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A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in the galaxy

A silver and orange moon floats just outside a gas cloud in a galaxy far, far away.

A friend of mine had a booth at the gem and mineral show this weekend, and invited me to stop by.

I parked and walked toward the Hillsboro Fairgrounds building, and passed several nerds with big grins, clutching recent aquisitions. It was then I knew I was going to be among my people!

My reason for going to was to visit my friend Joe whom I had only seen twice before, and then only for 5 minutes each time. Once at a Mt. Hood Cherokees monthly meeting, and once at our summer Cherokee Event. Through a telephone interview and several emails over the past year, we knew instinctively we’d have things to talk about, but until now the planets had not aligned to put us into each others’ path. Interestingly, that morning I told him I probably couldn’t make it because I was going to a picnic at a park in town, and was hoping to play Cherokee marbles in the rain with other Indians from our group. I walked around the park in the rain, watching children on the jungle gym and middle school girls play some pretty impressive soccer, but no one I knew showed up. Finally I discovered (via facebook on my phone – just love technology) that the picnic had been canceled and viola! The planets had aligned for once, and there was time enough to visit.

(Since there would be no potluck, I brought the fresh baked walnut-apple crisp home for myself. Score!)

Gem Show - perfect choice for a wet day!

Gem Show – perfect choice for a wet day!

These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.

These were the shiny jewelry-looking pieces, but I preferred the regular rocks.

My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!

My best friend just bought a house and I am convinced she needs this remarkable switch plate. How clever and beautiful it is!

We had a great visit, and things were slow enough that my friend took a break from his booth at one point to walk through all the booths with me. This was bad news. I am smitten with lovely things. And I do think rocks are lovely. Soon I was clutching several irresistible slices of stone. My friend selected an agate from the table of a lovely woman from Oklahoma (who, yes, also turned out to be Cherokee), and she handed me a tool I had never used before.

“You’ll need a loupe for that,” she said.

“A whatsit?”

The professional rock hound taught me how to use it, and I gasped with astonishment at the magnified Moroccan berber agate in my hand. I gasped in exactly that way the first time I looked through a telescope powerful enough to show me Saturn’s butter-coloured rings.

“There’s a cluster of stars here,” I told them excitedly, pointing at the rock. “And this is a whole galaxy! With a cloud nebula off on this side, see it?”

Joe chuckled and took the stone from me and said he was going to photograph it.

That’s why he was there at the show: to exhibit his art. This guy has fixed a magnifying piece to his beautiful old lens that he used to capture east Asia after he fought in the Vietnam war. The lens has served him well, and now it has a new life. At his booth he had a 17-inch computer screen set up for visitors, and his camera, screen, lights and computer in the back. For most people he explained what they were looking at, and how he made the images, but for some who eagerly handed over their treasures, he photographed their rocks.

The results are magical.

Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.

Two of the pieces I bought. The piece on the right came from McDermitt, Nevada. The piece on the left is my agate from Morocco.

This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?

This is only one magical outcome of the rocks my friend photographs. Can you find this portion in my photo of the same stone above?

A different perspective at the same place on the stone.

A different perspective at the same place on the stone.

I sent a text to another friend and mentioned that the gem and mineral show was near his house. The next day I got a text back. He and his wife had gone to the gem show, and he bought a rock too!

Smoky crystals on my friend's rock.

Smoky crystals on my friend’s rock.

I am still curious about the Cherokee connection, right? The punch line doesn’t seem to include any Indians, but they were all over the story in the beginning. My friend who went the next day is from east Asia, and his wife is not indigenous American as far as I know.

I found the connection in an old email in which Joe talked about his upcoming residency at the Crow’s Shadow Institute on the Umatilla Reservation outside Pendleton, Oregon. He told me that in his art the Cherokee component is necessary. In his work he tries, in the Cherokee tradition, to see clearly and understand what is around us right now, and in that way make links to what has happened over time. One example of that is when he showed me photos of petrified wood, and I could see the cells! Cells in rock. Fascinating, don’t you think?

Whenever I open myself up to what’s out there in the world, I have the best adventures. Joe gave me permission to share more of his images, so I’ll leave you with them. Click to enlarge. Look for unexpected landscapes.

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A view of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden from the entrance.

A view of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden from the entrance.

On Wednesday, my regular day off, I wrapped up a draft of the Mt. Hood Cherokee quarterly newsletter much earlier than I expected to. I sent it off for review by another Cherokee in my group, and then I had a whole day in front of me.

It would have been a good time to vote. I’ve got the ballot sitting on the table, and it must be received in Tahlequah by June 27, 2105. I know exactly who I want for Chief, and I’ve known for at least a year. I know who I want for Deputy Chief. The holdup is because there is also an At-Large Councilor position open, and ten candidates for it.

The Cherokee Tribal Council includes 15 members representing citizens in local districts (local being the northeast corner of Oklahoma), and two additional representatives representing Cherokees who live elsewhere. You guessed it, I’m one of those “elsewhere” Cherokees, so electing the At Large Councilor is actually something I really care about. We are rather excluded way out here, and I’d like to have a representative who keeps us in the loop.

The Cherokee Phoenix has posted interviews with all the candidates online. I have resolved to read every one of them before I make my choice. I’m saving it for another day, however, because for the first time in weeks I had a break to go do something unproductive, and I wasn’t in the mood to stay indoors and study election interviews.

One of the few new blossoms

One of the few new blossoms

The woman at the ticket counter came outside to feed "her pets," as she called them. See the rhodie behind them? That is what most of the flowers looked like this day: brown and wilted.

The woman at the ticket counter came outside to feed “her pets,” as she called them. See the rhodie behind them? That is what most of the flowers looked like this day: brown and wilted.

Flowers hover above us.

Flowers hover above us.

A friend of mine was free to join me, but only for 2 hours, so I pulled up a map of Portland and scanned for nearby city parks I haven’t explored yet. I found something I had never before seen in Portland: a rhododendron garden. It was meant to be, since I had just been raving at the photos from a rhododendron garden posted by my former University Advisor who lives in Boston. It’s late in the season here, but I thought it might be worth a try, in hopes of finding late bloomers.

The garden is also named after me, so that is another reason to go! Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is next to the Willamette River on the east side, where I am. It was only a 20 minute drive. It had been raining all morning and we practically had the park to ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I was reminded of when M and I visited The Butchart Gardens.

You will almost certainly have seen rhododendrons because they grow all over the world, in different habitats and elevations. I grew up thinking it was an Oregon native, since it grows wild and profusely in the forests here. This showy plant is indigenous to Asia, and is the Nepal national flower. It likes mild climates and lots of rain – hello UK!

