The World is Golden

aspen-against-blue-sky-horizontal-yesThere’s a long, south facing hillside up in the Stanley valley, near Redfish Lake, which is covered with an equally long stand of aspen trees. There’s a trail that meanders along the base of the hillside for a few miles and I’ve always thought that hike would be spectacular in fall when the trees were in full color but for two decades I’ve missed it. Successful leaf peeping requires timing, luck, and motivation and for whatever reason I’ve never had all three in sync.

This year I finally hit it. I did a runaway up to the cabin for a couple days of Indian summer and struck gold. Turns out it wasn’t just the aspen. The whole valley was lit up. Golden. This time of year the light is thinner, slanted, as the sun retreats back towards the southern hemisphere and the way it reflected off the changing foliage of willows and dogwoods, aspens and dried grasses made the air itself glow. It was an extraordinary sensation.

Left to my own devices I would have parked my phone camera at home and just rambled around for two days soaking it in. I find a lens tends to get in between me and the full experience of a place. But I promised my mother-in-law I’d take pictures for her and it was not a promise to renege on. Marie lived up in that valley for twenty-five years, running the medical clinic as the first practicing nurse practitioner in the state of Idaho and ministering to the health needs of a rural population when no doctor was willing to go. She adored her life up there, loved it, but at 84 years old and losing her sight she’s given up the mountain mama existence and moved to the lowlands where more care is available. She never complains mind you, she’s an amazing woman that way, but I could hear the longing in the way she talked about her memories of the fall colors so I was hellbent and determined to at least capture some of it for her digitally.

These are the result.

Version 2Above is Fishhook Creek running through a large beaver engineered water system that spans the meadow with a couple of Sawtooth peaks behind.

fisher-creek-range-sunsetFoothills in front of the White Clouds mountain range during sunset. You can see pockets of color as the aspen are changing.

iron-in-river-rocksThis is a stone in Fishhook Creek full of iron, which gives it the orange-red color. (It’s an iron rich area.)

aspen-hillside-with-mountain-yesThis is a view of part of that long hillside I mentioned. The color just keeps going and going and going and going…

And finally…

illuminated-aspen-1Sunlight illuminating the leaves from behind. The photo doesn’t do it justice of course. The real effect was rather holy…another one of those moments out in the natural world when the impulse to fall on my knees and whisper thank you to whatever would listen almost got me. In the end I couldn’t do it in front of the Canadian hikers behind me but still, we were all pretty quiet and big eyed.

Here’s for you, Marie. Thanks.

Modo: A little hunchback duckling.

I walked out this morning to empty the trash and discovered a brand new duckling lying on his side in the driveway and struggling weakly against the cold concrete.  He’d been abandoned due to some deformity.  One wing is shortened and rather useless and has a little hunch on the shoulder above it.  Couldn’t just leave him lying there so I brought him in.


He’s been steadily improving as the hours go by.  I’ve taken him out to the garden a few times to observe his mobility.  He was still falling over on his weak side but was beginning to occasionally recover without help.


And, per advice from John Gray, the bird king over at the ever fabulous Going Gently, I’ve given him warmth, water, food, and a stuffed bear, which he’s really taken to.


I’m not quite sure what to do next.  Rescue center maybe?  I’m in a quandary as I’m not an advocate of domesticating wildlife yet this little guy could never survive on his own.  Shit.

In the meantime I’ve named him Quasimodo but am calling him Modo for short.

copyright Dia Osborn 2013

Best laid plans of mice and men.

The hubster and I got an early start on our flatwater kayaking adventures a couple weeks ago…at least that was the plan.  Things seemed to be dry and sunny enough for it when we left the house but it didn’t quite work out.  Here’s why:

Ridiculous but beautiful, no?  That subzero cold snap we had this winter was a little more serious than we realized.  Oh well, soon.


