Learning the word, Shinrin-yoku

Cathy’s preamble:

My first hike, age 4. On Mt. Hood above Timberline Lodge.

I started hiking when I was a young girl. There are pictures of a day when I walked partially up Mt. Hood with my father. I was 4 years old and I remember the day well for a variety of reasons: I was in my favorite dress and was sporting my beloved red leather shoes with buckles. I was confident I sparkled in the eyes of other hikers. I also remember my mother walking away, to wait in the lodge, and I had to decide who I should accompany.

I decided to stay with my father and head up the mountain. He wasn’t much interested that I was tagging behind (maybe there were some good-looking women ahead?) but no matter I had a spectacular time. I wandered off the trail at will chasing after little things that caught my eye, which were mostly patches of snow that had managed to self-preserve in the Doug Fir shadows. When I caught up to my father at a resting rock he scolded lightly about lagging behind, but his words didn’t faze me. I was bursting with the thrill (edged with terror) of having been in the woods for those brief moments, on the side of the mountain, all alone.

After moving to the Midwest, I didn’t hike much. After years of feeling lovingly enveloped and cooled in the forests of Doug Firs, cedars, and hemlock I found the open prairie scared me.  The prairie landscape felt over-exposed and made me feel inexplicitly vulnerable.

It took some time but I eventually came to see the beauty of the Midwestern vistas (although there is still nothing that I fear more than driving at night in the prairie). I reset my eye and mind, and as Mike says I finally “found the beauty in the open spaces”.  (Cue Miles Davis music now, as it certainly is the music of the plains). Nonetheless there was always a place in me that longed for the sensation I had as a 4-year-old, alone and enveloped by a still and deep green forest magnificence.

Nebraska – The vistas are expansive and beautiful. Photo by R.Bruhn.

The Hike:

  • Old Salmon River Trail in the Mt.Hood National Forest.
  • Hike Type: Out and back
  • Distance: 5.0 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • High Point: 1,640 feet

I drove to Welches, Oregon on an early Sunday morning in June when Andy was out of town.  Welches is a village in the Mt. Hood corridor, less than 40 miles southeast of our house. Welches’ neighbors include the villages of ZigZag and Wemme. All three places are just spots in the road that support passing traffic and supply goods to the hermits and millionaires alike living in the surrounding mossy forest.

I wanted an easy hike and the Old Salmon River trail is referenced as a ‘family’ trail (translation: if kids can hike it so can you).

The Toll Gate Inn Bakery in Sandy, Oregon. Must have pastry and coffee to start a hike.

I took my time getting to the trail-head. I stopped in Sandy Oregon, a small town that caters to outdoorsy folks. I sipped a cup of dark steaming coffee on a bakery’s wide front porch and exchanged smiles with people bundled up in ski jackets and stocking caps in mid-June. There was a tangible buzz on that porch, seems we were all looking forward to a big day outdoors.

I could see my breath but also feel the warm sun on my cheek. The sky was vibrant blue. I felt my body downshift as I relaxed into the porch chair and hot coffee. I promised myself I would hike the trail exactly as I wanted.

The Old Salmon River trail used to be the main byway into the upper canyon of the Salmon River but just after WWII a road was built to make the access easier. Some of the trail was lost then but the Forest Service has recently restored a major section and this trail is a beauty.

Sections of The Old Salmon River trail run very close to the new road but a few steps in and the forest is upon you and the road is easily forgotten. The old growth cedar and Doug Fir that populate the forest in this area are some of the most stunning specimens of nature you will ever see. And then a few steps further on the trail, you come upon the Salmon River.

The Salmon River is just over 30 miles long and it drains a sizable portion of Mt. Hood’s southwestern section. The Salmon River dumps into the Sandy River which in turn feeds into the mighty Columbia. The entire length of the Salmon River is a protected National Wild and Scenic River and many sections are also protected wilderness. The lower section I hiked supports a variety of inhabitants including black bears, cougars, deer, badgers, fishers, and martens. There are warning signs posted for the bears and cougars with very clear instructions on what to do if paths cross.

The Salmon River as it runs along the Old Salmon River Trail.

The Forest Service has added wooden bridges over small streams and side trails that lead hikers to enticing pools on the river. Small swaths of sandy beach have been added at the wider river bends and I imagine are crowded during Portland heat waves.

One of the footbridges on the trail leading off to the river.

I took my time on the trail and along the way I tried to name all the trees, plants, and flowers I could. (I didn’t do well but next time I vow to be better studied).  I also stopped whenever I spied an alluring resting rock along the river and I pulled out my book on…martens.  (Book report soon).