Most of the flowers at the garden had browned, wilted, and dropped, because of the season. But as the photos show, there remained plenty of colour to gaze at. We were also distracted by the many ducks and geese. The woman who sold us tickets to enter (only $4) said that people in the neighborhoods drop off their domestic ducks when they get tired of them. (I have heard that people also do this in Laurelhurst Park, in another part of town.)

Towering flowers

Towering flowers

one of the waterfalls

one of the waterfalls

 

 

 

 

Dogwoods were blooming too!

Dogwoods were blooming too!

The pink is lovely against the tree trunk.

The pink is lovely against the tree trunk.

Purple!

Purple!

Water droplets make the salmon blossoms seem even more succulent.

Water droplets on salmon blossoms.

This shade of pink seems to be the most common, and is the colour I most frequently find in the wild.

This shade of pink seems to be the most common, and is the colour I most frequently find in the wild.

This lawn is used for events such as weddings.

Events, such as weddings, are held in this space.

I know this photo doesn't look like much, but they were otters! I am excited to show you a pair of otters.(You'll have to trust me.)

I know this photo doesn’t look like much, but they were otters! I am excited to show you a pair of otters.(You’ll have to trust me.)

It was raining when we left the car, but the weather slowly changed as we walked the grounds, turning warm and muggy – but no longer wet. Is that better weather? I’m not sure.

It was a nice stroll. We didn’t get very wet, and there were a surprising number of rhodies still blooming. Then I returned home and filled a couple more boxes with stuff, getting ready for my move.

Tara came home from their last day of school. Last day of high school and last day of that chapter of life. In celebration we went out to eat and properly stuffed ourselves at Olive Garden.

A wood duck tucks his bill into his feathers.

A wood duck tucks his bill into his feathers.

A Mallard copies the pose of the wood duck.

A Mallard copies the pose of the wood duck.

I love this photo. He seems so curious and open.

I love this photo. He seems so curious and open.

I am not familiar with this duck and will have to look it up.

I am not familiar with this duck and will have to look it up.

This one must be domestic. What a pretty brown colour.

This one must be domestic. What a pretty brown colour.

Babies!! They came bobbling after us, hoping for treats. Mom and dad Mallard hovered nearby.

Babies!! They came bobbling after us, hoping for treats. Mom and dad Mallard hovered nearby.

Here, it's so damp that even the tree trunks grow moss.

Here, it’s so damp that even the tree trunks grow moss.

On of the funnest things about rhododendrons is that they can grow into tree-sized bushes. I like the effect of flowers over my head.

On of the funnest things about rhododendrons is that they can grow into tree-sized bushes. I like the effect of flowers over my head.

One of the bridges in the garden.

One of the bridges in the garden.

The ostentatious blossoms are individually gorgeous, and when grown in bunches, inspiring.

The ostentatious blossoms are individually gorgeous, and typically in bunches, so multiple beauties packed together.

This scene reminds me of turn of the century landscape paintings

This scene reminds me of turn of the century landscape paintings

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

Who is this great warrior? Me!

Cherokee Warrior Award

Cherokee Warrior Award

I admit it is awkward and unusual to think of myself as an Indian warrior. But if the Cherokee Principal Chief is comfortable with it, then there is no reason for me to hesitate.

I was given the tremendous honor of being nominated by the board members of the Mt. Hood Cherokees. I am particularly grateful to our leader, David, who talked me into putting my name forward, when the idea of representing the group seemed like more of an honor than I deserved.

My Tara willingly gave up a dress rehearsal for her evening performance so that she could be there with me.

My Uncle Dwight and Aunt Joyce came up from Lebanon, Oregon and were able to see the ceremony.

Chief Bill John Baker presented me with a gorgeous framed certificate showing the Cherokee Warrior’s Memorial in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as well as a medal he pinned to my blouse. Before I knew what was happening, he popped a microphone into my hand and said, “Do you want to speak?” Answering his question honestly, I answered, “No,” with a smile. “But since I have a microphone in my hand, I will.” And I thanked my Mt. Hood Cherokees for nominating me, and I said how much of an honor it was.

"No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd."

“No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd.”

Chief Baker said to me as I approached him, “Finally, a woman!” And I thanked him for saying that. It may be obvious by my own comment above that even *I* have fallen into accepting the incorrect social stereotype that a warrior is not a woman. And that an honored veteran is not a woman. My own At Large satellite group is sending a message that we aren’t trapped by stereotypes, and I am happy to be the face of that message.

It was a great day for a Cherokee picnic. Many of our Oklahoma Cherokees came out to share information about Indian education and student scholarships, basket-weaving, and voter registration. They were assigning photo ID cards for Cherokee citizens (which I never signed up for: too much going on that day!). We had music from two traditional flutists.

And storytelling.

Me, Robert, Tara

Me, Robert, Tara

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

I can’t say which was the best part of the picnic: receiving the warrior award, or seeing our storytelling friend, Robert, again. Both could have made my whole day on their own, together they just buoyed me beyond belief.

I’ve blogged about Robert Lewis in the past. His personal style of telling the tales of Cherokee history is to bring up audience members to tell the story with him. It’s engaging and funny and educational. Robert’s got a huge love of people and joyfulness, and his energy is irresistible. He’s an art teacher at Northeastern State University and has to miss the first day of school on Monday because of this trip to Portland and Seattle. I’m sure he’ll ease right into the school year with grace later on this week.

Then, we ran around and said goodbye to old friends and new friends and my Aunt & Uncle and off we went for the next big even of the day: Tara’s ballet performance at Washington Park! That post will come next.DSC_0884

Mossy snaking vines through the sky

Mossy snaking vines through the sky at Champoeg State Park

Not too far out of Portland, just southeast of Wilsonville, is Champoeg State Park. The morning was wet, and more wet was forecast for the entire weekend. The temperature was 37 degrees. We thought a flat park close to home might be the ticket on the cold, wet, grey day. Neither of us had been to Champoeg, so of course the burning question on our minds when we got to the visitor center was: “How do you pronounce it?!” (You were wondering, weren’t you?) It’s pronounced like the stuff you wash your hair with: Shampooey. It’s from the Kalapuya language of one of the Native tribes that lived in the Willamette Valley before Lewis & Clark showed up.

Runners doing laps through the trees for the Champoeg 30k/10k

Runners doing laps through the trees for the Champoeg 30k/10k

And guess what? Crazy important history happened here, and I had no idea. This was the area jointly held by two nations, called the Oregon Territory by the United States, and the Columbia Territory by Britain. Non-natives first showed up in great numbers for the fur trapping trade. When the beavers had nearly gone extinct, French trappers who had been working with Hudson’s Bay Company turned to farming, and the area became known as French Prairie. The town of Champoeg had a couple of steamboat landings that first hauled pelts and now took on wheat to be shipped to Russia or to nearby Fort Vancouver.

