Brian's Journal - Summer 2016

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6/21/2016   Tiger Mountain  
Barred Owl chick
Barred Owl chick (photo by Britta)
Barred Owl chicks (photo by Britta)
Laurie couldn't make it so Britta joined me on a hike up Tiger Mountain (and drove me out to the trailhead). We took the Tiger Mountain Trail from the Tradition Lake Trailhead up to West Tigers II and descended via West Tiger III. I don't recall our conversation but I kept a bird list which included two Gray Jays and an Osprey on West Tiger III and a family of Barred Owls near the trailhead. The young ones were adorable; too bad they will grow up and do their part to help exterminate the local populations of other smaller owls.
Britta took most of the owl photos because my arms were too weak to aim the camera up into the trees where the owls were perched. That is a new and undesirable development.
6/24 - 7/9/2016   Europe Trip  
Sarah and Roger in Sweden
Château de Foix
We spent two weeks in Europe hiking, birding, sightseeing, visiting and eating. Here is a log of our trip.
7/15/2016   Wylie Slough  
Darchelle and I drove up to Wiley Slough in pursuit of three birds and found two of them. The rarest, a Ruff, eluded us but we got to study a nice mix of shorebirds through the scope and I was able to get a few photos by using the scope as a camera stand.
Chickadee and Spirea
Stilt Sandpiper (center) and dowitchers
Semipalmated Sandpiper (lower left) and Western Sandpipers
7/16/2016   Hidden Lake Lookout  
Tim and Mary took us on one of their favorite hikes in the North Cascades. Hidden Lake Peak is 5 miles west of the Sahale Mountain but the hike starts at a lower elevation so it has quite a different feel from Sahale Arm.
Stream near the trailhead
Hiking up through forest
Avalanche runout
After a mile in forest, the trail emerges into an avalanche gully and climbs first through slide alder then through lush flower meadows.
Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)
Elephantella (Pedicularis groenlandica)
Columbia Lily (Lilium columbianum)
Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) and Pearly Everlasting
Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
Cliff Paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola)
View across the avalanche gully
Little waterfall
Boulders, Mountain heath, Darchelle, Mary
Leaving the gully, the trail ascends a gentle shoulder through boulder fields and mountain heath. We stopped for lunch there in the fog, hoping it would clear but it didn't.
Tim and Mary at lunch
Mary and Darchelle
Darchelle, Brian, Tim, Mary
After a short section of steep snow, the trail follows a transverse ridge across the gentle west face of Hidden Lake Peak. It would have been fun to wander across snowfields and ledges up to the actual summit but we were short on time and the visibility was limited so we just followed the track to the saddle above the lake. Both the lake and the lookout were pretty much obscured by fog which began to break up during our hike down but never cleared enough to offer any views of the mountains around us.
Darchelle crossing snowfield
Hiking up the transverse ridge
Darchelle and Mary
Darchelle and Mary approaching the saddle
Yellow mountain-heather (Phyllodoce glanduliflora)
Clearing towards the lookout
Altogether the hike, 9 miles and 3000 feet up and down, took us just about eight hours. No Ptarmigan, though Tim repeated the hike a week later and saw both Ptarmigan and Sooty Grouse.
7/18/2016   Bottle Beach via Yacolt  
This was a combination trip, some birding and some shopping. Darchelle wanted to visit a fabric store in Portland which features an extensive collection of lace, the kind that is used on wedding gowns. I wanted to swing by Yacolt on the way and look for the Monk Parakeet colony reported there. They are certainly non-native but they do count. It would have been nice to get a good picture but at least I saw them. Their nest is a monstrous pile of sticks.
Monk Parakeet nest
Monk Parakeet
Trying on lace
After spending the night in Vancouver we took a detour out to Westport on the way home and I picked up a Ruddy Turnstone (but no godwits) at Bottle Beach and a Heerman's Gull (but no Wandering Tattler) at the Westport breakwater.
Semipalmated Plovers and Least sandpiper
Short-billed dowitchers
Oil seep
7/23/2016   Owl Dream  
I woke up last night feeling very sad after the following dream:
It is dark. I am sleeping on a pad on the floor in a room crowded with storage boxes. The room is upstairs in a small two bedroom house. Daniel is sleeping in the room too. An owl has also been in the room with us for the last several nights. I like having the owl in the room with me but I realize that the owl has had nothing to eat. There is a pocket gopher in the room but it is a little too large for the owl, and is also probably hiding among the boxes so the owl can't find it. I need to get the owl outside so it can find something to eat.
