Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Father Was a Gardener

My father was a gardener.  Thanks to him, I know what a tomato tastes like when it is still warm from the vine.  A tomato that was started from seed early in the year under a grow light in his basement and nurtured until it was big enough to transplant into a ½ milk carton to be transported to my garden.  In the early years he would plant them with me and teach me as we went along.  In later years, he delivered them and left me to do the planting,  He had trained me well.  

Each year, we would have a race to see who would get the first red tomato of the season and then another race to see who would have the most.  He usually won both of these competitions, but I was gaining on him.

He gave me his knowledge of nature, gardening, and the weather.   Just like him, or because of him, I am graced with the overwhelming need to spend more time outdoors than indoors among these earthly delights.

Somehow it was fitting that this gardener should pass away as the final leaves were falling from the trees.  His work done here.  During his last hours, the sun burst out of the clouds and came in through his hospital room window.  Unable to speak as the sunbeam warmed his face, he looked up at it knowingly.  I held his hand and told him it was a good day in the garden after so many days of rain.

An amazing sky outside his room, I took this photo which will always remind me of the last time we would sit in the sun together.

Change of Seasons

The ocean is constantly changing, yet not changing at all as it comes ashore without fail, kissing the sand.

Each time I watch the waves they are different, colored by the wind, the weather, the sun...the seasons.  I now recognize the color and texture of the winter sea and how wildly beautiful it is perfectly offset by the color of the sky as a storm blows ashore.

photo of winter waves at Rockaway Beach Oregon by Nancy Zavada

The summer sea with it's jewel toned water of turquoises, emeralds, and blues is reminiscent of tropical waters far to the south.

photo of summer waves at Rockaway Beach Oregon by Nancy Zavada

As I learn to tell the seasons by the color of the sea,
I find myself in the rhythm of this most delightful planet.

Note: Taken from the exact same spot six months apart, these photos are perfect examples of Mother Nature's ever changing wardrobe. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Photo of Twin Rocks by Nancy Zavada

Just 24 hours after a sunny Winter Solstice, dark blue clouds rolled onshore.  The colors of the morning were magnificent!

We scurried back to the shelter of Saltair Station before those clouds had a chance to deliver the rain they promised--and they did deliver.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Apocalypse

photo of Rockaway Beach Oregon by Nancy Zavada

Standing at the seashore in the sunshine, I do believe the warnings of the planet's demise today were unrealized.

A very Happy Solstice to you!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Onshore Breeze

The recent storm in Rockaway reported winds of 90 mph.  Superstorm Sandy had some competition for windspeed.  Although Carpenter Bob had reinforced the fence and the local police hadn't called us to report a fence in the road, we were still nervous about what we might find upon arriving at Saltair Station on Friday.

Damage Report:

  • A length of gutter found in the yard.  Not from any of our gutters, so it had apparently flown there from another house.
  • One goofy looking 12ft. tall "palm" tree snapped off.  Whoever originally planted this tropical species was confused about the latitude of the property.
  • Missing mailbox.  Even though it was bolted down, it had blown clean off the cement post.  Thanks to the numbers I had recently put on it, the curved dome was returned by a neighbor.

Happily, the fence was still standing this time. 

Man vs. Nature:  Bob - 1, Mother Nature - 1.

Note:  The locals have their money on Mother Nature and never miss an opportunity to tell Bob.  What the heck, it gives them something to watch in the winter.

Friday, December 7, 2012


If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy,
 if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you,
if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand,
for your soul is alive. 

-Eleonora Duse

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Places to Heal

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, 
places to play in and pray in, 
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. 

-John Muir

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Old Man Winter

photo of winter at Rockaway Beach Oregon by Nancy Zavada

Old Man Winter reclaims the shoreline.  We are content to watch from a comfortable distance as we drink in the wild sea air.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blaze of Glory

Leaves go out in a "blaze of glory" becoming even more lovely as they near the end.  A splendid triumph of life for all to see.

Shouldn't we humans take a lesson from their brilliance?  Aren't we more beautiful when filled with a lifetime of memories and wisdom?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Empty But Not Alone

There is no place like an empty seashore in the middle of winter...

whether it is for storm watching,  
soul searching 
or simply,
 connecting with the power of nature.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Furnished by Nature

Love is a canvas furnished by Nature 
and embroidered by imagination.


Monday, November 12, 2012

When It Rains, Make Rainbows

photo of colorful fungi by Nancy Zavada

The endless rain is back on the Oregon Coast and everything is damp most of the time.  It is a little bit of a culture shock after our very long, dry summer weather.

