do it again. Ants tunneled their way out of the thick ash, already adapting to the unfamiliar landscape. An occasional duck would fly by, and a few floated in the nearby creek. The animals were trying to adapt to this altered world, but they didn’t all survive the extended gloomy night.

Making our way towards civilization

Nursing a beer, stranded on a Mount St. Helens adventure 18 May 1980
Nursing our single beer

     We decided we had better try to get out of there and back to civilization. John and Dave picked up the tarp and guessed it held ten pounds of ash. We collected ash in containers and ended up collecting a lot on our shoes and clothing. The ash was still thick in the air and we wore bandanas to help keep it out of our noses and mouths. We took pictures of everyone looking like a bunch of bank robbers.

     A couple cars drove by in the distance so everyone decided we should try to get going too. We got in the van to drive to Odessa, an hour and a half to the northeast. The route went up a hill and after we had driven a few miles, the van conked out. It had overheated. This VW van was air cooled, taking air in through collectors on the sides and circulating the air around the engine. The hot, ash-filled air wasn’t cooling the engine down enough. John got mad and took a walk. When he came back, he told us there was an intersection not too far up the hill. Luckily the van started, and we took off towards “civilization.”

     Every time a car drove on the roads, it would kick up huge dust clouds that were almost impossible to see through. The main east-west highway in Washington State, Interstate 90, was closed because of the heavy accumulation of ash. 

An enormous amount of ash fell at Mount St. Helens, but as it drifted east, accumulations were heavier in certain parts of eastern Washington. We later learned that prior to the eruption, the mountain measured 9,677 feet at the summit. After the eruption, it measured 8,363 feet. A lot of that material had shot up into the atmosphere.

Ash fallout from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. USGS.
The distribution of ash fallout from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. USGS.

Royal City

     After stopping at a corner store and attempting to call Olympia, we headed for Royal City. The people at the store told us the church there was taking in travelers. The population of Royal City in 1980 was 676 people. We drove to the nearby church and the van almost died again. The van made it to the church and we ended up staying there with about 75 other people for four days.

     We donated most of our food to the church so they could share it with the other stranded travelers. The majority of the food served was from the community and there was plenty for everyone. We ate a lot of delicious home-canned vegetables and fruit.

Mount St. Helens adventure in Royal City, Washington 18 May 1980
The parking lot at the church in Royal City, Washington

     The pastor, his wife, and the sheriff showed great patience in a tough situation. During the last two days of our stay, people were getting antsy to get out of there and they were getting on each other’s nerves. Sally, Dave, John, and I were getting along fine and passed time by telling more dumb jokes.

     “Why did the cowboy want a dachshund? So he could get a long little doggie.”

Miniature dachshund by Ellen Levy Finch
Miniature dachshund by Ellen Levy Finch

     We went to the high school to take showers and once to play basketball and volleyball. As soon as you walked outside, you felt dirty because of the intense heat and the ash floating through the air. Back at the church, the pastor got everyone singing after dinnertime every day to get their minds off the situation. One night they sang “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and then a song about the walls of Jericho tumbling down. I don’t think most people even realized how the songs applied to our predicament.

      With the help of the townspeople, we made it through our time in Royal City. They made plans for a convoy with patrol cars, graders, and firetrucks with hoses to help us get back home. Water from the hoses helped to keep the ash down briefly. The convoy would leave the next morning.

The journey home

     When we woke up the next morning, the parking lot was almost empty because everyone drove by themselves. We took off with a couple from Seattle following us. It’s good they did because after the van broke down twice in 15 miles, we abandoned it. We left the van at a farm and gave them our food that would have spoiled. The six of us squeezed into the Seattle couple’s compact car and drove to Bellevue, where John’s parents lived. This ride normally took two-and-a-half hours, but it took way longer that day.

     John and Dave drove back to get the van the next day. They towed it to John’s parent’s house and worked on it. The ash had been very cruel to the van and unfortunately it would never run again. The van delivered us from our secluded ash-covered camp and worked a couple more times, but it just couldn’t make it the entire way.

Mount St. Helens adventure February 2020
Mount St. Helens in the foreground flanked by Mount Rainier (on the left) and Mount Adams (on the right) in February 2020

     When we finally returned to our offices in Olympia, it was like the four of us were joined at the hip. We moved in a herd from room to room. Because of our shared experiences, we couldn’t bear to be apart for a while.

     We will always remember this once in a lifetime Mount St. Helens adventure.

Mount St. Helens adventure February 2020
Closer view of Mount St. Helens in February 2020.

Written in May 1980 and edited for clarity. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

About the pictures

Today’s Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) word is “photograph.” I was lucky because I had before, during, and after photographs for this story. I took a lot of pictures when the eruption was happening but I had a little problem. Ash got into my camera and destroyed it. The handful of pictures I was able to save were overexposed. If only I would have had a smartphone!

Go on your own Mount St. Helens adventure

You can learn more about the mountain at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center, the Charles W. Bingham Forest Learning Center , the Mount St. Helens Science & Learning Center, and the Johnston Ridge Observatory.

I like rocks!: LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Pastimes so I immediately thought of rocks. I have always collected them.