Daniel catches the owl and give it to me. I carry it over to an open window and hold it outside the window with its wings spread. When I let go of it I expect it to fly but it instead drops straight to the ground and lands with a thud. I realize it is starving and can not fly or hunt for itself. I feel profound regret that I am the reason the owl is starving, because I kept it in the room.
I run downstairs to go outside to get the owl but I hesitate because I am only wearing my underwear and I am barefoot. There are contractors remodeling the kitchen and the light is on. When they see me they make some critical remark about my being in my underwear but I ignore them and decide to go out anyway. The front lawn is rough, as if it has been rototilled. I run around to the back of the building where I dropped the owl.
I hear a rattling sound and a scuffling in the bushes down the bank, and I see the owl trying to fly away in front of the cat. The cat emerges from the bushes with her tail puffed up, proud to have chased away the owl. Now I will never be able to catch the owl and it will almost certainly starve to death.
Falling asleep again, I wonder if what happened with the owl was real or not. I am back in the dark house and see that there are no contractors in the kitchen and all the lights are off. Now I know that it was a dream.
Sometime later I had another dream:
I'm walking up to a church which looks like the church in Jackson but is much smaller. It is also, or maybe still, dark out. I notice that the lawn in front of the church is rototilled and I realize that the church is somehow the same as the house with the owl. I walk through the front doors into a foyer barely big enough for half a dozen people to gather. A woman is serving hot chocolate at a small table on the left. I take a mug and have her fill it for me because my arms are weak.
Entering the sanctuary, which has only about eight rows of pews, I notice a handful of people sitting in a couple of the pews on the right side. Those pews have beige-colored steel panels blocking access from the central aisle. The pew behind them also has a steel panel blocking access but I slide it aside and sit down towards the far end of the pew next to Lucky M. From where we are sitting, a wall right in front of us blocks our view of the podium.
Over the next month I worked out an understanding of the dream.
The beige colored panels remind me of filing cabinets. The people are filed away in the church. There they are static and do not change, just as papers do not change as long as they are stored in a filing cabinet. The dream may be telling me that in church, or in my Christianity, I was in some ways stuck and unable to grow. Lucky and her parents were friends of ours at the height of our involvement in the church. Maybe the dream is saying that I was lucky to have become involved in church. Sitting there though, I can see nothing but the white wall in front of me. I have no perspective, and cannot see a way forward.
In college, and again after college, I turned to God and came into the church in order to be changed from someone who was bad into someone who would be good, from someone who could not love into someone who would love. But it seems in some ways that God and church had the opposite effect, and prevented me from growing into love even as they probably helped me grow into an adult.
In the first dream I'm sleeping temporarily in a room filled with stuff, perhaps my stuff. That stuff is preventing the owl from finding food. As in a prior dream in which I released a bird from a house, I think the owl represents me, and the "I" in the dream is my agency - my choosing, or my will. By my choices and actions, and perhaps also by my stuff, I starved the owl. Though I released it from the inhospitable place where I had been keeping it, I released it only to probably die. In a similar way I released myself from a prison of my own making, but had already contracted ALS while in (and because of?) my prison. Unable to undo that, I will probably die.
I wonder about the significance of deciding that the memory of the owl was a dream and therefore not real. Does that mean that the story about the owl starving isn't really true? Or maybe the dream is representing something else as not true. The reason that I concluded I was dreaming was that the contractors were not in the house. Their purpose was to remodel the house but instead they criticized and judged me. Likewise I came to God seeking to be remodeled but found instead a critical authority who judged me as lacking the clothing of righteousness. I now realize that God was an illusion of my own making, a projection of my own self-condemnation. Like the dream, He wasn't real.
Is any god real? If that God which seemed so real for so long was not, is there any way to know if God is, any way to indulge my desire for God without merely returning to my own emotional dysfunctions?
7/25/2016   Sahale Arm hike  
Because he had never been there, Daniel and I hiked up so Sahale Arm today. We hiked hard and took 5 1/2 hours to do 8 miles and 4000 feet. That worked out to about 3 hours in Ptarmigan habitat but I didn't see any. I didn't even do a bird list.
7/30/2016   Green Herons  
We didn't set out to look at Green Herons. Darchelle and I drove out to the coast with Ed and Delia to look for early southbound shorebirds, stopping first at Bottle Beach and then at Midway Beach.