As if to cheer me up, this colorful fungi on my wet kindling spoke to me of rainbows.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Waiting to Fly

photo of Blue Heron on the Nehalem River, Oregon

"Creativity is the Blue Heron within us waiting to fly; 
through her imagination, all things become possible."

--Nadia Janice Brown

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Heaven in a Wildflower


"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower:
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."

--William Blake

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Women and Nature

Looking for an intriguing quote to start this blog post about women's relationship to nature, I sadly found myself unable to come up with even one quote talking about the ancient bond between females and nature...unless it was a reference to the ever-scary, "Witchcraft ". 

You see, I thought it would be a good lead in to what I learned in the historical novel, The Discovery of Jeanne Baret, written about the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in the 1700's.  An herb woman, Jeanne Baret dressed as a man to serve as a botanist's assistant in search of new healing plants.  Called "the beast of burden" for her hard work and dedication, she discovered plant species she would never get credit for.  Even while on the harrowing voyage, the ship's crew would come to her rather than the ship's doctor, who was prone to cutting off a limb to cure them.

The book explained how herb women in the early 16th century possessed an unrivaled knowledge of the plant kingdom while educated male scientists only knew what they had read in scientific publications.  This anecdote from the book, told by the Renaissance scholar, Otto Brunfels, provides a perfect illustration.

"According to Brunfels, a contemporary physician named Guillelmus Copus of Basel gave a dinner party for his fellow physicians from the Paris Faculty of Medicine.  Pulling a leaf from the salad, Copus asked his guests if any man could identify the herb.  None could, and all agreed the tasty addition to the salad must be some newly introduced exotic.  Calling in the kitchen maid to see what she might say on the matter, Copus watched the surprise on his guest's faces as the woman announced the 'unidentifiable" herb to be parsley."

Early male botanists and doctors knew the most expansive knowledge of the power of plants resided with herb women who passed their accumulated wisdom through the female line of their families.  Many doctors paid local herb women a small sum for the healing plants and the knowledge of how to use them.  Doctors then used the herbs for their own work, happily taking the credit while enjoying social status and power not available to the women. 

Here in 2012, women still learn from other women family members and friends about natural ways to heal an illness.  As a mother and woman in my 50's, I know this tradition continues.  When our daughters (some young mothers themselves) want to know how to bring down a temperature, what to do for an upset stomach, or how to take care of a thick cough, it is their mothers, grandmothers or aunts they call first.   There is no need to consult a scholar.

Think about where you learned how to treat a sick child using a hot pad, a steamy shower, or bowl of broth.  Sometimes just a warm hand over the troubled spot augmented with ginger soothes nausea.  Insect bites stop itching with a poultice of baking soda.   Peppermint tea to help the digestion.  A salt rinse with a neti pot controls the symptoms of hay fever. 

My teachers have been the women I know, the women before them and the women before them.  Our healing remedies aren't written down, they are passed down, similar to the best family recipes where grandma used a pinch of this and a little bit of that and you learned by her side.

Women are the keepers of the tribe and the keepers of nature because those two things are inseparable.   Perhaps there isn't enough written about it, then again, perhaps there doesn't need to be.  After all, the knowledge is safe with us.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Ripple Effect

Photo of water ripples by Nancy Zavada

"Memories of our lives, our works and our deeds 
will continue in others."

-Rosa Parks

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Miss You, Mother Nature

I love New York City with its pulsing energy, cultural abundance, 
delicious food, and fabulous architecture.

There is just something that sings to the creative side of me.

However, truth be told, I am a nature girl and struggle with not seeing any plants, animals (except pigeons) or even the horizon for days on end.  I think it would be grand if they would move New York City a little closer to Rockaway Beach, Oregon, so I could have the best of both worlds.  

As that is highly unlikely, I do believe I shall wander home to Salt Air Station 
to cozy up to my favorite seashore.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012


"Okay, Mildred, you keep a lookout while I gobble down this whole crab. 
 Then we will see if the tourists have any stale kettle corn for you.  How's that sound?"

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hey There, Lonely Gull

I've been pondering loneliness lately.  I spend a lot of time alone, yet am not lonely.  You know, heart-breaking, tear-shedding, chocolate-eating lonely.  Don't think I haven't been there though.

Before I had children, I was desperately lonely for the pitter-patter of little feet and the sweet smell of my baby's neck.  The longer I struggled with infertility, the worse it was.  Once the adoption papers were signed and the waiting game began to bring them from Korea, I would look up at that big old moon and tearfully wonder if they could see it too.  Now my children are thriving adults and even when I miss them, I don't feel the same depth of loneliness.