Here’s a still life of rocks in my collection. Some we found, some were purchased, and others were gifts.

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

A couple of weeks ago we visited Glass Buttes, one of my favorite places. Yes, there are several types of obsidian in this haul, but I also picked up ones that looked cool. I like the large one in the upper left in particular.

I like rocks collection of various rocks in Oregon May 2020

I try to incorporate the rocks we find at various locations into our landscaping. Here’s a few around a cholla cactus I started from a single “leaf.”

Rocks around a cholla plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Stones encircling a golden sword yucca plant.

Rocks around a yucca plant, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Igneous rock from our property was used to make the border of this raised bed in the vegetable garden. The hops and chives are growing well.

A rock border in a vegetable garden, Bend, Oregon May 2020

As you may know, I like to paint rocks. I have previously featured pictures of an Australian shepherd and Tyrannosaurus rex I painted.

However, I am not the only rock painter in my neighborhood. When the lock down started due to the coronavirus, a few of my neighbors began to paint rocks with positive messages and distribute them around the neighborhood. This one was by my mailbox one day. This is one of my most precious rocks!

A painted rock with a friendly message, Bend, Oregon May 2020

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Pastimes

Wolfe Ranch root cellar: Monochrome Monday

Wolfe Ranch root cellar, Arches National Park, Utah 2May2017

Wolfe Ranch root cellar at Arches National Park, Utah. This ranch was settled in 1888 by John Wolfe and his oldest son.

Monochrome Monday

Vista House: Views of the Columbia

Vista House in Corbett, Oregon October 2019

A unique landmark

Vista House is a unique landmark sitting high above the Columbia River about a half hour east of Portland, Oregon. Perched atop Crown Point, 733 feet above the Columbia River, this site serves as a rest stop and observatory for people traveling the Historic Columbia River Highway. 

Assistant Highway Engineer Samuel Lancaster was the supervisor of the Columbia River Highway project in 1913. It was his idea to offer a place that would make the natural wonders of the Columbia River Gorge more accessible to visitors. Lancaster thought Crown Point would be an ideal site for “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.” 

Sandstone & stained glass, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Sandstone exterior

Architect Edgar M. Lazarus designed the structure in a modern German style that incorporated aspects of Art Nouveau. Multnomah County road master John B. Yeon supervised Vista House’s construction. Construction started in 1916 and was completed in 1918.

State funds were not available for its construction, so it was funded by Multnomah County and from private sources. Local schoolchildren were among the contributors. Because of its high costs, the public dubbed it the “million dollar outhouse.” It was original budgeted at $12,000 but ultimate costs were closer to $100,000, nearly $2 million in today’s dollars.

Ceiling with faux painting, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Faux-painted ceiling

Construction details

The exterior of the eight-sided building is constructed from gray sandstone. Vista House is 55 feet high and 44 feet in diameter. Inside, light cream and pink Kasota limestone covers most of the interior. They used Tokeen Alaskan marble in the rotunda’s floors and stairs. It was also used in the wainscotting in the basement. Original plans for Vista House called for the dome ceiling to be constructed of marble supported by ribs of bronze. Costs were high, so they painted the ceiling to simulate the look of marble and bronze. The upper windows have greenish opalized glass. The tall rotunda windows are green at the tops and clear below, allowing visitors to take in the 360-degree view. Green tiles covered the original roof.

Marble lined hallway, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
Marble wainscotting

There are poems posted on the pillars within the rotunda. Here is my favorite one:

We call upon the mountains,
the Cascades and the Olympics,
the high green valleys
and meadows filled with wildflowers,
the snows that never melt,
the summits of intense silence,
and we ask that they

Teach us, and show us the Way.

We call upon the forests,
the great trees reaching
strongly to the sky
with earth in their roots
and the heaven in their branches,
the fir and the pine and the cedar,
and we ask them to

Teach us, and show us the Way.

-Chinook Invocation—Quoted in Edward Goldsmith, The Way, 1992

More to see

In the basement, you’ll find a small museum and gift shop. There are also several interpretive displays in the hallways. A million visitors visit this site each year.

Vista House went through extensive renovations in 2000-2005. A copper roof, installed over the tiles for 50 years, was removed and they installed green roof tiles similar to the originals. Upgrades included installing an energy efficient geothermal heat pump system.

Vista House view, Corbett, Oregon October 2019
View to the east
View of Vista House from Chanticleer Point, Oregon October 2019
View of Vista House from Chanticleer Point

Here’s a photo sphere view of the inside. Drag the image around to get the full picture. Vista House 360-degree view.

More info

Crown Point was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

This Oregon State Parks brochure includes a map that shows Vista House and many other scenic treasures worth visiting along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Wet and Wild Otters Haiku: LAPC

Wet and wild otters
Grateful for their liquid world
Tread into its depths

Otter in shallow water, Bend, Oregon 2016

Gliding silently
Steering with slender rudders
In a search for bliss

Otter swimming in shallow water, Bend, Oregon 2016

Meeting and greeting
Leaping and pirouetting
Dancers of the deeps

Wet and wild otters in Bend, Oregon 2016
Wet and wild otters in Bend, Oregon 2016

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – ALL WET