Ruddy Turnstone with plovers, gulls and Marbled Godwit
Brown-headed Cowbird and Tree Swallow
Heerman's Gulls
Green Heron hunting
Green Heron with Bullfrog tadpole
Green Heron after swallowing tadpole
Another Green Heron
Green Heron adult in Pond Lilies
Green Heron juvenile
7/31/2016   Snowy Egret  
The Snowy Egret
The Black Phoebe
The Eastern Kingbird
8/08/2016   San Juan Island  
At work on breakfast
Susan, Darchelle and Sarah
Lingering at the breakfast table
Daniel's trailer at the winery
Roger, Sarah, Yvonne and Daniel in the tasting room
Vineyard tour with Daniel
Selecting lunch at Westcott Bay Shellfish Company
Daniel and Sarah shucking oysters
Pigeon Guillemots on the ferry
Judah sampling supper
Darchelle, Richard, Gabriel, Ricardo and Alicia
Alicia and Darchelle
8/10/2016   Golden Tree Hostel  
Roger fixing dinner
Kirsten fixing dinner
Sarah practicing fiddle
Dinner awaiting the diners
The table from the east
The table from the west
8/14/2016   Wedding Day  
Darchelle and I are married now. We celebrated our marriage with family and friends on Orcas Island this afternoon at 3:30 or so. Our ceremony changed neither our legal status nor, as far as I can tell, our status before God, but it was a significant and deeply meaningful occasion. Significant, because now our marriage is public and we belong to one another in a broader and deeper way than before. Meaningful, because our families and friends witnessed our love for one another, and we witnessed their love for us, expressed both by their taking the time and expense to join us and by the hours of work that they put in to make our wedding happen.

Our vows:
Darchelle, I love you. You have shown me love in a way that I have never seen love before.
You have listened to me,
You have seen me, you know me.
I rejoice in your delight in me.

Today, in the presence of our families and dear friends, I commit myself to you,
To love you and trust you,
To hear you and receive you,
To continue to open my heart to you.

I am yours and will be yours as long as we both have life.

My talk during the ceremony:
Life is good. You've seen the t-shirts, a graphic of a figure swinging a golf club or relaxing in a hammock with a big smile, along with the slogan “Life is good” printed in big letters. Well, Darchelle and I are here to tell you, that's not the whole story.
Those of you who know Darchelle will have undoubtedly heard her say, “La vida es dura” or in other words, "Life is hard.” It's not just a motto. It is a philosophy born of her personal temperament and experience. And mine as well, though it had not occurred to me to express it so succinctly.
In our first run together, a 50k along the shores of West Seattle, I shared with Darchelle my struggles with God. In our second run together,on foggy forested trails around Port Orchard, we talked about sadness and anger, and Darchelle explained how anger can be an attempt to manage sadness. In our fourth run together, a 12-hour trail run in Redmond Watershed Preserve, we talked about the concept of holding another person’s pain and I told her about a millionaire friend of mine who woke up one morning with a headache, passed out from an aneurysm, and never recovered the ability to talk. We found common ground in our love of long-distance running and we connected by expressing and holding each others pain.
Now the phrase “Life is hard” is not for either of us an accurate description of our objective reality. We don't routinely go to bed hungry, unless Darchelle is in a weight-loss competition doing whatever it takes to win first prize and take home the money—which she did. We have a roof over our heads and we are surrounded not by enemies but by friends. The lives we live would be the envy of many people around the world. So how can we say, “Life is hard?”
I’ve had ALS for three years now. It has progressively destroyed the muscles and nerves in my arms and hands to the point where they are now almost useless. It is likely that over the next three years the rest of me will suffer the same fate. Five years from now I will probably be dead. ALS is incurable and almost always irreversible as well. I’m actually one of the lucky ones. If I had a typical case, I wouldn’t be here today.
Darchelle has looked for love for most of her adult life. Of course there have been suitors, but none of them knew her and loved her as she longed to be known and loved. I did, and do. In me, Darchelle's heart found home, and in Darchelle, my heart found home, too. We were both alone in our own particular way. That is different now. We can be who we are and be valued. We experience knowing deeply and delight in being known by the other. Each rejoices with the other's joy, neither competing with it nor resenting it, but celebrating with the other. Each sits with the other's pain, neither explaining it nor trying to fix it, but just offering comfort in being present. I am not alone anymore and neither is Darchelle. After 30 years, she found love and now she will lose her beloved. Life is hard.
