April’s Clouds

April’s Clouds

April brings fresh storms after the fool’s day
April rain pours into my heart, yet it does not dull the pain
April whispers ‘I’m here again, just as you knew I’d be’
April presents the pain of loss anew, so savagely
April demands the memories that must be seen
April’s unkindness lays manifest upon my psyche
April’s last words, ‘I love you, Susan’ falling in my ear
April rains stream from my eyes, inflaming my heart
April clouds are covering me, so I cannot see
April sun, oh, where are you?
April please just let me be, please let me preserve my sanity

Mothers Day 2017

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I love you, Mom.

#grief #loss T_T

Dance of the Wigglebutts

By the time I was ten years old, my parents fled the rapidly expanding suburbs of Beaverton, Oregon, moving to the remote hilly forests of Mason Hill, outside North Plains, Oregon. Our new family home sat on twenty-plus acres of forest, also abutting hundreds of acres of ‘Government Land’, a full section (640 acres) of forest managed by the BLM. The nearest store of any type was seven miles away, the West Union General Store. Our nearest neighbor was a working farm.Honestly, it was heaven.

I didn’t see it at ten, but it was the best place to grow up in. My Mom, seemingly always a step ahead of things, counteracted the impending boredom of her ex-burbian kids in various ways. In my case, she got me a perfect energetic match, an Australian Shepard and Border Collie mix puppy. I named my bundle of joy ‘Lucy’, the perfect bookend to our wandering orange tomcat, Charlie.Lucy_Dog_Aug_77Lucy at six years old in North Plains, OR ❤

I built a pen in my downstairs bedroom out of two-by-fours and plywood, put an old green wool blanket in it. I watched my new companion grow and grow, a bundle full of energy and love. For Lucy, everything was a game, every day a chance to roam and chase squirrels in the forest. We explored, she and I, for the joy of it, cementing my lifelong love of forests, nature, and dogs. She slept on my bed at night, chased me on my bike, and protected us from all enemies, real or imagined. She taught me unconditional love.

Lucy stayed with Mom when I went off to college, having tea parties with my younger sister, and being our loving family companion. Lucy gave me her best wiggle-butt dance when I came home to visit, my childhood companion overcome with joy just to be with me again.

How bout that 70’s kitchen?

My parents divorced, sold the house and land, shortly after I left. Lucy lived a long time, passing at eighteen years old after living her twilight years with my Mom, back in Rock Creek now, in front of a wood stove at night.

The last few years as hiking has consumed so much of my focus, passion, and time. I’ve hiked a lot with other people’s dogs. Tristan, Bernie, and Luc here at Cooper Spur trail belong to my friend Vicky, they are such beautiful trail companions. Vicky has six Aussies now, an astounding feat I still can’t quite wrap my head around. One is a heck of a lot of work, they’re so energetic, they need a lot of exercise.

IMG_20170820_184307_389Aussie Wrangling at Cooper Spur, 2017 ❤ ❤ ❤

IMG_20170821_075536_560Bernie is not impressed with my Down Dog, Mt Hood at Tilly Jane

The Aussie bug bit hard. I started ghosting Facebook groups about Aussies. I took every opportunity to walk or hike with them. One fateful November morning, Vicky pointed out puppies available in Oregon at Whiterose Farms.

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There were two puppies available, a tri-color and a blue merle female. I looked at the photos and my heart grew another half size. I fell face-first, head over heels in love at first sight with the blue merle.46470515_10215482168721315_7869751224516476928_n46521745_10215487274968968_2626295655949139968_nTheir mom, Cinnamon Toast, and their dad, Titan of Eaglecrest, were two of the most striking Aussies I’d ever seen.

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Titan of Eaglecrest, I mean, just wow. Prettier than me.

My partner, Kelley, wasn’t yet totally on board with upending our lives with a puppy. There was persuasion. There may have been tears. In the end, we drove down to see her, on a gray November day.We never stood a chance. She was so adorable, so filled with life and love. I filled out some paperwork, and we went home to prepare for her.

