What I Otter

SAC refuge Otter2358-2358

I laugh, I cry, I pull my hair

But I mustn’t forget to come up for air

The benefits of being aware

Are less in showing that I care

Than knowing the difference between scare and….


One will lead me to despair

The other over mountains where

The other side will of course be there

And I will laugh, I’ll cry, I’ll pull my hair

If I don’t forget to come up for air.

A Cautionary Tale

It was a dark and stormy night.

I had just spent a very pleasant few days visiting with my aunt and cousins in central California. I was on my way back north and should have stayed in Portland at my sisters’ house, but I wanted to get home. I was cruising along the inside lane of I-5—at pace with the traffic in the other lanes—about a mile south of the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River. In this area there is a large reader-board spanning the highway. I checked it for “cautions” (say, an accident ahead, perhaps). This was precisely the wrong moment not to notice that the cars in my lane ahead were at a virtual standstill. They were moving, but only just enough so that their brake lights were not on.

I briefly (very briefly) hoped I could avoid a collision by squeezing by on the left. Unfortunately, the wet pavement, in combination with how hard I had to brake, did not allow the time or control to get over far enough. I clipped the driver-side rear corner of a Subaru Outback. The Subaru was able to limp over to the left curb. As you can see from the photo, my poor little Tacoma was not going anywhere except to a wrecking yard.

My wheels for the past 10 years. Bye, bye.

My wheels for the past 10 years. Bye, bye.

Fortunately, there were no apparent injuries at that moment. Since then, my back has been complaining, but I am reasonably certain it is just a pulled muscle. The other driver did say she banged her head pretty hard against the headrest. The Portland police officers who arrived on the scene were awesome; they issued no citation, and they got us off the highway pretty quickly, considering.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. I could easily have been rear-ended myself, and, with a full tank of gas back there, I probably wouldn’t be here. Instead, an angel pulled up behind me and turned on her flashers. She was a sweetheart and provided a couple of much needed hugs.

I had full coverage for the Tacoma, but, as a 2001 with 175,000 miles, it will be very difficult for me to replace with whatever I get for it.

The reader-board that precipitated all this was only informing me how many minutes I likely had before reaching the I-205 interchange—useless information for me, and sadly, wrong.

My Neighbor Has Hives

bee-8193778I was up on the roof, trying to fix a leak
It came out of nowhere and stung me on the cheek

The malicious little bastards were in a frenzy next door
I locked myself in the house, swollen and sore!

Honey Bees!—with their devious and hedonistic way
Out drinking and dancing every day!
In the Garden, God clearly erred,
when he made the decision not to turn them away

The neighbor called to apologize for the pain and the fright
Said he had accidentally killed their queen in the middle of the night

Hmph! “Love thy neighbor.” That is such a tall order
Much easier to build a wall along the border

With those prison stripes and stingers, we know they are up to no good
No one will be safe until they are out of our neighborhood

Meanwhile, I am marooned in my house! I am no longer FREE!
And all I have to eat are some apples from my tree.

Uncle Ralph Got His Wings

The End of an Era


From left: Rose Miriam, Blaine, Ralph Sr., Ralph Jr., Jean (my mother)

Ralph 1921-2016, Jean 1919-2006, Blaine 1922-2013

Ralph 1921-2016, Jean 1919-2006, Blaine 1922-2013

Ralph, Blaine, Jean

Ralph Sturtevant, Feb 7,1921 – July 12, 2016

The last of my mother’s siblings, my uncle Ralph, has moved on from this world.

During the 1960s, I spent most of my summers with my grandfather, Ralph Sr., on his ranch in California’s Sierra foothills. Any trip to “The Ranch” included a stopover at my uncle Ralph and aunt Bev’s place in Modesto. Uncle Ralph always picked me up at the bus station—even the one time he didn’t know I was coming. Surprise! My mom had told my grandfather, but that is as far as the word got.

