Eclipse: Sky Show Doesn’t Disappoint

12887800 - full eclipse of the sunI woke up Monday to fog. Great, I thought. I won’t see the eclipse, only the darkening and lightening as the moon passes over the sun. The naysayers were right.

“Come on, Lord,” I prayed.

He heard me. He heard lots of us. The sun burned it off just as the moon started taking bigger and bigger bites out of the sun. By 9:55, it was getting darker every second. As the shadows dimmed, I felt a physical thrill high in my chest that I can’t accurately describe. I wished my late husband Fred were here. I wished my neighbors were outside with me. I wished I were at a party with lots of people. But my plan had always been to stay home, and my back, out of whack again, seconded the motion.

As the moon slid over the sun, I walked down my street, seeking other people to watch with. I found only a flock of chickens and a black cat, all huddling in place. I noticed the fog hung very close, ready to cover our houses again. I went home, feeling like the last person on earth. No one here! Later I would learn that my neighbors had gone east to escape the fog.

So it was just me, standing in my driveway with my eclipse glasses. It got darker and darker till the sun was just an orange sliver around the moon. The street light came on, a slightly lighter orange. Cold, I pulled the red blanket out of my car and wrapped it around my shoulders. The chickens cackled then hushed. And suddenly . . .

The moon lay right across the sun, a black disk with a silver halo. I heard people shouting. I shouted back. I grabbed for my phone to take a picture, although what I saw in the viewfinder was just a round glow. After my second shot, a blast of sun burst through. More shouts. It started getting light. The street light turned off. The sun began to show on the right side of the moon. The fog crept eastward. A plane flew over. Standing in my garage huddled in my blanket, I cried.

I went in to warm up for a minute. The dog followed me around, nervous.

“Come on.” By now the sun was above the trees, so we could see the rest of the show from the back yard. Little by little, the sun reappeared. I watched until the edges of the orange ball were completely round again. I felt the sun’s warmth on my shoulders. Reluctantly, I took off my cardboard eclipse glasses. Annie sniffed them and tried to eat them. “No!” I hid them in my pocket.

I will never see anything like this again. I wish I had remembered to look for Jupiter and Venus and for the weird shadows that were expected. But totality came and went so quickly.

Afterward, I look around at the trees and the grass and the sky. Nothing seemed the same.

While I watched the total eclipse in South Beach, Oregon, my father and my aunt were just arriving at Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara, California, for an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon. (Some healing of his broken leg, but it’s very slow). Traffic had stopped completely. People got out of their cars. Doctors, nurses and patients were gathered in the parking lot with their eclipse glasses, looking at the sky. One of them handed Dad his glasses. He took a look. He was interested but not impressed. Ah, but he didn’t see the “totality,” that moment when the moon completely blocked the sun. That’s what I won’t forget. The rest was a lot like the lunar eclipses I have seen, but totality, oh my God.

The eclipse entered the United States on the Oregon Coast just a few miles north of where I live. As I wrote last week, thousands of visitors were expected. Stores stocked up on eclipse T-shirts and other souvenirs. Some asked their employees to stay overnight and work extra shifts. Police and fire departments called everybody in, and the National Guard was on standby. Signs went up: no beach access, no camping here, no fires anywhere. Stay off the roads, we were told. Traffic will be stuck in total gridlock. The Lincoln County commissioners declared a state of emergency in advance.

But it didn’t happen. The crowds did not come here. For us, it was another y2k, the disaster that didn’t occur as 1999 transitioned into 2000. The streets of Newport, Depoe Bay, and Lincoln City were deserted. Hotels suffered mass cancellations. Businesses saw fewer customers than they would on a normal day in August.

Now everyone is debating over why people didn’t come, why they went to places like Prineville and Madras in Central Oregon. Were they scared away by overblown predictions of horrible crowds and ridiculously high prices? Or did they simply decide not to take a chance on the coast’s ever-changing weather, the one thing no one can control?

We could easily have missed it. The day after the eclipse, we were fogged in all day. The rest of the week was a mixed bag, some fog, some sun, some clouds. Now when the sun is out, I keep wanting to look at it. I want another show. But it just sits there, glowing, while the moon finds its own place in the sky and the waves roll in and out as usual.

