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The slow fade

It’s been hot for days. Not just hot, but really hot. The kind of heat that makes your skin feel a bit raw, swollen. You could sympathize with a cake in an oven. It’s the kind of heat that puts a gleam in a weatherman’s eye. You know he’s searching thesaurus.com right now for adjectives to name the phenomenon. It’s dire, portending dark days ahead. The heat bleeds into the other news. There are warnings: don’t touch hot grates, stay inside, use sunscreen, check your car before leaving it, heat-sensor mapping show asphalt-laden cities aren’t faring well. It gives us all a something to talk about, something to commiserate on.…

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Shore Acres is the place to be

I remember going to Shore Acres State Park as a child. It wasn’t to visit the beach, walk in the sand and bravely stick our toes in the bracing Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t for a hike. It wasn’t even on a sunny day. It was when wind rattled the roof and driving rain swept across our little sister towns nestled in the curve of Coos Bay. The storm meant, not far away, on a cliff at the sea’s edge, something exciting would be taking place. Winter storms always meant wave watching. Wind lashed us, driving salty spray against are frozen noses and cheeks. We sheltered in the nook of a…

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Invasive invaders

It seems pretty innocuous. A tiny plant with equally tiny purple flowers. Five symmetrical petals bursting from red-tinted buds, poking up above dainty cut leaves. This is Herb Robert and he’s not supposed to be here. This little flower is species of cranesbill, a member of the geranium family. Its namesake is thought to be the abbot and herbalist Robert of Molesme, a saint and one of the founders of the Cistercian Order during the eleventh century. Herb Robert was traditionally used as a remedy for toothaches and healing wounds in the British Isles. Other cranesbill species also are native to Eurasia and North Africa. The British invader Herb Robert Somehow, over the…

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A visit to the Oregon Garden

Traveling I-5, I don’t know how many times I’d passed the sign: The Oregon Garden, Exit 263. Big and bold in brown and white lettering. Each time, I wondered, what is that? I didn’t know anyone who’d visited the park. I didn’t remember it being there as a child. Somehow, even as a plant enthusiast, the sign always seemed a little off putting. Maybe it was the name. Too generic. Like seeing Liquor Store emblazoned on a strip mall store. Sure, Liquor Store probably sells top-shelf brands, but all you can picture is a shady paper bag in someone’s hand. Shouldn’t a garden’s names have a bit of mystery, charm, whimsy,…

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If a tree falls in the woods …

There’s a red alder growing at the top of this hill. This one is alone. I’ve passed stands of them on the way up. A few stands have 50 or more growing together. Slender, clumped together in thickets, their smooth, gray-and-white mottled trunks stretch up into the canopy. Most of them are no bigger around than a person’s arm. They are young. Over the coming years, their numbers will be whittled down. The competition for sunlight, nutrients and space, will leave only a few where these many once stood. Anything that reaches 65-95 feet tall, will need a little elbow room. Someone has carved initials into this lone alder, a…

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