The Lost Forest – A short story: LAPC & SWP

When I was a young child, my grandfather often told me the tale of the Lost Forest. Here is how he told it…

Lost Forest in Oregon

The people of the village disliked them for their beliefs, distrusted them for their appearance, so they fled. The villagers pursued them so they ran faster and faster.

They paused on a faraway hill and sought shelter beneath the sagebrush. The pursuers shouted in the distance. Unsure what to do, they became a part of the environment.

Ponderosa pine bark

One by one, they stood still and extended their arms with palms tilted upward. Long green needles sprouted from their fingertips. Puzzle-like bark crept over their skin. They wiggled their toes and pale white roots snaked their way into the soil. A shudder ran through their bodies and branches poked through their buckskin clothing.

And then they grew. They shed their human form and grew taller and taller.

Lost Forest in Oregon

They continued running, dispersing themselves among the sagebrush. One froze in mid-stride when he turned into a tree.

Bent knee Ponderosa pine

Years passed, and they formed a dense forest, lush and green.

They lived their lives apart from their people, always waiting for their arrival. Aged ones stood until they could stand no longer and then tumbled to the ground.

Standing snag in Oregon
Fallen tree in Oregon

New lives arose from the old. The young ones learned how to thrive in a land with little water.

The old ones told them tales of their former home. They told them the village covered the plains, hills, and mountains. They spoke of loving people, never of those who sowed distrust.

Pine cones

One day a young woman entered the forest. The oldest pines recognized the beaded pattern on her moccasins and cloak. There was something familiar about how her hair was braided. She was family!

The forest trees whispered and a dust devil carried their voices to her. She cupped her ear and nodded.

“I found you at last,” she said.

Others in the village learned of her experience and visited the forest. Some had concerns over their differences, but the forest embraced their kin.

From then on, they called it the Lost Forest. Though their people lived many miles apart, they were united once again.

Lost Forest pine tree

More about the Lost Forest

My recent visit to the Lost Forest Research Natural Area in Central Oregon inspired me to write this story. This isolated stand was once a part of a much larger forest at a time when the climate was cooler and wetter. The 9,000-acre Lost Forest is 40 miles away from the closest ponderosa pine stand.

Only 9 inches of rain falls in a year near the Lost Forest. Most pine trees need twice that much rain in order to grow well. However, in this location, the unique soil structure, combined with groundwater being close to the surface, helps the trees thrive. The pine trees in the Lost Forest are special in another way since their seeds germinate more quickly than other pines. So even though these trees live “alone,” they have survived.

Here’s a general map of the region from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Change of Scenery

Sunday Writing Prompt – Lost

The Hoodoos – A story in 47 words: LAPC & WWP

Walking among the hoodoos in the morning light, feeling out of my element.

Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon

Sculpted towers surround me, casting tall shadows. Their wind-carved faces turn towards the sun,

Close up at Bryce Canyon

until clouds block their view.

Clouds over Bryce Canyon National Park

Shadows lengthen, darkness threatens me.

Hoodoos at Bryce

Snowdrifts create luminous lights.

Snow at Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos retreat, marching towards another day.

Snow at Bryce Canyon

Weekend Writing Prompt #199 – Element

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Natural Light

Rocky start to photography: LAPC

For me, it was a rocky start to photography. As I mentioned on my About page, I dropped out of Photography class in High School. I was failing the class. My focus was still unclear during those rebellious years.

College and beyond

A rocky start to photography
Maidenhair fern printed in my darkroom

In college, everything changed when I roomed with two Photography majors. In one of the places I lived we converted a bathroom into a makeshift darkroom. I spent a lot of time in that room, unrolling spools of film in semi-darkness and immersing prints in sharp-scented fixatives.

I also served as a part-time muse since the college required Photography program students to take one roll of pictures a day. The infrared picture of me below, dressed as a lion, was taken by my roommate Jill.

Infrared lion with wine
Me dressed as a lion with wine in infrared

During one winter break, we left our rented house to spend time with our families. I arrived back at the house days ahead of everyone else. A catastrophe greeted me. Unbeknownst to me, my out-of-state roommates neglected to pay the electric bill—they assumed our rent included electricity. The electric company turned off our power when no one was in town, and the house was ice cold. The pipes had broken in the ceiling, releasing a steady stream of dripping water. My first thought was, “Her photos!” I scrambled to salvage my roomie’s pictures from her drenched room. String zigzagged from wall to wall and I hung up the saturated prints.