Earthporn (My new favorite word)


I just heard this term today from my daughter-in-all-but-law and had to laugh.  It’s so true!  The best of “nature” photography really is like porn.  I can lose myself for hours on the National Geographic website or Hubble or Nature’s Best Photography, hungrily staring at these beautiful objects of desire that I then can’t stop thinking about afterwards.

sZSdtcFThese three photos are from a photography website called Imgur that has an entire section devoted to Earthporn.  (I could lose weeks of my life on this site.  Weeks.)  For anyone else who’s helplessly in love with this planet (or who’s just watched the news, or overheard an argument about politics, or hung up on yet one more telemarketer) I highly recommend it.  It makes you forget everything and feel good again…


…just like porn.

Sparkles and Shadows


Happy New Year!

First, an update.  My blog is falling apart.  I upgraded last summer to a level way beyond my expertise and now less and less is working with each successive update.  I finally gave up this morning and stuffed an S.O.S. in a bottle for WordPress support staff in the desperate hope they can help me return to my old blog domain.

Please Wizards…I want to go home.   I just want to go home.  (Click heels together three times and repeat.)

Hopefully things will improve soon and I’ll be able to comment on other people’s blogs again!  In the meantime, please keep your toes, eyes, and fingers crossed for me.

On another topic, the hubster and I ran away to the mountains again for the week between Christmas and New Years and spent our afternoons briskly snowshoeing.  I brought my trusty camera phone with me to take pictures but soon abandoned the attempt because it was such a pain to stop, sink my poles, remove my gloves, unzip my jacket and then my pocket, take out the phone with frozen, clumsy fingers, find the camera app, take a picture, then do all the above again in reverse.  Every time.  We were getting nowhere really fast.

Here are the ones I did get.  Nothing that truly captures the beauty of the place (I’m no photographer) but enough to hint.  A high settled in while we were up there so conditions were crystal clear and brutally cold…great for sparkles and shadows.




And, as always, the view out the front door of the cabin.  (Sorry, but I just never get tired of this shot.)


Here’s to the challenges and adventures of the coming year!  Good luck to us all.

copyright Dia Osborn 2013

Another Break: Delightful Snowflakes

Okay.  I needed a break from advance directives and just found a good one:

A friend sent me a link to Have A Beauty Filled Day, a blog full of photographs and insights…two of my favorite things.  Christine Young, the author/photographer, takes her inspiration not only from the natural world, but often from the tiny natural world…which I particularly adore.

Here are a couple pics taken (with permission and a link) from a post entitled Flaky:

There are more photos.  This is only an appetite whetter.

(Also, for anyone wondering, this is what magic used to look like before it was roped and domesticated by Merlin, Houdini, Penn and Teller, and the rest of those guys.  Hard to recognize, no?  I think it’s the simplicity of it that fools most people.  There was often simple magic happening around dying people, too, which is perhaps why I recognize it.)

Check out the blog if you get a chance.  It’s a delight.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

Where the Natural and Human Worlds Meet

Okay.  As a wild thing myself, I’m an unreserved, unabashed lover of the natural world.  Always have been.  Since my earliest memories (and even before that according to my mother) I’ve gone to the trees, the rocks, and the waters…the storms and the stars…whenever I was confused or unraveling.  I’m not sure why exactly.  It’s just where I felt better.

My relationship with the human world, however, has been more complicated.  Initially, I was pretty enthusiastic about us.  But then hard things happened and I went through a middle phase, struggling with some disillusionment and bitterness before finally, during the hospice years, finding my way back to a vision of people that’s good.

Again…I have so much to be grateful for, to the dying who let me be with them.

Then this morning, I watched a trailer for BBC One Human Planet (I know, it’s been out forever and you’ve probably seen it already but still, wow.  I mean really, wow…) and visually it seemed to pull together the love I now hold for both worlds in one beautiful, jaw-dropping, mosaic of cinematography.

Which is a powerful…not to mention valuable…thing to do.  I don’t think I’m the only one that views the human and natural worlds as distinct.  First, the industrial age and next, the technological/information one have been terrific for shielding us from the cosmic brunt of natural forces, but in the process they’ve separated us from them, too.