Besides the glasses, I have another souvenir. No, it’s not a T-shirt. As the world darkened, I walked through my garage and ran into my big steel dolly, leaving a cut and a bruise just below my right knee. I’m kind of proud of it.

Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017

Photo Copyright: johanswan / 123RF Stock Photo

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If a Tree Falls . . . It Breaks the Fence

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IMG_20170408_191948310[1]Yes, I heard the tree falling in the forest. It was not a crash, more of a whoomph, as a massive coast pine from the undeveloped property next door fell during Friday’s powerful windstorm. It was 8 a.m. I was washing dishes when I saw it go. As Annie and I ran out to look, the pine cone-laden tree lay quivering on the concrete behind my garage. My gutter dangled like a broken arm, and the double layers of chain link fences seemed to be twisted into zigzag patterns. It happened in an instant. To the west, a huge piece of sky was exposed for the first time since we moved here 18 1/2 years ago. Perhaps I’ll be able to see the moon better. But now I had a mess in my back yard.

The good news is that it did not hurt the structure of my house, at least as far as I can tell. The gutter and downspout are ruined, but the roof and walls seem to be unharmed. Thank God. The trunk of this tree is almost a foot in diameter. If it had hit the garage . . . It was still blowing like crazy. I flinched at every gust, wondering what else would come down.

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Here’s what it looked like right after the tree fell
Writing abandoned, I started making phone calls. My neighbor, just because I needed someone else to see it. My insurance company, where I learned I have a $1,064 deductible. (Why so much? Why not $1,000 even?) Perhaps it went up after the great flood of 2013. I don’t remember paying that much before. Can I afford $1,064? Heck no. Does it matter that the tree belonged to my neighbor? Nope. It’s considered an act of God, said Zach from State Farm. Sue the neighbor, my friends said.

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Here’s my neighbor Pat hard at work
A tree guy gave me an estimate of $500 for cleaning up the tree parts on my side of the fence. My neighbor, Pat Walsh, a semi-retired mason who hates to sit still, offered to take care of it for free. He had a new chainsaw and was eager to use it. Before I knew it, he was working on the fallen pine. While I was at church and Willamette Writers yesterday, he was also working on the tree-owner, who had not even offered sympathy on Friday. Last night, just as I was consulting with my attorney brother about small claims court, Pat informed me that our mutual neighbor will pay all of my out-of-pocket expenses. Praise God. Pat also thinks he can fix the fence and the gutter for a lot less than $1,064. I am so blessed to have him around. When I’m gone, he gives Annie her breakfast. She adores him. While I was in California last week, he also mowed my front lawn. No, he’s not single. He belongs to the wonderful Paula.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this weekend. I offer you some pictures, and I welcome your fallen-tree stories.

***

Last week, I wrote about my father breaking his leg and my dash to California to help him. Keep up the prayers. He’s still in the care home, doing limited physical therapy but spending most of his time in bed. He’s fine from the hips up, but he can’t even get out of bed by himself. Now the care home threatens to discharge him if he’s not making visible progress toward walking. How much progress can you make when you can’t put weight on a badly broken leg that is just starting to heal? Meanwhile, my brother is wearing himself out making the long drive to and from San Jose to take care of Dad’s affairs until I go back down. When? I don’t know. I jump every time the phone rings or chimes with a text. My last call? Thinking about my tree situation, Dad wanted to know if he had paid his homeowners’ insurance bill. I sure hope so.

Have a great week. Don’t stand under big trees when the wind gusts up to 60 mph.

 

 

 

Photo excursion up Beaver Creek

beaver-creek-122116mI have been scouting with my cameras for covers for my upcoming novel currently titled “Up Beaver Creek.” I’m not sure I’ve got the right shot yet–next time I should avoid shooting in early afternoon on a rare sunny day–but in this week between the holidays, I thought I’d share a few pictures with you.

beaver-creek-122116fThere are numerous Beaver creeks in Oregon and in other states. This one is just north of Seal Rock about the middle of the Oregon Coast. From Ona Beach, it travels east through marshes, farms, and hills. Sometimes it’s a wide river, and sometimes it divides up into trickling fingers that meet again later.

beaver-creek-122116bbMore on the book to come.