20181123_14043120181123_135718We’d planned on two weeks between seeing her and picking her up, but heart throb cut that down to one week. We headed back South to pick up Miss Whiterose Astrid Luna (Luna), dog crate now at home in my VW SUV, with a little apprehension. Kelley had not raised a puppy before, and it had been awhile for me.

Toast knew what was up, and she seemed a little resigned as Luna said her goodbyes to Mom and sister, and the farm that she had know since late September as home.

20181202_155349‘Be good to my little girl, hooman.’20181202_155353So much love ❤47577683_774056196274103_6286468563716800512_o

As I look today at how completely Luna is embedded in our lives, it’s hard to imagine it’s only been four months since she arrived. Luna has been to the Oregon Coast, Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hebo near Tillamook, on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, she’s been to places I never saw as a kid. I’ve carried her on snowshoes for miles, my pack now has the permanent allure of dog treats, extra water, and dog food bowls.

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20190121_114438.jpgOn Lamberson Spur trail with Luna ❤

20190311_145202Luna at Six Months, ~40 lbs now. She grew so fast!

The memories keep flooding back, as Luna does something in the same way as Lucy, or takes up a guard stance against sudden noises, gives big wet sloppy kisses. She’s so expressive, so loving, and so energetic! She’s such a goofball, everything has game potential. I’m told that I have my Mom voice back, too, somewhat on vacation since my adult children moved away.

Now, in the morning, or coming home from work, there’s that ritual again. Lucy would hear the bus and run up through the woods to meet me on my walk home. As she closed the distance, she’d drop into the dance. As all available energy was focused in one place, her butt would wiggle back and forth, as she danced the dance of joy and love. We’d run together the mile or so back down into the forest to the house.

Today, I dance the Wigglebutt Dance again, my heart singing a duet of love and joy with my soul, a new song of unconditional love, with Luna. Somewhere, over the Rainbow Bridge, I like to think Lucy sits, smiling, waiting for us, to dance again. That will really be quite something, our Wigglebutt Redux, as we all run off into the Sunset, together again, butts wiggling in tune to the universe.

20190322_181838“Ri ruv, ru, Ruzan” ❤

Eagle Creek Fire

I am sorry for the Eagles this day
I am sorry for the owls, ravens, hawks, songbirds, even the noisy jay
I am sorry for the pikas, chipmunks, squirrels, who would steal my lunch scraps
I am sorry for the majestic Elk, the deer, bobcats and lions of the mountains, I marvel at the rare sight of you, moving with ease and beauty
I am sorry for the fish, the snakes, my beautiful lowly banana slugs, the bees and butterflies
I am sorry that Man alone, of all creatures on this Earth, has lost the knowledge how to live in harmony with Nature
I am sorry that Man again has filled your magical home with smoke, fire, and death
I am sorry, I would do anything to reverse this, to restore your lives and homes
I am sorry, I honor your lives, extinguished by the thousands every hour of this terrible day
I am sorry, I hear and feel your souls, all crying out in fear, pain, and mortal agony
I am so very, very, terribly sorry, I pray that the universe will forgive us.

– Me, September 2017

😭 I read this poem and a few others at Mother Foucault’s Bookstore in Portland last year. My partner’s poetry and art were featured in an anthology. Both of us now participate in the 31 Days of August Postcard Poetry Fest. There’s a signup then you get a list of 31 names in your group. It was so fun and writing every day while traveling and playing in the summer sunshine gave extra inspiration. ❤

When Shakti Meets Shiva

When Shakti meets Shiva,
Sahasrara glowing violet
Beautiful energy of the universe flows
I should have known,
I should have expected her
Where else would she be?
I found her, still grounded to this earth by love
She came to me, and I felt so much joy!
But my heart, she did not know
My heart, she did not expect this
My heart, she cries out the same word,
Over and over again,I hear, ‘Mom! Mom! Mom!’
I am not my heart, mind, or ego
But I hear her pain, and watch
As tears flow, on my yoga mat.

