Thursday, March 23, 2017

Before I Die

Art in Public Places

Some people might disagree with my designation of this kiosk as "art".  But in my mind, it is.  It's an interactive art installation designed to get people to reflect on life and death.  A container of colorful chalk is attached and every single line on all four sides were filled in.  Some of the completed sentences are faded.  Some have been freshly written in.  I expect not a day goes by that someone in Hood River, Oregon, stops here.  Ponders.  And writes.

Today, it was me.  And my travel buddy.

He filled in a fresh sentence:  "Before I die I want to climb Aconcagua."  I traced over one, refreshing it with orange chalk.  "Before I die I want to visit every continent."

This is a community-wide Bucket List and it was fun reading them all.  Most were wishes to travel some place.  Some were more general and life-sweeping like having a baby or getting married.  And some were more tongue in cheek.
This kiosk is the result of the efforts of nurses and social workers of the Providence Hospice.  Many such installations are now popping up all over the world.  I think they are quite wonderful.  It certainly got me thinking.  I turn 62 next week and my own Bucket List has nearly 40 untraveled destinations on it.  Doing the actuarial math, I realize there's no way I can cross them all off, but really, it doesn't matter.  They are fun to make.  Fun to reflect on.  Such lists get my partner and I talking and dreaming and researching.

This is life.

This is art.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fields of Satin Flowers

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

You know that Spring has truly sprung when these cheerful, colorful flowers begin to bloom on the bluffs above the Columbia River.  The Olsynium douglassi is the first of the wildflowers; others will follow and it is my goal to photograph them all.  I told my travel buddy that I was traveling no where this Spring.  Staying put in the Gorge. I want to witness the unfolding of nature at its best and that includes wildflowers. In my search for magical moments, they are right up there with rainbows, waterfalls and the Great Blue Heron.

Although I have watched them pop up one by one on top of the Mosier Plateau all week, the fields of these satin flowers (aka Douglas Grass Widow and purple-eyed grass) cover the open meadows of the Rowena Crest.  Last Sunday, I joined dozens of other flower aficionados in hiking the still wet, muddy trail out to the bluff's edge.  Many of us had cameras in tow and were shooting away.  It was a clear, sunny day.  The ghostly outline of Mt. Hood could be seen in the distance.  The purple satin flowers danced in the breeze.

It made my heart soar.

Spring is finally here.

Stay tuned for more wildflower posts
as Spring unfolds.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lunch at the Baldwin Saloon

Favorite Pit Stops

Granted, this plain red building in downtown The Dalles, Oregon, doesn't look like much from the outside, but the minute you walk through that front door, you are immediately struck by how darn charming this place is.  Oh . . . and the food is really good!
 Every single wall is filled with gorgeous (and I mean Gorgeous!) landscapes of mountains and waterfalls.  Some of them I recognize:  The Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge.  Others are from Yosemite and possibly the Rocky Mountains.  It doesn't really matter.  Seen as a whole, I can't help but think of my sister's comment last week when she was visiting from Kansas City.  We took her up to the Rowena Crest lookout and she gasped at the panoramic view.   "Man, I love the West," she said.

Me, too.
 We stop here often for lunch whenever we are in town for errands.  I like to order from the specials.  Last week, they had falafels on the menu so that was a no-brainer.  They were stuffed into extra thick pita bread and smothered with a creamy tahini sauce and thinly sliced cucumbers.  Yum!  My travel buddy had two fish tacos.

This is the place we came to last summer when forced out of Mosier because of the train derailment.  They have a full bar and an excellent wine list, which we took full advantage of that day.  The place has a warm and cozy feel to it with its hardwood floors and red brick walls.  I tell you, it never ceases to satisfy!

The Baldwin Saloon is actually one of the oldest buildings in The Dalles.  I love that the place still exists and that it has come full circle.  It began as a saloon in 1876 but changed hands many times.  It served as a steamboat office, grain warehouse and even a storage place for coffins.  Now, thank goodness, it is once again a bar and restaurant.

