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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crawfish Tales and a Great Blue Heron!

August 15, 2010
         Like Costa Rica, every place has its own unique flora and fauna, which brings the color and vibrancy of the environment and the ecology of the area to life. Geology, biology, geography, resources, elevation and climate all play a part in the natural history of a locale. Here in Portland, Oregon, where we are spending our final week in the States, the natural world has been greatly influenced by the city’s proximity to the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and the numerous smaller streams that feed into those two majestic waterways. A jewel of the Pacific Northwest, Portland lies between the Cascade Mountain Range to the east and the Coast Range west along the Pacific Ocean. It enjoys a “marine west coast” climate of warm, dry summers and temperate but rainy winters. The beautiful and fertile Willamette Valley just south of the city produces an abundance of vegetables, berries, grass seed, greenhouse and nursery stock as well as vineyards, which produce highly prized pinot noir and pinot gris wines.

Portland also boasts an amazing number of distinctive birds and wonderful trails from which to view them. According to the Audubon Society of Portland, some 500 species of birds migrate through Oregon during part of their life cycle and over 200 of these travel through the Portland Metropolitan Region annually. Layne and I had the incredible good fortune to see one of the most remarkable of those birds on our walk yesterday: a Great Blue Heron! The enormous creature was sitting on a log in the middle of the Fanno Creek, a 15-mile tributary of the Tualatin River, which flows into the Willamette.
Along the part of the creek that runs through Tigard, the small Portland suburb of Layne’s youth where his family still lives, the wetlands attract a variety of wildlife as the trail meanders behind new apartment buildings, crosses streets, then wanders back into dense riparian woods. Layne and I have made a habit of walking through this park each morning as he points out places of interest from his childhood. Today we passed under the roadway that Layne remembered as the site of crawfishing in the Fanno when he was young and he pointed out parts of his old newspaper route. We lost the trail briefly then found it again as we headed back to our car parked at Tigard City Hall. Just as we approached the turn into the parking lot, we noticed the large bird sitting out in the creek, quietly watching for prey. As I crept slowly and silently along the back of the building to snap a few pictures, he turned his great beak my way as he observed my movement, but he didn’t stir from his perch. He must have been three feet tall with gleaming blue-toned wings and a pale breast. Even from our distant viewpoint, the heron was a splendid and dignified being.
         Three days later: This may be a case of time flying when having fun because we have definitely had fun here in Portland, but I suspect it’s more a case of the mad dash to the finish line in a race against time. In spite of my best intentions to get this posted, there has simply not been time in the last few days. First, we were focused on getting our Subaru Outback ad up on Craigslist, a task we thought we had completed on Saturday. On Sunday, however, we discovered that our ad had been filtered out by the Craigslist gremlins due to our use of commas separating the description of features on the car rather than listing them in a column. Having lost a day, we re-submitted the ad, then held our breath to see if it would appear online. Fortunately, it did. Still, it was Monday before any calls came in. As we soon realized, it only takes one buyer and that buyer showed up Tuesday morning and we completed the deal today! One more big thing to check off the list.
         Monday night found us chowing down on local seafood at Jake’s Famous Crawfish restaurant in downtown Portland, as guests of Tom G., a friend who lives nearby. Although the crab and shrimp cakes were not the best I’ve tasted and Layne’s Crab Louis was disappointing, the ambiance and the 118-year history of the place were distinctive. Perhaps we should have tried the crawfish! But Tom is always a fun conversationalist with his endless supply of anecdotes and stories of his world travels and our sampling of the local pinot wines was excellent, so dinner was still delightful.
         Last night we went off with Layne’s sister Annie to her regular Tuesday evening “Sex and the City Girls,” as Layne has dubbed this lively group of women. Much like the stars of the television show and movie spin-offs, Annie and her pals meet at a local bar to dish up the latest news on family, friends, men and memories, of which they have many from their long years of acquaintance. Last night was no exception as the six of us laughed over cocktails or club sodas, with Layne and me sharing tales of Costa Rica and them with hilarious boating dramas from thirty years ago.
         Our Costa Rican news included a last-minute report from our real estate friends yesterday that our charming chalet up the hill from Atenas was not available to us after all. Our landlady Hazel was fortunate to find a year-long tenant and had returned our deposit. But the good news is that Dennis of Pure Life Development has a few places for us to look at next week, including a nice-sounding apartment with a pool, a “rancho” for grilling outdoors and views of the Central Valley. Plus, it’s within walking distance to town, something we had wanted when we moved there. So we look forward to getting back to Atenas and finding the next cool place to live. We take it in stride: it’s all just part of our big Costa Rican adventure! 

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