Saturday, September 20, 2008

Boise and back again

I managed to carve five days out of my increasingly hectic schedule to take a short trip to Boise to visit my son. It's about a seven hour road trip from here to there. You follow the Columbia River east for the first 160 miles. First, through the verdant forest of the Columbia River Gorge, then on to the stark rainshadow desert area beyond The Dalles, OR where this most beautiful and blue river meets the amber grassed, but treeless hills of eastern Oregon. The contrast between the river and desert is unexpected and amazing.

After leaving the river, you travel through the hot and dusty area between Boardman and Pendleton, OR where the wind blows hard across the harsher landscape, no longer featureless as several windmill farms now dot the area with their sleek white blades moving electricity to points beyond in rhythm with the wind.

The stark landscape does not last long as you move into the beautiful, Blue Mountains and the dry pine forests of the area. This is the gateway to the beautiful Wallowa area, full of trails and lakes. As I climbed the steep hills, I wondered how the pioneers were able to drive their slow and clumsy Conestogas over the hills to the promised land at the end of the Oregon trail. Essentially the freeway follows the Oregon trail all the way to Boise and there is a wonderful museum in Baker, OR that focuses on the trials and tribulations of those that traveled the trail. Imagine traveling through hostile lands and facing death each day to start your life in a country you only know through word of mouth!

Between Baker and Ontario, OR, you meet up with the Snake River, much different than the Columbia. Meandering and shallow, home to an amazing array of migrating and breeding birds. What a breathtaking sight to come around a bend in the road and see a flock of snow geese resting in the river! Pelicans and several varieties of ducks joined the geese in searching the river for food. Hawks and eagles fly overhead in the heat thermals that rise from the hills.

At the Idaho border, you again, pass into the desert and the speed limit increases to a swift 75 MPH - you barely register the land around you as you speed into Boise. I lived in Boise for six years, but hardly recognize it now. The growth in the last few years has been tremendous. But the city is beautiful, surrounded by hills and divided by the Boise River, flowing through the heart of the City of Trees. In the summer, kayakers and innertubers float the river, while joggers and bikers ride the adjacent 22 mile greenbelt.

I stayed with one of my art friends and her husband. She graciously allowed me to accompany her to her monthly art group meeting. A delightful group of artists in a variety of mediums: watercolor, photography and pottery among them. They meet monthly and assign a theme for each meeting. Each artist completes a work of art that reflects the theme and then shares it with the rest of the group at the next meeting. It was amazing to see the breadth and scope of the art that reflected the theme that month, a still life of meaningful things.

The next day, I embarked on a moonlight kayaking trip down the Payette River. A group of about 13 folks kayaked and canoed down the river in the evening and camped on an island of sand for the night. We sat around the campfire and admired the Harvest full moon as it traveled across the sky. We shared our trip with George, the cat, whose owner lets him ride the bow of his kayak. George obviously enjoyed the ride, although he was careful not to touch the water, leaping from boat to boat to reach dry land. In the morning, we set out again on the river until we reached the Black Canyon Reservoir, where we pulled the boats from the river. The river was like glass as we floated, enjoying the sight of heron, hawks and a lone beaver who moved gracefully and quickly through the water. A trip I will never forget.

And of course, seeing my son again was a boost I sorely needed. It's so hard to have him so far away. Even a lengthier visit would not keep me from feeling blue as I said goodbye to him and headed back to Vancouver again. He is, by far, the best part of my life.

Now, back to frenetically getting ready for my classes at Art and Soul. YIKES!!! Only two weeks away....