My first several years of Oregon life was relatively fire quiet. One fire a few miles away quickly contained.
Then 2020 lit the skies.
I scrolled Twitter under hashtags for the Oregon fires. Any account asking for prayer received a like from me.
Then 2021 lit the skies.
That year, it came nearer to my home. The smoke was thick in the air. I package taped my front door with garbage bags. My Twitter account gone, I opened the #firemappers website every day and prayed over Oregon. Rainy season started early, on Sept. 1, and I rejoiced at the clear blue skies.
Then 2022 lit the skies.
Oregon has a few conflagration fires this fire season. Prayers again supplicated the skies.
Accumulated weariness and stress seeps into our homes like the thick smoke the fires produce. Three years of devastating fire seasons is hard to bear, especially for those that have lost much.
The disciples had lost Jesus, and they were hiding from the Jewish leaders.
There is another fire blazing above the heads of the apostles. This visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit would equip them to spread the gospel. During times of calamity, it is a chance to get right with God. Or as C. S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Beside the scenic Marshfield channel, resides the Coos History Museum on the historic Front Street of Coos Bay.
As I entered the museum, Steve and John greeted me and made me feel comfortable.
The gift shop is located right inside the door, so no fee is necessary to enter. The shop contains a variety of items attractively displayed in a small space. The items are all Oregon-related, either here in Coos county, or spanning into the state of Oregon, or beyond. I purchased The Lewis and Clark Journals, a book on my reading wish list. T-shirts, souvenirs, and many other beautiful items grace the walls and shelves.
In the short corridor leading to the museum resided a beautifully crafted and polished myrtle wood desk, dated 1900. I would love to have written this post on that desk. A myrtle wood-dipped scented cotton ball released the scent of a wood found in the Oregon SW corner. These items foreshadow the five sensual delights about to unfurl. Though signs ask the visitors to not touch the museum pieces, they are attractively and minimally placed. A little imagination helps here, which is encouraged with signs starting with “hmm… points to ponder.”
Plaques speak and translate the languages of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw. One plaque displays the Lord’s Prayer. One greets you with Dai, Niishanax, meaning hello.
Speakers played the rhythm of ocean waves breaking on the sand, and painted seagull footprints walked me throughout the main part of the museum. The wall and floor colors of gray, blue, and green reminded me of the colors of the ocean and the pine trees.
The displays divide by the areas of Coos county: tidewater, seashore, and uplands. These wall dividers’ colors of blue and green corresponded to the area they represented.
Further subdivided by area are the towns that reside in Coos county. As a resident of Bandon, I focused on its history. Bandon holds the title for the best life-saving station on the river bar between 1868-1914. In juxtaposition, a display cites Bandon as being cursed by fire.
Several photos are on split canvases, giving them the illusion of 3D. Photographs were in both color and black and white.
Larger-than-life items arrayed the floor and ceiling areas. A tuba hung from the wall so you could picture someone inhabiting that space around it with music. Or a chain saw so you could imagine a logger high up in the treetops cutting them for wood. The Roosevelt ferry wheel – as tall as me – steered transportation before the bridges were built. And a Fresnel lens lit the way for storm-tossed ships.
The All Things Cranberries case included Cranberry Cola. Would it be bittersweet?
Two lynching sections, one inside and one metal plague freestanding outside the front door, display the dark side of our county.
Community involvement in the museum was encouraged during the building and remains today. A Bay area short film plays on a tablet before entering the museum, courtesy of the North Bend Boy Scout Troop #156. During the building of the museum, a call went out asking for artists’ contributions. Beautifully painted flying glass birds hang from the ceiling. A display case holds knots and information to join the Knot Club. Volunteers participate with their time.
Building of the museum was completed in 2015, with the grand opening on September 9. Governor Brown cut the ribbon at the ceremony, and entertainment was provided throughout the day. The Coos County Historical Society, which began in 1891, operates the Coos History Museum.
The museum is a packed sensory experience, built with love from the people of Coos County.
But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; Hosea 13:4-5 ESV
Farming in an arid climate? Congress said yes in 1902.
The Klamath Reclamation Project started shortly after Congress passed the federal Reclamation Act. When completed, water traveled through 185 miles from reservoirs, dams, and canals from the Upper Klamath Lake to the farmland.
Veterans from both World Wars received homesteads. Drained lakes and marshes carved out the 200,000 acres of new farmland. Wildlife’s homes were preserved using water from reservoirs and recycled irrigation water.
Currently, a few groups rely on water for their cows and crops. Klamath Basin crops include potatoes, alfalfa, horseradish, and mint. Cattle ranchers need water for meat production. The Klamath Tribes believe sucker fish are sacred.
