Friday’s Photography/Poem: High Desert Enchantment

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(Over the years we’ve spent time in Oregon’s breathtaking high desert and ranch lands. Our state is nearly 45 percent desert despite having lush forests and much rain in the western part. We once stayed at Kah-nee-ta Lodge, a resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and owned by Warm Spring Tribes. I felt a stranger in a strange land….but found it all compelling. Enjoy some photos of the area below. You will soon understand the expressions on our faces: true enchantment.)

Winds talk. Shape time. I listen to
stories riding on brittle air,
Native, Caucasian, Hispanic
tales woven and split apart like
strands of rope, bracelets
of bright, hard beads,
rawhide twisted and turned.
I am silenced, prepare for
discovery, too much I do not know.

Those old, old voices mumble,
whisper and entreat. They shear
rock and sand, insistent,
striated with memory of blood
coursing, blood spilling.
A woman like me can be entranced
so slips through mirages, spirits,
springs for healing, treacherous passes.
A landscape erupting with grief.
Desire. Power. Peace.

Raw beauty is strong,
burrows deep in dreaming,
hallowed and dangerous like a charm.
The scents of heat in high desert:
harrowing and pungent so it stings
but brightens the senses. The mind.
Light on rocky buttes, in valleys–
so pure I pray as it bridges earth
to Crooked River, volcanic ridge to beyond.
Chase it, embrace the land’s heart,
magic of juniper, sagebrush,
common woolly sunflower.
Life recapitulating. Surviving.

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Friday’s Quick Pick/Poem: Truce

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Photo by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

Let us, then, try to walk together
as if there were no more wars
waged between us, the gag of
damage picked apart with tender
fingers that tied the knots.

Shifting sea speaks to presiding sky
without complaining, no judgement
and no remorse; they work as one.
Can we not bear up each other, too,
in co-conspiring, with useful love?

But our battles hone mean edges
where vultures perch, waiting
for the bounty of our undoing.
Even woundings have reaped wounds
and begged for truce, it’s repose.

This, then, seems more a means to hope,
lighter steps toward the crux of us
that yet feel unnatural. Cool, sweet and
salty breezes soothe pain’s scouring.
You hesitate and turn. I am coming. Closer.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Summer Comes

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Photos by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

This time is slight, a guest
appearance between rains,
and so we gorge on light
and encores of color,
sounds and smells pillowing air.
Nothing is luxurious as this
wistful-spring-to-brazen-summer
blue flung far and wide, new
raiment donned for July.

Even trees lift up, limbs swaying
into washes of summer’s breath.
Birds practice acrobatics
inside blazing ultramarine.
Bear and wolf speak of bounty
from mountain to river valley,
noses caught in wind’s netting.

I cover myself in morning,
a cape that clings to my shoulders
undoing winter’s penchant for night.
Feet break free to slide, tap, patter;
hands seek tenderness of flowers
whose blossoms share glimpses of
nectar and mystique, perfumes of God.

July comes with a roar, laugh, leap,
a traveler emerging from coils
of cold and wet, then uncertain June,
from mosaics of silence, shifting shadow.
It unveils such wonders that even
hidebound hearts pause to soften
in this easy, ripening blush of summer.

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A Summer Fair of Peculiar and Pleasing Note (Going Strong After 40-odd Years)

Enter at your own risk: you’ve made your way to the Oregon Country Fair!

I let my daughter and her fiance lead the way in 2012 when they finally convinced my husband and me to attend for one day. Immediately it felt as if I was stepping back into those hippie days when I attended open air music and other arts festivals with like-minded friends. I prepared for the inevitable scent of marijuana on the breeze, outrageous costumery and random hi-jinks. I was not much off the mark. Come along with the four of us to get a taste of a slightly mad, creative and fun event. Showtime!