Ralph and Bev were always very supportive of my creative endeavors. They were big fans of the bands I was in, Woodputty and Cobblestone. They kept me abreast of local media coverage concerning any subject I was interested in at the time.  I’m pretty sure Ralph was the best customer at my Zazzle.com photo site.

Since Bev passed in 2014, Ralph has been living with his daughter Jan in Santa Cruz. Just over a month ago, we learned from Jan that Ralph had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Exactly a month ago he was told he had 3 to 5 days left—his liver was failing fast.

I drove down hoping I wouldn’t be too late. Happily, I wasn’t. There was Ralph out feeding the chickens, and, except for the color of his skin, you wouldn’t know he wasn’t an exceptionally healthy 95 year old—a little tired, but who isn’t? It was a bit surreal holding what amounted to a week long wake for someone who seemed pretty OK. He would be out every morning and afternoon taking care of the chickens and yard, as well as providing us with spot-on analysis of the evening news.

Meanwhile, we ( sisters, cousins, extended family) played music, told stories, watched baseball, assembled puzzles, and visited. Ralph’s grandson, Noah—the chef—came in from Hawaii to ply us with gourmet meals. After five days, I reluctantly headed for home, leaving Ralph in the ever-present and loving care of his son, Jon, daughter, Jan, the grandchildren and others.

My uncle Ralph was a gentle man and the consummate gentleman. I think he would have thought it just too rude for him to leave without allowing for his loved ones to come to terms with the idea.

Uncle Ralph got his Wings

In my uncle’s final hours, as he soundly slept

After we altogether and individually had laughed and wept

A Scrub Jay stole into his room with no one else about

It began knocking on the mirror when it was time to go out

It perched on the bed rail for one final goodbye

Then cousin Jan showed it the door and it took to the sky

Hmm, why a Scrub Jay, I thought, why not a hummingbird or a dove?

Why not a bird that more people think highly of?

“Judge not lest ye be judged” I heard myself say

Then it made perfect sense that Ralph would want it that way

Without a script, Ralph lived the Golden Rule simply because it makes sense

Would that we all could be so wise from this moment hence

I suppose Scrub Jays can bring to mind any number of things

But I’m going to remember when my uncle Ralph got his wings

Why?! Really?

Where The Rubber Meets The Chicken

Where The Rubber Meets The Chicken

I know what you are thinking

And it it’s none of your damn business

Not even funny

Tiresome really

Oops…again, Rezone Back. Strike Three–File Suit

My apologies to my cousin Castle for using the photo shoot of his creative metal sculptures as the graphic for this unpleasant announcement. They seemed to fit the bill.

Castle sculture nightWell,…….in my last post I said, “I wish I could say with 100% certainty that this is strike three, you are out!” It was, but it wasn’t. At that time, I had not fully understood the process by which they could appeal the umpire’s decision. I figured that if they (the church) appealed the umpire’s (the Growth Management Board) decision, the Board had a team of lawyers to deal with it—Wrong! The Board does not defend its own decisions in court. The church has filed an appeal of the Board’s decision with the Superior Court. If the Court decides to hear the appeal, we will have to find an attorney willing to take the case on. Of course, I am hoping the Court will respond with something like, “Are you crazy? Go away and stop bothering us!” Meanwhile, I have until May 2nd to respond to the 23 reasons the church feels the Board’s decision should be tossed out. Fortunately, I have a lot of documentation to respond with.

The sculpture is pointing to Jupiter upper left. Lower right is a large ball  bearing reflecting a flashlight.

The sculpture is pointing to Jupiter upper left. Lower right is a large ball bearing reflecting a flashlight.

This is my first time on the receiving end of a summons—“A lawsuit has been started against you in the above-entitled court by the petitioner.” Lovely. The church is suing everybody in the case including the City. The City because “the political winds have changed” and it appears that all but one holdout on the City Council wants to “comply” with the Board’s decision this time around, leaving this debacle behind them as quickly as possible. As long as the City is out of compliance, they cannot get State grants for funding other projects. Due to this ridiculous rezoning attempt, they have been out of compliance since August of 2014.