Daffodils are up in central Oregon! They didn't care if it was 37 degrees and raining.

Daffodils are up in central Oregon! They didn’t care if it was 37 degrees and raining.

With the population and economic growth, it became apparent that Oregon would need some sort of government, and so the very first democratic vote on the entire U.S. west coast was held. Though disguised as a vote on other topics, it was in truth a vote for who should own that piece of land once and for all. Wealthy British Hudson’s Bay Company was hoping to capitalize on the burgeoning local economy. The United States was embracing the concept of Manifest Destiny, and believed it was American’s destiny to expand from coast to coast. The two main groups of people here were United States citizens who for the most part wanted wanted Oregon to belong to the United States, and the French-Canadians wanted whichever would give them the best deal in the end.

In 1843 that first vote happened, and it was close: 52 to 50 in favor of establishing a provisional government and thus paving the way for Oregon to become a part of the United States (even though some people still wanted to annex Oregon at the time). Thank you French-Canadian trapper-plowers!

The only one of us that day who was happy about how wet the weather was.

The only one of us that day who was happy about how wet the weather was.

As the population swelled, the Indians were pushed into smaller and smaller areas till they began to resist. In 1855 the remaining Kalapuya were forcibly moved to the Grande Ronde reservation.

Just as the city of Champoeg was getting a good start, a terrible flood came through in 1861 and wiped out absolutely everything. Today a single structure remains from the original town, Robert Newell’s house. He is one of the 52 who voted to form a provisional government. The house is now a museum, but it is closed till June.

I love the mossy trees. If you look carefully, you can see a post marking a street location, there in the middle of the image.

I love the mossy trees. If you look carefully, you can see a post marking a street location, there in the middle of the image.

DeGrasse ST

DeGrasse St.

Arno and I walked the paths of the park and through the old town site. The streets had been planned out, though the town didn’t exist long enough for the blocks to actually be filled with businesses and homes. Today wooden posts mark the old named streets and strips of grass are mowed to show where they would have been.

Monument erected in 1901. Click to enlarge.

Monument erected in 1901. Click to enlarge.

At the location where the vote was held, a granite marker is placed. The monument was installed in 1901 and attended by Francis Xavier Matthieu, one of the 52. It was a very busy spot when we were there, since the Champoeg 30K run was in progress in the wicked cold rain. The monument site was also the race finish, and it was filled with the usual tents with music playing and freebies like keyrings and energy bars, and inside the Pioneer Memorial Pavillion, water bottles and pies were being handed out to runners.

High water mark is mounted on the pavilion.

1961 high water mark is marked on the pavilion.

The pies made our mouths water, so we headed into Newberg to look for food. We finally found a good restaurant on the highway south, toward our second park. After we ate a stone-baked pizza and some soup to ward off the unpleasant weather, we went south again.

Along the way, we went through the cute little town of Dayton, Oregon, and Arno spotted a blockhouse in the city park. The design of this one is so clever. By rotating the upper story 45 degrees, it provides better cover for the rifles inside. “No blind spots at the corners,” Arno pointed out.

The blockhouse was in a different site originally. It was near the Grand Ronde reservation. See, when increasing numbers of Indians were hauled in, the local whites feared they would revolt. So, this blockhouse was built and put on a hill to defend the whites from the Indians (who, I might add, would have nothing to revolt against if they hadn’t been put there in the first place). In 1911 the blockhouse was brought to Dayton to be placed into the city square, carried by <slaps self on forehead> Indians with wagon teams.

Blockhouse in Dayton, Oregon

Blockhouse in Dayton, Oregon. You can see the rifle holes.

We came around a corner and suddenly we were in line to get onto the Wheatland Ferry.

We came around a corner and suddenly were in line to get onto the Wheatland Ferry.

Arno in the middle of the swollen Willamette River

Arno in the middle of the swollen Willamette River

Suddenly, we were in line to get onto a ferry. A ferry! I didn’t even know there was a ferry across the Willamette till this trip. Walking through Champoeg Park it had seemed that the river was high, but here we could tell without a doubt that the river had overflowed its banks. We pulled in behind a small trailer of cattle. Our ferry ride went smoothly, as we were drawn along by cables. I was as excited as a little kid. That’s what discovering something totally unexpected will do to me.

Next we arrived at Willamette Mission State Park. Missions are another thing I hadn’t previously associated with Oregon. The mission here was established in 1834 by Reverend Jason Lee. Interestingly, he had been sent by the Methodist Church in response to a request from Nez Perce and Flathead Indians who wanted some of the power of the “white man’s book of heaven” for their own people. Lee established his mission amongst the Kalapuya (nowhere near Nez Perce or Flatheads) and was almost completely ineffectual with the Indians. When more and more white settlers arrived, Lee gave up on the Indians and began ministering to the white folks.

The 1861 flood wrecked the mission too, but not Lee’s legacy. He was instrumental in the establishment of the state of Oregon, by building the area’s first school and founding the city of Salem, now our state capital.

Just beyond the first parking area, the road was gated, with a sign that the road was closed due to high water. We were content to park there and walk into the park. The park maps here show all the old meandering arcs that used to be riverbed before the river changed its course. You can see different routes happened at different times. History made so very clear. If only the founders of Champoeg had access to an aerial map.

Rose hips in the rain

Rose hips in the rain

Rabbit has it's eyes on us

Rabbit has it’s eyes on us

We walked along the Willamette Vision Educational Trail. It was pretty muddy and not too remarkable, but we were happy to walk along and read the tree identification plaques. We startled a rabbit at one point, but stood very still until he came back out beside the path to munch leaves again.

The Nation's Largest Black Cottonwood Tree

The Nation’s Largest Black Cottonwood Tree

This park hosts the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood Tree. I had been very eager to see the Oregon Heritage Tree but was disappointed with this one. Possibly because I have lived in redwood country, possibly because it’s winter and the tree looked lifeless, but it’s not impressive to look at. It is believed to be 270 years old, measured at 155 feet tall with a circumference of 26 feet.

We reconnected with the paved road, and immediately saw why the road was closed. The path of the water here mimics a river, and this is what I was talking about with the map: it’s a historic path of the Willamette. Not the river, but a narrow curved lake on mild weather days. This day the water was raging through, however.