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Recognizing a place in Placed: High Desert writings

I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories was recently published in Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon, Vol. 1. This slim volume, however, is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense of the word. It contains a collection of poetry and prose about this part of the planet. Central Oregon includes sagebrush deserts, thick pine forests, winding rivers, and volcanoes lining the horizon. Placed embraces tales of the wild, but also stories related to unique features – like Ocean Rolls from a local bakery.

Placed: An Encyclopedia of Central Oregon

My contribution is The Toad Queen, written after encountering a Great Basin spadefoot toad in my yard. It is one of the most unique things I’ve observed in Oregon – unlike anything I have ever seen. I snapped a couple pictures of it and gently pushed it off the trail. This creature with such an odd appearance and life history deserves a special story.

Unique sights Great Basin Spadefoot Toad 4May2018
Great Basin Spadefoot Toad
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The tree people of autumn: LAPC, RDP, & SS

When the warmth of summer slips into the shadows, the tree people of autumn emerge. No one notices them at first. Their queen guides them concealed beneath a cloak of crimson leaves.

The tree people of autumn

The tree people camouflage themselves as creatures of the forest. Their colors shift as their power increases.

Sometimes they appear as deer, leaping through the forest with antlers of glowing gold.

Golden fall leaves reflected image
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Someday in the future: LAPC

Someday in the future I’ll live on a street full of possibilities

Someday in the future, Road sign, Bend, Oregon 8February2020

Someday I’ll live where birds are the color of the sky

Scrub jay, Bend, Oregon 3June2017

And flowers are the color of the sun

Balsamroot flowers near the Columbia Gorge 15April2017
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Secret Blue Views: Two short stories

Did you know there are secret rooms at McMenamins Old St Francis in Bend? Here are pictures of two of the blacklight rooms with their secret blue views.

You can’t get into to the rooms through a traditional door. You have to find special panels in the hallway and push them in just the right spot.

The secret blue views inspired me to write microfiction stories related to each room.

Story 1

On the night of the harvest moon, trees in a hidden forest create plump blue and red fruit. Jackrabbits venture into the forest, searching for the red fruit. They nibble on their magic and dance until the sun rises and the fruit disappears.

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A black & white world – 4 haiku: LAPC

In a black & white world, everything is laid bare for all to see.

A lack of color
Highlights drama in the skies
In brilliant detail

A black & white world, A storm brewing near Sisters, Oregon August 2019
A storm brewing near Sisters, Oregon

A lack of color
Gives expression to patterns
Often unobserved

California quail near prickly poppy, Bend, Oregon May 2017
California quail near prickly poppy
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With two you can… : LAPC

The Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week is Seeing Double. Sometimes two heads are better than one.

With two you can share your wisdom.

With two you can share wisdom. Burrowing owls at High Desert Museum, Bend, Oregon 2016
Burrowing owls

With two you can have differences of opinion…

Ospreys nesting along the Deschutes River, Bend, Oregon 2018
Ospreys
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Stories within the layers of stone: LAPC

Sometimes I look at layered rock formations and imagine stories within the layers.

This formation at Fort Rock looks like the giant prow of a ship bursting through the cliffs.

Stories within the layers, Fort Rock 10 June 2016

A closer look shows where the water levels were before the ship drained the basin.

Rock formation at Fort Rock, Oregon 10 June 2016
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Writing a book is like making a bowl of oatmeal

You start by preparing either a quick type by the seat of your pants or

One that cooks longer and involves more planning

Once it’s cooked, the oatmeal, and the book draft, may be dull and boring

Writing a book like making oatmeal30April2019

So you spice it up by sprinkling it with cinnamon

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Words into Art-Temperance Creek: LAPC

Words into Art

Imnaha River - Jackie Smith 6April2019  Words into art
Imnaha River – Jackie Smith

My friend asked me to go hear author Pamela Royes talk about her book Temperance Creek: A Memoir at a quilt shop. At a quilt shop? I thought. I didn’t know that QuiltWorks had a “Books to Quilts” program.

Pamela spoke about her book and showed slides of where she lives in the rugged country near Hells Canyon in northeastern Oregon. A chance encounter with Skip Royes led her into living the life of a wandering shepherder. She and Skip spent four years on a life-changing journey in the wilderness. Pamela transforms from a carefree hippie into a responsible woman who learns to appreciate the wildness of her new home. She also learns of the culture of the Nez Perce, who first occupied this land.

