Saturday, January 31, 2009

Celtic Festival of Imbolc

The Festival of Imbolc marks the loosening of winter’s grip upon the land. The feast’s matron, Brighid, brings new energy and light to the world. The name Imbolc is derived from the lactation of ewes which begin lambing at this time of year. It is a time of cleansing and purification.

My ritual for January 31st includes burning sage throughout the house to purify the air and space, and get rid of old, stale and wintry influences. Then at the fall of darkness, I will light candles in each room for light and warmth. I will open the door and welcome the protective blessing of Brighid into my home.

Tomorrow, February, sees the beginning of Spring. Celebrate!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Death on the Mountain

Last night I was driving home after dark, headed east on I-84. Even though it was barely visible against the night sky, I knew Mt. Hood was looming in front of me. I saw something bright in the sky, not really moving. Often I see airplanes headed for PDX, but they move fast and in a straight line. This appeared to be a helicopter hovering with a bright search light focused downward. My heart sank and I had that familiar dread go through me. There must be a Search and Rescue in progress. Trouble on the mountain where unstable ice has been falling in large chunks and one climber was badly injured just a few days ago.

When I got home and turned on the news, I learned it was a recovery mission and not a rescue. A beautiful young woman climbing with her husband had been hit by falling ice and fallen 400 feet. His efforts to revive her had been futile and he had skied out for help. Another life lost in the pursuit of the summit.

Mt. Hood is a tough climb and even more challenging in the winter. Even experienced climbers can encounter conditions that are dangerous and life threatening. And the mountain is unforgiving. The weather in winter is unpredictable and can change from moment to moment.

We are blessed in this area to have teams of incredibly skilled SARS climbers who are willing to risk their own lives to go out in rough conditions to provide assistance to those in trouble. This time, help was too late to save a life. Nevertheless, they rallied to recover the body.

Today, a heated discussion rages on local blogs regarding climbers paying for rescue/recovery operations. There are many who think the risk takers should assume full responsibility if they run into trouble. There are others (usually the rescuers themselves) who believe strongly that no one should be charged for what the rescuers do voluntarily. Someday I might need help out on the trail and I hope I don’t have to have my credit card with me in order to get someone to respond.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Memoriam

Lennard Eugene Graham
July 31, 1993 - January 21, 2008
Deeply loved, sorely missed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Angry Walla Walla Brothers

The winds from the East are racing down The Gorge and blasting everything in their path. Here at the West End we live in an icy wind tunnel. The earliest inhabitants of the lower Columbia, the Chinook, thought the wind was the breath of powerful beings who lived far away up the river. “Every sigh, whistle, moan or roar of the wind seemed to them to be the voice of its spirit,” wrote Ella E. Clark in her book “Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Chinook believed that the cold East Wind, the one that has been buffeting this area the past few days, was caused by the five Walla Walla brothers.” Clark wrote. According to the legend she tells, the wicked brothers to the east killed the five brothers who caused the warm west wind. Brave Chinook warriors took revenge leaving only one evil brother alive. Now the legend says, “the cold East Wind has blown only lightly.”

Well…Ella…define “lightly.” Today it is difficult to stand up. The wild winds will whip whatever you are holding right out of your hands and be careful opening your car door. My neighbors study wooden fence is strewn in pieces in the street. The neighborhood looks as if it has been “tee-peed” with plastic bags decorating all the trees. Combine these winds with the low temperatures being recorded this week and that puts the wind chill factor down in the single digits.

When I moved here I wasn’t sure if I would wear my Cabela down coat any more. Today I am glad I have it. I’ll pull that fake fur hood tight when I take the dogs for their walks today. I may have to tie rocks to my feet to keep from blowing away.

* Quotes and info from the Oregonian article by Doug Bates.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Grandmother

Clara Belle Sheldon Barnes
February 28, 1866 – January 7, 1942

My grandmother’s life spanned the years from the Civil War to World War II. Born in Marshall, Michigan, she married a traveling salesman from Missouri and moved to Kansas City. William Gregory Barnes was born in the Ozarks, but left his humble beginnings and brought his bride to a house near where the Plaza was later built. Today H&R Block world headquarters is on that spot.

After four children were born, the family moved to the “Big House” in the Valentine Road neighborhood. My grandfather died in 1928 and Gramma lived the rest of her life as a widow. The Big House was a home for my parents, my sister & me, and my Uncle Phil. It was the style called “Shirtwaist” and had three sprawling floors, a front and back staircase, servants quarters, and the scariest basement a little girl ever saw.

During the early years of my life in that house, my grandmother was in her 70’s, the very age I am now. It’ hard to imagine now as she seemed ancient at that time. She rocked me and sang me lullabyes and I’m sure she gave my mother lots of advice that started with “I’ve raised four children…” She had a circle of lady friends who met weekly for tea and bridge. I still have many of the tea cups she used for those events.

She was involved in the building of the World War I Memorial and is commemorated there with a brick with her name inscribed. After my Uncle Phil was injured in that war, she spoke out against war. That was a very unpopular stance to take when Pearl Harbor was bombed!

She was a strong willed woman, a matriarch in the true sense of the word. She loved politics (Harry Truman was a frequent visitor), knitting and reading. [Sound familiar?] She was very formal, always dressed in flowered silk dresses with jewelry, even at breakfast. She dropped dead of a heart attack at the foot of the curving staircase with the telephone in her hand. We never knew who she was calling.

Friday, January 02, 2009

“All the snow has turned to water…

Christmas days have come and gone.” A John Prine song that is echoing in my brain.

All that white stuff that we had dumped on us during the two-week-long Arctic Blast has now been followed by a Global Warming preview with melted snow that has swollen the rivers and over-run the ponds and lakes and is flooding all the low lying areas. As we used to say down home, “Roll up your pants, it’s too late to save your socks.”

Portland is the only place I ever lived where weather is considered news. I mean news news. Twenty-four/seven news. On-every-channel news. Today we have every road closure (there are many), the snow depth on the mountain, the height of every river and stream below, and the condition of every cloud in the sky.

My granddaughter and I are warm and cozy inside, safe from the elements, eating leftover pizza and playing with Christmas toys. Part of the clan gathered yesterday to greet the New Year with a cutthroat game of Trivial Pursuit and plenty of pizza. The 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle is almost finished. I’m out of egg nog. It is time for the holidays to be over.

The decorations will stay up until Epiphany which just happens to be the day I go back to work. I will take the gifts I wasn’t able to deliver earlier, and call them Twelfth Night presents. I am ready for the newness of Ought Nine.