According to Wikipedia and website info, the Oregon Country Fair was conceived and first unrolled in 1969 as a benefit for an alternative school. Over the decades this fair has grown into a colossal event with at least 45,00 visitors over a three day period. Set within wooded acreage owned by OCF outside of Veneta, Oregon, it’s billed as a non-profit educational organization. They still donate funds to their chosen recipients. It has a half dozen permanent staff but thousands of volunteers, performers and artisans contribute to its ongoing annual event and they clearly provide its longevity.  But most likely go because it remains an outpost of hippiedom with its expressive arts, a broad array of seldom seen or heard fantastical fare. Plus, you can wear beautiful wings or whatever desired (it may at times be a bit risque, allowed within limits). Even if you are a 60+ years person one is encouraged to doff enchanted fairy or steampunk or what-have-you accouterments. It’s the fair’s intention that we become a part of the performance, the zany milieu.

I confess to having appeared rather an ordinary woman and did not sport iridescent wings… somewhat to my regret as I do have the capacity in me. But I did appreciate my daughter’s red dress and fancy touches of gold. And nabbed this picture of her multiple smiling faces! Others were casually attired while some were eye-popping.

On offer were food and drink, entertainment galore, arts and crafts, music and dance; vaudeville, circus acts, marching bands plus solo musicians of all types and even spoken word. There are 960 booths at which to gawk and spend money. Workshops abound regarding all types of physical and spiritual well being plus arts and crafts. Concerts can be heard coming around each new scene, and many buskers enthusiastically perform along winding, green paths. Even a few talented children got in the act.

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The above picture shows a musical sculpture. It was mesmerizing to coax resonant notes and unusual sounds by striking or pounding on varying parts of the metal design. I do not recall who built it.

Moving along through the treed acreage was like being sheltered by a dome of green light. We walked amid mobile fantasy that unfolded one act after another while walking through a cheerful crowd. Even stone cold sober one begins to feel one’s consciousness altered due to a myriad of changing, vibrant sights, scents, tastes and sounds. If stimulation and surprise are not something you seek this is not the place to be; one may as well surrender or go home.

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I felt I needed to attend the OCF at least once, as it is a Pacific Northwest experience, creative connection between people who might not intersect otherwise. One enters into experience as spectators during performances but then again by interacting with a kaleidoscopic moments, an abundance of milling, motley characters. The crowd was dense and sights numerous, yet there was a pervasive sense of surprise, wonderment. Peaceable pleasure.

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Though I was tired out at end of a long day, ready to lounge in air conditioning with a tall iced tea, I’m glad we attended with our youngest daughter and her partner. Once was satisfying– an infusion of unique possibilities acted out in the open air– and perhaps enough for me as I embraced my own real hippie scenarios long ago. My husband found it a bit much but remained a good sport. It is one kind of Oregon summer tradition and thousands love to come year after year.

I hope you have enjoyed the abbreviated but decent sampling of an Oregon Country Fair experience as I saw it in 2012. Need a recharge? Want to push some boundaries but harmlessly? Looking for poetic inspiration? Everyone needs small breaks from a more mundane reality. May you embrace your own weird, lively, magical outing this summer!

Heat and Thunder

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Photographs by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

This is a place where sky strives to
overcome water and aged rust of earth
deepens, decorates shoreline
like copper on bare skin. It rumbles
into sinew and bones. Peepers clamor, chorus.
Dusk is well laden with primal scent of
rock, teeming lake, the sponge of heat.
Day departs on vibrations of thunder.

I remember this canopy of tension,
and how royal summer sun leaves
its marks on flesh and mind,
a deep etching of my bloodline.
Sweat was evidence of industry,
nature’s work and our play, and it
leaked rivulets, gathered as bright beads.
We consented to heat’s demands or fell
into shadowed space, the breezeway.
Coolness swirled as we watched our mother
and a searing iron smooth cotton into fine art.

I know this heat’s oppression, it’s random release.
This place, discharging its cloying essence,
perhaps unforgiving, bound up
in a rapture of prayer, grief, laughter.
Being Southern was our way, a study in
drowsiness, easy talk, dignity and dreaming.
Din of cicadas and bullfrogs background songs,
and peaches so fat with sweetness they
dropped themselves into our hands.

See there: a spear of lightning charges a spot
that is unknown to me but I do yet feel it,
a sizzling clean flash that makes no wound.
Quaking clouds that can turn into killing force
now seem a surprise of reassurance.
This damp red earth cools like my blood,
and light flings its beauty over water’s body,
adornment like silk, a slow dance  of
ardent adieus, night secrets trailing me.

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