The trail was not crowded at the beginning of my hike but traffic picked up as the day progressed. However, there are so many side trails and resting rocks and sandy river beaches that I never felt more people than nature. Most people like me were taking their time and wandering off on the multiple offshoot trails.

Shinrin-yoku is a term I recently learned, it means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It sounds crunchy but Asian researchers insist that there are tangible health benefits from spending time under the canopy of a living forest. I love the notion that a simple stroll through the woods can improve health.

I will never be able to adequately express how rested and invigorated I felt as I drove home after my day on the Old Salmon Trail. I was so happy and satisfied. I could not quit smiling. I felt connected to my earliest days of wide-eyed wonder at the forest. I am delighted that sense of awe is alive and thriving within me and I will nurture that spark until I am pushing up daisies (hopefully from the forest floor).

One of the plants I was able to name, Skunk Cabbage. It’s cheating really, as the smell gives the name away.









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Demented Elf

My Old Man loved my Mom and she loved him. It showed. That it showed was instructive, and I believe that their love for one another may be what makes me think of them both often. Sometimes I dream of them, and distant joys and pains are resurrected by the crafty old Sandman’s mysterious impulse.

Philip and Florence, many years before I was around.

I like to look at pictures of them from long ago and imagine their lives before I was around. And I like to look at pictures of them from their healthy adult years, before they were brought low by ill health and infirmity. Like this one:

My Old Man at my current age. U.S. Passport photo – dignified and full of hope.

Several people have said how much I look like my Dad. I suppose that’s right, but in photographs my Dad always looks dignified — even in pictures from when he was a little kid or a very young man, there is a confidence and a sense that he felt he was at the exact right place at the exact right time. The cast of dignity is especially clear in photos of him from adulthood, say, when he was around my current age. At 51 he had three grown daughters and a 13 year-old son.

What the elf? Me sipping rum at 51, my current age. (Friend, Rich, observing.)

In photographs, I clearly don’t always look dignified. As a matter of ice-cold fact, in photographs I often look like a deranged, if somewhat tallish, elf.

Typical pic of me at 50. Deranged.

I have been thinking of my old man especially often – most especially about the fact that over half my time on earth has been spent without him physically in it. Lately I have also wondered if, when he was 51, he thought much of his own father. I have been reflecting on Dad’s appetite for music, and how that influenced me. If I didn’t inherit his sense of being at the right place at the right time, or what I regard as his photogenic quality, at least I got that hunger and thirst for music.

I have been thinking about his taste in music. It ran toward big band, ragtime, and Dixieland jazz on the lively side, and on the more contemplative side, toward traditional- and folk music, and some American jazz from the late-1950s and the 1960s. He liked big choral music and orchestral music. He liked Sinatra and Crosby. As I have noted more than once on this page, he liked to sing and was not afraid to range in the land of the sentimental.

He could definitely have got behind this simple and sincere new number from Mac DeMarco, and you should, too. It is beautiful and I love it.

My Old Man by Mac DeMarco from This Old Dog (due May 2017 Captured Tracks).

Mac DeMarco

Song For My Father by The Horace Silver Quintet (1965 Blue Note).

Horace Silver

Swinging On A Star and Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral by Bing Crosby from Going My Way (1944).

Wish you were here.

Candid shot of Phil – dignified at age 19 in 1946.

17 March 2017

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First Snowshoe at Tamanawas Falls

C writes about her  first snowshoe hike with Andy on Mt.Hood March 4, 2017 (with a small preamble).

Cold Creek Springs which ran along the trail most of the way.

The Tamanawas Falls stats:

Total Distance:  3.80 mi

Trailhead Elev.: 3,020 feet

Net Elev. Gain: 500 feet

Trail type: There-and-back

Trail condition: snow packed with light snow falling

Did we finish:  Are you joking?  That last part was steep.  Next time. Read on if you would like.

Preamble: I moved home in 2014. I had been gone for over 40 years but home is Oregon, it is in my DNA.  I hugged the ground in the backyard of our beach house not long after I returned and it was the closest I have ever come to a spiritual revelation. And not two days later my dearest childhood friend, whom I had not seen in 40 years, crossed that same backyard brave and tall with arms extended. “I’ve been wondering when you would come home,” she said and we held on in silent tribute to our lost days.

Then not too much later, as if her duty was complete, my long-lost friend disappeared into the mountains and Ponderosa pine forests of central Oregon with a neighborhood boy from our youth. I felt duped, hadn’t we just crushed the missing years between us in our long embrace? It took a while for a gentle realization to spread through me, I liken it to seeing a play with a cute trick, one in which the audience has been led to believe one thing (e.g.; I was the center of the story) when all along there had been other plots in flight (in this instance, the Cindy and Steve intrigue).