So what do you do? Do you just give up? Do you withdraw from love because you’re faced with the prospect of loss? Do you erect a wall around your heart to keep grief out? Darchelle did not. She chose love with her eyes open. She chose to love knowing grief would follow. And her love gave me life. When I found out I had ALS I wanted to end my life. Darchelle's love gave me a compelling reason not to go down that path. We have chosen love for each other and life together despite the imminent prospect of grief and death.
That is why we have invited you here today, to help us celebrate love over loss, life over death, hope over despair. Weddings are usually forward-looking events, the celebration of the bright future ahead for the new couple. A wedding initiates a marriage born of hope, the hope that love will continue, that the couple will grow together, that they will build a life together. This wedding though is a little different, celebrating as it does a marriage which has already begun, in the face of a future darkened by disability and death. Eight months ago we married in a private ceremony, before we were fully ready to share our love with our communities. We married because we loved one another but also because our time together would be short. Today we do not initiate a future together. Today we celebrate a life together in the present, which is of course informed by both the past and the future. We celebrate a love which has proven equal to the challenges we face. In that love there is hope, there is growth, there is joy, there is life. So “La vida es dura”, life is hard. But there is love, and love is good.
8/17/2016   Vesper Peak  
I wanted to show Jorda a classic Cascades hike just as he had showed us a classic southeastern Pyrenees hike back in July. I think that two hikes are actually pretty comparable in distance and elevation gain, but that is where the similarities end.
The Sunrise Mine trail sets out in second growth conifer forest, switchbacks up through avalanche brush and over the shoulder of a ridge through a small grove of spectacular Yellow Cedars, then up through a rocky cirque from which no exit is apparent. At the last minute the trail turns right and zigzags up a steep gully to Headlee Pass. Pretty much classic Cascades alpine hiking approach. Traversing across more talus the trail enters the Vesper Lake basin between Vesper and Sperry peaks. That's where I started taking pictures.
Me below Vesper peak
MorningStar, Del Campo and Gothic peaks
Jorda on ledges
Copper Lake below Big Four Mountain
Looking down to Vesper Glacier and Copper Lake
Vesper Lake basin
Jorda is not what you'd call loquacious but I think he really enjoyed the hike. We talked some about God and about relationships. I talked quite a bit about geology in general - plate tectonics and geologic history - and pointed out a few local features of interest - glacial landforms, frost wedging and talus slopes, igneous-metamorphic contacts on the side of Sperry Peak and such. We hiked steadily with no significant breaks. Jorda was comfortable on both the steep scree ascending Headlee Pass and the ledgy scrambling up to the summit. On the way down we were both warm enough to take a brief dip in the outflow stream from Vesper Lake. Jorda helped me get my pants back on.
We didn't see many birds. We didn't see any Ptarmigan either. While we were on the summit though, two Black Swifts zipped around us for 30 seconds or so. One or both were calling, a rapid high-pitched "teeteeteeteetee". I had never heard them vocalize before.
8/19/2016   Walking towards home  
I dreamt about walking towards my childhood home in Jackson last night:
I am walking along the road towards the house in Jackson from about Pittman's pasture, accompanied by several other people. We stop at the front door of each house to tap on a small panel of wood set in the center of each door. The panels consist of 5 wooden strips positioned vertically, each about an inch wide. They look old, as if weathered and repainted many times. We tap in a specific pattern, once on the outer pair, then on the inner pair then on the center strip. Our purpose is not to open the door, though the tapping may unlock it, but we are checking to see if the panels are working properly, I think. On one of the doors, with a freshly painted black panel, my tapping has no effect. I direct someone else to go up to the house before Emerson's because it is a ways off the road.
While we are in the road at the foot of the hill before Emerson's, a crazy woman comes sprinting down the hill, her legs spinning as if in a cartoon. I expect her to hit me but she misses me and crashes instead into a woman behind me, maybe Delia or Alicia, who is gracious about it. Near me I notice large sheet metal horse trailer with the top smashed in. A large black horse is trapped in the trailer and struggling to stand up but it cannot get its legs under it. The bolts which attach the top to the bottom of the trailer has been removed on one side so that the top could be peeled back to release the horse but nobody does so.
We skip Emerson's door because the house was taken down, but there is now a new inn, not open yet, along the road at the entrance to the driveway.
