Saturday, August 12, 2017

“Eclipses suns imply.”

Eclipse Reading @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Our house is in the path of totality. Our state is preparing for an apocalypse. [grin]

As we’re gearing up for this momentous experience, we’re doing a little light reading (what else?). Levi finished American Eclipse about the 1878 eclipse in the West and said it was wonderful. As soon as I finish this blog post, I’ll be cracking it open beyond the first few pages.

I did happen to glance at the page sandwiched between the preface and the prologue. On that page is an artistic image of a sun and moon and this quote:

Eclipses suns imply. 

–Emily Dickinson

I had to read it multiple times before my brain registered the words, the poetic so out of order in our pedestrian culture.

When her meaning hit my brain, I immediately thought of a C.S. Lewis quote:

“The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.”

It turns out eclipses can cause existential pondering. Check out this astonishing essay, ‘Total Eclipse,’ by Annie Dillard. In it she recounts her experience of the 1979 total eclipse. [The essay link will only be available until August 22, so go read it now!]

The white ring and the saturated darkness made the Earth and the sky look as they must look in the memories of the careless dead. What I saw, what I seemed to be standing in, was all the wrecked light that the memories of the dead could shed upon the living world. We had all died in our boots on the hilltops of Yakima, and were alone in eternity. Empty space stoppered our eyes and mouths; we cared for nothing. We remembered our living days wrong. With great effort we had remembered some sort of circular light in the sky—but only the outline. Oh, and then the orchard trees withered, the ground froze, the glaciers slid down the valleys and overlapped the towns. If there had ever been people on Earth, nobody knew it. The dead had forgotten those they had loved. The dead were parted one from the other and could no longer remember the faces and lands they had loved in the light. They seemed to stand on darkened hilltops, looking down.


The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, and God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.

Her very last paragraph struck me to the bone. Do we turn “at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief”?

I just want to quote all of Lewis’s essay ‘The Weight of Glory’ here, but I can’t so go read it. (In ‘The Weight of Glory,’ Lewis revists the idea that ‘food hunger implies,’ not that we are guaranteed to have it or enjoy it.)

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the stagering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition [and two eggs over easy] when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Have you read The Great Divorce? It’s a picturesque vision of how terrifying glory can be, and how many turn from glory itself with a sigh of relief.

“Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?”

Will you come?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Mountain, Forest, Stream: A Week in Paradise

A Week in the Woods @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I’ve just returned from a six-day camping trip on a mountain, in a forest, near a stream—Cascade Mountains, Willamette National Forest, Upper Santiam River, respectively—with dear friends and family. It’s my little paradise here on earth, and I savored every moment of the week.

This trip came on the heels of a six-day trip to Austin, Texas for the CiRCE National Conference, which came on the heels of our annual family reunion. July has been our busy summer month, so I’ll have to catch you all up in a separate post.

This little spot is the same place at which I’ve been camping (with the same friends and family) since I was 5 or 6 years old. All of us feel a particular and pronounced possession. This is our climing rock, our swimming hole, our trail. We know every little path and boulder. And yet, Mother Nature has a way of surprising us every year with a fluctuating stream bed and fallen trees, among other changes.

This year we were blessed to have my whole immediate family (Russ only had to head down the mountain two afternoons to coach); Mom and Dad; Holly, Casey, and Ivy (missing Drake and Jess and Ilex!); and Shannon, Ben, Rilla, and Sweden (pictured above) along with our longest and closest family friends Mike and Debi with two of their children and families (Lindsay, Bob, Daphne, and baby Avonlea and Nate, Domini, Hudson, and Greyson). Some of my favorite people in the whole world.

The three little girls and two little boys (ages 2-6) had a blast playing together all week long. Ivy, Daphne, and Leif made a great game-playing trio. Levi was either helping with the little kids or off exploring on his own (barefooted).

A Week in the Woods Santiam Wagon Road @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We hiked and swam and ate and talked and read and laughed and roasted marshmallows and threw rocks and played games and built fires and climbed boulders and slept in (speaking for myself, anyway).

The weather was perfect all week long.

The water was just as frigid as it always is.

A Week in the Woods The Falls @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesA Week in the Woods Swimming with Littles @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesA Week in the Woods Falls @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesA Week in the Woods Hiking @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Already dreaming about next year.

A Week in the Woods Leaves @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer School ~ Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain Hike @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Hike #11, and possibly our last hike for a while. And what a hike on which to end our streak. Wowza!

