Journeys with Oscar

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Living Juicy


Stetattle Creek is my favorite place to go when it’s really hot here in the upper Skagit.  Yesterday met that criteria.  Oscar and I spent several hours in the cool of that natural air-conditioning.

It was luscious.

A soft cool occasional breeze off the glacier-fed stream brushes my arms and shoulders

Oscar stretches out beside me, offering his belly for me to scratch.

The light filtered through trees creates patterns of bright green among the moss and ferns across the creek.

Dark green juicy moss patches cover rocks within the creek.

Foamy white water glissades between those same rocks.

Brilliant blue green water swirls, marking deep slow sections of the stream.

Glassy green flat spots reflect big leaf maple leaves high above.

The shushing constancy of the movement of water soothes and refreshes me.

Golden brown, grey, and green rocks shine below the clean, c lear water.

Bugs, tiny and large, flutter, circle and dance, touching down occasionally on the smooth surface.

Gold leaves released from above float or plummet to collect in the stream.

The temperature fluctuates between nearly perfect, slightly cool, and almost too warm.

What a blessing to be here, savoring summer, even as it is winding down, burning out, slowly ebbing.







         The other night I awoke from where I sleep outside on the back porch and moved to sit with a view of the sky.  I wanted to see the Perseid meteor showers, amazing bursts of light that streak across the sky.  In another life, thirty years ago, I had a cat named Perseus, named for the constellation from which the meteor showers appear to originate.  Now I have a dog; his name is Oscar and he is not named for a constellation.  In that other lifetime, in another relationship, Jan and I watched stars.  My most vivid memory of stargazing was a time when she and I camped in a meadow near Mount Rainier and slept out without a tent, waking up off and on all night to exclaim about the wonders above us.  There was also the time when we drove as fast as we could off of the Olympic Peninsula trying to get to a cloud free sky where we could watch a lunar eclipse. (I don’t think we made it.) Jan had a cat named Galileo, companion to my cat, Percy.  She liked astronomers and we both liked summer, when we lived lightly, played outdoors, and watched the night sky filled with stars and other celestial delights.  My cat was named to remind us of those summer nights.  Jan would like the spot where Lin and I sleep now on the back porch, under mosquito netting, except that the porch roof blocks the view of the sky.  And so I get up and move to a lawn chair in the back yard.  It’s dark here in Marblemount and the stars are so thick that it is difficult to pick out constellations with all the lesser stars visible within and beside them.  I knew where to look for Perseus, who runs across the summer sky.  I watched without exclaiming, so that I didn’t wake up Lin (since she had to get up early to work this morning).  In ten minutes I lost count of the bright streaks, though I think there were more than ten and less than twenty.  I sat filled with awe and wonder and memory. 

         Lin and I just returned from a four-day camping trip on Lopez Island.  We were celebrating our anniversary, twenty-nine years since we fell in love and twenty-seven since our Holy Union. The idea was to be near salt water, and to be cooler than the 90 – 100 degree temperatures we were having in Marblemount, though I did not want to go out to the ocean where the high temps were only in the 60’s, and where fog and drizzle are frequent this time of year. The drive out to that coast is long and this way we could really enjoy each of the four days of our mini-vacation without spending two days of it in the car. Jan and I used to spend big chunks of time on her boat in the San Juans; Spencer Spit on Lopez Island was one of our favorite spots to moor.  The sunsets and views at our little camp spot on the beach at Odlin County Park reminded me of those long ago days. And then last night’s viewing of the Perseid Meteor Showers did it again. 

         I’ve been thinking that I am very grateful for the rich experiences in nature that Jan and I shared.  We hiked, camped in her VW bus, (even traveled across country in it), stayed at her cabin on Whidbey Island, bird watched, and for nearly five years she had a boat, a boat big enough to cruise into the San Juans and Canadian gulf waters.  What adventures we had.  What beauty.  What fun!