After my divorce and before I began my life with Bob, I was lonely for a lover and a partner.  Someone to dance with, share my day with and hold me when I was scared.  I used to look up at the moon then too, wondering sadly if he was out there.  It was the stuff good country songs were written about.  Now I have my special someone and we connect in a way I never thought possible.  So even when we are apart and I miss him, I am not lonely.

This is a season of my life when, surrounded by loving friends and family, I can wander off and still know they are holding me safe in their hearts.   Realistically, there will probably be times in my life when I feel the hunger of loneliness again, but I am going to pretend that will never happen because I am older, wiser and stronger. 

Just for today, I am grateful to be at ease with my sweet self.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Oh, Oh, It's Ladies Night!

Everywhere you looked this weekend, there were bands of women.  Groups of five or more beautiful, laughing, happy women,  They were shopping, walking the beach, and generally exploring the town. 

So many joyful women without men...hmm.  It took me a while to remember it was hunting season and while all the macho men are chasing defenseless animals with high-powered rifles, their "better halves" go to the beach.  It's a tradition.

Saturday night's sunset was especially dramatic and a crowd had gathered at the wayside, mostly ladies carrying cameras and beverages in plastic cups.  As they watched and toasted the end of a beautiful day, the setting sun saluted back by making itself into a martini glass.  Mother Nature loves a good party.

It's Ladies Night, Oh, What a Night!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Last Light of a Fall Day

photo of sunset on the Nehalem River by Nancy Zavada

The colors of a fall sunset seem more poignant to me.  Do you feel it too?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day's End

Shortly before sunset, the last rays of sunlight illuminate the waves.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug!

Today, I offer no photos, because what I am about to describe isn't pretty.

My trip over the Coast Range last evening coincided with dusk and a large "Salmon Fly Hatch" along the Wilson River.  If you have never seen a salmon fly, think smallish version of a dragonfly but drunk...really, really drunk.  The most awkward pilots of all insects, they fly in huge dips, loops and waves without much forward progress at all.  If you were trying to get out of the way of an oncoming salmon fly it would be tough, because you just can't logically forecast where they are headed next.

They did, however, have pinpoint accuracy for my car window. The wipers swished and swashed my window clean all through the trip and still I ended up with a windshield full of bug juice when I got home.  I was outnumbered.  They must have had it in for me personally, because the passenger's side was nice and clean.

Perhaps they were after the fly-fisherman in the car behind me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Words to Live By

photo of waves at Rockaway Beach Oregon by Nancy Zavada

Live in the sunshine.
Swim in the sea.
Drink the wild air.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Endless Summer

The sunny weather just won't stop this fall.  Here it is, October, and the scene below continues up and down the Oregon Coast.  Tourists are still flocking to the shore, building sandcastles and chasing after the seagulls.

Everybody's happy!  Well almost everybody...

This grumpy native, perched high atop a piling, 
is clearly no longer amused.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Won't You be My Neighbor?

That's the face I saw when opening the blinds today.  This little lady was all nestled in and her two fawns were romping around the yard eating the heads off of the dandelions (A win-win for this gardener).

She stayed for a few hours, wandering off at some point.  There were quite a few deer roaming around our neighborhood this afternoon.  I finally realized it is hunting season and they have come down from the mountains to avoid the camo-wearing, scope-carrying, manly men who are stalking them.

Not too much later, I was sitting quietly reading my book in the garden sun when the wrens arrived.  A whole band (at least 30) of the crazy guys perched on the fence and looked down at the empty bird bath and then back at me.  Repeatedly.  They made enough of a racket, that I was forced to close my book.  Knowing they had my full attention, they kept squawking and pointing to the birdbath with their little beaks.  Enough with the nagging already, I jumped up and filled the bowl.  The noise stopped and the splashing started.

Now, the sun is going down and the harvest moon is rising.  Bats are zooming around the corner of the house past the picture windows.  In case you couldn't tell, I love my neighbors!

Today's Advice

It is so important
to make someone happy.

Start with yourself!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brush Stroke

photo of leaf by Nancy Zavada

This could be a painting of a leaf, instead it is a photo of one taken at sunset here at Saltair Station. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer at Poop Rock

photo of rock in Tillamook, Oregon by Nancy Zavada

Located in the channel between Tillamook Bay and the Pacific Ocean lies Poop Rock.  Every summer this little piece of real estate turns white thanks to it's popularity with sea birds (as seen here).  Every winter, the abundant rain washes it off and it returns to slate grey.

It may have a more beautiful name, but it will always be Poop Rock to us.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Do I Garden?