Her lyrical prose helps paint pictures in your mind of her adventures and the surrounding country. Quilters made the “words into art” and they displayed their work in this shop. Pamela became emotional as she described her appreciation for the quilts depicting her words. These creative works meant more to her than any trophy.

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A little bird told me my short story won…

Sage Grouse drawings by Siobhan Sullivan April2019
Drawing of a character from my book, Dark Fountain Songs.

I entered a short story I wrote in a local contest and I just found out it took first place in the Children’s Fiction category. Hooray for me! 😀

The short story from my first novel is called How the River of Falls Came to Be and it’s about a little newt who gets more than he asks for. He ends up turning into a tortoise in the desert and he misses the rain.

Here are the last couple of paragraphs:

“Many years later, Tortoise passed away and his shell tipped upside-down and filled with water from passing storms. In fact, the shell caught so much rain it overflowed. The heavy shell eventually sunk and settled deep in the earth. It became the source of a river with many waterfalls. Río de las Caídas.

Sometimes when you walk along the river, you can see the smiles of Rain and Sun in waterfall rainbows. They are showing their gratitude for the gift Tortoise gave to the world.”

I’ll be reading the story I entered in the Central Oregon Writers Guild Contest next month at the downtown library in Bend, Oregon.

Back to work editing my book, Dark Fountain Songs. Maybe I’ll draw some pictures of tortoise to go along with the “award-winning” tale.

High Desert Voices Newsletter – March 2019

I’m sharing the March issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter. It’s a newsletter for volunteers and staff at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon. I help out with the newsletter and I’m particularly proud of this issue.

High Desert Museum newsletter, High Desert Museum entrance

This issue of the High Desert Voices newsletter includes a History event – 19th Century Making & Mending; Art – a new exhibit by Native American artist, Rick Bartow; Nature – a fact sheet on white sturgeon; People – a profile of our Communication Director; and Recreation – a trail through the colorful Blue Basin. There’s a little more related to updates for the different areas of the Museum and kudos, for work well done.

Enjoy the newsletter! To see more, go to Volunteer Newsletters.

Badgers & Magpies & Leopards, Oh my!

Badgers Yellowstone NPk 13June2011
Badgers at Yellowstone National Park

In The Story Who Came to Visit, I mentioned I would be doing an Open Mic event here in Bend. Yes, it does take a bit of courage to do something like that. Yesterday I read a short piece from the children’s book I wrote during NaNoWriMo. The audience was eager to hear the work of local writers.

I read a story about a bullied girl who finds her courage after talking with a magpie and a badger. They both have hidden weaknesses but found their inner strength. Nuǎn, the main character in the story, finds her strength just when she needs it most. A snow leopard that had attacked her and left her scarred is about to attack another child.

Here’s an excerpt from that scene:

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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
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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.

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Where the deer and the antelope played

Celebrating a life

After living a life full of leaps and bounds, she settled down in her favorite aspen grove. The bunchgrass waved goodbye. The rabbitbrush shaded her in her final moments. The rosebush provided fruit in celebration of her life. And finally, the aspen covered her in leaves of gold.

Where the deer and the antelope played 2November2017Weekly Photo Challenge – Story

Juniper of Dreams

“Its trunk had twisted and turned over the years as the roots sought water far below. The tree was more than a thousand years old. Crinkled yellow-green lichens adorned dark bare branches reaching skyward. Clumps of scaly foliage and tiny silver-blue cones clung to a scattering of branches.” – Description of Enebros de Sueños, the Juniper of Dreams, in a magical realism story I’m working on.

Western tree in Bend, Oregon 19November2017

I have lots of western juniper trees on my property but this particular one serves as my muse. I have included it in many photos – see Juniper Muse – but now it is also a mysterious character in a children’s book I’m working on. The tree is old and twisted with age, yet it persists.

The Daily Post – Particular

Visiting Westworld

In search of Westworld

Do you enjoy watching the HBO series Westworld? When I first watched the show, I wondered where some of the stunning outdoor shots had been filmed. Interesting land features and sunny skies serve as a backdrop in this series. I found out that several filming locations were in Utah so we visited them on a recent trip.