And . . . a repository of art.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Carnegie in The Dalles

Collecting Carnegie Libraries
The Dalles, Oregon

A classical-style brick building.  Beautiful paintings.  A charming historic neighborhood.  A cat curled up in a wing chair.  Hand-crafted jewelry.  Watercolors and woven scarves.  Now I remember why I collect Carnegie Libraries. It's been awhile.  I sought them out while living in California, but this solid gem of a building in the heart of The Dalles is my first one in Oregon.

Of the 1,679 public library buildings funded by Andrew Carnegie between 1883 and 1929, 31 of them were in Oregon.  Only 11 of them are still libraries.  And, alas, several have been torn down.  In my travels, I have visited many that are now art galleries--such is the case with this one.

Built in 1910, it served the community as a library until 1966, when a larger, more modern one was built down the street.  In 1967 the Dalles Art Club received permission from the city council to use the vacant building as a venue to show and sell their art and to also hold art classes.  It has been going strong ever since.
Although, yes, I know Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless robber barren, I can't help but have great admiration for what he did later in life.  Once he sold his company to J. P. Morgan, philanthropy became an obsession.  Not only did he build concert halls and libraries, but he devoted his remaining years to world peace.  That this self-proclaimed pacifist should make millions from manufacturing steel that ultimately enabled the military industrial complex to grow is one of history's most ironic twists.  The realization that he was sending millions of men to their death sent him down a spiral of depression, fear and regret.  He drove himself hard to prevent World War I, and when he failed, he literally collapsed, fell silent and died a broken and tormented man.  The very moving biopic Andrew Carnegie Rags to Riches Power to Peace is an excellent account of his remarkable life.

He believed in education, valued community and understood the benefits of exposure to fine arts.  In his article, "The Gospel of Wealth" he urged the rich to give away their wealth after accumulating it.  Remarkable!  I think it should be required reading for every single one of the men and women in You Know Who's Cabinet of Millionaires.  Sigh.
I begin once again traveling the country in search of Carnegie Libraries.  To seek inspiration.  To enjoy.  To remember that goodness and generosity exists.  And will someday prevail.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Portland Art Museum Reverie

I don't mind rain at all when I have an art museum to duck into for a couple of hours.  Such was the case last Saturday when I was waiting for my travel buddy to finish a ten-mile hike with his Mazamas group.  I had been wanting to come here for months now; it was the perfect opportunity.
I found myself rushing through the galleries much too fast and I was not enjoying myself.  I couldn't even tell you what I was seeing.  Argh!  I had too little time.  There was too much to see.  My legs ached and my heart began to race.  What in the world was going on?

  I forced myself to sit down and study the Museum Map.  I had to stop this lunacy.  Pick only one or two galleries.  Slow down.  Study the art.  Read the descriptions.  Learn something, for crying out loud.

You are not on a ten-mile hike!
I chose three areas.  Three very very different areas, and because of it, I have been thinking about the art all week--what art means.  I started with the special exhibit:  Constructing Identity--the Petrucci Family Foundation's Collection of African-American Art.  It was beautifully curated, organized into themes:  Spirit, Gender, Abstraction, Community, Faces and Land.  There was an honesty here that made me reflect.  We can't really know what it means to be African-American or for that matter, Latino, Gay, Female(!) or Elderly unless we are one.  However, we can (and must) Stop, Look and Listen and I mean really listen in order to understand.  Art exhibits, such as this one, are bridges to empathy.  And dialogue.

I read:  In this exhibition and throughout history of African-American art, we illustrate mastery of what we've been mandated to learn--namely, European style of art-making, as a required sign of "visual intelligence."

And so I found myself walking quickly through the American art gallery to reach the European art.  The Portland Art Museum has a well-rounded collection with samples from the Baroque, Italian Renaissance, Flemish landscapes and interiors, French Rococo and Impressionism.  I lingered before each painting, admiring the technical mastery of these artists.  These were the painters that we all study in our art history classes.  Clearly, I would never hear, "Really?  But I could paint that!" in front of  a Pittoni or Van Dyck.

