Back to the Garden

You can’t turn your back on nature around here. Even after a dozen visits to the same place, it’s different every time. In Portland’s temperate rainforest what’s here today is gone the next. What wasn’t here recently, unexpectedly shows up. We had the rainiest April in history and the only recorded April snowfall as well. Add in some intermittent sunshine, and Elk Rock Garden was again delightful.

It’s not just the landscape that changes. I too am different each time I visit a place. My mood and my energy differ, I move slower or faster, I take a left instead of a right at the fork in the path, I approach from behind instead of in front, I pause on a different spot on the trail, a new plant or perspective catches my eye, plus the fact that my memory isn’t perfect. Deja vu or was I actually here before?

Even our all-too-familiar neighborhood walks change daily. The Peonies are up, or there’s a change in someone’s landscaping, the angle of the sun is different and the Dogwood blossoms glow in a new way, or I notice a petal-filled branch arcing over some red tulips with vibrant Spanish Bluebells spread out beneath. A Spotted Towhee begs to be heard, there’s the smell of wood smoke or lilac, or just today a couple grey rabbits loped across my path before diving beneath the blackberry brambles. Sometimes a new understanding descends, like how the deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter – not in order to depress me – but so the sun can penetrate into the earth below, and now I’m seeing the results of that sunlight in the burgeoning undergrowth. All this change is a reminder to keep my senses open, and be ready for anything.

Out of town visitors propel us outdoors, and I visit those beautiful places I’ve been meaning to get back to. And because I’m with someone different, I see differently, walk differently, and learn from them as well.

I am always ready to take you to Elk Rock Garden, any time of year. A botanical garden is designed to reflect and display seasonal changes. While part of me wonders how I can write about the same place again and again and again – it changes, I change, and I’m enraptured and astonished each time. Hope you don’t tire of pretty flower photos.

When we visit my brother and sister-in-law in Bend, just a few hundred miles away and over the Cascade mountains, we plunge into the vast contrasts of west to east, rain forest to high desert, sea level to several thousand feet elevation, and big city to big town. This week they came to visit us and experienced that shift from the other direction, enjoying the green and lush vibrant colors.

Camellia – perhaps a Japanese one?

Occasional spurts of raindrops fell as we roamed the hillside garden overlooking the Willamette River. Camellias were just browning at the edges, azaleas trumpeted out their glory, and a host of other blooms kept me busy with my phone app to see what these delightful things were called. I’m fairly certain I’ve looked up several of them before, and a few I remembered, so I’ll call that progress.

We capped off the day celebrating my brother’s birthday at Ox, a quintessential Portland restaurant with creative and succulent food. I was sorry to be too full for their sumptuous desserts and after dinner drinks. I’ve been feeling more comfortable in restaurants again, thrilled not to have a pile of take-out cartons in the trash, and slowly reclaiming pleasures of Before Times.

But now Covid cases are rising again, and Alan had a recent close encounter, so I will be reeling in my activities; I have important travel plans to stay healthy for. It’s neither Before Times nor After Times, so I’m navigating some mysterious Middle season that I can’t quite get a handle on.

Still, I can immerse into the gorgeousness around me, and I will. Our next day’s trip to the delightful Japanese Garden was quite a different botanic experience.

18 thoughts on “Back to the Garden

  1. Nancy, another beautiful walk through the beauty of the northwest. You capture the beauty and serenity of each place you visit with both your words and photos. Thanks for the walk.

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  2. Holy cow! Gorgeous! And the photos too! I’m gobsmacked by the whole package you’ve put together here. There is a golden chain tree by my driveway. I’ve seen it bloom just one time: the spring my mother died. (The rhodies by the steps bloomed only that year too. Ten years I’ve been here.) And, like your sister, there is no mistaking kinship with your brother. I’ve just been told the camas is blooming at Mima Mounds down the road from me. But now it’s raining and raining.

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  3. Oh my, yes, the flowers and the words … like spring itself. But you know my favorite part? You recognize and celebrate that you are a changed person, every time you step into this space. Very Zen. As my good friend always says ” Everything was about to change. It always is …”  Indeed. New blooms and new eyes. Thanks for sharing this beautiful walk. 

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  4. Incredible, gorgeous flowers – and so great to have them all labeled. Glad you had fun with the bro and Linda – next year I think I’ll come a bit later to maybe catch some of these

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  5. Oh I am so so tired of the Mysterious Middle COVID season. Love all your pics and descrips as always N. See how the bramble and the rose…intertwine….love grows …. next time we are up I want to do some of these ambles (not hikes. want to amble on) xoxoxoMER

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