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All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016

 

 

No, these aren’t Christmas trees

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I squinted to read the orange sign up ahead as Annie dragged me up 98th Street. Even with glasses, I can’t always make out the letters. Logging? Wait. Logging?

The road splits by the big house with the twin Blue Heeler dogs who always howl when we pass. The upper road, 98th Court, is graveled and wild. The lower road, dark and tree-shaded, is mostly paved. After a short straight stretch, it makes a 180-degree turn at the blue house where Annie and her siblings were born.

Up ahead, I saw massive trucks and bulldozers. I saw men with hardhats. I saw that the trees enclosed in that big curve in the road were gone or lying in the bushes waiting to be moved onto log trucks and taken away. Jagged stumps remained, some of them several feet in diameter. It smelled like Christmas. The road was several inches deep in mud and sawdust. In shock, I pulled out my phone and took pictures. I asked a flagger stopping traffic what was going on. Something about the airport approach was the most he could say. We live a half mile south of the Newport Municipal Airport. Apparently the trees were in the way.

Tree-lover that I am, I tried to wrap my head around the fact that we grow all kinds of plants and harvest them. Why not trees? These trees are spruce, hemlock and red alder. We cut down evergreens for Christmas trees, put them up in our houses, cover them with decorations and throw them out two weeks later. How is this any worse? People clear space in the forest to build their houses, their cities, and their airports. And yet, this felt so vicious, so lacking in respect for trees that had been in this forest much longer than we have.

Beyond the work site, the forest remains untouched, dark, cool and green. We walked a ways and gazed across Thiel Creek. So beautiful.

It was getting late, and Annie was starting to limp again. This year, she has begun battling dysplasia and arthritis. Her spirit is willing, but her hips disagree.

I saw a tall, slim woman coming toward us. A new neighbor who lives on 98th Street, she was coming to see the trees, too. She was nearly in tears. It’s like killing animals, she said. Trees are sentient beings. She told me about a meeting happening Monday at 1 p.m. at the airport. I said I’d be there.

We gathered around a table in the upstairs meeting room at the airport, neighbors who knew each other and neighbors who were meeting for the first time. We ranged in age from 60s to 90s. Emotions ran high, as they will when one’s property is threatened. I felt for Melissa Roman, the public works official trying to explain the situation. People got red-faced, standing and yelling. Their voices shook with barely contained tears. How could you do this? You’re ruining our neighborhood! How come nobody warned us? It’s all about money, isn’t it?

The poor woman was just trying to do her job. When you mix cities and nature, there’s always a conflict, she said, exhibiting great patience when I would have been in tears. She’s doing her best.

Here’s the deal. One of the airport’s two runways has been remodeled and the navigation system upgraded. Although earlier environmental studies didn’t show a problem, when planes actually got ready to start flying off that runway, the trees on the 3.14-acre section around which 98th Street curved blocked the navigation equipment. That land is private property, owned by a local developer. The city negotiated a plan in which Integrated Resource Management—foresters, not loggers, she stressed–would cut down the trees. Once the logging is finished, they will cover the remaining slash with plastic until spring, then burn it. After allowing time for the land to recover, they will plant new trees. They will also repair the road where their trucks have damaged it.

For those who mourn the death of the trees, at least they are going to a good cause. At the last minute, arrangements were made to send the logs to the Siletz River for a salmon habitat restoration project. Much better than the wood chipper.

I can live with all of this, but my house doesn’t overlook the destruction, nor do I have to drive through the trucks and mud every day to get to work. Plus, well, if you buy a house near an airport, you have to expect to make some concessions. This isn’t half as bad as what I have seen in San Jose and other big cities where entire neighborhoods were leveled.

However, just when people were starting to calm down, Roman dropped a bomb. In the years since the airport was built in 1944, our few blocks of houses have been exempted from the requirements of the “Maintenance Protection Zone” in which we sit. Not anymore. Within the next year, the city will be asking us for easements on our property to cut down trees that rise higher than they should be in the airport area. Although most of us live on county land, because the airport is in the city of Newport, they have power over the situation.