That was nostalgic romance (or nonsense) on my part.  The real story is Cindy and Steve had a story all along.  I simply had not been there to witness it.  When I stepped back onto home stage I was oddly surprised to find all the stories I had been a part of as a young girl had continued without me and I was no longer a central player. (Foolish, yea? Well I was 45 when I could finally admit that I just might not live forever.  So chalk it all up to being a slow learner.).

I should have known that I could not artlessly reappear and somehow intuit and maneuver back into plot lines decades old.  And with that realization taken root, there is a new part of me that houses a melancholy acceptance of having missed being a  part of countless arcs that were snatched away from me when we moved to the Midwest.  This is what Don DeLillo has to say about that:

“It is possible to be homesick for a place even when you are there.”

― from White Noise

The one thing that has remained unchanged is my connection to the land. There is so much joy in that familiar: the sound of splashing streams, the smell of the ocean air, the pine-scented wind, the white-grey fogged mornings, and the majestic rise of Mt. Hood over the city that has always been my home.

Mt. Hood seen from Washington Park in Portland.

It is because of this enduring relationship with the land that walking over it, and even under it, (try a hike through a lava tube sometime) has become essential in reconnecting with home and with myself and with Andy in what is a new world for him.

For my birthday, Andy splurged on snowshoe equipment even though the recreational snob who worked at REI urged us to try rental equipment first. “Fuck him,” Andy said in a tone as kindly as those words would allow and then shelled out a pile of money on equipment we weren’t quite sure how to use.

People will tell you that snowshoeing is just like walking and they are mostly right. You can buy/rent equipment, watch a YouTube video or two, and then hit the snowy trails.  You may not be as fast as some of the more experienced, but you won’t look the fool either.

The Hike

On our second day of snowshoeing Andy and I went to the Tamanawas Falls trail on Mount Hood’s east side.  The woman who worked the lodge where  we overnighted assured us this was a beautiful and a relatively easy snowshoe hike through old-growth forests. The trail is a gradual incline to the falls and we passed  easily under Douglas fir,  cedar and hemlock wearing fresh snow.  We crossed a few bridges (gracelessly) and were kept company by the  Cold Spring Creek which was running fat and fast.

Cooper Spur Lodge. Built in the 1880s. We stayed the night, ate the food, and drank and drank the drinks. Could this have contributed to our failed assent? Perhaps.

It was silly beautiful in a way I had never experienced Mt. Hood before.  It also  felt a little dangerous – Andy and I were sure the big boom we heard was an avalanche somewhere and from that point I kept a rum eye up the mountain –but if pressed I couldn’t say what we would need to do to protect ourselves if one roared our way.   We didn’t see a lot of people on the trail but those who passed, well they were a happy lot-bright greetings, genuine big smiles, glad to take multiple stops for weed, wine, and selfies.

Along the trail.

I loved the new connection to Hood in the winter and the new experience with Andy. It was a beautiful day with light snow falling on our mountain in our state and on our way home we made plans to return again and again.

Andy and a snow packed bridge over the creek.










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No Vision Whatsoever

Memorial Device were the greatest group ever to come out of Lanarkshire (Scotland) and for three brief years — 1983/84/85 — nothing else mattered. They sounded like an unholy amalgam of Pärson Sound and Joy Division, with a frontman who has been compared to Ian Curtis.”

David Keenan, This Is Memorial Device

This Is Memorial Device

You thought you were paying attention to music in the 1980s, so how did you ever miss the legendary experimental rock group Memorial Device? Indeed, how did you miss the whole Lanarkshirescene? There the scene was, percolating in “empty and echoing” small towns like Airdrie and Coatbridge — rising up splendid and green from Scotland’s rich euphonious soil, alongside some of your most beloved and essential groups, (the dreamy Cocteau Twins, the poetic Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and the jangly Aztec Camera.)

You never knew the music of MemorialDevice, nor the proto-industrial duo GlassSarcophagus. You didn’t know the mod group The Clarkston Parks. How about punk no-counts The Whinhall Starvers, or the wasteland-edge proponents Cold Stars? You didn’t know them either, did you? Why not?

What if some of your favorite bands of the 1980s never existed? What if they were, rather, pure inventions of author David Keenan in his new novel, This Is Memorial Device: An Hallucinated Oral History of the Post-Punk Music Scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and Environs 1978-1986 (2017 Faber & Faber). A wonderful promotional Web site is clickable above. The Web site looks and feels like an old 1980s fanzine, and I encourage any lover of fanzines, experimental fiction, modern British literature, post-punk, or what we now loosely call indie/experimental music, to click the link, too.