Westworld, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah 3May2017
Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Origins of Westworld

This series is based on the 1973 Westworld movie, written and directed by Michael Crichton. In this sci-fi classic, wealthy tourists visit an Old West-themed amusement park where they can indulge in any of their fantasies with no consequences. The “hosts” in the park appear to be human but they are actually androids. Though the skies appear to always be sunny, there are dark plot twists involving the hosts in both the movie and the series.

Castle Valley near Moab, Utah 4May2017
Castle Valley near Moab, Utah

Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy worked on the screenplay for the new series. It debuted on HBO in October of 2016. You may have heard of Jonathan’s brother, Christopher Nolan. The two of them co-wrote the screenplays for The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and several other successful films. Jonathan worked as a writer, director, and executive producer on the Westworld series, roles he also held for the Person of Interest series.

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Newspaper Rock – Ancient Messages in Stone

Newspaper Rock, UT 4May2017An amazing example of petroglyphs can be seen on the road into the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Wow! I have seen petroglyphs before but never so many in one spot. There are more than 650 drawings on Newspaper Rock at this state historical monument. The dark desert varnish provides a nice contrast to the messages carved into the stone.

Newspaper Rock 2, UT 4May2017The first carvings at this site have been determined to be 2,000 years old. People of the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures have carved their messages into the rock over the years. Unfortunately, it looks like some more modern graffiti artists added to parts of the scene.

Newspaper Rock 3, UT 4May2017The meanings of the messages here have been difficult to figure out. Do they tell a story or are they merely scribbles? The Navajo refer to Newspaper Rock as Tse’ Hane – translated as  “Rock that tells a story.” It does indeed appear to tell many stories. Only the people who made the carvings know exactly what those stories were.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Heritage
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Dissipating clouds: Remembering the pronghorn

Pronghorn near Antelope, OR 12-11-2015

Sometimes you can be trudging along with a little dark cloud hovering over your head and you almost walk by something intended for only you to see. I had one of those moments years ago at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. I had been doing research there and often saw pronghorn on sagebrush covered hills in the distance.

Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge

Hart Mountain National Antelope RefugeThe refuge was created in southern Oregon in 1936 to protect pronghorn, otherwise known as antelope. This icon of the Wild West is an interesting creature. More closely related to giraffes than deer, their uniquely shaped horns have a bony core that is covered with a sheath that they shed every year. They are capable of running at speeds as fast as 55 miles per hour for short distances.

On that long ago day, I took a hike by myself to sort out my thoughts. I walked on a trail that bordered a willow-lined creek. My head was down, focused on the gravelly trail ahead of me.

Pronghorn at Hart Mountain

A close encounter

I almost didn’t notice the pronghorn next to the trail. It was so close I could have stretched out my arm and touched it. I stopped and looked at it as it stared at me. Pronghorn have enormous eyes shaded by long lashes. The pronghorn looked at me curiously with those expressive eyes. The disc of white hair on its rump started to stand up as it does when they are alarmed. I stood stock still.

I’m not sure how long we both stood there regarding each other. The pronghorn eventually made a soft snorting noise and moved on its way. I stood there for a while and the thoughts of anger I previously had disappeared.

Pronghorn at Yellowstone

Steps in the right direction

Sometimes you just need to move on from things that make you angry or sad. I had a big loss this week but I decided to try to focus on some of the good things in my life. I also took steps towards more happiness.

Here are some of them:
• Rejoiced at having 150 followers on my blog as of this week (Thanks followers!)
• Joined a new children’s book writing group that meets locally
• Joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators group
• Signed up for eight springtime hikes
• Took pictures of wintery scenes
• Continued “research” on coffee shops in Bend
• Wrote, wrote, and wrote some more

I hope you find ways to dissipate the dark clouds in your lives!   sunclipart

Desert Bitterroot Oasis

Bitterroot, Lewisii redviva

Bitterroot, Lewisii redviva

Oasis Moment

Oasis moments sometimes happen in the desert. While hiking to Chimney Rock near Prineville, Oregon, we came across a patch of bitterroot flowers. The small flowers burst forth from cracks in the sandy soil in shades of pink and white. The flowers are only about an inch and a half across. The plant is delicate yet hardy at the same time.

I had never seen so many blossoms in one place. Bitterroot has always been a plant that amazes me. It was hard for me to keep walking with our group when a part of me just wanted to crouch down to their level and marvel at their perfection.