Ooh, that made people mad.

As long as I live on my land, nobody’s cutting down my trees, said one resident.

I’ve been taking care of those trees for over 40 years, said the very old man beside me.

Me, I thought, well my trees need some thinning out, and if the city will pay for it . . . What can I say? I love my trees, but I also worry about them falling on my house.

Throughout the two-hour meeting, I took notes because that’s what I always did as a reporter. I also tried to steer the conversation away from attacks on Roman, who was doing her best. I can see both sides. We need the airport; we love our trees. It’s a bitch being the person from city hall that everybody hates. The old trees were beautiful. The new trees will be, too.

About 10 years ago, I interviewed the previous airport manager for an article for Oregon Business Magazine. He talked about plans to cut down trees. I was shocked. I asked questions, I did research, and I mourned the passing of the forest. Back then, trees were cut, but they grew back, and these will, too. Meanwhile, Santa will find it much easier to get to our chimneys on Saturday night.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

P.S. You can read about the airport-forest situation in the last chapter of my book Shoes Full of Sand. The ebook is only $2.99, and the paperback is also reasonably priced.

P.P.S. This is my first attempt at a slide show here on WordPress. Let me know how it works for you.

 

 

Finding solace amid daily tragedies

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Dear friends,

The world is going crazy. Every day, the headlines scream of another mass killing. Orland, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. And yet, here in my little patch of coastal forest where the main aggravation is moles tearing up my lawn, I can almost feel safe. Almost. Today I offer a poem I wrote after the killings in Dallas. There have been so many since then I can no longer tell which loss the flags are flying at half staff for. Let us all pray for peace.

MASSACRE DU JOUR

On TV, in Dallas, a black woman

with turquoise hair fights tears

amid the blood and bullet shells.

 

Three days after Fourth of July,

they thought it was fireworks, late

celebrations by boisterous youths.

 

When the cops fell, the protestors ran,

one picked off by the sniper hiding

in a community college parking garage.

 

Twelve cops shot, five of them dead,

the suspect, a soldier still carrying guns

blown into ash when he wouldn’t give up.

 

The blue-haired lady offers prayers

for the blacks, for the whites, for her kids

who worry that they might be killed, too.

 

President sends his condolences,

lowers the flags to half staff,

rails about gun laws again.

 

Freeways blockaded in Oakland,

subways stopped in New York,

Texans marching with signs.

 

Orlando, Nice and Baton Rouge.

Another crisis every day,

more breaking news for CNN.

 

Talking heads talk on and on,

speculate about why and how.

Ads hawk cars and sleeping pills.

 

My dog leads me out to the trees,

away from the scenes on TV.

A light rain is starting to fall.

 

Drops tickle my face and my hands

as sun warms the bones in my back.

Around me, the pine trees stand guard.

 

Robins trade tunes with the doves,

the Pacific whispers in and out.

In the distance, I hear guns.

**********************************

[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016]

 

 

 

Who needs words when you’ve got a beach?

Recent trips between rainstorms to Otter Rock, north of Newport, and South Beach, south of Newport, yielded some stunning views last week of beaches scoured by the wind and covered with bubbles that blew around like tumbleweeds. Great for walking, meditating and taking pictures.

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All images copyright Sue Fagalde Lick. Republish them without my permission and I will send Annie to eat your computer.

Life and death of a mushroom family

It’s mushroom season on the Oregon coast. My yard and the woods around us are full of them. This week, I’m sharing photos of mushrooms Annie and I found on our walk. The whole series of photos took place in less than a week. These are Coprinus comatus, also known as Ink Cap mushrooms. They’re edible, but you have to catch them quickly because they blossom and die in only a few days.

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They started out as vertical white bulbs, a big one and several others in a row.
Mushrooms black inks cropped
On the second day, the big mushroom had opened and turned black and the little ones were opening like little black-rimmed umbrellas.
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On the fourth day, they were beginning to sag and one had fallen down. By the fifth day, all had fallen, their blooming over. What’s left has merged into the pine needles.