As well as sucker fish, salmon need adequate water levels. Flows of rushing water keep salmon from bacterial infections.
As huge as the Upper Klamath Lake is, at twenty-six miles long and six miles wide, the lake is only six feet deep. The geology and hydrology, or the study of the earth’s components and the movement of water over that earth, does not allow for any carryover water or soil storage of rainwater. And what water does accumulate is subject to toxic algae blooms. Draining the marshes left phosphorus and nitrogen levels high. This mineralization allows algae to grow and deplete oxygen.
According to a state water department, the groundwater levels have dropped about forty feet in the last couple of decades.
Klamath Falls felled a giant sequoia tree in Kit Carson Park this year. The news story reported new life through new projects from the dead and dying tree.
An article from Klamath Falls newspaper, the Herald and News, published a couple of short stories describing a dystopian answer to the conflict between all the parties needing water.
The farmers and ranchers have voted to access water, despite the possibility of putting their federal drought funding in jeopardy.
These are desperate times for those living in the Klamath Basin, and it affects all of us due to the loss of ranching and agricultural products they provide.
When times are desperate, the best answer are desperate prayers of heartfelt repentance to the Creator who made the beautiful Klamath Basin. Just as the people of Klamath Falls found ways to reclaim a dead and dying tree from arid soil, so can we reclaim water through our prayers before God. Only He has the wisdom and ability to bring the rain and how to bring life to all.
I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. Psalms 9:1-2 The Message
Several years ago, I drove through the Painted Hills on my way to visit Montana. Though I did not stop to walk the trails, I looked in awe through my windshield at the warm pastel and bold hues against the blue sky.
The Painted Hills are one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
John Day was a vague, interesting man — what is documented about him. And some of the biographical information that exists about him is conflicting. He had four death dates, and his birth date is estimated. Even though he spent only eight years in Oregon country (he predated Oregon as a territory), cities, dams, and geographical formations are named after him.
Born in Virginia, he also lived in Kentucky and Missouri. From Missouri, he joined the Pacific Fur Company’s passage to Astoria in 1812. Astoria was founded in 1811 and became a monopoly on the fur trade. His hunting and trapping skills were sustenance during the expedition to the Northwest.
The Painted Hills contains an abundance of fossils from the remains of horses, camels, and rhinoceroses covering over 3,132 total acres. The hills began as a floodplain. The layered red, yellow, brown, and black colored soils originate from different climate eras, ranging from drier and cooler to warmer and humid.
The Painted Hills are one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.
When I am stressed, one of my activities to breathe deeply is to walk along the Pacific. I instantly feel awe and wonder. To see the limitless horizon of ocean and sky reminds me of my Creator. It never gets old.
It may be a walk in a forest trail for you, brown sandy wide open spaces of the desert, the mountain vistas, or plains of wind-swept grass. It may be a park in a cityscape or the square of your backyard.
God’s nature reminds us of our Creator, keeps us humble before him. It reminds us of Who is in charge.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-23 The Message
Cranberries have grown in Oregon since the 1880s or 1890s, depending on what region of the state. W.C. King, the “cranberry king,” grew his crop in Tillamook county. Further south in the 1880s, Charles McFarlin planted the cuttings he brought from Massachusetts in Coos county.
The Oregon coast has ideal conditions for the cranberry crop. The sandy, peaty soil combined with the humid and foggy atmospheric conditions and the long winter rainy season give the Oregon cranberries their rich red color and stoutness. These conditions also increase the sugar content, increasing the sugar levels of the fruit, decreasing the amount of added sugar. It is not perfect – the wind coming off the Pacific disperses weeds into the beds.
Cranberry farmers maintain natural pest control by flooding or sanding the beds. Harmful insects are eaten by beneficial flying creatures, keeping insecticide usage low.
In bogs, cranberry fruit grows on vines. During harvesting, water floods the bogs so reels, tractor-like machines, can beat the vines to cut the berries loose. Harvest time in Coos county occurs from mid-October to early December.
Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving Dinner – though Oregon produces green beans and potatoes to go with that dinner. They are juiced, freeze-dried, powdered for supplements, and locally brewed for cranberry wine.
Learning the fruits of the Spirit is not usually a sweet experience. It usually comes through trials and tribulations, sharp and sometimes bitter experiences.
Pruned fruit removes damaged pests and inferiorly positioned branches, increasing the light and air penetration.
The pruned fruit brings us forth to be holy lights. We will need to be compassionate for those who see, peace for those in turmoil, and life to the spirit of death.