What Meriwether Lewis wrote about bitterroot

Beneath the soil, a taproot gives this plant its name. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, first saw the bitterroot plant in Lemhi County, Montana on August  22, 1805. Lewis tasted the root and described it in his journal:

this the Indians with me informed were always boiled for use. I made the exprement, found that they became perfectly soft by boiling, but had a very bitter taste, which was naucious to my pallate, and I transfered them to the Indians who had eat them heartily.

Baskets & photo of digging stick, Warm Springs Museum

Baskets & photo of digging stick, Warm Springs Museum

Usage by Native Americans

Bitterroot can be found in much of western North America in drier areas with well-drained gravelly soils and several tribes made use of the plant. Shoshoni, Flathead, Nez Perce, Paiute, Kutenai, and other tribes used digging sticks to collect the roots in the spring. The roots were dried and were often mixed with berries and meat.

The roots were traded and bartered and were considered to be of great value. A bagful was worth as much as a horse. They were used as food but also had medicinal uses. Bitterroot was used for several ailments including heart problems and sore throats. They were also used  to treat wounds and to increase milk flow in nursing mothers.

President Thomas Jefferson had asked Lewis to collect plant specimens on their expedition. Bitterroot plants were collected on the return trip in June of 1806. The area in Montana where the plants were collected is now known as the Bitterroot Valley. Specimens were given to the botanist Frederick Pursh in Philadelphia. Pursh named the plant Lewsii redviva in honor of Lewis.

BitterrootGrayButte15May2016

Fun fact: The species name redviva means “reviving from a dry state.” The specimens presented to Pursh came back to life even though they had been dug up many months before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Sky

Juniper sunrise 2Feb2015

Painted skies

Sky. Where I live in central Oregon, it’s big and bold. The sky is rarely shrouded in shades of gray. Sunsets are painted with bold strokes of golds, pinks, and purples.

Near Chimney Rock, OR

Scattered clouds on sunny days are referred to as “beauty clouds” by the local weatherman. My daughter thinks they look like the clouds in The Simpsons cartoon. Flat on the bottom with perfectly sculpted puffs on the top.

Wild creatures and plants

The colors of the sky are reflected in the local plants and wildlife. Mountain bluebirds surprise with their intense colors. Wildflowers like Oregon sunshine shine forth in warm golden tones. Perfect pink bitterroot flowers provide punctuation. Ancient twisting western juniper trees frame the scene.

The Sisters Volcanoes 2Sept2015

Volcanoes bordering the High Desert are often encircled with crowns of clouds. Cool white clouds appear to temporarily cool the hot magma rumbling below.

Sunset 2Feb2016

The sky here is an ever-changing message. Clouds, rainbows, and rain and snow are the emojis on the big blue screen. Wind sweeps them to the side to create another conversation. Look up and notice what the sky is saying and listen to its meaning.

Optimism in a single flower – Inspiration

Optimism -Carnation, Dianthus sp.
Carnation, Dianthus sp.

Some put everything they have into making the world a better place.

Easter cottontail

Mountain cottontail

Mountain cottontail, Sylvilagus nuttallii

In the sagebrush sea
Where bunchgrass waves in the wind
Alone he grazes
Nose twitching, large eyes gazing
Cottontail punctuating

Antique Thoughts

Things I’ve learned while antiquing that apply to life…

You can find wonderful and amazing things if you just remember to look up.

Imperfections may make things less valuable but they are the most treasured.

The experience is worth more than finding the thing you seek.

Winter Sunrise captured in words and visions

Winter Sunrise

Winter Sunrise

Cool snowy blankets
Boldly contrasting branches
Frame an immense sky
Blinking awake in deep blue
Blushing in flashes of fire

Twittering – A bird showing me history

Twittering Audubon's Warbler

His twittering voice kept leading me on through the wilderness. It seemed like every time I raised my binoculars to my eyes, he would make a quick getaway.

I followed him on winding trails bordered by bubbling and spouting geysers. He flitted through pine forests doused by thunderstorms. Gusts of wind kept pushing him just out of my reach.

Twittering Audubon's warbler

Finally, finally, I came eye to eye with the mysterious beast. A Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni. This pint-sized songbird perched in the tree and stared at me as if he was shouting, “Ollie, Ollie in come free!” Our game of hide and seek was over and he stayed in plain sight on his home base.

The tree clung to the side of a cliff overlooking Tower Fall. The little bird had lead me to an important spot in Yellowstone National Park.

