Archive for ‘Observations’

Meant to Be Here

Though I tend to have my feet firmly planted in the physical, observable world I contemplate the metaphysical aspects of our existence from time to time. Two recent instances have me wondering more about kismet (aka fate, karma).

In early May I took a tour of Grass Mountain, an old homestead property, that the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology recently purchased. I was eager to take the tour since it would be my introduction to the Sitka Center where I had signed up to take several classes this summer. Mindy led our tour and after a delightful morning of exploring we chatted over a picnic lunch.

A month later I received an email from Mindy. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in leading a nature walk at Grass Mountain for an author who would be teaching a class at Sitka in July. I hesitated momentarily since I am not an expert on the temperate rainforest environment but then I reminded myself that I had plenty of time to prepare. Besides, I have years of experience in leading these kinds of outings. Mindy put me in touch with Nancy so I could design a program that would best complement her writing workshop.

During our conversation I learned that Nancy too had lived in Tucson before moving to Oregon. To help me understand her class focus she sent me an essay she’d published years ago, Surviving: What the Desert Teaches Me. In the first paragraph of the piece, Nancy quoted a docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The cadence sounded familiar to me and I wondered if her docent was by any chance a friend of mine. In the third paragraph my suspicions were confirmed when she mentioned Marilyn by name.

I worked with Marilyn in various capacities over the past nine years on invasive species projects. In fact, I was so inspired by Marilyn’s hard work and dedication that I nominated her for the 2015 Cox Conserves Hero award, which, of course, she won.

I finished reading the piece then I immediately emailed Nancy back about our intertwined histories. I also asked two questions; first, could I attend her workshop and second, could I share her essay with Marilyn. The answer was yes to both!

Marilyn had not read the piece and she was moved to learn that her volunteer work had that much impact on Nancy. I know Marilyn happily does all her good work without accolades but she (like anyone else) can use a reminder about how she is powerful, positive force for good.

The Landscape and Memory workshop wrapped up two weeks ago and I am still basking in the afterglow. Not only was it an invigorating learning experience but it felt fantastic to be back in the field leading a nature walk. Even more gratifying when Nancy told me that my tour had exceeded her expectations.

07 L&M Nature Walk 9 copy.jpg

Photo courtesy of the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology

The week after Nancy’s workshop I attended a short art class on Sun Printing at Sitka. As I listened to the instructor introduce herself I thought her voice sounded familiar but I didn’t recognize her. Karen mentioned that she just retired from teaching at Pima Community College in Tucson. That opened up more possibilities but nope, still no connection. Then she explained an art project she was working on dealing with invasive species…and everything clicked.


One of my sun prints

We had corresponded by email and phone about her invasive species project three years ago! Our tentative plan had been that I would guide Karen in the field identifying invasive species while explaining the issues, removal efforts, and restoration projects. In return, she would allow our nonprofit to showcase her art to help raise awareness about the cause. It was a brilliant plan, however we weren’t able to coordinate our timing between both our busy schedules.

What incredible connections! Both of these recent experiences have helped assuage my intermittent concerns about moving from Tucson to the Oregon Coast. They seem like signs that I am meant to be here…



Heceta Head Lighthouse

I zoomed down to tour Heceta Head Lighthouse before it closed for renovations (it hadn’t yet opened for the season when I visited the area in early May). There were many similarities with both the Cape Meares and Yaquina Head lighthouses which I also toured recently.

The standout feature for Heceta Head is that the assistant lightkeeper’s house is still intact (the head lightkeeper’s house was demolished in 1940 when the light was automated). Each lighthouse required a crew of three; a head lightkeeper and two assistants. The head lightkeeper lived with his family in one house while the assistants lived in a house of the same size that was divided into a duplex. The lighthouse, residences, and storage buildings comprised the light station.

The Heceta House (as it is now known) operates as a B&B wouldn’t it be lovely to stay there someday? And then I checked the price, yikes! Ah well, visiting for the day was still enjoyable (and definitely closer to my price range).

Poetry of the Pacific

Instead of describing my beach, I offer Pablo Neruda’s description from his poem, The Sand. Though he was writing about his beach near his home, Isla Negra, in Chile there are many similarities to mine up here in Oregon.  Though we are separated by five decades and over 6,000 miles, we share the Pacific Ocean.

“Everyone walks across the sandy shore and crouches, searching, picking through the sand, to such an extent that someone called this coast “the Island of Lost Things.”

The ocean is an incessant provider of half-rotted planks, balls of green glass or cork floats, fragments of bottles ennobled by rough seas, detritus of crab shells, conch shells, limpets, objects that have eaten away, aged by pressure and insistence…”


Pacific Ocean Sunset, Lincoln City, Oregon 2018



Alder House Glassblowing

A mizzly afternoon seemed like a fine time to watch an artisan ply his craft so I drove over to The Alder House. The studio sits in a wild meadow on the southern edge of the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It seems an inspiring place to create art as there is beauty both inside and outside the building.

The day of my visit Treasure was the glassblower on duty, capably assisted by his wife Michelle. Both were welcoming and patient with my barrage of questions. (Hey, in my defense, I’m a very curious person.) I was so captivated by the transformation of molten blobs of glass that I stayed to watch multiple pieces.

Glassblowing has been a big part of Lincoln City for decades (The Alder House opened in 1971). I imagine in the early years some of the glass art was inspired by the Japanese glass fishing floats that washed ashore. The North Lincoln County Historical Museum has a huge display of glass floats of all sizes that were found on local beaches.

The Japanese glass floats are highly prized by collectors but are rarely found any more since most floats are now made of other materials, like plastic. Some coastal towns have cashed in on the craze by placing locally-made glass floats on their beaches. Lincoln City has elevated the concept with their Finders Keepers campaign; during winter and spring they place around 3,000 colorful orbs on the beaches.

The last drop for the season was Memorial Day weekend, so I’ll have to wait until mid-October for my chance to find one. Perhaps I’ll find one made by Treasure, since he’s one of several local glassblowers that create the orbs for the city. A glass float by Treasure would be something to treasure!

Cape Meares Daytrip

A few weeks back I scratched my itch to wander by driving the Three Capes Scenic Route. This used to be branded as the Three Capes Loop but a section of road north of Cape Meares collapsed in a landslide in 2013 and ODOT doesn’t have the funds necessary to rebuild it. Thankfully, I have my memories from driving the route in years past.

Since I was heading up from the south, my first cape was Cape Kiwanda by Pacific City. Next up was Cape Lookout but before I reached it a small sign by the road announced that the Jacobsen Salt Company was open. Ever curious, I pulled in to check it out. In the small gift shop I learned that Ben Jacobsen started the company in 2011 by pumping up water from Netarts Bay at high tide.

As they proudly proclaim, they are the first salt works on the Oregon Coast since the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. There’s quite a bit of effort involved in reducing seawater to fluffy, white flakes. In the early days of civilization, salt was a precious commodity and if you’d like a fascinating, in-depth look at this mineral that we keep on our tables I highly recommend reading Salt by Mark Kurlanksy.

My last stop was the lighthouse at the Cape Meares Scenic State Viewpoint. Though decommissioned in 1963, the lighthouse (built in 1889) has been carefully restored. The lighthouse’s revolving Fresnel lens produced a specific “characteristic“: 30 seconds of white light followed by a five second red flash. On good nights, the light could be seen 21 nautical miles away.

It was warm up by the lens during my tour courtesy of a sunny afternoon, imagine the intense heat back when the light was powered by burning oil! Overall, it was a lovely way to spend a day.