[A little story for you: Lola and I were shopping at Costco the other day, and the gentleman who was loading our groceries asked if Lola was glad to be out of school. I always wonder how my kids will answer that question at any given moment, especially Lola, but she simply answered, “Yes, we hike.” It sounds so simple, but the way she said it made my heart glow. We hike. Not “we have been hiking” or “we’ve gone on hikes” or “we hiked,” just a simple “we hike” as if that tells you something about who we are and what summer is. He smiled and replied, “Have you ever been to Iron Mountain?” “We’re going on Tuesday!” “But have you ever been to Triangulation Peak?” “Yes! It was so lovely!” I hope he felt as good about that little exchange as I did.]

This hike, Iron Mountain, is 2.4 miles each way: UP. And Down. 1,358 foot net elevation gain. I took it SLOW and enjoyed the scenery.

In the picture above, my legs were already tired, and I realized we were hiking to the TOP of that rock looming in front of us.

Here is our great hiking crew of the day (yes, I decided to leave Lola at home for this one):

Iron Mountain Hiking Crew @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The weather was overcast and only slightly cool when we began our hike. I was confident that the cloud cover would burn off before we reached the summit and I was immensely grateful for cooler temps (after a weekend of 90-100 degrees).

Nothing could diminish the scenery on this hike.

Iron Mountain Hike Trees @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Levi was in his element.

Iron Mountain Hike Cloaked @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Getting a bit closer. In this next picture you may see the itty bitty humans up higher on the trail. Obviously, they hike uphill much faster than I do.

Iron Mountain Hike Closer @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

A patch of snow. Bluer skies. A tiny Mount Hood in the distance.

Iron Mountain Hike Snow @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

A rockier path (and beautiful wildflowers) as we climbed higher.

Iron Mountain Hike Higher @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike Wildflowers @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Switchbacks as we climbed higher and higher.

Iron Mountain Hike Switchbacks @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

More wildflowers.

Iron Mountain Hike More Wildflowers @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Clouds continuing to burn off and move past.

Iron Mountain Hike Clouds @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike Even Higher @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

And, finally, the summit, with the last whisps of cloud.

Iron Mountain Hike Summit Clouds @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

It’s difficult to see the peaks in the distance in the photos, so we’ll go with a few close-ups. The summit of Iron Mountain boasts a 360 degree view.

These are the Three Sisters, three volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range/Cascade Volcanic Arc. They are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest peaks in Oregon, each over 10,000 feet in elevation.

Iron Mountain Hike Three Sisters @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Then Mount Washington, an eroded shield volcano in the Cascades. 7,794 feet.

Iron Mountain Hike Mount Washington @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

And Mount Jefferson, a stratovolcano also in the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the second highest mountin in Oregon at 10,497 feet.

Iron Mountain Hike Mount Jefferson @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Finally, Mount Hood (below right), a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, northern Oregon. It’s the highest mountain in Oregon at 11,240 feet and apparently "one of the loftiest mountains in the nation due to its prominence."

And Mount Adams (tiny distant center), a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the second highest mountain in Washington at 12,280 feet.

Iron Mountain Hike Mounts Hood and Adams @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Three Sisters and Washington in the distance:

Iron Mountain Hike Summit View @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

There is a lovely platform at the summit with benches, a map, and railings. We all sat and ate together while enjoying the view.

Iron Mountain Summit Platform @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike Summit Cloaks @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike Wildflowers and Rocks @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

In the picture below, notice the tiny thread of road on the left. To give you a sense of the height we climbed, we crossed that road on foot at the beginning of our hike.

Iron Mountain Hike Tiny Road @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

After a relaxing time with friends in the sunshine at the summit, we began the descent.

Iron Mountain Hike Descending @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Holly and I spent more time looking at flowers on the way down.

Iron Mountain Hike Indian Paintbrush @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike White Wildflowers @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I loved the different shapes of white flowers. The leaf pattern above left is my favorite.

Iron Mountain Hike White Wildflower @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

When we finished the hike, we stopped off at our favorite campground to picnic, wash off the dust, and be refreshed. What a beautiful day with friends.

Iron Mountain Hike House Rock Swim @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain House Rock Luke Swim @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesIron Mountain Hike House Rock @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer School ~ Beazell Memorial Forest (Hike #10!)

Beazell Memorial Forest @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Hike #10! We had a frustrating morning with missing keys and whiny children—then a beautiful drive with hard rock music blasting through the speakers in the truck since Holly and Ivy weren’t with us.

The Kings Valley area is gorgeous. The Renaissance faire we attend each year is just past this trailhead.

Beazell Memorial Forest is easy to find and has a great parking lot, no parking fees, and nice bathrooms. Win! Plus we were only a few minutes late, even with the missing keys (thanks, Mom, for rescuing us).