But I felt nothing.

Something was missing.

And in the Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries, I realized what that was:  Imagination.

As I walked through these rooms, I found myself actually smiling.  Okay, Portland is keeping itself Weird.  Where does this art spring from?  What secret recess of our brains comes up with these ideas?

When I met my travel buddy two hours later, I was gushing with enthusiasm.  Next time I would cover the decorative arts and Native American galleries.  Hopefully, there would be another profound special exhibit like the African-American one.  To summarize:  Art is about identity.  Art reveals the time and place and state of mind of its creator.  And in doing so, causes the viewer to step inside and share a world that is different, sometimes strange, but always worthy of our attention.

Do not ignore me, world.  I am here.  I am alive.  I deserve to be seen and to be heard.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Homage to the Paddlewheelers

This awesome paddlewheel is all that is left of the M.F. Henderson, a combination freighter and tow boat that plied the Columbia River for 50 years.  It sits in front of the Hood River History Museum like an honored guest.  Indeed it is.

The Henderson was built in 1901, and had one of the longest careers of any wood-hulled sternwheeler on the river.  It towed log rafts and pushed barges up and down the river between The Dalles and Portland.  It met its demise in 1956 when heavy swells at the mouth of the Columbia forced the crew to beach it near Columbia City.  It languished there until 1964, when it was finally burned to salvage scrap metal.

Many of these sternwheelers also carried passengers and that is why I pay homage to them.  What beauties they were!  Today, modern ships with paddlewheels can still be seen on the great rivers of America.  Any day now I am expecting to see the Queen of the West, an American Cruise Lines ship, floating by my window.  It is, by far, one of the most romantic ways to travel.

Closer to home (and far less expensive) is our own Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, with boarding at Cascade Locks, Oregon.  Both dining and sightseeing cruises are available.  My travel buddy and I took the dinner cruise in September of 2015 and it was a memorable evening.  If you happen to be traveling in the Columbia River Gorge, put it on your itinerary.  You won't regret it.

Floating down a river
in a paddlewheeler.

Pure Magic.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Hood River History Museum

I've been saving this small museum in Hood River, Oregon, for a rainy day.  I thought I would be in and out within an hour; I stayed for two.  There is a library on the second floor with shelves of historical books on the area and I sat down, poring over tomes on Oregon bridges and architecture.  (And, of course, now have a list for future trips.)

Most of the history I had already picked up in various other museums, but what I liked about this one was the timeline, concentrating only on Hood River.  It started with the Native Americans and then proceeded to highlight subsequent eras and events like the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Oregon Trail, railroads and river traffic, to today's fruit industry and windsurfing frenzy.

The museum is filled with Native American and pioneering artifacts.  Of special interest was the early gear of mountain climbers, especially the Crag Rats, a rescue group founded in 1926, and still active today.

A gallery honoring the life of Luhr Jensen, Sr., was singularly enchanting.  This is a man who took a hobby and turned it into one of the largest fishing tackle businesses in the world.  After losing his job in the Great Depression and losing his home in a fire, he lived and worked in the backyard chicken coop, designing and making fishing lures.  His company in Hood River employed 300 people at one time but eventually closed.

The museum has several displays of his beautiful creations.

I was glad to see that the sports of Hood River were covered, as well.  This is the "lure" today.  The kite boarding and windsurfing; the hiking and bike trails.

But whenever I go to a museum, big or small, there is always a hidden treat--something so unique and beautiful, something so unexpected that it becomes the highlight of the whole visit.  At the Hood River History Museum, there were two such items.

1.  An 1800's quilt embroidered with local birds.

2.  The Japanese poem in the front.

In the light of the morning sun
On the Columbia River
A wheat-laden tugboat is sailing.
Look!  A Japanese ship is anchored.

 . . . and that's why I love going to museums on a rainy day.  Instead of succumbing to cabin fever, I am out exploring the world.  

Time travel.  Another form of magic.