Posts Tagged ‘contentment’

Newport, Oregon, Nye Beach We sit in the comfy chairs on the third floor of the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, gazing out at the gray sky and the rolling white caps. It’s our 36th anniversary, and we came to celebrate in this wonderful book-filled hotel. But my mouth hurts from the tooth that had to be extracted yesterday, and husband is coughing from the cold he caught recently. In our younger days, this might have ruined our special day.Sylvia Beach Hotel

However 36 years give one a little perspective. Seagulls soar past the windows, pushed by the wind. The sun peeks out briefly to light up the waves. Husband sketches a beach scene; I write these words. The ocean beats a constant rhythm into our souls. We are at peace.

Life needn’t be perfect to be good. So many times our expectations prevent us from enjoying the blessings we receive. We want the perfect job, the perfect wedding, the perfect spouse, house, and kids. But life has more glitches than a new computer system, and perfection is a rare commodity here on earth.

Newport, OR beach with gullsMy husband’s uncle had a stroke. While Uncle John partially recovered, he remained weak on one side and had difficulty speaking. A former outdoorsman, he took up painting with his good hand. He made the most of what he had. And whenever he was asked how he was—or many other questions for that matter—his answer was always “Good enough.”

And what’s so wrong with “good enough?” We all have things that keep our lives from being perfect—whether health issues, money problems, disagreements with family or neighbors, job hassles, whatever. We can spend our days bemoaning our problems, or we can accept what we are given and make the most of it. We can enjoy the blessings we are given.dark clouds at beach

The waves keep pounding onto the sand, an ever-changing, but ever-the-same pattern. Dark clouds promise rain. We sit side-by-side, staring out the window, sharing the beauty of the moment. Thirty-six years. Years filled with smiles and tears, joys and frustrations. Not perfect years, but definitely “good enough.”

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WHigh Prairie Trail, Mt. Hoode’d been spending too much time at home working. I was feeling restless. Where should we go? Mt. Hood is always nice this time of year. It’s a bit early for black flies, and the alpine meadows are filled with flowers. So recently my husband and I headed up for a hike to Lookout Mountain on the east side of Mt. Hood.Lookout Mountain 105

We bumped over miles of washboard gravel road to reach the trail head at High Prairie. “Keeps the tourists away,” we said optimistically. And it appeared to be true, as there were only a couple of cars in the parking area. As predicted, the meadow was awash with color—white and yellow daisy-type flowers, Indian paintbrush, and more. We took the trail to the right, as recommended in the guide book. It was a wise decision. View after view of the mountaintop—only seven miles away—opened up as we hiked along. One place a field of red lava rocks added to the mountain view.Lookout Mountain 049

Lookout Mountain 039As we neared the high point, ghostly white tree trunks twisted in tortured shapes, bent by the wind. New kinds of flowers appeared. And talk about views! From the top, where a fire lookout used to stand, we could see mountains all around: St. Helens, Adams, Rainier to the north; Jefferson and the Three Sisters to the south.

Oval Lake, near Lookout MountainWe continued down—and I do mean down, with the path a bit steep in places—to Oval Lake, a couple of miles farther along. A scenic little lake where the deep quiet echoed softly in my ears. There we rested for what I knew would be a grueling uphill slog back to Lookout Mountain, before we hit the downhill path back to the truck. My fears proved true, for me at least. My husband, a runner, patiently waited for me during my frequent rest breaks.

Lookout Mountain, Mt. HoodWe took the old road from the lookout back to the truck—not as scenic as the way up, but a pleasant downhill stroll back to the bright meadow where we began. But now with tired legs, a camera full of pictures, and the peace that comes from spending time in God’s creation. Sometimes I forget, in the busy days of life, how much I need quiet, green places and towering mountains. At Lookout Mountain my soul was fed.     Lookout Mountain 060

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Newport, Oregon beach rocks I love all sorts of walks on the beach: romantic strolls with my husband, energetic hikes to a distant jetty or dune, meandering ambles with a new friend. When our kids were small, I loved watching them as they scrambled around, picking up every shell and turning over every stone in search of something wonderful. However, introvert that I am, nothing quite beats being alone on the beach with a camera.Footprints on the beach, Newport, Oregon

