We drove down the middle fork of the John Day on Sunday, searching for a snow-free hike and the early buttercup.
We found mud, mainly.
And although there were no buttercups in evidence we did see a few
sprigs of that other yellow bellwether, desert parsley, its bright new
blossoms about the size of a nickel.
We left the parsley.
Many Americans start the New Year with renewed efforts to count calories and leave behind the excesses of the holiday season.
But Governor Kulongoski and Democrat leaders seem to think now is the
time to add inches to government’s waist line. In the spirit of the
holidays, Democrats are convinced that government spending financed by
a borrowing binge is the key to economic recovery.
They are wrong.
The prescription for Oregon’s ailing economy is not a spending spree,
but an aggressive plan to trim the fat — to shed excessive government
spending and commit to a leaner, healthier, sustainable lifestyle where
jobs and family businesses can thrive.
Oregon is putting a lot of effort this year into touting its past,
which seems to me logical since we’re hardly overwhelmed with events to
celebrate here in the present.
And if you believe what you hear we’re not likely to be burdened with such in the near future.
The real reason for the revelry, of course, is that Oregon turns 150 this year — on Valentine’s Day, to be specific.
Oregon’s government, I’d wager, has more in common with Las Vegas than most Oregonians realize.
Salem lacks a neon-studded Strip, of course.
And so far as I know Wayne Newton hasn’t played the State Fair since, well, forever.
But if you get on the e-mail list for various state agencies, as I
have, you come to understand pretty quickly that working for certain of
those agencies, and running a casino, are not such dissimilar careers
as you probably supposed.
Although state workers aren’t likely to see Siegfried standing by the water cooler.
Along about the middle of December they begin barging in, mocking the
snow and upsetting the tranquility of our winter household.
These thin pamphlets, crammed with glossy color photos of plants that
are almost obscenely healthy, can distract me for as long as an hour
from more worthwhile pursuits, such as napping or watching football.
After even a brief bit of browsing I can become overwhelmed by the
compulsion to go dig a hole and plant a hybrid poplar, or perhaps a
paper birch. That such a task is impractical — even if I scraped away
the snow the frozen ground would be no more receptive to a shovel blade
than asphalt — seems not to matter.
The photographs alone, showing trees in full leaf against backdrops of
blue sky, affect me much as a balmy afternoon in March does. I can feel
the warmth of sunshine bathing my neck, the soft grit of fecund soil
clinging to my fingers.
But the writing is powerful, too, in spite of its flowery tone and over-reliance on adjectives and exclamation points.
My natural skepticism, which is usually quite keen when it comes to
detecting, and dismissing, outlandish claims that come by mail,
dissolves when I read about the clever tricks the horticulturists have
been up to with their gene-splicing and grafting.
The federal government is getting ready to write another 12-digit
check, ostensibly to benefit the taxpayers. Which is to say you and me,
who will of course subsidize this endeavor whether we brand it as
brilliance or folly. If I were a shopkeeper I’m not sure I’d accept
this as legal tender, though, even if the feds can produce two pieces
So far as I can tell the account lacks overdraft protection. It
certainly hasn’t any taxpayer protection, and yet I’m certain the
creditors, in a pinch, will be able to acquire our addresses as readily
as the IRS can.
I suppose I ought to feel thankful that the people we elected have
decided it’s time to return to us, in some fashion, a portion of the
money they’ve taken. But I can’t muster much gratitude.
“In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of — the cow jumping over the moon...”
I’ll spare you the entire story of the classic “Goodnight Moon” by
Margaret Wise Brown — but just know that I can recite it, word for
word, from memory.
We received this book as a gift upon the birth of our daughter, Olivia.
She didn’t really take an interest in it until she was about 14 months,
and ever since we have read it before naptime and bedtime. (She’s now
19 months old and says “Moon! Moon!” when it’s time for bed).
It’s a wonderful book, and I haven’t yet felt the need to hide it or
throw it away (by the number of books in our house, it’s apparent that
we never throw books away).
That, however, is not the case with some other stories. One in particular is “Little Quack’s New Friend.”
Baker Valley battled the invaders with rare courage, stubbornly
resisting even as its allies fell, one after another, before the mild
But the juggernaut of slush was irresistible.
Surrounded and vanquished, its situation hopeless, the valley at last
laid down its thermometers and surrendered to the meteorological
Which is to say it warmed up around here Wednesday morning.
Warm fronts bluster into our mountain valley pretty regularly during
winter, and predicting their snow-softening progress requires little in
the way of scientific prowess.
This I appreciate, as my knowledge of science is, well, limited. (Which
is akin to saying that Baker County is limited in its allotment of tide
Except sometimes the jet stream plays a prank.
The trick the atmosphere pulled off earlier this week was clever
indeed, making fools not only of amateur prognosticators like me, but
also the professionals from the National Weather Service.
I used to think, as I suspect most people do, that a chain saw posed a greater threat to eyesight than a contact lens does.
Recent events have forced me to reconsider the comparative danger of the two items.
The thing is, it’s easier nowadays to procure a chain saw — or for that
matter pretty much any powered implement with sharp metal pieces that
spin really fast — than it is to replace the contact lens you washed
down the drain.
Or snapped in half, as I did last Saturday.
I was cleaning the lens, too, which amplified my frustration.
Few things annoy me as completely as preventive maintenance that backfires.
It’s like changing the oil in your car and then blowing a piston because you forget to tighten the drain plug.
It’s all too easy to sulk these days, so dire are the dispatches which daily pummel even the casual consumer of news.
The news business depends on bad tidings, of course — the assorted
awfulness that afflicts our world is as essential to the media as
forage is to the cattle rancher.
People complain that they’re bludgeoned by this onslaught of negativity
but I think they’d miss it if went away altogether. We are, most of us,
attracted by stories of disaster and despair — mainly, I suspect,
because they remind us that no matter how rotten we thought things were
going for us, we’re better off than those poor people who were just on
This is at best a meager and brief sort of solace, but accept it.
The tenor of things has turned particularly pessimistic, it seems to me, during the second half of 2008.
There has been but little respite since the start of summer. First fuel
prices rose to unprecedented heights, then the housing and financial
markets sunk to levels unimaginable mere months before.