Photo of Hydrangea Blooms by Nancy Zavada

The magical colors of hydrangea blooms in the
late summer sun.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bahamas, Shamamas

photo of water off Cape Meares, Oregon by Nancy Zavada

Let me set the scene...a warm day in the high 70's...slight offshore breeze teasing my curls...sun on my face...the sound of waves crashing...and beautiful aquamarine water as far as the eye could see.

The Bahamas?

Nope, Cape Meares, Oregon, on Monday afternoon. 

Seriously, this photo was not enhanced.  The sea was showing off her magnificent beauty right here at home.  Plane ticket not required.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Vintage Beauty

Doesn't this luscious bloom remind you of a tube of "Siren Red" lipstick Marilyn Monroe might have carried in her sequined evening bag?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First, Get Out of the Car

If you want to capture the incredible views along Highway 101, you must get out of the car and stand at the edge of the viewpoint.  As a girl that doesn't even like driving over the peak of Neahkahnie Mountain, I never really considered this an option.

Yesterday was such an beautiful day, I decided it was time to channel my inner Ansel Adams and take the risk.  I grabbed my camera, got out of the car and slowly made my way to the 1,600 foot ledge.  As long as I looked through the lens towards the beach to the south, my fear of heights was manageable.

At one point though, I heard footsteps behind me.  Channeling my inner Alfred Hitchcock, I knew I was about to be thrown off the cliff into the sea by some long lost enemy.  Turning around, I was relieved to see a fellow photographer instead.  He wasn't planning to push me over the edge and looked a little nervous himself.  Drama over, I continued taking photos.

The results were well worth the risk.  This mountain is indeed aptly named, "the place of supreme deity" in the Tillamook language. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's in a Name?

This is the color we are painting the house.

One paint manufacturer has a color named "Rockaway Beach" which is grey, grey, grey.  We would like to believe there's a little more blue than grey here so we went with paint called "Myth Grey,"  hoping the grey is now just a myth.

May all the grey skies at the coast this winter be a little more blue 
 (like my hands if I can't get this stuff off).

Monday, September 10, 2012

Small Town Entertainment

The local police placed this gadget on our quiet street which has a posted speed limit of 25.  It is a pretty small street, so you really have to work to get above that.  Anyway, it has been here for months instead of being useful out on Highway 101.

photo of speed machine by Nancy Zavada

It is not fair of me to say it isn't useful because it has actually provided hours of fun for the town's children.  They learned that it won't post a speed if you are just walking by, but if you ride your bike, well, that's a different story.

This week a group of teenagers took up the challenge of seeing who could go the fastest.  They set up a system of spotters to make sure no cars were coming and upon the "all clear" signal, the biker was off pedaling at top speed past the machine.  After several rounds of competition, the winner clocked in at 17 mph!  It must be said there were a few challengers at 15 mph too.

Perhaps this pastime a much better use of tax dollars than having the device out on Hwy. 101 harassing tourists after all.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Birds

photo of birds on a wire by Nancy Zavada

If Alfred Hitchcock's famous film, The Birds, terrified you, stay away!  The Bird Nation of Rockaway Beach is alive and well this week.

The normal flocks of seagulls and shorebirds are busy feeding off tourists down on the beach.  The blue jays are darting about. The vocal crows start before the first rays of the sun come over the Coast Range and don't stop squawking until dark.  Yesterday, at least twenty little wrens were simultaneously frolicking in my birdbath.  They splashed and preened so much, I had to fill it up again after they were done.

For the past several days, a murmuration of birds have been gracing the sky here.  They fly in unison darting this way and that, all moving the same way at the same time.  As I watch, I wonder how nearly 200 birds can possibly be so connected, their movements so precise.  I haven't seen them before on the Oregon Coast and have yet to identify them.

Today, the group stopped in a tall tree above our house and their high-pitched chirping filled the air.  The house was engulfed in their happy music.  After 10 minutes or so, they took flight once again and headed west to the sea.

Oh, how I could watch them forever!

If you haven't seen a murmuration of birds, spend two minutes watching this video and be prepared, once again, to be amazed by Mother Nature

Friday, September 7, 2012

Calling All Butterflies

photo of lily by Nancy Zavada

These lilies have opened their petals and hearts, eagerly awaiting winged visitors.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Right There in Black and White

Posted in the Headlight Herald newspaper, this is the complete classified ad:

"Found a set of keys at the Senior Center in Tillamook."

