Living in the Pacific Northwest has made me reminisce a bit about the strongly demarcated—maybe even mildly explosive—seasons I experienced growing up in the Midwest. At the same time, the longer I spend in Portland, the more I appreciate some of the more subtle environmental shifts going on around me. So here’s a bit of a roundup of some of the things that have inspired me over the past few months; after all, why not share?

Mushroom hunting in the forest on a rainy Oregon Sunday, and Punchbowl Falls as a tiny autumn trickle.

  • Hunting for mushrooms in the forest in a soft rain, breathing in the misty perfume of damp loam and pine needles. We stumbled across an almost-alien assortment of colorful fungi and what seemed like a thousand chanterelles, with their raggedy, golden trumpets poking out of the ground.
  • Running in the fresh morning air in the hour post-sunrise after a rain. The sunlight pours in at a low, golden angle, filtering through the cleanest of new clouds.

Farmers market beets in deep reds and purples. And then, all of the mushrooms that we found: the most chanterelles I’ve ever seen, a few shrimp russulas, and a cauliflower mushroom (!)

  • Chilly hikes to windswept peaks in the Columbia River Gorge. The summit is yours alone, with the broad, cold river below.
  • Red and gold twined together, or creeping out of green leaves or cracks in the wall.
  • Hiking through the snowy, wet Indian Heaven wilderness in a soft silence, at twilight, with slightly numb hands and the faint glow of car headlights through the trees. (After all, being cold isn’t quite so bad when you know it’s temporary.)

The autumn woods in the Indian Heaven Wilderness. We turned back at about here on a hike to Lake Wapiki, since it was starting to get dark and the trail was one long pile of slush and cold water. Despite that, the trees were gorgeous: quiet, with the mist clinging to them in the fading sunlight.

I think, ultimately, what I mean to say here is quite simple, and perhaps almost unnecessary to put into words:

It’s pretty here. I like it. And I still find it mind-blowing that the world is so beautiful in so many tiny, quiet, and unassuming ways.