Our trail passed beside it uninterrupted, and we continued on. Soon we were back at the car again. It was time for us both to get back to our children. Miss Tara had spent most the day in Wilsonville for “Battle of the Books,” an academic competition where students read from a book list and then compete with quiz questions about the books. I had been receiving texts and knew they almost made it to the final round, so her team had done really well this year. What a great kid. I’m so proud of her! Arno’s boys were out in The Hood (what we call Hood River) and hungry. Though they can cook for themselves, they knew Dad would be showing up eventually to do it for them. Ha ha. We were close to I-5, so in minutes we were flying north again through the rain.

Arno stands beside Mission Lake, which is behaving much like the river it used to be.

Arno stands beside Mission Lake, which is behaving much like the river it used to be.

Me, in front of the cottonwood tree. (Look at the horrible bands I now have to wear on my braces. Vampire girl.)

Me, in front of the cottonwood tree. (Look at the horrible bands I now have to wear on my braces. Vampire girl.)

I had to lie on my back to get the whole tree into this shot

I had to lie on my back to get the whole tree into this shot

View east

View east from Beacon Rock September 2013

Beacon Rock

Beacon Rock February 2013

Scene of the ruined trail this winter. Photo credit: Washington Trails Association.

Scene of the ruined trail this winter. Photo credit: Washington Trails Association.

Sunday I was scheduled for some mandatory overtime, so Saturday Arno and I took the opportunity to try Beacon Rock again. And the trail is open!

We had tried to climb to the top of the rock during the Winter, but a rock fall on January 25, 2013 had blocked the trail. We had a nice day hike anyhow.

On our way out of town, as I waited at a stop sign, still in my Montavilla neighborhood, we spied a tamale vendor on a bike across the street. We pulled over and bought some on a whim. $5 for six small tamales.

I decided to cross the Columbia River into Washington state, and take highway 14 out to Beacon Rock, rather than head east on the Oregon side, then cross Bridge of the Gods like we did in February. Highway 14 is so pretty, and I actively try to avoid the mental boundary that tries to form because of the river. Washington may as well be another country for as often as I go there, and I live about two miles from the border.

frogs in the bathroom

frogs in the bathroom

Portland was blanketed with stratus and damp with mizzle. (Misty drizzle. And yes, that is an official meteorological term.) About 30 minutes east brought us into full sunshine and warmth.

We arrived at Beacon Rock in late morning, and parked near the restrooms because I needed to use them. When I turned to go, I spotted these two handsomes in the stall with me. I started snapping photos and I wonder what the woman in the stall next to me thought I was taking pictures of!

This sign is placed for all the rock climbers and wannbes that leave the trail.

This sign is placed for all the rock climbers and wannbes that leave the trail.

We walked the short length to the base of the rock, and spent a little time looking at the cliffs. Arno spent a bit of energy trying to get me to say that I thought it would be fun to try to scale the face of it…but he didn’t get anywhere with that. (he never does, but he keeps trying 🙂 ) Instead, he admitted that the key point was that HE was excited about climbing the rock.

my rock climbing man

my rock climbing man

It’s about a mile to the top of this solitary rock standing in the valley. It is a basalt tower that formed inside the core of a volcano. As I wrote in my blog this winter, Henry Biddle built a trail to the top just because he wanted to, and I think that’s a wonderful reason. One climbs 850 feet, mainly on switchbacks. The trail is old, but in very good shape, paved and bounded with railings at all points. There are wooden bridges and steps and ramps. The views of the magnificent Columbia River Gorge never stop.

Biddle's trail

Biddle’s trail

An open door, where a locked door had been found on our first attempt.

An open door, where a locked door had been found on our first attempt.

Looking over the edge onto some of the switchbacks we traversed.

Looking over the edge onto some of the switchbacks we traversed.

From the top there is a reasonable 200 degree view of the river. I had been expecting 360 degrees, but to be disappointed would be ungrateful. Gorgeous day! Gorgeous gorge!

We read the information sign talking about how the gorge was carved by the famous Missoula floods, as they carried rocks and icebergs between the two states we now call Oregon and Washington.  Ice dams in Montana burst periodically, 15,000 years ago, and sent catastrophic, otherworldly floods all the way across Idaho and Washington and into the Pacific Ocean. That’s a flood practically beyond comprehension.DSC_0131

Like with the tamales, I was still feeling spontaneous when we reached the bottom, and I suggested we go find some fish to buy.

The Indians in this region have been fishing since the first humans lived here. They have legal rights to continue to fish, and when they have too much, they sell it at little stands along the highway. I’ve been meaning to buy some fresh salmon for years, but I never seem to have the cash on me, or the time to stop. Today was my chance!

Only a few miles down the road, we found a sign “FRESH FISH,” and I pulled off the highway onto a little frontage road toward a long row of camp trailers and rickety wooden stands. I didn’t know how to choose where to go. We walked to one stand with a few people who looked up and greeted us as we arrived. We watched as the man behind the wooden stand expertly filleted a salmon for the two men standing there.

The man with the fish was named Frank, we found out later. Frank introduced his grandson, Benny, as a guy who was a lot of help around the place. So I asked 10 year old Benny, “What’s the difference between all these places selling fish?” I thought I was going to get an answer along the lines of different kinds of fish being sold, or different prices.

Benny deferred back to Frank, who went on for awhile about the trustworthiness of the sellers, the cleanliness of operations, and the reliability of the fish freshness. While he admitted that he was pretty sure he was related to every single seller out there, he couldn’t recommend any of them except one guy who wasn’t there that day. I suspected he was just trying to make a sale, till at one point in his animated stories, one of the guys buying the fish caught my eye and nodded his head at Frank and mouthed, “Buy your fish here.”

Frank with my $40 salmon

Frank with my $40 salmon. It looks small, but there was a lot of meat on it.

Choosing the fish, getting it gutted and filleted and packed with ice, all while Frank told his many stories, took some time. Arno said later that it reminded him of what Sherman Alexie had said when we went to see him in Portland. Alexie explained that you can’t hurry an Indian. Be patient and you’ll get what you want.

Chanterelles a few days old. What is left after I ate a bunch for supper.

Chanterelles

While we waited, the guy buying the fish asked me, “Hey, you want some Chanterelles?” Heck yeah! I followed him to his truck and in the back he had baskets filled with mushrooms he and the other guy had just picked. He scooped as many as I could carry into my hands, and scooped another huge handful for Frank, and we carried them back to the fish stand as the fillets were finally presented to the buyer.

Instead of focusing on me, Frank turned to watch a family that had just showed up. They all looked like they were of western Asian descent. Frank showed them the fish in the coolers while I went to grab a paper towel from the stand to wrap up my mushrooms. Arno told me that while I was gone, Frank had instructed Benny, “Remember, for brown skin, it’s $5 a pound.” I love that he heard that! What a delicious glimpse into the intricacies of commerce.

