Home in the Sticks

"Seriously, the biggest pain was getting to fucking Newark. I took two trains, a light rail and had to deal with dudes with M-16s at security," I explained while pulling a blackberry vine out of the thigh of my chinos. "The plane ride was no problem."

"Gotta love New Jersey... The trail starts in a little bit," Tim (my little brother) said between yawns as he pushed the chest high bushes aside. Ever vigilant for the sharp barbs of a blackberry vine he distractedly asked, "What time is it?"

"7:13 AM"
"Damn." Tim sighed, attempting to act annoyed at his early arousal but telegraphing his affection and excitement to share the attention of empty-nested parents.
Craving the starry nights, fresh fruit, company of my family and the feel of the outdoors, I left my office in Manhattan some twelve hours earlier and set off for the northwest for the first time in 10 months.

Waking up with a jolt as the plane made its initial approach to the Portland International Airport, I jammed my face against the window. Looking for familiar fixtures, I quickly made out the hills where I went to high school and the highways where I drove to and from Mt. Hood. With a smile, I grabbed my Alder Springs backpack from under the seat in front of me and eagerly charged by the friendly Continental staff.

The following morning, I woke early. Energized by the morning's light and the excitement of my nostalgic surroundings, I scrambled up the stairs to bother my brother in the method known only to older siblings.

"Rise and Shine it's butt whipping time!" I bellowed as I barged through the door, grabbing his Pendleton blanket and ripping it off in one motion.

"The light's beautiful. Lets go for a walk," I half suggested, half mandated.

Tim found this elk skull while in a field near Mt. Helens. The flowers maybe fake, but the story isn't.

My dad and brother on the Columbia River.

Many of the things I resented as a middle schooler slowly have grown in importance and affection in my memory. As a kid I avoided spending time at our family's second home in the Columbia River Gorge, opting to stay some 40 miles to the west in Portland. Now, as a full fledged young-urban-professional, I yearn for the seclusion and inherent beauty like a trustafarian for a chance to give George Dubayah and Mr. Rumsfeld a piece of their enlightened mind.

"Damn it feels good to be home on the range," I grinned.
"Home on the range? We are not in Montana. This is Washington, we are home in the sticks."
"The Sticks?"
"Yea, it's a Chinook saying for the woods."
"Home in the sticks," I acknowledged.
Here are some more links,
Home in the Sticks (Picasa).

Once In a Blue Moon

On my last night in the Northwest, I made the routine drive back from Portland to the Gorge under the cover of an almost full moon. A 30 mile per hour east wind shook the car from side to side as I listened to Rebellion by the Arcade Fire on my iPhone. Staring out of the window at the scenery illuminated by the vibrant light of the moon, I realized that December was a Blue Moon. I slammed on the brakes, hopped out of the car, opened my trunk, grabbed my tripod and 5d Mark II, and set the shutter for long exposures.

The near full moon's light illuminated the landscape and provided surprising contrasts and colors.

Every few minutes, headlights appeared down the road and I released the shutter to avoid over exposures. Baffled by the by concept of being outside of their heat seats and radios, the drivers sped on.

The harsh wind and cold temperature only increased the solitude of the night. I guess it's my contrarian nature, but the longer I stayed outside numbing my ears and fingertips, the better I felt about standing alone and enjoying the night.

The harsh wind shook the tree's limbs and tall grass, blurring edges in this 30-second exposure.

Protected from the biting cold and gusting wind by my Filson Mackinaw Cruiser, I danced to the Arcade Fire as as my camera stood close, capturing the night on its tripod. Like a silhouette from an iPod commercial, I bounced around inspired by the night's beauty and the possibilities of youth.


At the Edge of the Columbia River Gorge

As a child, I spent a lot of time 45 minutes due east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. Protected by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the land has strict and drastic growth limitations. State Highway 14 connects the sprawl of Southwest Washington to the tall forests, basalt cliffs, and waterfalls of the Gorge (as its called by both x-pat Portland yuppies and local loggers).

After ten miles of dense spec homes and sewage treatment plants, the suburban sprawl evaporates, exposing the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge and its flood plains speckled by the occasional tree.

My parents now both live in the Columbia River Gorge and I frequently drive through this game reserve on my way to and from Portland. Despite making the trip thousands of times in my 21 years, the beauty of the contrast between the gross urban sprawl of the Portland area and natural beauty of the Northwest always forced me to look up from my phone or magazine and take in my setting.

While driving home after a few errands in Portland on a despicable December day, the wind, rain and clouds flowing out of the Gorge inspired me to stop. I parked my car on the side of the road, turned off the Dire Straits, grabbed my camera and headed towards the fields. I hopped the barbed wire and strolled aimlessly through the fields. The minutes melted together as my mind started racing, keeping pace with the whistling of the wind through the grass and the pendulum like bending of the leafless branches on the occasional tree.

Drawn to the creaking of limbs, I followed the sounds, eventually settling on this lone tree. Bending and shaking from the winds rushing west from the desert east of the Cascades, I stood watching the clouds fly towards the big city like bubbles towards a bath's drain, or to those of the Luddite persuasion, toilet paper towards the sewers.

Here are some more links,
The Edge of the Gorge (Picasa).