Do you suppose there is a senior citizen standing next to their car right now in the Senior Center parking lot reading the paper and exclaiming, "That's where I left them!"?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

There's a Word in Spanish

To let go of things that are inhibiting you 
from being who you should be.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer 2012

Whether you are young or old, there is nothing like summer at the beach. Nothing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dam It!

There's a creek in Rockaway that runs into the ocean.  It has been doing so for a very long time, yet every day children want to change that.  They work and work with pails, shovels, pieces of driftwood, and even seaweed to stop the flow.  By evening, either the tide or the creek break down the barriers and the water reaches the sea once more.

The next day, another child happens upon the stream, has the same idea and begins digging.  Nothing required but imagination and creativity for hours of entertainment.  Often groups of children and even their parents will conspire on elaborate dams, spending all day on the project.  By the next morning, the slate will be wiped clean for a new set of "engineers" to begin.

As I sit here watching the latest effort,  I imagine all of the children over the many years who have spent an enchanted day playing in the sand and water.  Perhaps even my father and his father before him. 

photo of a child building a dam on Rockaway Beach, Oregon by Nancy Zavada

What a wonderful gift this little creek brings to the world!

Friday, August 31, 2012

What, Me Worry?

It was 4:30am and I awoke with a start--nothing appeared out of the ordinary and the house was quiet.  My mind, however, not content with that answer took off like a bull at a rodeo, charging out of the stocks and romping wildly around trying to free itself.  Unwilling to join the fun, my body lay very still hoping trick my mind back to sleep.

No such luck though, my mind was not to be corralled this soon and began galloping through it's list of things to worry about (one right after the other):

Did I remember to send that birthday card?
Is there enough sour cream for dinner?
When was that dentist appointment?
Why don't people believe in climate change?
Will it be nice enough weather for a walk on the beach?
What time does the sun come up so I can check?
Do I absolutely have to sand that dresser before I paint it?
Is the paint I bought too blue?
Or too grey?
Why is abortion a political discussion?
Seriously, did I send that birthday card or not?
Why am I in my 50's, where did the time go?
What should I make for Christmas dinner, ham and turkey?
I would like some toast.
Did I make enough jam for the winter?
Is it time for an oil change?
Why isn't the sun up yet?
Will I need a nap later?
Should I wash my new pants before I shorten them?
Is there enough detergent?
How about hamburgers for dinner instead?
Will Marie think I am crazy if I end up sending her two birthday cards?

And so it went until an hour passed and another one.  My mind bucking and twisting around the ring with more questions than answers.  Finally, it was all tuckered out and settled down with an exasperated snort. Thinking it was now safe to move, my body rolled over and nestled into the warm covers. 

Sleep settled in as the sun rose in the morning sky answering one of my questions.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saltair's Water Lilies

Our coastal community has creeks running down from the mountain range towards the sea.  It also has an abundance of lakes and bogs making the local wildlife very happy.  Once a year for a very short time, the bogs and lakes come alive with beautiful pink blooms floating on the water, making everyone very happy.

photo of water lily at Rockaway Beach by Nancy Zavada.

Unable to wield a paintbrush like Claude Monet, I captured the water lilies with my camera.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beautiful Things

I'd rather have flowers on my table
than diamonds on my neck.

 --Emma Goldman

(Probably not the best quote for my birthday week, but still true enough.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


After toiling in the garden all spring, summer brings forth fresh blooms and I pause to remember these wise words...

photo of garden by Nancy Zavada

"Work is love made visible."

--Kahlil Gibran

Friday, August 17, 2012

Home Is Where Your Nest Is

This is not a flower.

This is a baby robin waiting not so patiently for his mother to return to the nest with something delightful to eat.  His brother (or sister) is napping right now, but not this little guy.  He is on high alert with his fuzzy head bobbing about.

photo of robins nest by Nancy Zavada

This is my patio table umbrella.

Yes, a robin built a nest in my umbrella one weekend and laid her eggs.  I immediately forbid anyone in my family from using the back door, back deck or backyard until further notice.  That sweet mother commenced sitting on those eggs day and night, never leaving the nest.  I was impressed by her parenting skills and tenacity.  Summer has been passing by and we have yet to use the back deck.

Several days ago I noticed the eggs had hatched and two chicks appeared.  The mother now spends time away gathering food for her hungry family returning with early morning earthworms, their favorite.  I think she is a single mother, because I never see any other robins around helping out.

It is probably time to give up the notion of using the table at all this summer, but you know, it is worth it!

Photographers note:  Of course, as soon as I put my camera away, the second baby popped up to check out the scene.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Salt Air Dew

photo of morning dew by Nancy Zavada

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter,
and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning
and is refreshed.

--Kahlil Gibran