The brown family decided not to buy, and left. It was my turn to buy a fish. I was still a little suspicious about whether we were at the right place until Frank said, “There goes Green Toes,” as his earlier customers left. “That was his boyfriend with him. He was wearing shoes today, but when he’s in sandals, you can see his green toenail polish.” Frank went on talking about gay men and how uncomfortable he was to have them there, but glad for the business and the mushrooms. That sealed the deal for me. If this gay man was a regular customer despite the obvious problem Frank had with him, then it must be the best fish!

Benny with the dog

Benny with the dog

While Frank cut up my salmon, Benny’s mom Betty came out of the trailer and began talking with us. The dog came out from beneath another trailer. Frank explained that his son was gone fishing and that he was with a friend who had rights to net fishing. “The rest of us platform fish,” he explained. “Our family came in after the dam covered Celilo Falls, so we don’t get the net rights.” (Anyone who lives here soon learns that the sacred falls and fishing grounds were destroyed when The Dalles Dam was built.) I was learning so much standing there in the sun with the buzzing flies. Another Indian at a different stand turned on drum music from his truck stereo and Benny began dancing. They were a fun family.

Frank hadn’t weighed my fish, but suggested $35 and I agreed since Green Toes’ fish was about the same size and he had paid $40. When I pulled out my purse to pay for it, I found that I didn’t have change, and happily handed over $40. If we ate huge portions this was about five salmon dinners for Tara and me, the fish was probably less than 24 hours out of the water, and I had just had an hour of entertainment. It was totally worth the price!

Arno and I found a park by the water in Stevenson, and we ate our tamales and drank some Kokanee beer for lunch. Then we made our way back home and I began barbecuing salmon and zuchinni for supper, and fried up half the mushrooms in garlic and butter.

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

Diego walks along the nature path beside the Klickitat River, frequented by Bald Eagles.

It’s always a pleasant surprise to me how easy it is to discover truly interesting and entertaining things in my world, if only I go outside and pay attention.

It also consistently surprises me that I forget my camera so frequently. No, worse, I think to myself Will I need my camera? Naaawwwww.  And then 20 minutes into the journey, I am kicking myself. This is what happened weekend before last when Arno, Diego, and I wandered into Klickitat County in southern Washington.

Our original intent for the entire day was to attempt to spot bald eagles, and practically as soon as we crossed the Columbia River, we began to see them. Where was my fabulous camera with zoom lens? Safe at home, intentionally left behind because I thought I wouldn’t need it. Luckily Arno had his little pocket camera, but the light in the sky was poor and the camera not powerful enough, so I can’t show you photos of eagles. They are huge. Really huge. And beautiful. Every time I see a bald eagle it makes me proud and patriotic. Thank goodness our national bird didn’t end up being a turkey.

We also saw a Golden Eagle and I was excited to spot a Kestrel. I became intimately familiar with a kestrel family when I lived in Nevada, and am glad that their voice is still recognizable to me.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

Double bridges span the Klickitat River on the Washington side, but they are clearly visible from the Oregon side.

We had parked beside a nature trail, so we went for a walk. I was very pleased to see the double bridges I had spotted many times from I-84, the Oregon side. Each time I see them I lament the lack of a place to pull over and take a photo of the remarkable arced bridges. Viola! Here I was at last with an excellent view of them, and not traveling on a freeway at 68 mph.

Not yet ready to head directly home, we followed highway 142 into the canyon. It was a stereotypically beautiful creek canyon for this area, and my hungry eyes gobbled up all I could see till I spotted something I had never seen before in real life. “Oh! They’re fishing platforms!” I said out loud. “Arno, pull over.” And he did, though he had not seen them.

I peered over the steep ledge and was more convinced that they must be fishing platforms built by local Indians. I had seen a photo or two of Indians standing on wooden platforms above rushing river water, waiting to spear fish, but I couldn’t remember when or where. Perhaps that famous photo of Celilo Falls was my resource. Arno and Diego, the climbers, instantly felt that we needed to go over the side and get down to the water.

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

Unstable but apparently effective fishing platforms

You brought the camera!

You brought the camera!

At riverside, I suddenly wanted Arno’s camera, which I had – wait for it – decided to leave in the car thinking I wouldn’t need it. Arno clambered back up the steep cliff to retrieve it for me.

I was satisfied simply by looking at the platforms, but the boys spotted the rickety wooden bridge spanning the river, and needed to cross it. So I indulged them bemusedly and watched with anxiety as Arno bounced across the bridge over raging whitewater.

After returning to the car, we continued farther into the river canyon, which led higher in elevation to the source of  the Klickitat River. We went up, and up, and came out high above the rest of the world, on an incredible plateau so high that the mighty Columbia seemed only a mild trickle in the canyon below us.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

Arno bounces across the handmade bridge. Yikes.

We were understandably hungry by this time, and Diego was happy for the chance to play with his dad’s smart phone, even if it was only to use the map feature to find us a place to eat. He steered his dad directly into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in Goldendale, WA. Sated, we turned south onto highway 97.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

Stonehenge replica made of concrete and perched on a ledge above the Columbia River.

I remarked that I had never seen the Stonehenge replica out there before, except at night, when I was a kid traveling through in the back of a big brown 1975 Ford Elite. There were lights on the structure, and all I remember is the circle of bulbs, and someone telling me it was Stonehenge, which was confusing, because I thought Stonehenge was far away, but I was a kid and often wrong about things at that point in my life.

So Arno turned east on highway 14 and announced that we were going to see Stonehenge. It wasn’t far, and soon we were standing beside it. I learned that it was built by Sam Hill to honor the fallen soldiers from Klickitat County in World War I. It was the first WWI monument built in the entire nation! The site now has other memorials, honoring the Klickitat military sacrifice in other wars, Vietnam, WWII, Afghanistan, and more.

Diego climbing

Diego climbing

View of Columbia

View of Columbia

My climbers couldn’t resist the walls of the life-sized replica, and were soon scaling them. I wandered through the inside, marveling at not only the original monument in England, easy for me to visualize with this replica surrounding me, but also marveling at the ambitious project of the man who built the Klickitat version. It was a cold, windy, horrid day, and we were all ready to leave that exposed point rather quickly. However, I will go back this summer in better weather, better light, and armed with my camera!

Inside the Stonehenge replica

Inside the Stonehenge replica

One of the main panels of art in Sego Canyon. To assist in perspective so you can guess the size, look for the fence in the shrubbery.

Barrier Canyon style, can be as old as 2000 BCE. This is a close-up of the rock wall shown above.

First thing in the morning, we backtracked to Sego Canyon in order to view some ancient indigenous rock art (a special trip for the anthropologist in the group…).

