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Shrine a little light on me

Tucked into a northeast Portland neighborhood, the National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother, or the Grotto, as it is more simply known, is a peaceful retreat amidst the city’s hustle and bustle. It is a place of inherent natural beauty, tempered by man’s earthly edifices of faith in art and architecture. Drawings of the Grotto’s early plans depict a domineering marble church perched atop a barren ridge. But, what exists today is a tranquil shrine and formal garden. Paths meander below imposing old growth Douglas firs, through lush vegetation and visible representations of parables. Visitors are given a chance to reflect on both what is at hand and what may…

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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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