As we turn off onto Wilson Road I point out to Darchelle how the snow has drifted across the road and explain that the wind changes direction and blows the snow around after a storm. On Wilson Road the snow is only a few inches deep with a slight wind crust which I break as I shuffle through it.
At the house we (I think it is Daniel with me now) walk up to the corner of the porch where two people, maybe Mom and John, are sitting. They do not speak or move and appear to be covered with frost. There are large flakes of frost on the floor of the porch and I consider photographing them but decide that would be too much effort.
The dream appears to be a reflection on the meaning and purpose of prayer and my personal experience regarding relationship with God. The black door panels are a reference to Marblehead, where after high school I began to explore the possibility of being a Christian. Tapping on them represents prayer in that it should be done in a certain sequence (praise, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication) but the purpose and efficacy are less certain. That there are several of us engaged in tapping on the doors suggests a sense of community which I don't usually associate with prayer but regardless my own prayer has no effect.
The horse which struggles to stand but is not able to do so is another reference to prayer, specifically prayer for healing. The image of the horse recalls the story of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus tells him to stand up and he does so, and thereby is healed. Ellen White makes clear that the reason he was healed is because he took Jesus at his word and obeyed his command to stand even though standing was apparently impossible for him. The implication is that had the paralyzed man believed his circumstances rather than believing Jesus, he would not have been healed.
It would appear that in the dream the horse is convinced by the appearance of the crushed roof of its trailer immediately overhead that it does not have room to stand, so it fails to get up even though the bolts have been removed. Just as Jesus's command to the paralytic empowered him to stand up despite appearances, the removal of the bolts should enable the horse to stand up despite the obstructing presence of the trailer roof. In the dream however, the trailer roof is not what is preventing the horse from standing up. In the dream the horse cannot stand because its legs don't work. It is not lack of faith on the part of the horse, but rather lack of functioning legs, which prevent it from standing. I am the horse, and my lack of faith is not why I am not healed by prayer.
Another rather different possibility is that the horse represents God; the crashed trailer represents the demise of my former belief system and I am the one who has removed the bolts from the roof of the trailer in opening my mind to the possibility that God exists and could heal me. Unfortunately just as the horse is unable to arise, God appears unable to manifest himself or help me in any discernible way.
Shit happens. I think that is the message of the crazy woman, whose hurtling down the hill and colliding with one of my companions reminds me of the Isard crashing down through the woods at Puigmal. It may be a reference to my getting ALS. God may or may not be in control but shit definitely happens. Why it is that in the dream the crazy woman misses me and hits someone else is not clear, but it is probable that the gracious person who does get hit in the dream is me as well.
Dr. Emerson's house isn't there anymore, either in reality or in the dream. Instead there is a new house which is empty. Medical science offers no cure and no effective treatment for ALS, so we don't even stop to knock at that door.
As I turn onto Wilson's road in the dream, it is winter and Darchelle is with me. Snow and winter have been the setting of many of my dreams recently. I think winter in my dreams represents this terminal season of my life. For the next few years I will be progressively more frozen out of life as I lose the ability to move, to act, to do. Yet at the same time I am returning home, home to who I am free of the external constraints of a performance-oriented god but now faced with the challenge of engaging with others through the intimacy of dependence. With Darchelle there is no question; she is with me and I am emotionally vulnerable and physically dependent on her, but I trust her and love her. Depending on others though - to feed me, to dress me, to pull my penis out of my pants when I need to urinate and put it back in when I am done - feels exposing and vulnerable and way too intimate. I hesitate to engage with my friends and my children that way but if out of fear I decline to engage I will end up frozen and alone. At least that's what the dream seems to be saying.
8/22/2016   Yellow Aster Butte  
Daniel and Darchelle and I hiked up Yellow Aster Butte today. As usual I was looking for Ptarmigan and as usual, I did not find any. I carry my camera most of the day just in case but never ended up using it, taking photos with my phone instead because that I can manage.
Crossing the shoulder of Yellow Aster Butte
Me with camera I can't use
View from the butte
We hiked over the summit dome and down the ridge to the east of it, then dropped down to the north into the basin where the Ptarmigan supposedly dwell. The three of us searched in different areas and found no birds.
Darchelle on the ridge
Darchelle on the ridge
When we met up again Daniel was photographing reflections in the turn at the foot of the butte. Inspired by his example I followed suit. I lagged behind on the way down, photographing flowers and hoping that a Ptarmigan might magically appear at the last minute. Long drive, beautiful hike.
Tarn below the butte
Late flowers

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