Sadly—to be continued.

Pterodactyl with egg

Sergei Rockchompumoff

Sergei Rockchompumoff

Rezone Invalidated For A Third Time—Yahoo!

If you haven’t been following the rezone issue in this blog and you want the skinny, just put “East Monroe” in the search box above and you will get my previous posts on the subject.

Me—giant sigh of relief.

The Growth Management Hearings Board issued their finding on April 1st. Fortunately, it was not an April Fool’s joke. The ruling did reaffirm how foolish the advocates of this rezone have been, spending many hundreds of thousands of public and private dollars over the last five years trying to sidestep the science, economics and public interest at issue in this rezone. This was a private party rezone from Limited Open Space (as it was purchased by the party) to General Commercial—a rezoning for which there was no actual development project to consider.

Proposed location of Big Box store, etc.

Proposed location of Big Box store, etc.

Rezone evidence web--2

Backyard birds that might well have vacated the area.

Rezone evidence web--3

I was, of course, ecstatic that the Board once again invalidated the rezone in their 57 page decision, but I was all the more pleased that two of the three Hearings Board members felt compelled to go beyond the required decision and add their own “concurrence” statements. That of Board Member Pflug goes right to the heart of the years of frustration I experienced documenting the complete BS being offered up by the City and the property owner’s hired “expert” consultants.

If you are interested, here is that concurrence:


I concur with the conclusion that the City’s rezone of the Property fails to comply with the requirements of SEPA in the respects identified in the decision above. I write concerning public involvement with the SEPA process. Both Ordinance 015/2015 and 016/2015, re-adopting the East Monroe rezone and map amendment, recite identical Findings, including Finding 18, which states:

During the course of the SEIS process … there was no expert testimony that refutes, undermines or otherwise contradicts PACE’s supplemental environmental analysis that was received by the City.

WAC 197-11-030 states that agencies shall, to the fullest extent possible,
“[e]ncourage public involvement in decisions that significantly affect environmental quality.”
In the Board’s view, the City foreclosed an opportunity to achieve an adequate EIS process
by dismissing important feedback as inferior to the opinions of its experts. At the
Compliance Hearing, the City Attorney was dismissive of the conflicting information
presented by Petitioners who have now spent many years studying applicable law and
government impact studies:

That does not change the professional determination by the City’s
consultants, which is unchallenged by any expert testimony in this
proceeding, that the actual portions of the East Monroe property that are
capable, physically and legally, of being developed, reasonably being
developed, is still limited to 11.3 acres. That’s a critical part of this analysis.
And, again, it’s essentially unchallenged with any meaningful opposition.

The Board does not hold up these concerned citizens as experts, but it notes that its
findings and conclusions supra confirm the validity of many of their concerns. This is likely
one reason lawmakers have inserted requirements for public involvement in the SEPA
process. Given the significant agency effort necessary to facilitate public involvement, failure to respectfully consider the information and perspectives so gained is puzzling.

Similarly, both Ordinance 015/2015 and 016/2015, acknowledge the Planning Commission’s 2015 recommendation that the rezone be denied. Seven days after the Planning Commission recommended denial of the rezone, the City issued the final 2015 Supplemental. Eight days after issuance of the Final 2015 SEIS, the Council formally reviewed the Planning Commission’s recommendation and, “having enjoyed the opportunity to carefully review the final version of the SEIS, expressed its disagreement with the Commission’s determination and directed City staff to prepare ordinances approving the East Monroe amendments.”

