Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

There is a small, cold desert east of here that I have seen in my dreams for decades.

The Alvord Desert

It sits high up on a plateau created millions of years ago when basalts flowed over the area in giant, motlen floods .

It sits in the shadow of the snowy mountain, which catches the rain, leaving it parched and flat and featureless.

I had seen the Alvord Desert far below the East Rim Lookout on Steens Mountain the previous evening. The twelve-mile-long by seven-mile-wide playa looked exactly as I had seen it in my dreams, a vast, sandy nothingness stretching away to the south.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

Mount Washington along the Santiam Pass

I sipped hot green tea as I drove over the Santiam Pass at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The air was still night-cooled, and the tea felt good on my throat, raw as it was from so much smoke from a brutal summer of forest fires.

The familiar landscape of a pass I’ve driven maybe a hundred times gave way to the the suprising landscape of a big burn as I neared the top. The Whitewater fire had burned parts of the forest on either side of the road, and I noticed the mosaic pattern of the burn left swirls of green amidst the blackened earth.

Dropping down into the high desert, as I have called Central Oregon since I first visited there, is always exciting in the way it transitions from the deep green of the Cascades to the beige and sage of the high and dry country. Continue reading Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

A fledgling leaves the nest

He left for his final training run here in Oregon around 10:30 a.m. I teased him about the intense heat. It’s supposed to be 97 degrees today, a slight downturn from yesterday’s 101.

Last night I made him some sockeye salmon on the grill, and last week we went for a Father’s Day hike up to just one more of the many beautiful places here in Oregon.

Part of me wants all of these memories to stick with him through the next four years of college. So that he longs for this place like a small ache.

We’re far from an empty nest with a 16-year-old high school junior and an 11-year-old headed to junior high. But the very first to fledge is leaving this week.

We have a week to get used to this idea, as his mother and I drive him across the country to his old high-school haunts and the college where he will live for the next four school years.

We’ve had 19 years to get used to this idea, but we spent them living instead of worrying about this day.

As I reflect on our life with him, I’m struck by a number of things. That children improve your lives goes without saying. But the joy they bring really is immeasurable.

We had our challenges. All those transitions. From nursing to solid foods. Preschool. Kindergarten. All day school. High School.

Cole was born in Hawaii, where we spent most of his first year. Then we moved back to Oregon.

We spent the next three years traveling to places like New Zealand and Bosnia, and then added a little brother to the mix.

We spent the next two years in Oregon where I was studing journalism. We added a little sister to the crowd, then we moved to Montana.

All through these transitions. Cole was either experiencing them or helping us through them with all the grace and agility of a first born.

After another move to Alaska and yet another to Chicago, I started to make promises that we would settle in to allow him to finish high school with his friends.

I was unable to keep that promise in the end, and still, with more grace than I had any right to expect, he finished his senior year across the country back where we started this adventure.

A final fishing trips with him before he sets off.

Joy, grace, laughter, tears, these are a few of the many things I have felt or experienced during the last nineteen years with my oldest son.

I know I’m losing him now for a little while as he makes a transition that I can’t accompany him on. I know that he’ll be busy forging a new life for himself, and I’m excited for him.

May the same joy and grace you have brought to my life also inhabit the new life you build for yourself.

God speed you on your way and bring you back around from time to time, my son.


I’m not a great feminist like I’m not a great father.

But I try.

I don’t like the word ally, even though I understand it and want to be what it implies.

What I am is male. A white male, in fact, living at the height of my species’ dominance and the pinnacle of my sexs’ power.

Entitlement isn’t a concept or a designation you either fall into or you don’t, if you’re white, male and living in America, you’re entitled.

Here I am, writing about myself. When what I intended to write about was women. Continue reading Sex-ism

Fork Stuck In The Road

I was musing about the collosal failure that was the AHCA. Not from the moment the Republicans pulled it yesterday, but from the beginning.

From the very first intention to defeat the ACA rather than  working to build something with their fellow Americans across the aisle.

And through a messy rollout, there were no overtures to improve it, just a lusty zeal to repeal, to strike back at a president they couldn’t afford to allow a signature policy victory to stand on.

Continue reading Fork Stuck In The Road


I’m not sure when I switched over to calling him Papa.

It was always Ken, my wife’s father. Before that, he was Ken, my girlfriend’s father.

When we got married, he had tears streaming down his heavily lined face. He was signing our marriage certificate, and he stopped, looked up and said, “I’m not losing a daughter, I’m gaining a son.”

And to this day, I have never felt anything less than a solid member of the Carpenter clan.

Continue reading Papa

Thoughts from a snowflake

I stopped by an old friend’s apartment to commiserate tonight and to wait out the hellish Portland traffic.

We drank a couple of Sticky Hands IPAs, and I relived some Facebook conversations for him, since he quit it a few weeks ago.

I’m a little envious of this and tell him so.

But he’s not unaware of what’s going on. He knows about the latest antics of our orange wannabe dictator. He’s aware that the Senate silenced  a female member while allowing her male colleagues to read the same words she attempted to.

Continue reading Thoughts from a snowflake

No, you can’t be neutral in a debate about your own humanity

When Lewis Wallace first showed up in the newsroom where I was the digital manager a few years ago, I had no idea how much I would learn from someone with very little journalism experience.

For many years, my horizons had been expanding beyond the fairly white-bread missionary world I was raised in. Oh, I knew many people from different cultural backgrounds, and, for a while, I considered myself to be well cultured. The problem was they all shared the same ideology.  Continue reading No, you can’t be neutral in a debate about your own humanity