{I know you’ll want to investigate these, so click the images for a larger version.}

We saw captivating anthropomorphic images in reds, blacks, and whites on the walls of the canyon in several locations. Signs posted explained that the rock art we saw included that from multiple peoples in multiple periods. Some of the work was 4000 years old, the newest stuff was only a few hundred years old, by Ute Indians. As Tara noted, interestingly, the more complicated and apparently more skilled artwork, was some of the very oldest, at about 2000 years BCE.

From the Fremont Indians, approximately 600 CE.

Almost old enough to become artwork itself was the modern vandalism, where cowboys and miners had scratched their names and dates into the rock. Strange and sad, the newest vandals carved their work right over the top of everything else, in the same way that each group of people had done. Something struck our cowboys in the same exact way that it had struck the Utes and the Anasazi. They were all compelled to make their mark precisely on top of the previous artists’ work.

From the Ute Indians, approximately 1300 CE.

Cay Whipple 1884

ghostlike

These images are captivating, are they not? Hunting figures with spears, mountain sheep, bear paw prints, shields, and geometric shapes. But What. Are. Those. Things? The bigger-than-life anthropomorphic alien beasts? God-like, imposing, fantastical, and scary. What are they/ what do they do/ what does it mean?

It was humbling to stand there. I wanted to understand. Perhaps if I had held very still and was very quiet, and waited a very long time, it would have all made sense.

pictograph next to petroglyph

Smith Vineer 1881

We were by this time calling it “The Vacation Without Miguel,” who was suffering from one of the worst virus attacks I’ve ever seen. He became ill the day before the trip began, and just seemed to get sicker each day. On top of that, he’s going through a case of being 15 years old and even when he seemed a little better, he refused to participate. Poor kid. While he rested in the truck, we wandered around, from cliff wall to cliff wall, discovering more art. Since there were no maps or clear guides, we wandered quite a bit, not wanting to miss anything.

A row of man-like creatures

Mid morning, it was time to return to the highway and began our long trek home. We surged through traffic and civilization once more, and our peaceful week in the desert was no preparation for the madness of the Interstate through the Salt Lake City corridor. Tara and I were delighted once more with the crazy billboards. Salt Lake City has the most insane billboards. We began writing them down.

Someone named Jesus signed this one

Archaic period. Could be as old as 7000 BCE

This is what hides underneath my bed!

“Profitable Cows: The world leader in bovine genetics.”

“Don’t be a GUBERIF” (I remember that one used to be painted on highways)

“Pretend it never happened.” (tattoo removal)

Two images. On the left side, rear shot of a silver backed gorilla. On the right side, a man with a shaved and oiled back, flexing his muscles. The caption: “Before…After.”

“Where are you going? Heaven or Hell. 855-FIND-TRUTH” (Wow, if I had known the number, I would have called a long time ago to find out!)

At least one of them totally freaked me out, though I had no idea what it meant. There was a lovely, clean, nicely coiffured 30-something couple wearing pastels and earth tones. They were hugging lightly and looking at the viewer. The caption: “Tired of being normal?” At the bottom right corner, it said “Bioengineering.” Holy cow! That’s creepier than the pictographs.

An example of the multiple layers of wall art

By evening we had reached Burley, Idaho and stayed there for the night (an actual bed!). Saturday we made it all the way home by mid afternoon and had plenty of time to begin laundry and to adjust our brains back to being-at-home mode.

Tara poses in Wilson Arch

Tuesday morning I was up on the rock again before the sun rose. We all slept pretty well. It was only a little chilly but Arno and I are such outdoors people, that all five of us had warm gear. Arno went into get-going mode right away, and I let him. I sat and watched the silent desert, and caught the first sunlight fire orange on peaks to the West. The sun rose quickly and I stayed up there till sunbeams had crossed the valley toward our camp, and had nearly crossed the road to us. I had come to rest on a perch above Arno, watching him work for us. He looked up and spotted me, so I came back down into camp. Coffee was ready for the grownups, hot cocoa ready for the kids (none of whom had yet stirred). Breakfast was half-cooked and only needed me to turn the bacon. Hm, camping like this would be easy to get used to.

Me taking photos from Wilson Arch

Our big plan for the day was to get closer to Canyonlands National Park. We were camped at Sand Flats Recreation Area, situated close to Moab, just south of Arches NP. This is a great central location for vacationers into trail biking, dirt biking, quad running, and having a city nearby for water, ice, and beer. It’s not a great base camp for Canyonlands, however. So we packed up to make the 2½ hour trip south (it would have been 1½ hours, but we dawdled). We stopped first in Moab for ice, dry ice, and water. Arno brought a couple of 5-gallon jugs that we lived from.

It’s always interesting to camp with someone new for the first time (well, actually, Labor Day weekend was our first camp trip but it was at KOA and not real camping, so I don’t use that as a reference). Arno is willing to put a lot more effort into things. Since my car camping has evolved slowly from backpacking, I tend to do all things in mini-scale. Use only drops of water if possible, then re-use it. Re-use the same scant dishes, do without some things like actual dishsoap, because a person can actually survive without it. Arno, however, has the truck packed with everything five large campers could need, and then some! He uses the water he needs, the dishes he needs, and actually has a whole routine of dishwashing, drying, and putting away that is perfected.

A fun thing about the two of us is that we both believe that a person can eat well while camping. Of course, we acquiesced to one day for hotdogs (Tara and I brought canned biscuits for our pigs-in-a-blanket preference) and we brought fixins for s’mores. Other than that, we had tortellini, grilled asparagus, fried bacon and eggs, fajitas, etc. I brought my Asian chicken walnut rice salad, but it bombed with the kids, so that’s a mental note for the future. We roused the kids, fed them, and then cleaned up the breakfast stuff while hollering at them to help pack up. We left late morning to the great delight of a couple who had been circling the campground for some time, waiting for a spot to open up.

Arno and me on the rocks above camp

On the road south, I again had strange flashbacks from ages ago. Yesterday when we passed the entrance to Arches NP, I pointed it out to Tara, “Hey! You and I have been there!” She didn’t remember. Today I finally recalled the time when I was here before:  cross-country trip with my mother. Oh, gosh, I was so angry with her on that trip. Man, that woman was a world-class complainer. Tara and I were going to make the move from California to Massachusetts just the two of us, and bond. Tara and I travel brilliantly together, and always have. Mom begged and begged to come along (“It’ll be so much fun, the three of us girls, and I’ll get to know Tara better.”), and I finally agreed. She launched into blah, blah, blah non-stop about her friends, her house, her husband, her church, blah blah blah complain complain. She complained about sitting in the car all day. Complained about the hotels. When we came through this part of the country, she complained about the heat. Never stopped complaining. So, it went from a really fun road trip with my kid to trying to console my mother who carelessly ignored my Tara girl for thousands of miles. Arrggh. No wonder I had forgotten about having already visited these Utah parks!

