Japanese Garden Bonus: Netsuke Carvings

During my recent visit, the Japanese Garden had an exhibition of netsuke, carved figures used in the Edo period to secure purses to pocketless kimonos. At a time when the merchant classes were prohibited from any display of opulence, the functional intention of these objects provided a loophole for small bits of showy fashion. (Since the netsuke bound the purse string to the kimono belt sort of like a bolo tie, the term loophole might be, oh, never mind.) Here’s a sampling from the exhibit.

Spring 2022 at the Japanese Garden and Tryon Creek State Natural Area

For the last day of March, a two-fer: I went for an early morning visit to the Japanese Garden, and in the afternoon, Nancy and I went for a walk at Tryon Creek State Natural Area.

For most of the year, the Japanese Garden is all about shades of green, and the magical spaces that thoughtful design can create. But for fall colors and spring blossoms, it’s showtime! This time there were cherry trees in full bloom, camellias, azaleas and andromeda, plus more light and less frozen fingers — all signs of the changing season.

Another herald of spring is the appearance of trillium among the ferns on the forest floor. It may have been our initial spring in Portland when I first noticed trillium in bloom at Tryon Creek Park, so that seemed a fitting place to look for them after seeing a few at the Japanese Garden, and hearing of “thousands” at Forest Park from another enthusiastic visitor there. It did not disappoint.

Both the Japanese Garden and Tryon Creek Park are places we visit throughout the year. I enjoy having a familiar frame to consider all the seasons; it makes it easy to find the beauty all year long. But ya gotta love spring and all the showboat flora. And, it’s nice to finally lose a layer of clothes and some of the mud on my shoes.

(Here is Nancy’s blog inspired by this outing.)

(Click on an image to see a gallery of all my photos from this day.)

Home from Nisqually: Silver Lake and Ridgefield

After our day at Nisqually, we left Centralia the next morning and raced the rain back to Portland, with two stops along the way: Seaquest (WA) State Park at Silver Lake, and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The Wetland Haven trail at the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center (across the highway from the state park camping area) provides up close views of the mountain, and a boardwalk through the wetlands. At Ridgefield, for the second time this winter we drove the Auto Tour in the rain. Always worthwhile, despite the weather challenges. I have many photos of in-focus raindrops with blurry birds in the background, a tribute to the camera’s autofocus capabilities, but otherwise not very interesting. The Pacific Northwest is going to force me to build up my manual focus chops.

More about this trip on Nancy’s blog.

(Click on an image to visit the full gallery.)

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, February 2022

At the end of February we finally made it to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, outside of Olympia, Washington. This amazing sanctuary has been on our to-go list for a long time, encouraged by the photos and descriptions on our online friend Bonnie Rae’s blog, and it did not disappoint. It wasn’t exactly a “winter warmth” getaway from a weather standpoint, leaving Portland in the snow, arriving at the Visitor Center the next morning with the temperature inching into the 30s, keeping our balance on the crust of ice on the trail and boardwalk. But there was a different warmth in spending long slow hours exploring a beautiful place, encountering creatures we’d never seen, and getting to know new friends. Thanks for hosting us, Gretchen Staebler!

More about this trip on Nancy’s blog.

(Click on an image to visit the full gallery.)

Mom’s 90th

Yesterday would have been Mom’s 90th birthday. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have been too thrilled to hit that milestone; I can hear her voice saying “I’m so old!” Still, it’s impossible to see this date on the calendar and not think of the many positive milestones in her life. There’s no way to tell her whole story in just a few pictures, but here are some of my favorites.

This is the earliest picture of her I’ve found. She’s probably 2 here, with my grandparents, Anna and Morris Rosenblum, and her big sister, my Aunt Selma.
Here she is as a young mother of 3 boys, during the Kennedy era.
Mom and Dad, more than 50 years into their marriage.
Mom as a very happy mother-in-law, grandma, and great-grandma (GG).
Mom’s last birthday, in 2019. This was a really good day: a sing-along at her residence that got her dressed up and out, and after a rest back in her room, a clandestine takeout dinner of her favorite treyf.

Tualatin Hills Nature Park, and Beaverton Creek Wetlands

The Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District covers more than 50 square miles and serves over 200,000 people just west of us in Washington County, making it the largest parks district in Oregon. They have 95 park sites, 70 miles of trails, and 1,500 acres of natural areas, in addition to their rec centers and programs. I recently spent a morning exploring two of their sites: the Tualatin Hills Nature Park and the nearby Beaverton Creek Wetlands Natural Area.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)

Lo De Marcos 2018

As much as I’ve been enjoying my local explorations this winter, I’ve also been reminiscing about not-cold not-gray winter warmth travel in years past. Here are a few photos of some different birds from our trip to Lo De Marcos, Mexico, back in January of 2018. These are from two cameras ago — a Panasonic FZ28 that I had used for years in Santa Barbara. That camera is still plugging away, as Rosa’s first camera. Hoping for a guest blog some time soon!

The house folding guide to Birds of the Pacific Coast of Mexico called this a Colibrí Piquiancho — Broad-billed hummingbird.
Perhaps a Mosquero — a Flycatcher
An Ibis resting in the treetops
Garza-nocturna coroniclara – yellow-crowned night heron
OK, it’s not a bird, it’s an iguana. But it was in a tree.

Whitaker Ponds and Smith & Bybee Lakes, January 2022

Portland and the surrounding cities do a great job providing urban access to nature. There are greenway paths between developments, wetland trails linking parks, more than 30 city “natural areas”, and more than a dozen Metro nature parks. Many of these sites were created by protecting undeveloped spaces, but there have also been many projects to reclaim areas that had been previously impacted by industrial activities. I recently visited two of them: Whitaker Ponds, and Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area.

Whitaker Ponds is a mile away from the Columbia River, with the airport in between. It is adjacent to the Whitaker Slough, which connects to the 19 mile long Columbia River Slough. Part of the area had been a dump, and they say over 2000 tires were removed to create the park. A trail runs between the ponds and the slough, surrounded by cottonwoods and shrubs, passing through a variety of environments supporting many different creatures,

We’ve visited Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area several times in the past few years to walk the nature trail. At 2000 acres, it is one of the largest protected wetlands within city limits in the country. Near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, it is surrounded by warehouses and port terminals. There are two seasonal lakes, a riparian forest, sedge meadows, and a landfill that has been converted to a grasslands habitat. The Interlakes Trail has two viewing shelters, which on this visit were pretty distant from most of the waterfowl action. I heard a bald eagle, and saw an empty nest, but didn’t see one perched or flying in the Natural Area. But I did see a bald eagle at close range on the drive from Whitaker, flying at stoplight height through a nearby intersection.

(Click on the image to visit the full gallery.)