Oregon is the greatest place on the planet for adventure, climbing, swimming, rafting, eating, and living. The only problem is that it is only that for the months of July, August, and September. The rest of the year it is downright miserable. One can expect a heavy onset of drizzle, rain, downpour, and outright deluge. But, for those 3 blessed months, there is no where else on the planet as much fun. As clean as Oregonians are, and as conscious as they continue to be about environmental issues, the rivers in past decades have suffered with neglect and pollution. It seems that has changed as of late, and hopefully it represents a trend that will continue throughout the nation. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go to any river in the US and drink from it without fear?

The McKenzie River has always represented to me the penultimate in all that Oregon has to offer. Salmon, Steelhead, and trout flourish in crystal clear yet often turbulent rapids. Its banks are grown over with Black, Marion, Logan, and Salmon berries. The water’s edge offers delights such as nettles, sour apple clover, ferns, and dandelion. One could, as many native inhabitants have, survive and dine delectably upon its banks. Farms that dot the countryside reap the nutrient rich soil’s bounty with hazelnuts, apples, walnuts, mint, soy beans, and thousand other earthly delights. Everyday on my runs I would eat apples, berries, or nuts off the trees. Spotting deer, snakes, squirrels, or hearing a hawk or eagle cry as well as other critters was common place.

Returning to this bastion of boyhood adventure and culinary delights was not without some trepidation. Decisions and choices made in ones youth are often fraught with regret. In returning to these places, one is confronted with the memories aided with the pungent and invasive sensual reminders. Smells, sights, sounds or lack thereof, and tastes reminds one all the more perceptively. Who you think you are, or who you have become is suddenly called into question, it is the uncertainty of the answer that is all the more terrifying.

Having anticipated this, I have not returned for nearly 23 years.

What I did not anticipate however, was how many right choices were made in these places. How many friends affirmed or comforted, dangers averted, and narrow paths traveled. I didn’t anticipate that the boy that I wished I had been was truly the boy I was. It took two trees to remind me of that. When the weather was, as it was for this last weekend in Oregon, I made my way up the limbs and boughs of one young Sycamore and an ancient Oak. These trees allowed me to elevate myself, as a monk retreats to their mountain monastery, to ponder the often Machiavellian machinations that transpire below. People seldom look up, and often I would be privy in my trees, to see how life works from an overarching perspective. In a way…somewhat godlike. It often provided a different way to see the world, a perspective somewhat removed.

As an adult, one can see these childhood places with a removed sense of vision as well, meaning that you analyze what you remember, what you have learned from your worldly travels, and what you are now forced to reconsider by being once again standing where you once stood. What I found is that these trees represented the boy I was. The boy I think we all wish we were. The boy that belongs in a Rockwell or Leyendecker Saturday Evening Post cover. For the last 23 years I wished that I was that boy. My paintings are about recapturing, or more precisely, re-writing my perception. The oxymoron is that I am in truth re-affirming what I always had.

The following pictures represent the pictures and places that are most burned within my memory, and represent all that is good to me, and perhaps in me. A boy’s adventure. The greatest gift of this trip is the ability to re-access and re-possess it. Peter Pan incarnate.

Stand By Me- Foot bridge over the McKenzie

I’ve walked this dirt path to my river so many times. The greatest adventures lay at the end. Even now I can smell the dust-drenched sun-baked pine needles, the roll of loose gravel under my feet, and the sweet smell of mint growing in the field.

What lays at the end of the path. Set amongst the Coburg Hills, the river bends to divert toward its eventual meeting with the Willamette. The worn river stones make this place a rock skipping paradise.

Farms on the banks offer a paradise between crystal clear water, orchards, and clean living.

Function before form.

Even the lone sunflower bows its head before the majesty of the day.

You can feel the warmth and moisture of the rivers banks.

Farther up the McKenzie River valley, one can find barns who’s siding has been burned by the elements.

Nodding to the days end.

The majesty of the Cascade Range. There is a reason that this is Blue Lake.

WPA projects were often carried out with an eye to the serene and beautiful. Such is the case with one of the many covered bridges of the McKenzie River Valley.