Misfits! Artists! Drop-outs!

Within the Web site there are colorful “interviews” with the fictional band members from the Lanarkshire scene, recounting their formative days and early gigs, proudly spouting their musical influences. From the

cover page: “Keenan conjures a cast of misfits, artists, drop-outs, small town visionaries and musicians in a time where anything seemed possible. A moment where art and the demands it made were as serious as your life.” There are articles about the region’s filmmakers and its artists of the post-punk era. There are also additional links within the page to access music attributed to the bands.

A highly detailed and weird world begins to form. Through the fanzine’s use of images of actual (Airdrie/Coatbridge) locales, the attributed music, and the made up interviews and the articles, a realistic and magical vision appears of Lanarkshire and its people between the late-1970s and the mid-1980s. It is a “scorched earth, post-industrial, auraless” county that lies just east of Glasgow. And it turns out to be extremely fertile landscape for a post-punk art scene.

It reads like a miniature testimonial to the power of inspiration. These are people who feel that their own isolation and the bleakness of their surroundings could never lead to artistic vision. They forge on anyway. That should be familiar thematic territory to any fans of post-punk, and it is well done here. Checking out this site is like a form of time travel. Many thanks are due to Guy Reynolds, post-punk encyclopedia, defender of the outré, and great lover of literature, for hipping me to Keenan’s project.

Based upon checking out the Web site, Keenan’s greatest tricks are manifold. First, he is distilling and preserving this beautiful moment in time — a bountiful artistic and cultural moment. It is a moment that the involved players could not have identified as beautiful or important at the time they were living it. But remember, the involved players were not real. It is hard to believe this is fiction — it is all so reliably conceived. To give context and points of reference, he weaves in actual history, citing real bands and plunking down real artists’ names. This makes it all seem like a true series of fascinating episodes in British music that we simply missed learning about until now, and not at all like an invention.

In a recent interview the musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson made an observation that, “We are collapsing under the weight of our stories,” she said. She noted that the sheer volume of information we take in at such speed (checking our phones 150 times per day!) leaves us unable to function because reference points are confused or impossible to find. We simply seek out too much information to be able to analyze so quickly.

Things are moving fast. “What’s next?!” In our devotion to “next,” we are often blinded to the precious past, and to the now. We leave ourselves room for no vision whatsoever. In such a world, it is a pleasure to come across a story like This Is Memorial Device. Here we are given documents that create a whole picture of a community, a wide-ranging series of interconnected stories and people. These stories drill down and fabricate such believable minutia that they fulfill their purpose of preserving a beautiful period of time in an important place. (Beautiful and important, even if, maybe especially if, it never existed.)

Here are some actual songs from some actual bands. Each of these would have been right at home spinning on a Lanarkshire turntable. This is a mix of Scottish acts, acts that might have influenced the Lanarkshire music scene, and a couple that the bands of Airdrie, Coatbridge, and environs may have inspired, had they existed at all.

Vitamin C by Can from Ege Bamyasi (1972 United Artists).



I Am Damo Suzuki by The Fall from This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985 PVC Records).

Beachy Head by Throbbing Gristle from 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979 The Gray Area).

Throbbing Gristle

Head On by Loop from Heaven’s End (1986 Reactor).

Taste the Floor by The Jesus and Mary Chain from Psychocandy (1985 Rhino).

Shallow Then Halo by Cocteau Twins from Garlands (1982 4 AD).

Static Gravity by Chrome from Red Exposure (1980 Cleopatra).

20th Century Promised Land by Simple Minds from Sister Feelings Call (1981 Virgin).

Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T. the title track by Einstürzende Neubauten (1983 Some Bizarre).

Leaders of Men by Joy Division from the EP An Ideal For Living (1978 Enigma).

An Ideal For Living

Cigarette In Your Bed by My Bloody Valentine from You Made Me Realize (1987 Creation).


I keep thinking of this book, too: Please Kill Me:The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain (1996 Grove Press). This is an actual documentary oral history focusing more U.S. (especially NYC) punk, starting from the 1960s. It is definitely worth a look.

Please Kill Me

Be loveliness.

 21 Feb 2017


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I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Rebellion takes many forms, and the results vary wildly. For example, much of punk’s messy ethos, and its rebellious legacy, seem in hindsight to be meaningless – shambling, loud, fast, and out of control.

I found this cool folder with some of my old high school stuff.

