gravel roads

Winter | Rutted and dusty gravel roads have always provoked the curious and unplanned, if not that bit of risk-taking, in me. Although I never seem to have quite the right car for such excursions (mine tend to be older and well-suited for urban travel)—I find a rather open mind, camera and journal for field notes (and water) is all that’s needed.

This one took me through most the unexpectedly beautiful and remote valleys, up winding grades, through sparse pine and oak covered hillsides and generous cattle ranges. In the three slow-traveled hours, I encountered only one passerby. As we exchanged our subtle nods of acknowledgment, I noted how profoundly different our two worlds were. I, as an artist and designer, and he, as a rancher and farmer of this land. Yet I was certain we both embraced the solitude and grandeur of the landscape before us.

Only later did I look at a map and found a small dot designating a town by the name of Leesville. Once home to a pioneer landowner, it apparently had a post office, a general store, livery stable, wagon shop, and hotel—a lively town. I felt humbled by its history as all that remained was one tired and weathered roadhouse—romantic and silent, seemingly forgotten, miles from any well-traveled road.

late summer

Summer | Late summer and early fall—Gala apples with their sweet, honey-like flavor, harvested within a distance considered local and selected from Oakland’s Saturday market. And blueberries, perfectly plump and gathered from a farm along the rim of the small town of Sandy at the foot of Oregon’s Mount Hood. The fruits of spring and summer’s labor.

Outfitted with a colorful container tied to a piece of rope around my waist, I plunged into the shoulder-high blueberry field. Within moments, all that was beyond the old gravel driveway was left behind. In its place—the sounds of insects and foraging ravens, soft voices of fellow pickers, the warmth of the early morning sun on my back. Childhood memories of gathering fruits and berries on farms or along the sides of forests returned. Tasks and growing lists for the coming weeks faded. Technology and worries found no one to care—the mind intent on one berry simply following the other.

evergreen oregon

Spring | Her woodlands are bathed in an ever-present, shadowy green. Herbaceous firs and pungent ferns, fairy-like blossoms of berries to come—trodden paths open to quiet pools of still waters, rambling farms, and working pastures. One of the many snow-clad mountains peer through the forest as I walk.

The velvety thimbleberries were showing their first white blooms. In a few months, bright red berries will tumble effortlessly from their branches at the slightest touch, revealing a little thimble-shaped crown. And ferns of all kind—the one I was drawn to unknown to the botanical novice I am. Although a few of my followers on instagram are a wealth of knowledge and fill in that which leaves me wondering…