About this blog...

Here you will find information, musings, and pictures about life, the natural world and writing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Solar System Revealed

Watching the top of Mt. Saint Helens disappear in 1980 made geology abruptly real and relevant and not the least theoretical or gradual. Blam! Yup, that's geology. Watching this eclipse did the same for astronomy. Forget the left-brain physics--this was giant objects and forces doing what they do. Human desires and powers are irrelevant to the cosmos, sci-fi writers to the contrary.

We dithered about leaving Portland for somewhere south and maybe east to see the full eclipse and were saved by an invitation to a Portland Audubon fund raiser. A family named Bridges (Bridges Foundation) recently bought a property near Turner, Oregon, south of Salem, to preserve an oak forest. They offered the place for a camp-out and the ace volunteers of Audubon jumped for it. (Thank you, thank you.) So about 100 of us straggled in to Oak Haven on Saturday and pitched our tents.

We lacked water faucets, showers, and picnic tables, and porta-potties were in short supply, but we had a surplus of people delighted to see each other, brown creepers and peewees in abundance, and dogs, kids, sunshine, and oaks. This event was organized to the nines and any hitches were invisible. Everyone pitched in, nothing caught fire (a distinct possibility) and I believe we left the place spotless. The peewees called and called, morning and evening, with the odd towhee pitching in, delicate trills contributed by the creepers. Turkey vultures passed overhead now and again, but I slept through the late-night coyote chorus, alas.

People led bird walks, meditation walks, dragonfly walks, and so on. We had a sing-along and a dessert potluck and long arguments discussions about the very best place to view the eclipse.  Audubon's executive director flipped pancakes for us.

Monday morning we hauled camp chairs to a grassy meadow with our special glasses, dogs, kids, and cameras and sat down for the show.

The sun is just painful to look at without the viewing glasses and half or one third of a sun is nearly as bright as a full sun, so I would guess that in pre-physicist years, people didn't really notice eclipses until they were well under way. But with the glasses, I could see that the moon was a huge thing crossing the sky, somehow much more 3-D and more intimidating as a big dark sphere during the day than it is as a yellow one at night. The sun seemed to hover motionless as the gray moon slid across it.

Even a sliver of sun is blindingly bright. But twilight slowly set in. Close to totality, the air temperature dropped and people pulled on sweaters. The dogs and birds and horses nearby didn't do anything unusual that I noticed. You couldn't read a newspaper, but you neither would you need a flashlight. When the sun was completely occluded, peach-colored sunset ran all around the horizon. As agreed, we were silent.

Totality is not at all like almost-totality. The sun disappeared completely--only darkness. Until I pulled off the glasses. Then I saw a flaming ring, the sun's corona around the dark moon. The corona is always there, but too faint to see without the sun's disk entirely masked.

I have had the privilege of seeing that unlikely beauty.

Then the moon slid on and we sighed and got up and began to pack for the tedious struggle home through traffic.

Thank you, universe, for our eyes and ability to take notice. We won't forget.

Totality pancakes by Nick Hardigg


Digi-scoped moon (thanks, Dan, for the help)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Owl on the Road to Medford

After three mystery novels with a mainstream mystery publisher--Poisoned Pen Press--I have embarked on a different fiction journey. I wrote a short story, it won a contest, and my muse said, "Let's do more of that!"

The original Owl on the Road to Medford was an experiment in voice and indirect story. (Yes, I just  made up that term.) You can read it HERE.  Calyx literary magazine picked it up after it won the 2014 Oregon Writer's Colony first prize for short fiction. Woo-hoo!

So I wrote six more short stories with the same narrator in the same setting--a wildlife rehabilitation clinic somewhere in western Oregon. I got to use a bunch of anecdotes from my zoo days and thereafter. The central character is an amalgam of men I have known and liked and sympathized with. Why a male voice? "Why not?" says the muse. Just because, say I.

These seven stories turned out to have a story arc, an adventure of the heart. Together, they seemed to me to make a novella--not as big as a novel, but not a short story collection in the usual sense.

As far as I can tell, publishers have no interest in novellas, so I set out to self-publish, as many authors are doing these days. After a short but intense struggle, The Owl on the Road to Medford is now available as an ebook. Click HERE to take a look. It soon will be available on paper, assuming that I figure out how to do that.

If you buy it and like it, do me a favor and post a little review. I'd appreciate it and my muse might, too.


When hope fails--a poem

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

"The Real Work" by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words. © 1983, Used by permission of Counterpoint. (buy now)