At its worst, that’s all “punk” was, a screeching distraction. But at its best it inspired kids to take up a savage lens and look through it at the world around them. For instance, the songs of The Dead Kennedys and X helped expose the bloated inner workings and sometimes demonic colonial influences of the U.S. during Reagan. Those songs still have power.

In hindsight, though, many, (and maybe even most,) rebellions that seemed potent at the time they occurred now seem relatively tame. There are some you can look back at and think to yourself, “I would have supported that.” Of course, there are causes worth fighting for — civil rights during the middle of the 20th century, women’s rights right now — and there are countless rebels to admire — but some rebellions are simply mystifying because of their pointlessness.

There are causes worth fighting for, but some rebellions are mystifying.

In The Wild One, a leathery biker gang movie from 1953 that was based on actual incidents, Marlon Brando plays Johnny, incendiary leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. The club rides into a quiet community and with their abrasive attitudes and their loud, menacing engines, they disrupt the flow of life. Why do they do it? Because they can.

Brando was pretty “punk.”

With jazz music playing in the background, a town girl asks Brando, “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” Without hesitation, he famously responds, “Whaddaya got?” In ten seconds, a film snippet effectively dissects, inspects, and reports on 70+ years of American generation gaps: “It doesn’t much matter what I feel, as long as I get to feel Something.” That was pretty “punk.”

Viewed now, The Wild One seems toothless and kind of corny, but the story and the film caused real people to be terrified of agitators coming in and mucking up the rhythms of their small town lives.

Here’s a recent puzzler of a rebellion: This American Life featured a story after the 2017 presidential inauguration about young social media and Internet trolls. (Trolls are disrupters, [kind of like Brando’s motorcycle gang,] who post extraneous, off-topic, and usually inflammatory messages in an online community, mainly intending to provoke readers into an emotional response or of otherwise scuttling normal on-topic discussion.) Because they kept people distracted and off-balance, trolls were hugely influential in in creating the surprising result of the 2016 presidential election. The troll’s rebellion had teeth, but their “cause” was baffling – to stir up reactions by promoting ideas they didn’t even agree with.

Why do it? “Because we can.” It is not about getting a specific response, it is about provoking any response. It is about feeling Something. It doesn’t much matter what. “Waddaya got?” They thought it was funny. It wasn’t. It isn’t. Kind of like this cynical old joke:

Q: Why are you pounding your head against a wall?

A: Because it feels so good when I stop.

The climate is right for incendiaries — things are moving fast. Some of the results of current disruptions are surely meant to distract and confuse people. Many of the results may eventually come to seem benign or even be forgotten. Surely though, a great deal of real and lasting harm is being wrought. It will feel so good when it stops.

Welcome distractions, cont’d: Listening to Wax Idols, Priests, and No Joy.

The lasting power of punk is evident in several recent and upcoming releases. This is an artistic rebellion you can get behind: making beauty from chaos. Washington D.C. band Priests are currently doing just that – not satisfied to simply build graceful songs from the rubble of musical bedlam, they are also taking the next step by making their sound essential. This music has consequences – the band wants you to (for the love of god!) feel something.

They access an impressive array of tricks from their predecessors, shaking it up, and then delivering an original sound that evokes great punk. You will hear lots of musical influences from late-70s through the mid-80s from Sonic Youth to The B-52’s – there is even boogie-woogie piano and saxophone thrown in the mix. Bow down and kneel before the awesome power of Priests.


Nothing Feels Natural by Priests from Nothing Feels Natural (2017 Sister Polygon Records).

J.J. by Priests from Nothing Feels Natural (2017 Sister Polygon Records).

One of my favorite bands has a new release set for next w

eek. Loud and lovely, the Canadian outfit No Joy will release Creep on 24 February 2017, and here is a link to the first tune:

Califone by No Joy from Creep (2017 Grey Market).

No Joy have few peers when it comes to making beauty from chaos. Here is their latest EP from a few months ago. You will be glad you clicked:

Drool Sucker by No Joy (Mexican Summer 2016).

Hether Fortune, time machine.

Hether Fortune is a time machine. She leads the Bay Area group Wax Idols, and while sounding exciting and new she also channels 70s/80s rock heroines Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, and Siouxsie Sioux. Check out the urgent, beautiful echoes of Tones on Tail, Banshees, and The Cure in this great tune:

Deborah by Wax Idols from American Tragic (2016 Collect Records /cassette reissue due 17 Mar 2017 Etruscan Gold Records).

Conflagrations leap out of every poor furnace. What is this world coming to?

Savage. X.

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts by X from More Fun in the New World (1983 Elektra).

Confront the facts we hate. Try not to get distracted. Increase loveliness.

10 Feb 2017


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