The historical Plunkett House is near the entrance. It was built in 1875.

The Plunkett House @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I took this next picture to memorialize the 20 seconds that one son was being kind to another and helping him with his pack.

Beazell Brothers @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

This was our hiking crew (Holly, Heather, Christina, and I with kids—obviously I’m behind the camera). You can see my son in front with the cheerful attitude. We were having shoe issues. And I think Lola is sticking out her tongue.

Beazell Hiking Crew @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We had a bit of trouble figuring out where we were going because there are several loops in this area. We took the South Ridge Trail to the South Meadow Loop up to the summit. It was a rough uphill climb. We’ve completed several uphill climbs but not recently, and this one felt really tough. It wasn’t a long hike up and I’m not sure what the elevation gain was because the hiking sites don’t agree. It was warmer than usual (upper 70s), and I don’t think I had my normal energy levels to draw from.

I’m not sure which is the best site to use for information—AllTrails (Plunkett Creek Loop, South Ridge), The Right Trail (I like that this site shows a better map and allows the user to click on different loops), or Oregon Hikers.

Beazell Hike @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The views were nice at the top, though not particularly spectacular. We were supposed to have views of Marys Peak where we hiked a few weeks ago, but I’m not sure where it was. At least we had blue skies!

Beazell View @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The general atmosphere was gorgeous, though, and a little different from the other hikes we’ve been on.

Beazell Hiking @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The shady downhill hike (I think we returned to the South Ridge trail then met up with the Plunkett Creek Loop Trail) was fabulous. We took the inside half of the loop closest to the creek. I’d highly recommend just the Plunkeet Creek Loop Trail for a lighter hike, especially for those with young kids. Very beautiful.

Plunkett Creek @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

This brought us to a bridge crossing the creek and depositing us back at the parking lot, but we stopped for quite some time at the bridge to picnic together and let the kids play in the water. It was a lovely and refreshing end to what started out as a difficult hike.

Beazell Bridge Picnic @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Christina and Heather had to leave and my boys were done, but Holly, Ivy, Lola, and I finished with the remaining short trail, The Bird Loop. The day was really heating up (go ahead and laugh at me, friends with 100 degree weather), and there was less shade on that trail, but I’m glad to say we did it.

Plunkett Creek Bridge @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Whew. We have one more hike planned for next week, and it’s going to be a doozy. I may have to leave Lola home for that one. After that, we have a busy July planned (July 4th, summer camp for Luke, CiRCE conference for me, and a week of camping with family and friends) and no official hiking days. We’ll see if we decide to add in more hikes over the summer!

Stay tuned for Oregon Coast pictures from Father’s Day!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lola’s New Favorite: Jenny and the Cat Club!

Jenny and the Cat Club @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I’m thrilled to have a child in the Jenny and the Cat Club stage again! These were Luke’s favorites, and now Lola is devouring them.

Books that help transition kids from early readers to chapter books are hard to find—especially quality transition books—but these books by Esther Averill are the best of the best.

Meet Jenny and her Cat Club:

The Cat Club @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Jenny Linsky is a small black orphan cat. She lives with the kind Captain Tinker, who knitted her a red woolen scarf. When she is too shy to join the Cat Club, in which each cat has a clever skill, Captain Tinker makes her a pair of silver ice skates and gives them to her on Christmas Eve. When all the other cats see her skating, they are enchanted and invite her to be a member of the Cat Club.

Jenny and the Cat Club is a selection of shorter stories: The Cat Club, Jenny’s First Party, When Jenny Lost Her Scarf, Jenny’s Adopted Brothers, and How the Brothers Joined the Cat Club. Each two-page spread has at least one small illustration, and the pictures are darling. Each cat has oodles of personality. The tender and quirky stories are accessible for young children, but they are beautifully written and full of wonderful vocabulary.

In the second story, Jenny’s First Party, readers meet Pickles, the Fire Cat. If younger readers have the good fortune to read The Fire Cat by Averill when they are in the early readers stage, they will be delighted to meet Pickles again in The Cat Club. Lola was so excited to see Pickles that she went back to The Fire Cat and discovered that Jenny appeared in a picture in that book as well!

Jenny and the Fire Cat @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The Cat Club was originally published in 1944, and it is still charming readers today! The New York Review Children’s Collection hardback books are lovely. Check out The Hotel Cat, The School for Cats, Jenny’s Moonlight Adventure, Jenny Goes to Sea, and Captains of the City Streets also in the collection.

We seemed to have missed adding Jenny’s Birthday Book to our collection, so I can’t wait to give it to Lola on her next birthday.

Jenny should be on every child’s bookshelf!