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New Year: An optimistic reflective poem

New Year - Black-tailed Deer. Olympic National Park, WA
Black-tailed Deer. Olympic National Park, WA

As the new year approaches
You can choose to look down and back
Or up and forward

Chickaree

 

Agile climbers

Mischievous thieves

Scolder of treetops

Digger under leaves

Jays – A bird always a part of my life

Blue Jay by Siobhan Sullivan
Blue Jay

Jays have insisted on being a part of my life since I was a young child. They are brash, bold, raucous, and not easily ignored.

As a five-year old living on a wooded lot in Maryland, the Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata,  introduced itself to me with little formality. Its loud voice and striking appearance said, “Notice me!” Its frequent companion, the Northern Cardinal, also made it hard for me to look away. I guess that must be why I have a thing for birds with crests on top of their heads.

When I moved back across the country to Washington State, I met more Jays. On camping trips with my family, the Gray Jay, Perisoreus canadensis,  made its kleptomaniac presence known. Otherwise known as the Camp Robber, this gray bird has a way of sneaking in and taking what it wants.

Gray Jays, Yellowstone NPk
Gray Jays

I had a boyfriend in high school named Jay. One winter I was out of town for a couple of weeks and when I came back he broke up with me. He told me he had started going out with “Mary” while I was gone. He said he had gone outside in the middle of the night and shouted to the world how much he loved Mary. Like I said, Jays have a way of being loud and taking what they want.

Steller's Jay, Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.
Steller’s Jay

The next Jay played an important role in my life for many years. Steller’s Jays, Cyanocitta stelleri, are a deep azure blue topped with a black crested head. They like to imitate Red-Tailed Hawks and other birds. Steller’s Jays also have an appetite for other bird’s eggs and young. They especially like to prey on the endangered marbled murrelet, a small seabird that breeds in inland forests. While working on a project to preserve a forest where murrelets nested, I learned more about the football-shaped seabirds and their predation by jays than I knew about any pigskin football.

Western Scrub Jay, Bend, Oregon
Western Scrub Jay

The latest Jay in my life is the Western Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica . When we first considered moving to the high desert of Oregon, I remember looking at potential houses and thinking, “What is that bird I keep seeing?” The bird raised its white eyebrows, cocked its head, and regarded me curiously. When we found the place we eventually bought, the blue, white, and gray Western Scrub Jays were in the backyard shouting a welcome.

Jays, with their distinctive appearance and mannerisms, always seem to be a part of my life.

Clouds

Clouds…

Obscure what was once clear

Release things that burden them

Blanket the cold nights

Shine brightness on what’s to come

Surround us in the divine

A fluttering of wings: Townsend’s solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire in Bend, Oregon  October 2015

A fluttering of wings draws my attention.

A fluttering of wings - Townsend's Solitaire

Looking out of my window, I see a Townsend’s solitaire beating its wings and attacking its reflection in the side mirror of my parked car. It has been there for hours. Long strokes of white droppings adorn the side of my car. At first I assume the bird must be a male defending its territory.

Alike in appearance

Townsend’s solitaires are a drab gray relative of the American robin that most people wouldn’t even notice. They are not showy.

Male birds are usually the ones with colorful plumage but that is not the case with solitaires; the male and female look almost identical. I guess they decided not to follow the theory that a male is more brightly colored to attract females and the female has duller colors so she can sit undetected on a nest.

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Fall’s Laughter

Close up of maple

Fall begins with joyous laughter and warm caresses that

Nod and wink as they cloak you with a touch of frost

Standing there entranced, you are enveloped by color

FallLaughs2Cool greens evolving into explosions of vibrant

Yellow, orange, and crimson

North winds swirl about you encircling you

FallLaughs4Wrapping you in the scent of remembrance

Snaps and crackles sound under your feet

Inviting you to grab handfuls and throw them into the air

FallLaughs3You smile as the coolness surrounding you is

Warmed by a shower of brilliant laughing tones

Emanating from falling leaves readying themselves for winter

Branches

Cling on to leaves all seasons

Brilliant leaves dropping in fall

Profusions of big, bold flowers

Flowers that are quiet and small

Cones that depend upon fire

Tiny, but intoxicating cones

Juicy, sweet abundant fruit

Fruit that is dry as a bone

Delicate and ephemeral

Resilient and strong

Twisting and rough

Straight and long

Furrows in the bark

Bark peeling and red

Running near the surface roots

Deep-reaching roots that are more widespread