Modern homes are now designed to cut us off as much as possible from fluctuations in just about everything–temperature, wind, light, smells, noise, wildlife, microbes, radiation, crime, neighbors–while our cars strive to prevent us from feeling like we’re even touching the ground.  Somewhere along the line we all agreed on what was the safest, most comfortable environment, and then we built it into everywhere we were likely to spend time; homes, office buildings, vehicles, planes, ships, hotels, malls, banks, airports, restaurants so that, if we wanted to, we could now live sans contact with most of the natural world, most of the time.  And some people do.  Did you know that roughly 80% of people in the U.S. have never seen the Milky Way?

We’ve come so far and so much of its good.  But even so, sometimes I feel like I’m living in a pillow.  It’s wonderful and amazing and safe, for sure, but it also feels like I can’t get quite enough air.

This trailer captures glimpses of some of the non-pillow people all over the world–wild people still living in wild places.  The ones who haven’t been separated into our modern, second world yet.  They’re still creating a lot of their miracles without technology…and I forgot how inspiring and amazing those kinds of miracles are, too.  With as hard as their lives must be in some ways, I’ll bet at least they have plenty of air to breathe, every day.  I wish there was some way to weave these two worlds together again.  It’s hard always feeling like I have to make a choice.

The video is 3:20 minutes long but you’d never know it.  And please…you have to watch it full screen.  (In the name of all that’s good and right, you have to.)  For those who don’t know what that means, look down in the bottom right hand corner of the video box below and click the four arrows pointing in different directions.   The video box will expand to fill your entire computer screen.  Then just buckle your seat belt, click play, and you’re good to go.  Oh…and if you want to see the actual series, I found the DVDs on Netflix.  I imagine they might be available other places as well.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011

Saving Valentina

And finally…on this blog devoted to talking about dying…here’s a story of something that didn’t die.  This big, beautiful girl came very close but was ultimately saved from drowning by a handful of people (who took a huge risk in doing so I might add.)

On Valentine’s Day earlier this year in the Sea of Cortes down in Mexico, Michael Fishbach was in a small boat with his family and a couple of friends when they came upon a young, humpback whale severely entangled in fisherman’s netting.  At first she appeared to be dead.  But then they saw her exhale and realized she was exhausted and frightened but still alive.  Her tail was weighted down about fifteen feet by all the fishing gear, both pectoral fins were pinned to her sides, and the net went up over her back forward of the dorsal fin.  I can only imagine the thrashing and rolling she must have initially executed in her attempts to get clear of the net that led to so severe an entanglement, or the terror she must have experienced as it tightened around her.

At this point they had to decide whether they were going to watch helplessly as she slowly drowned or try and help her.  Amazingly, as you’ll see in the video, Michael slipped on his snorkel, grabbed the one small knife they had in the boat, and swam slowly over to where she was floating to assess the situation.

At this point in the video I heard a weighty, entangling, and suffocating voice in my own head begin it’s droning about how stupid and dangerous it was for him to even try, but then the girl with wild hair inside me who adores the sea slipped past and ran to the edge of the boat, pumping her hand in the air and cheering Michael on.

Because sometimes safety just isn’t the most important thing.

What follows over the next few hours is a series of courageous attempts and lucky accidents that lead to the saving of a gigantic, and unspeakably precious, young life.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong, things that would have made the situation far more tragic than it already was.  But surprisingly, none of those things happened which confirms yet again what my grey and grizzled father–career warrior, survivor of three major wars, and witness to countless weird and miraculous events on the battlefield–has always told me:

Dia, if it’s your time to die then it’s your time to die, and nothing can save you.  But if it’s not your time to die then it’s just not, and nothing…nothing…can kill you.

Clearly, it wasn’t anybody’s time to die in the Sea of Cortez last Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the video, Saving Valentina, if you get the chance.

copyright Dia Osborn 2011