#poetry #grief

Ti Tusen Livstider

In ten thousand lifetimes

I would choose you every time

Among the multitude, my soul would find you

Your love, your light, shining so brightly!

I would find you in a hummingbird’s heartbeat

You will see me, and I will see you

And I will thank the universe,

Ten thousand times!

For the love of my life,

And for bringing us together, again.

The Unicorn Day Hike

“I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil,
this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.”

– Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

There’s really something quite special about undertaking adventures that you’re not quite sure you can do. Looping Mount Saint Helens on the Loowit in a day (30 miles, 6,000′ e.g.), or circumnavigating Mount Hood in a day on the Timberline Trail (38 miles, 9,000′ e.g.), they both fall into this category. They test your physical and spiritual resolve, they push you to hike and climb literally all day (and usually after dark, too).

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Then there’s the Lamberson Spur to Timberline Trail Loop hike. It’s less on paper, at just 21 miles and 5,700′ e.g. Actually, it’s not on paper, because the trail that makes it possible was envisioned and partially built, but never completed. Lamberson Spur Trail ends three miles after it starts, at the staging area from the last big forest fire that hit Vista and Gnarl ridges.

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Kate and I have done the hike or snowshoe up to trail’s end, starting at Polallie Trailhead, several times, gazing up at the high mountain while we lunched at the turnaround point. Two years ago I first broached the idea of continuing up several more miles, through the old burn, massive piles of blowdown, old growth alpine forest, and scree fields, all the way to the Timberline Trail. I studied it on Google Earth, looking for variations that would avoid the worst parts of the burn. There weren’t any.

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I thought to myself, ‘this is a Craig hike, for sure’, and so I reached out to him. Turns out, he’d already done it, with Rigby the Hiking Dog, no less, back in June! So we set a date for a repeat in late Summer/Early Fall for the long days, intending to refine the route a bit and enjoy a long day on the trail. I hadn’t yet figured out my best route back from the junction with the Timberline Trail at 8,000′, but Craig had. Look how happy we are to pummel ourselves for the next ten or eleven hours.

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We started out on a fine September morning with clouds and sun, stopping by Tamanawas Falls on the way. Craig amused me with a really funny story about how he contemplated off-trailing to above the Falls last trip, but didn’t. Pretty much looks like he would have cliffed out, so a wise end-of-the-day decision not to. 

I’ve hiked a lot with Rigby, he is still the hikingest dog I know.

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After climbing up and following Lamberson Spur Trail #644, we paused at the ‘Helipad’, the scene of firefighting ops during the Gnarl Ridge Fire. Here, the trail ends, though there are traces of where it used to go part way up. Our mission was to clear the mile-plus of blowdown, gain the ridge, and stay on it until we faded left across the scree fields and gained the white post signifying we’d reached the Timberline Trail #400, at its highest point on Mt. Hood (~8,000′ a.s.l.).

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In keeping with giving significant natural features memorable names, indicating deep meaning and unassailable character, we dubbed this unnamed trail ‘Susan Way’.

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Blowdown is always a pain in the ass, blocking passage and trying to hurt you with broken sharp bits, and this was the Mother of all blowdown fields. Trees stacked upon trees, at times the only available route was to climb onto a tree, take it until you reached another tree, and tightrope walk your way up.

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We spent a few hours getting through about two miles, until we finally were scooting along a knife ridge with a massively scary drop at times to the right, butt-scooting down a few steep ridges.

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Our reward for clearing the blowdown fields and the ridges was…more scree. ‘We scree, you scree, we all scree for more scree!’ Sideways scree!

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The clouds were spectacular on the high mountain, and gave us glimpses of the summit as we climbed up. At the end of the burn, we walked into the most beautiful, mossy old growth forest that escaped the fire. Look at the snow level on these trees, as indicated by the moss line!