Right there on the highway, we spotted Wilson Arch, and pulled over to explore our first arch of the trip. We girls had not yet had a chance to “get our rock legs” and were a bit wobbly and unsure on the slickrock. Slickrock, as I discovered in Oak Creek last summer, is best climbed by planting your feet flat against the slope and moving up by walking. Once you achieve the trust of your feet and the rock, it’s easy, but at first it is non-intuitive. We climbed around and through the arch and had some spectacular views of the wide open desert.

Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument

We left the main highway 191 and turned onto highway 211 toward the park. On the way, the views were captivating, and I had to drive in front, since it was easier for Arno to keep track of me and my many stops for photos. Our best stop was Newspaper Rock National Historic Site. Miguel was excited about it and wore his Newspaper Rock T-shirt in honor of the visit, but was still feeling very sick and not able to enjoy much of the journey or the sights. The rock is so-named because it is a large wall filled with petroglyphs. Ancient writing of course touches the anthropologist in me, and I can’t help but stare in awe. The petroglyphs were applied by different indigenous American people over a 2000-year time span, and so one can imagine they tell many stories together on one page. In the Navajo language, the rock is called Tse’ Hane’ for rock that tells a story.

Farther along the highway, we were treated to better and better views of North and South Six-Shooter Peaks. They are framed by sheer red cliffs and bound by blue skies above and silver grey winter trees below. What stunning country!

At the park gate we found that we were too late to get a campsite inside the park, which had been our goal. There are 26 sites and people in the know show up first thing in the morning to lay claim to them. We toured the campsites anyway, and found that at least 10 of them were roped off, supposedly “under construction,” though what was being constructed was impossible to tell. We backtracked to BLM land a few miles outside the park and found a campsite at Hamburger Rock. This turned out to be a serendipitous event, because we all loved the campsite and the excellent Hamburger Rock. Originally our plans had been to pack up early the next morning and try once more to camp inside the park, but we discarded that idea in exchange for staying put.

Tara peeks into the roadside ruin

We ate lunch and then went into the park to try a trail or two in the remainder of the day. We stopped at the Roadside Ruin, which appears to be a reconstructed grain bin of some kind, made of rocks mortared into a large container under a rock ledge. Arno and I agreed that if reconstructed (it looks brand-new), the granary is not compelling. Even if it’s modeled exactly after an actual ruin, or in the same exact spot. It just isn’t the same. The fascination of an actual ruin is that ancient people actually touched those stones; placed them precisely in that spot.

Ferns drop from a sheltered crack in the wall where water seeps out

Then we took a walk along the Cave Spring Trail. This short trail (1/2 mile) packs a ton of fascinating things into a easy walk and must be swarmed with families at busier times of the year. At first we saw the Cowboy Camp, and though I have always enjoyed finding old remains of relatively recent peoples, it’s fun to see that others find it fascinating too. This camp comes from the days when white pioneering men were trying to make a living out of driving cattle across these wide deserts. Cave Spring trail has a sheltered spring that must have been Life Itself for cowboys working hard in the sun all day. Under the ample shelter of an overhanging rock ledge, we saw a couple of old work tables, benches, boxes to store things, and beside the fire pit was some kind of metal cook stove jerry rigged together with imagination and resourcefulness that makes up the core soul of any Westerner. There were empty tin cans, horseshoes and other tackle, and several large wooden bins for storing food. The Cowboys had copied the Indians there, using wood instead of mortared stone.

pictographs above the spring

Around a few more bends in the trail, we reached the spring, and we could actually taste the moisture in the air. A trickle of water seeps from one long horizontal crack that follows the path in the cliff wall beneath a huge overhanging rock ceiling, making a flat pool that seeps across the rocks. Wet sand stretches away from the sheltered cave-like area, and ends at the inevitable dry sand after only about 10 feet. Where moisture seeps from the horizontal crack, fern fronds dangle in a lovely and unexpected green curtain of freshness and life in that dry world. Stark red pictographs adorn the cold stone walls around the spring. Doubtless there because of the spring. Some ancient person’s thanks and recognition to his Deity, and probably in hopes of invoking further watery blessings in the future.

Diego contemplates grinding grains

Mere steps beyond the moist cool air was another sign of people long gone: troughs worn into stone, likely by Indian women grinding grain into flour. Diego was compelled to touch the indentations. He must have had the same thought as I: a long time ago, someone ancient and beyond reach touched this same stone.

ladders are part of the trail

The trail incorporated ladders as well, to help us gain the top of the rocks. Arno showed off his climbing skills and did not use the ladders. We stood at the top awhile and gazed out across the stunning landscape, then continued down the other side, and back to a sandy trail still sheltered by a wide rock overhang.

On our way back to camp, the setting sun culled deep reds and bronze oranges from the rocks, requiring many more photo stops for me – by this time annoying most of my travel mates. At camp Arno again leapt into meal preparation mode, and I climbed to the top of the rocks with the kids and watched the sun go down. I had my camera on a tripod and managed to get some nice sunset photos as the fiery globe sank from sight.

View from the top of the trail

Tara and Miguel hold up the rock ceiling with their heads

Three-quarters of a reflected sun

Last glimpse of light across the desert horizon

It’s the time when scheduled appointments are picking up because it’s the end of the school year. Aside from the ballet performance and it’s multitudinous rehearsals, Miss T is due to graduate from middle school and then my daughter will be a high-schooler. It’s more of an adjustment for me than for her. Am I really old enough to be the parent of a high school teen? Apparently I am.

Tara with sash and certificate from Honor Day

Thursday we attended a Native American honoring ceremony for all the Portland 8th grade and 12th grade graduates. It was lovely, and held in the beautiful Native American Student and Community Center on the PSU campus.

Tara was not sure what to anticipate for the evening, though she acquiesced to my urges and humored me by attending with a good spirit. I told her on the way that it would be the more interesting graduate ceremony, even though the one with all her class mates next month would be more fun.

“Why do you say that?” she asked.

“I expect tonight will be filled with Indian tradition that we are unfamiliar with. There will probably be drums.”

“Drums? Really?”

“Well, at my brother’s graduation there were drums because many of his classmates were Indian.” My brother graduated from Chiloquin High School in Oregon, where I knew Modoc and Klamath families.

I had guessed correctly, but it was easy to guess: drums play a significant role in many ceremonies. An evocative, pleasant-smelling smudge was lit in the background and the drums began. We stood for the Presentation of Colors, in which elder men presented the flags honored. They marched/danced with the drums, in a line around the entire room, headed by the Eagle Staff (upon which there was an actual mounted eagle head). At the end of the parade was the POW/MIA flag. The last flag makes me curious, and I’d like to know more about why this group is particularly honored by our Indian group. Likely the relationship comes from the importance of the military in Indian communities, as the modern expression of warrior service.

