Over the last six months, I’ve become incredibly fascinated with Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the ill-fated scene of the hostile (silly) takeover.
It was the first waterfowl sanctuary created west of the Mississippi. It was created, in the most simplified way I know how to explain this, when one William L Finley took photographs of the birds there and traveled to Washington D.C., where he showed them to Theodore Roosevelt, who said, and I’m paraphrasing, “Well, bully, let’s create a bird sanctuary for the protection of native birds.” Or something similar.
What you might not know is that there was a chicken egg shortage on the west coast in those days, and people, desperate for their eggs, as we tend to get, were raiding the nests of wild birds and wiping out native populations all over the countryside.
Not just the little summer drizzle. The kind of rain that builds into a rhythmic melody on the roof and on the windows.
I’m sitting here in my parents’ kitchen drinking a big mug of green tea staring at a counter full of vegetables I want to ferment.
The Friday before I return to work after an overextended hiatus.
I thought about going back to bed after I dropped my daughter off at school. The sound of the rain and the thought of laying there under the covers and drifting off to the pitter patter of water on window was extremely hard to resist.
The only reason I didn’t, is because I know that next week I will completely rely on routine to get me through the week.
By that, I mean it’s in the mid-seventies, and the sun is shining and the trees have that look about them. That look they get just before they start to change their colors.
It’s imperceptible, just the lightest downgrade from summer’s dark green but not quite as verdant as spring. If you look carefully, you can watch summer’s slow demise every day.
It’s not fall yet, but the dog days are over. The perfect in-between.
My brother texts and says he has some things to finish around the farm, but that we can hit the river at 1:30.
I run around frantically looking through storage for my bass gear, before remembering that it was twenty years ago that I put together a nice bait caster with a 6 foot super stiff rod that could lift smallies and largemouth from the river like a crane.
We have traveled to dozens of countries together. We’ve lived in seven cities in five states. We’ve moved 26 times in our 20 years together.
And it’s time to come home for a while.
Every adventurer has a home base. And for us, that home base has always been Salem, Oregon. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s the perfect place, sandwiched between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range, full of rivers and lakes and trails. A perfect place for an adventurer to keep his or her legs fit and eyes ever looking towards the next vista.
There is a point on U.S. Highway 84 heading West where the road seems to descend into this big gouge in the landscape, past millennia of accumulated sediments in the strata gouged, revealed and polished by successive glacial floods.
It dips down from the arid and Martian-featured landscape of the Columbia plateau and the Channeled Scablands to where the big, blue river rolls peacefully toward the Pacific.
It’s this point where I feel like I’m coming home. Where the landscape transforms from wide plains to steep walls traversed by mountain goats. Where green oasis appear wherever streams and rivers meet the mighty Columbia.
The long, hot summer is giving way to what could be a long, warm fall and winter.
The daytime temps still reach into the 90s, but at night you can feel the chill in the air that precipitates fall.
Weekdays bleed into weekends in slow motion with little delineation.
The toxic glow of Fox News permeates the living room, so I hide away hunched over the laptop. And when the noxious wind of judgment and hatred from various numbered clubs and televangelists reaches its fever pitch, I head out on the bicycle trying to put miles between myself and my world.
The kids are spread out over two sets of grandparents trying to find a foothold after eight years away.
We pick up where we left off with old friends like it was June, 2007. Except their kids are grow up and leaving, which reminds of us of the advance of years.
Parents are more linear, more set in their ways, but then so are we, which provides the friction that causes the smoke that tells us there is a fire somewhere.
It’s months-long therapy for a chronic condition picked up in transit. Or a way to sift though life’s choices, to read the map looking for wrong turns and detours missed.
An unplanned rest stop in a slightly familiar place.