Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being

Droughts, Abundant Rain, & Being
Dry Bones (September 2012). Photo by Tim Graves Creative Commons License BY-NC-ND 3.0

Awhile back, I was inspired by the abundant life still present in the parched late summer at the Tom McCall Preserve near Rowena, Oregon. The dry conditions were not unusual that year. I confess the sound of the hot wind blowing through the dry grass and crinkling leaves brings me peace when I hike there in the summer months.

Instead of the Columbia River Gorge’s hot breath, I experienced its bitter winds on my early February hike. There was no crunching to be heard, only the sloshing sound of my  (thankfully!) waterproof hiking boots on the muddy and floody trail. There was subtle beauty in the winter moisture just as there was in late summer.

Last fall, much of this area was under a drought emergency. Mt. Hood was rapidly losing its snowcap. Areas I hiked in July had the same lack of snow that is typical of late September. This winter we’ve been blessed by moisture falling as rain at the lower elevations and snow in the mountains.

Certainly we need to be concerned about climate change; we should be taking more drastic actions than we have been taking. Nonetheless, spiritually we  need to remember that the very nature of existence is change. What is now, will not last forever. Droughts become an abundant winter of snow and rain.

Writes Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, “Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.” I confess that I’ve recently been in a funk. I’ve been struggling with the wilderness, the “no-man’s-land” as Chödrön refers to it, on and off for some time.

The result of course is I’ve been out of harmony with reality. By allowing myself to resist and struggle against the impermenance, failing to be in the present, I allow myself to be out of sync with the joy, the contentment — the divinity — within myself and others. So, I confess my sin and pledge to continue the wandering, the learning to be. 


Below are photos of the moisture from my recent trek through McCall Preserve. The image that looks like a small stream? That’s the trail.

The Lichen & Leaves of Hope

The Lichen & Leaves of Hope

McCall Point Trail still smells of burn. Containment lines are marked as no-hike, restoration areas in the natural preserve. In many ways, my first journey on the trail since the early-August Rowena Fire was sad. The loss of brush and many trees is significant.  To contain the fire, firefighters had rightly destroyed delicate vegetation to build containment lines.

But the grasses will return in the spring. The many surviving trees have already started to sprout new leaves despite the season. The lichen in all its delicate beauty has found sustenance in scorched fenceposts and tree stumps.

New leaves sprout from a blackened tree. Photo by Tim Graves
New leaves sprout from a blackened tree. Photo by Tim Graves
Photo by Tim Graves
The delicate and hardy lichen finds a home on a burnt fencepost. Photo by Tim Graves


Additional Post-Burn Photos of McCall Point

In the Valley of Dry Bones (photos)

McCall Point Trail, June 2012  (photos)


In the Midst of Dry Bones

In the midst of the dry bones,

   under the hot sun,

      where the vultures circle,

         and where water once ran…

Look closely for,

   subtle beauty,

      for Divine majesties,

         for wisps of pink and lavender,

             a blush of gold,

                and for bursts of golden yellow…

On the mounds of dry bones,

   look closely because,

     life abounds,

         under the unrepenting glare,

             where ingenuity finds all that it needs to continue…

In the valley of dry bones…

   do not rush by,

      instead linger,

         listen for the doe in the bushes,

            contemplate the scrub oak reproducing,

                  and marvel at the one bright red berry,

                     that prophesies in the midst of dry bones.

All photos by Tim Graves.