WAC 197-11-402(10) cautions that “EISs shall serve as the means of assessing the environmental impact of proposed agency action, rather than justifying decisions already
made.” Yet, the re-adoption of the invalidated 2013 Ordinances rezoning and reclassifying the property was the identified goal of the 2015 Supplemental process. In fact, after acknowledging the Planning Commission’s 2015 findings, both Ordinance Nos. 015/2015 and 016/2015 proceed to adopt the Commission’s 2013 findings contained in the invalidated Ordinances:

In making these findings and conclusions, the City Council further adopts the Planning Commission’s Findings and Conclusions dated December 9, 2013, (Exhibit H3 to Ordinance no. 022/2013) and also adopts the City Council’s additional findings adopted December 26, 2013, (Exhibit I to Ordinance no. 022/2013) in support of approving the East Monroe Comprehensive Plan Map Amendment and Zoning Map Amendment.

The emphasis on justifying the feasibility of commercial development of the Property despite its environmentally sensitive location may have been the underlying cause for a Supplement EIS that ultimately failed to provide the impartial analysis required by WAC 197-11-400(2).

In addition to the expenditure of considerable public resources during this lengthy process, I am concerned that the concerns of citizens may not have been afforded due consideration. Given the importance of public participation in government action, care should be taken to insure that citizens are afforded respect.


I wish I could say with 100% certainty that this is “strike three, you are out!” I do think it will be very difficult to bring it back out of the dugout for at least a couple of years, considering the political balance of power in Monroe at present.

Here is a link to the Monroe Monitor’s latest article on the issue.

Varied Thrush – Upon Reflection

Back in the mid 70s, I spent the night at a campground in the redwoods along the coast of California. At dawn, a patchy ground fog had created that scene in a movie—deep in the woods—where some spiritual being—for good or evil—is about to make its appearance. The sound track was a chorus of Varied Thrush announcing their presence from every direction. Though I had seen them in the yard at home many times, I had never heard a Varied Thrush before, so their call, often described as “eerie, haunting and mysterious,” was all those things, and perfectly befitting of the scene. The birds themselves were illusive and it took a lengthy effort to determine what the source of that peculiar sound was. Since then, I have heard them individually on many occasions, but the multitude in the misty woods left a lasting impression.

Having this photo selected as a semifinalist in 2016 Audubon Photo Contest forced me to give it some in depth analysis, which, of course, as you might expect here at poetphoto, inspired poetry.

Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush

The Varied Thrush cheers the dawn
But then in case the day should prove him wrong
He sings a much more plaintiff song
Then with that base covered
He goes back and sings the other
So, is it the edge of winter
Or the cusp of spring?
Is it yin, is it yang or in between ?
Has it always been so
Or has it not?
Are we just a reflection the gods forgot?
Each morning’s mirror appears ambiguous
Can what I see and me
Actually be contiguous?
Before my brain has turned to mush
I think I’ll ask the Swainson’s Thrush

If you have never heard a Varied Thrush, follow this link to Audubon’s Varied Thrush page, scroll down to the bottom right and listen to the recordings. If you have never heard the glorious song of the Swainson’s Thrush, more’s the pity. Get out and take a spring hike in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, follow this link to Audubon’s Swainson’s Thrush page, scroll to the bottom right and listen to the recordings.

Junkyard Wren

I photographed this Bewick’s Wren in 2011. It isn’t the sort of Buick you expect to see in a junkyard. The juxtaposition of Nature’s perfection with Man’s…..well, not so much,  made for an interesting portrait. I used the image in one of my Haiku is for the Birds calendars.    The haiku:

Collected junk heap

I’m sure I will need someday

Life is not waiting

Bewick's Wren

Bewick’s Wren

And that is the last of my entries for this year’s Audubon competition.

Thanks for checking them out.

Phainopepla and the Dragon – Returns

I forgot to submit this one last year.  I made it the header on my webpage to remind myself to do so this year.

I photographed these Phainopeplas busy catching insects from their perch atop an oak tree. When I tiled together the photo of another oak tree with the sun coming through it, it seemed like a perfect match. I added the dragonfly because I liked the title, “Phainopepla and the Dragon.”

2016 Audubon entry #8

Phainopepla and the Dragon

Phainopepla and the Dragon