Newport, Oregon: ocean and cloudsEarly morning is the best time; sunset is great, too, if the colors are bright. Any time at all is still nice. Today it was morning: a still morning early enough that the breeze had not yet begun, when the sun rose brightly over the hills, and the freshly washed sand pulled me toward it with magnetic force. After a lovely rest in the Emily Dickinson room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, I was ready.Newport, Oregon: rocks and buildings in mist

Being alone brings a certain freedom. I can sing praise songs aloud with the pounding of the surf both my background music and my disguise. I can stop to watch a bird circling above or stand and drink in the peacefulness of the ocean as long as I want, with no worries that someone else may wish to move on. I can turn aside for whatever catches my eye—a cloud formation, a small pool’s reflection, a tiny shell, or even just the pattern left in the sand by the rushing waves and beating wind. I can take a hundred pictures, trying to capture the essence of the scene, the special beauty of that particular moment.

Newport, Oregon sand patternsFinally I must wander back to join the others, to eat breakfast, to plan our day. But those moments alone on the beach with my camera have given me images to share, as well as a peace inside that is all my own.

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Mist and bare branches Oregon winters include a mixture of white and gray. Not to mention that clear stuff that drips from the sky. We adapt to gray skies and rejoice when blue appears—which it actually did for several days recently. Unfortunately, blue skies in the winter mean cold days, colder nights, and, where I live, a biting East wind. A bit of a mixed blessing, but still nice to see.Frozen fog

Last week we had a particularly beautiful, frosty day. Fog had drifted in and frozen on the trees, bushes, and whatever else it reached, creating scenes worthy of Christmas cards. Unfortunately, we discovered this while on the road, and I hadn’t brought my camera along. So all I can offer is a close-up from my phone.

Mist on tree branchesThen the days warmed up, bringing fog that dripped, rather than froze. Gauzy gray skies were backlit by the sun struggling to break through. And for this day, at least, light proved stronger than the clouds, bringing another sunny day. Now we are back to gray and rain, but hey, I’m a native Oregonian. I can handle it!Dripping branches

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Family is one of the most important things in life. I’ve heard that many times, and I really believe it. But often I get so busy that family gets ignored, particularly family that doesn’t live in the same house. I intend to call or visit, but time flies, while I crawl along, loaded with the chores of everyday.

Last weekend I spent time with family. My brothers, husband, sister-in-law, and I took our father to the beach for two nights to celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the beach with my brothers since we were kids. And it was wonderful!

We spent a lot of time remembering adventures—and misadventures—we’d had when we were little. “You know,” one brother said. “I can’t blame any problems I have on my childhood.” So true! We had a good childhood. Our parents weren’t perfect (although they didn’t make any more mistakes than I did with my kids!), but we always knew we were loved, and that they would be there for us anytime we needed them. That sense of security made childhood a safe place to explore and learn and grow.

We walked on the beach once the sun cleared out some of the clouds—at least all of us did except for my dad. Legs no longer steady enough for beach walking, he sat by the picture window, content to watch the crashing waves and kaleidoscope sky.

If any man fits Paul’s description in Philippians 4:12, it is my dad: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” He has been widowed twice, survived four types of cancer, been on three-times-a-week dialysis for years, and yet I rarely hear a word of complaint. “The secret to happiness is not feeling sorry for yourself,” he told me.

I’m so glad we could all spend the weekend together. It’s good to be with people who know and love me just the way I am. Not all families are like that, I hear. I feel so blessed!

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Summer Quotations

I thought I would post a couple of summer quotations today to give Northern Hemisphere people something to think about and Southern Hemisphere people something to look forward to.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  John Lubbock

And to make that possible: “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”  James Dent


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Yaquina Head

One of Oregon’s well-kept secrets is that occasionally the sun does come out, even at the coast. We chanced upon one of those rare spring days while staying in Newport for a belated anniversary getaway. So naturally we spent much of the day outside, walking on the beach and exploring nearby Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. (Yes, that really is the official name of the place.)

 A minus tide had opened up more tide pools, and we explored these, discovering anemones, starfish, mussels, barnacles, snails, and tiny fish that darted into dark corners when we came close.

While my husband sketched the lighthouse, I tried—mostly unsuccessfully—to capture a photo of the perfect breaker. Then we sat quietly for a bit, watching the cormorants on the rocks and murres crowded together high up on a cliff, preparing to nest. A ranger explained how murre eggs are tapered at one end, so that they don’t roll off the cliff, since murres don’t build nests for them. What a precarious way to live!

