Month: April 2016

North County, Feel the Vibe

The beaches that stretch north from La Jolla Shores to Oceanside are some of my personal favorites. I have not seen one angry or upset person anywhere on this stretch. In fact, smiles and “hello’s” proliferate. I think I am smiling more.

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Me, I like herding dogs most of all

Ever since I traveled to Omak, Washington, in 2012 and met a couple of amazing Texas heelers adored by their owner, I have been smitten by this breed. Herding dogs just have that certain special something. Hey good boy, you are looking might fine. Click on the picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.

Forgotten graves at the Chemawa Cemetery

Just east of Interstate 5, as one approaches the city of Keizer, Oregon, from the north, sits a mostly forgotten burial ground. I never knew of its existence until I looked at a Google map, planning a trip to the Salem, Oregon, area last fall. I was unaware that the Chemawa Indian School and its adjacent cemetery called Keizer home.  According to the school’s web site, the facility dates to the 1870s when the U.S. Government authorized a school for Indian children in the Northwest–a practice that removed children from their culture and families.

Native American girls at Chemawa work in school training programs for “home economics” skills, in this image dating from 1886. (Image courtesy of The West Shore and found at: Offbeat Oregon: http://offbeatoregon.com/1212d-chemawa-boarding-school-cultural-treasure.html

Native American girls at Chemawa work in school training programs for “home economics” skills, in this image dating from 1886. (Image courtesy of The West Shore and found at: Offbeat Oregon: http://offbeatoregon.com/1212d-chemawa-boarding-school-cultural-treasure.html.)

This was a period of highly criticized forced cultural assimilation of the region’s and nation’s Native American population into general society through education. The boarding high school just outside of Salem was first built in 1885, following an earlier one outside of Portland. The school claims it is the “oldest, continuously operated boarding school for Native American students in the United States.” It continues today, and is off limits to outsiders without permission to visit. The campus has Native American art, a sports field, and sits near the cemetery. Here children who were boarded at the school and who died while in the school’s care are buried.

So, naturally, I wanted to take a closer look given the boarding school would not let me see the campus grounds. The cemetery is in earshot of the freeway roar, and has pines standing on it, surrounded by a steel fence. The graves are modest, bearing names of youth who died from the early 1900s toward the mid-20th century.

I was struck by the number of deaths, as marked on tiny concrete grave markers, which listed 1918 as the year of death. That year the great pandemic spread worldwide and claimed more than 21 million lives–more lives than the battlefields took during the Great War.

A few months after my visit, the Al Jazeera news organization in January 2016 reported a Native American researcher, Marsha Small, had concluded that there were more than 200 documented graves at the Chemawa Cemetery. According to the somewhat critical story, “Government records indicate that epidemics of tuberculosis, trachoma and influenza often swept through overcrowded dormitories at the boarding schools, where children were often malnourished and exposed to germ-infested conditions due to inadequate funding.”

The pandemic that was sweeping Oregon was so severe in 1918 and 1919, that Oregon lawmakers cancelled their legislative session out of fear of the killer flu virus. The Oregon Quarterly reports that the first cases in Oregon were reported on the University of Oregon campus in October 1918. Given the conditions of a boarding school, it is likely it could have taken hold at Chemawa too. The cluster of three deaths over a four-day period is almost certainly an indication of a contagious disease, such as influenza. However, no additional information is listed on the headstones of these long forgotten young people, who died far from their families, in a place most people still do not know exists.

Wandering the streets of Assisi and San Vitale

One of my favorite stops in Italy was in the ancient hill city of Assisi, famous as a pilgrim’s destination to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. There are also Roman ruins in the town’s center. I also visited a neighboring hill town called San Vitale. I loved walking the cobblestone streets closed to all motor vehicle traffic, all dating from the medieval era. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

 

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden bursting with color

Warm April days have arrived on the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is bursting into colors. My visit here in the 1980s was one of the most influential factors making me want to choose Portland as my home. It still has that pulling power for me.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, Portland

I think one of my favorite places in the world is the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, in the southeast Portland neighborhood of Eastmoreland. Natural springs bubble up here, and the city and the volunteers who mostly run this place keep it special beyond words, beyond poetry even in the spring. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)