Saturday, January 18, 2014
This winter in Western Oregon has been very dry…indeed, disconcertingly so. We are being warned about the dire state things could be in by this summer if "present trends continue," and thus are becoming oddly concerned with rain (a thing we usually take for granted). I remember the drought years in the 1970's here, and it looks possible that we could be in for something similar, but with a great many more people to be served and satisfied now.
Yet, while we begin to get nervous about the water situation (so much so that our church will likely soon be offering the old Prayers for Rain at the Sunday service, showing how we are still very much like our ancient ancestors in both need and fragility), there are also a few enjoyable aspects. I write these words wondering how I'll feel about them in July. Who knows?
When it is raining, one does tend to focus on getting to the journey's end. On the crisp days we have been enjoying, the eye strays a bit more, taking in things easily missed when the wet and leaden skies glower.
On the State Capitol grounds there is a statue ensemble memorializing beavers (not the college sports team…just the animal). Beavers have a lot to do with the early European colonization of this area, and not only does one appear on our state flag, but we are also often known as "The Beaver State." Better still, the real, live animal continues to thrive in many places around Oregon--for once, we didn't "love something to death."
The statue of the Oregon Beaver Family represents a sort of idealized Beaver Nuclear Family frozen forever in time, seemingly caught mid-conversation. One of them usually sports a bronze stick in its mouth to convey their association with wood.
However, as I passed by one dry day recently, I noted that a thoughtful person had placed a number of pieces of firewood in the grasp of a couple of the beaver family members usually deprived of such a vivid representation of their preferred building material. It was a delicious moment of supra-realism that I savored. Here was an example of whimsical comment, rather than vandalism and destruction. The "commentator" even left a little pile of additional logs behind the statues, just in case they ran out.
A little later on, I went by the Mill Race where it passes by the pathway nearing Church Street. The mallards (family or not, I couldn't ascertain) were busy doing what they tend to do most of the time: eating. Their jeweled plumage sparkled in the wan afternoon light, and I stopped for a moment to contemplate how extraordinarily beautiful they are. They assumed that my stopping meant I was going to feed them. So, I got on my way so as not to disappointment them overly much.
On this same journey home, I happened to meet a friend and mentor out walking his dog, and we fell into a brief but very satisfying conversation. It was just the sort of thing that makes dry days out on a bike so rewarding in a town of our size.
In advocating for biking, it is easy to get all hyped up and anxious. Perhaps that is one reason some people find cycling a bit off-putting. On my way home recently, I was simply grateful for these encounters with people, with nature, with life. There are many ways to do this, of course, but one way is to be on a bike…especially when it is a dry winter day in Oregon.