We all filled our plates with baked salmon and many excellent side dishes. While we finished up our feast, the speakers began. One of the senior graduates was Rebecca Kirk, a young woman who sang an extraordinary song for us, blending an indigenous language (I don’t recall which) with some soulful English chorus. She beat a drum as accompaniment.

Introductory remarks were followed by a stirring keynote speaker: Louie Gong. Mr. Gong described his ethnic background as Coast Salish, Chinese, Scottish, and maybe something else, I can’t recall. He was raised on a reservation in northeast Washington by his Indian and Chinese grandparents. He is a teacher, activist, and artist. He spoke to finding his true self amidst people who try to define him by what they see. He spoke about trying to fit in, and the difficulties of doing that when his background didn’t match those around him. He struggles with frustration of being known as the “Shoe Guy,” when he wants people to know the powerful work in activism that he does.

I thought it was a good message for my Tara, who had felt out of place all evening because she is distinctly blonde, and of course the room was filled with dark-skinned, black-haired people. I know what she feels. I always want to belong, and yet I so rarely find a group of people that feel like “home” to me. I anticipate that some of Louie’s message sticks with her, and I am grateful to him for choosing that particular topic.

The graduates then filed up to the stage and were presented with a sash and certificate. Students remained in front until every person was lined up, then the entire room got in line to shake hands and congratulate every student. It was truly an honor to them. I hope my girl felt support from some of those many hands.

USS Blueback, filmed in The Hunt For Red October, is part of the museum

Tara is registered with her school as an American Indian because the school receives more money for more Indian students as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative. (She is able to use my Cherokee number there, but I still intend to register her with the Nation as well.) The Title VII Indian Education Project in Portland Public Schools tracks her personal school progress now. They publish a newsletter of Indian news that includes high scores and personal achievements of students in the program, and she receives congratulatory certificates for good attendance. People come to her school periodically to ask each child in the Title VII program if they need anything, have any questions, are having trouble with anything, etc. at school.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry

Tara and the other students in the program filled out an index card with particular interests at school, and turned it in. Later, when the Title VII person showed up, she was able to talk with Tara about it. The woman called me later to tell me about their conversation. Tara said that she loves to study science, and was hoping to go to college and study trees. I knew this because Tara has been saying she wants to be an arborist for some time. The woman told me she was calling because there was going to be an American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) weekend at Portland State University, and Title VII was willing to pay her fee to get in if we wanted to go.

We reviewed the itinerary and decided to go. There would be three days of speakers and something called “digital storytelling,” and a nighttime powwow Friday and Saturday. Our Friday was too full, with school and work of course, so we didn’t try attending. Saturday quickly became full, and after ballet practice we didn’t have the energy to bundle up and drive into town to find the powwow. We set everything else aside to attend the breakfast, OMSI tour, and lunch gathering on Sunday.

testing the aerodynamics

Unfortunately, we never found AISES. We circled the PSU campus with no idea where to go (since the website did not give locations, and the phone number of the Title VII person – if she could even help me – was still in my email inbox). The website did provide the address of a conference center that turned out to be a hotel, but the hotel front desk people were very helpful in giving us directions to the gorgeous Native American Student and Community Center. We found a nearby lot, parked, and when we got up to the building, found it dark and locked. Our next plan was to wait around at Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) till the group showed up. We arrived before opening time, so we drove back into town to find some breakfast!

It had been a frustrating and disappointing morning thus far, driving around the city of Portland from 8:30 to 10:00am on a Sunday morning and getting nowhere, knowing some organization had spent money on Tara but we couldn’t return the kindness by at least joining them. Tara says, “Let’s just forget them! It’s too frustrating and stressful. We both want to go to OMSI. Let’s just go to the museum without the group and do whatever we want and stay as long as we want.” It was an excellent plan. We spent the whole day there.

testing her speed and motor control

The Lost Egypt exhibit was new to us, and I particularly enjoyed it because of our trip to Egypt a year ago. I found little things that had extra meaning for me that I am sure most people did not even notice. For example, the placards placed in a couple of locations were illustrated with the five-pointed stars I had seen painted on the ceilings of Egyptian tombs, but did not explain this fact to the readers. The museum had more basic education about traditions, symbols, reading hieroglyphics that I wished we had received when we were in Egypt. There was a whole area dedicated to teaching visitors how satellites are used to help archaeologists find new dig sites. Tara was bored out of her mind in the Egypt section, and eager to move on. “I’ve already seen the real thing,” she says. Ha ha!

As in the past, she had the most fun in the hands-on science section, building paper airplanes, using huge robots to play connect-four with another girl, building boats to sail in chlorinated water troughs, trying to solve puzzles at the puzzle stations. On this visit she spent the most time in the Ball Room. This room contains a thousand small blue balls and has forced air piping through at all times. Kids can turn valves to start or stop the air flow, or connect tubes to change the air flow. Place balls in the path of the wind and that results in dozens of balls flying all directions in all parts of the room. The walls are covered in a variety of structures designed to play with the air and the balls, so that if you tire of one way to launch balls, you can move on to many others. Baskets are mounted on most parts of the ceiling, in case you need a particular place to aim your launched balls.

We also took advantage of the OMNIMAX theatre to watch a new film called Born to Be Wild, narrated by Morgan Freeman. It’s an inspiring story of orphaned elephants and orphaned orangutans getting another chance at life. The women who founded facilities in Borneo (for the orangutans) and in Kenya (for the elephants) believe that their primary role is to prepare the young ones to be released into the wild again.

inside the enormous OMNIMAX theatre, where the screen wraps around the entire ceiling and down the sides

We also watched an interesting show, Journey to the Stars, in the Kendall Planetarium, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. The movie made full use of the planetarium-style dome, making it seem as though we were gazing up at the night sky most of the time. Journey to the Stars is an educational presentation about the formation of stars, the types of stars, and the death of stars – and what it all means to us here on earth. When Whoopi was explaining about the eventual death of our own star, one child in the theatre could take no more and shouted, “I wanna get out of here, now!” The poor thing burst into tears and was never released, though he did eventually calm down.

Though we never found AISES, I spotted one old Indian grandpa with a little boy. That made me think our group must have eventually arrived. Or maybe the two were simply random visitors. In any event, I credit the Title VII program and AISES for getting us to the museum… so the program works! As is the case with so many aspects of our lives: it turns out just as it was supposed to, but not necessarily the way we were expecting.

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