 Later we moved on a short distance to Quarry Cove, a manmade cove where harbor seals like to raise their young. We didn’t see any baby seals there, but did watch two adult seals laboriously make their way up onto a rock to sun themselves. Seals shoot like rockets through the water, but on land they lose all semblance of grace. It almost hurt to watch as they thrashed and rolled, trying to move on the rock. Poor things!

 And finally back to the hotel to watch the golden-red sun sink quietly into the ocean. A perfect day at the coast!

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When I got up, it was cool, but dry outside. By the time I left the house, rain was lightly falling. When I reached the light rail parking lot, it had become, as another passenger put it, “a monsoon.” Wind blew the rain into me, leaving dark splotches on my jeans as I gratefully settled into a dry seat by the heater. When I disembarked at my destination, the rain had stopped, and bits of blue showed through the clouds. Half an hour later, sunshine poured down from blue skies marred only by a few windswept gray and white clouds along the horizons. When I got home, however, an hour later, dark clouds were moving back in. We attempted a walk with the dog, but soon gave up as the wind and rain returned.

This is a typical winter (okay, almost winter) day in western Oregon. Rain and wind, occasional drying spells, more rain. We enjoy the brief visits by the sun and accept the wet days as the price we pay for living in a place where green, growing things are abundant and drought a rarity. Where only once every fifty years or so do we get buried under feet of snow, and where twisters and typhoons are almost unknown. (Strangely enough, not long after I wrote this, a tornado ripped through little Aumsville, Oregon. How weird!)

Rain? Well, yeah, it does bring flooding and seeps in through leaky roofs. (Glad we have a new roof for the winter!) But, overall, we can handle it. Everyone knows that true Oregonians are born with webbed feet. (Think Beavers and Ducks.) And if it gets too bad, we only need turn to Genesis and learn how to build an ark.

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Chickadees came to the feeder yesterday, only to find the suet all gone. One pecked at the metal bars of the feeder, trying to get what little specks might be left. The other sat on a nearby branch, cocking its head, with a sad look on its face. (Okay, the sad look was in my imagination. I don’t think chickadees are even capable of looking sad.) I took the hint and put another block of suet in the feeder. Soon the birds were happily pecking away.

Black-capped chickadee

Chickadees are energetic, friendly little birds. We get two kinds of chickadees around here: black-capped and chestnut backed. They pair up in the summer and travel in larger groups in the winter. They show little fear around me. Often one will perch in the dogwood tree where I hang the bird feeders, chirping at me as I dump in the sunflower seeds or replace the suet. As soon as I walk back toward the house, it will hop over onto the feeder, ready to eat.

Chestnut-backed chickadee

I love to watch the chickadees as they hang upside down or sideways on the feeder, or flit in to grab a sunflower seed before bouncing off to eat it—or perhaps hide it. I read that black-capped chickadees like to hide seeds, each individual seed in a different place, and can remember thousands of hiding places. I can only dream of such a memory!

 Chickadees—friendly little acrobats of the bird world. I welcome their company.

(Lower two photographs from http://www.allaboutbirds.org)

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Squirrels can be a nuisance at times—knocking food out of the bird feeders and gobbling it down before the poor little birds get a chance. However, they can also be pretty amazing to watch. Today’s squirrel first appeared running along the phone wire from our house. How it kept its balance on such a thin line I don’t know, but it appeared quite at ease on the high wire. It stopped as it reached the kousa dogwood brimming with ripe, red fruit.

 After munching on the juicy dogwood fruit, still balanced on that narrow wire, it was ready for a snack of sunflower seeds. We try to hang out feeders where birds will at least have a fighting chance for the seeds. However, those limber squirrels have no trouble getting all they want, even if it means hanging upside down to eat. A couple chestnut-backed chickadees attempted to join the squirrel for supper, but didn’t seem too comfortable with the tilting table.

 After several minutes of sunflower seed chomping, our friendly neighborhood squirrel needed a rest. Up the light pole, it scooted, easy as strolling down the street. Perched serenely on a wire high up the pole, the critter surveyed its domain contentedly. Below, robins pecked at dogwood fruits and chickadees zipped to and from the feeders, enjoying the short respite our lordly squirrel deigned to allow—because we all know who controls the feeders.

 Anybody have any good squirrel tales to tell?

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