         I feel a little wistful, painfully aware of how long ago that all was, how much younger I was then.  And yet I am also amazed and grateful that these recent experiences have revived such vivid memories from my past.  I think I have had concerns about loyalty; is it disloyal to my current relationship with Lin to be savoring those long ago times with Jan?  When Jan and I split up we gave each other gifts to commemorate our ten year relationship.  I realize now that the relationship itself was so rich that it still keeps giving.  My life experience now is blessed by the learning from more than thirty years ago.  I carry around inside me (as long as memory allows access to these memories) gifts from all my previous relationships.  It’s like I get to have the best of all worlds, the highlights from all of my life. And I bring them with me into the life I’m living now, the relationship with Lin.  So no, I don’t think it’s disloyal.  I think it’s great that she gets the benefits too.  Thank you Jan for all the gifts of your being.  Thanks most for your wonderful ability to play and teach at the same time, infusing the natural world with wonder that still shines in my life thirty years later.  May I continue to recall and savor such times of love and aliveness. Thanks for the memories. 


At Canyon Creek with Ruth and Oscar


There’s a green gloss on the water that I love.  Reflections of maple and alder beside this creek.  I’ve just tried to capture it with my camera (pretty successfully as it turns out, see later photos). I’ve brought my water colors and I can’t think how to paint it.  It’s elusive, ephemeral, which is part of its charm. The shine intensifies with the sun but only exists here where the creek slowly meanders through shade.  This particular quality of light on water fascinates me, attracts me like a bee to a flower.  I’ve been taking pictures of it for years.  What is it I like so much about it?

The movement, which includes change; it comes and goes.  It contrasts so vividly with the foamy white at the bottom of the wave.  It’s always on top of the water. I like the golden highlights that show up sometimes creating an even more dazzling shine. There is a combination of shadow and light that creates reflection.  Shadow and light, dark and bright, both are needed to create a stunning phenomenon known as reflection.  And when a reflection happens on water then the reflection dances.  How could it be any more beautiful?  Can I remember that the beauty is a result of both darkness and light?




Can I carry inside me the lovely combination of dazzling, energy and deep tranquility that communing beside this beautiful creek has provided? 


Walking in the Rain at Rockport State Park

I had hoped, this morning when the temperatures were mild and there was no sign of rain, that the weather forecast was wrong or at least exaggerated, and that 80% chance of showers would mean only a scattershot of rain, maybe late in the day.  Whereas it is 100% chance of rain out there now which makes me wonder if the % in the forecast has to do with how much of the day will have rain rather than how likely it is to rain at all.  In any case, my preoccupation with rain and how much I don’t want any more really distracts me from experiencing presence and enjoyment of the natural world just as it is.

This tendency to want something different from what I have in front of me feels like a piece of the American cultural obsession with consumption, the way we’ve been trained in this country to shop, and fulfill our constantly changing wishes, which we convert to “needs” without even questioning, rarely considering what we already have in our closet, kitchen or back yard.

Now, back to the walk with Oscar.  Because he was seriously injured this week I have been painfully aware of how precious he is to me.  He enjoys a walk in nearly any weather and in almost any terrain.  He seems to especially like to walk where there are good smells.  Though his definition of “good” and mine are decidedly different, he and I are alike in our appreciation of fragrance.  I picked some vanilla leaf which develops its fragrance when it dries.  The smell reminds me of sweetgrass and I love it.

Even though I did absorb myself in thoughts of making potpourri or lavender wands with the vanilla leaves, I did alternate between those thoughts and appreciative thoughts directed at the amazingly large trees and the immense complexity of greens around me.  And I also concentrated on walking mindfully, even with Oscar on leash.  The next step on the continuum might be to enjoy how watching and being with Oscar enriches my walking experience, how being with him connects me to the earth differently than if I am walking alone.  Differently, not better or worse.  And one thing I’m sure of is that he could teach me even more about using all of my senses, enjoying a walk, no matter the weather.  Image

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