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I’m a pretty happy hiker. I found a tree to climb. Rigby wasn’t impressed.

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Clearing the tree line, clouds broiled around us, we saw white posts and gave high-fives for reaching our high point goal. All downhill from here…well, sort of.

We gazed across the canyon at Meadows ski area, always impressed by its immensity.

We descended toward Lamberson Spur and hooked up with the Gnarl Ridge trail, headlights ready as we knew we would run out of daylight shortly after Elk Meadows, with a large stream crossing further down now consigned to darkness.

We just flew down the arrow straight Elk Meadows trail as we lost the daylight, still a few hours from closing our loop. I chased Rigby at a fast clip, powering over rises, drunk with the ecstasy of hours of continuous movement.  I’ve extended my endurance dramatically the last three years, and I find I get into a really pleasant zone after so many hours on trail. I had more power and felt faster after nine hours than I did at two. Then, I’m good for ten, twelve, even up to around eighteen hours on trail, so long as I keep eating and drinking. This has really pushed me toward more trail Ultras, with the confidence I can handle 50k trail runs without concern of finishing.

I hear Craig say behind me, ‘I hope that log is still there’ and my ‘hoo-boy’ detector goes off, here’s some fun!  I crawled across it, not wanting to risk my balance after ten hours on the trail on walking on a slick log.  Rigby ran across and looked at me like ‘Rut’s the big deal, Ruzan?’ Oh, and if you look close, the log is utterly compromised, splitting into pieces, and probably will be in the stream soon, if it isn’t already.  Thankfully, I didn’t notice that until we were across it.

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We returned finally to the Lamberson Spur junction, where Rigby posed for some scary night photos.

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We finally hit the trailhead after a few hours hiking in the dark, one of my favorite things to do.  As a kid, I’d run into the forest at night with my Aussie, Lucy, just to feel and hear the deep woods at night.   Our current Aussie, Luna, won’t be up for this level of hike for a few years even, but I look forward to someday showing her this part of the wonderful world in which we live. 

Miles of blowdown sure killed our moving average, but what a great day on the trail!

There’s a bat-shit-crazy option for the next time we do this hike, adding a few miles and another ~500-1000′ of climbing, some on snow, to visit the Bandit Rock/Boulder. It’s a giant rock that tumbled down from the summit block of Hood sometime in the last 20 years, visible from the top of Cooper Spur. I’ve been there once, and it seems a shame to pass just underneath it again, so it’s also on the menu for the next trip in June 2019.

Thanks to Craig for his photos, and to Rigby for being our stalwart adventure companion!

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Additional excellent resources for this hike:

Lamberson Spur Loop Hike:

https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Lamberson_Spur_Loop_Hike

Bandit Rock Trip Report – truly, named after a box of cheap wine:

https://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=16904

Warum bin ich ich und warum nicht du?

I am a girl, running in high alpine meadows
Brown dress, with yellow and pink flowers
Simple black boots, I climb higher, joyfully free
The shadow of the Matterhorn, above me
Fields of flowers, could there be anything better?

I am a child, in war-ravaged Berlin
The pain of hunger and sadness of loss
Filling my stomach instead of food
Alone, my family gone, my tears flow
I know no hope for my future, yet here it comes

I am a boy, running through tall trees with my dog
Stately Doug Fir, and tall Cedars bear witness to our bliss
We have no set destination, my pup and I
We journey for the pure joy of it
Timelessly, we roam, at least until dinnertime

I am a woman, tall and strong
I climb over boulders in alpine fields of Glacier Lilly
Bold; nearly reckless, some might say, truth be told
The rocky slope slides and I fall, inexorably toward Eternity
Contemplating my impending end, I agree

I am no one, I am a body walking
On this Earth, yet not of it
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
How am I all of these, yet none of them?

*with inspirational credit to Peter Handke’s ‘Lied Vom Kindsein’ (Song of a Child)

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