Friday, June 21, 2013

A Bandon Weekend on the Coast

            If you've moved to Ashland from California the only thing you might possibly long for at times (unless you miss traffic and crowds) is the ocean.  There is a wealth of recreational  water everywhere, with lakes and rivers great for fly fishing, rafting, rowing and swimming,  but to reach the soothing rhythms  and awesome drama of the ocean the shortest distance is a 3-4 hour trek to either Brookings or Bandon. It is well worth the trip.
             We traveled to Bandon recently and stayed at the Bandon Inn, where every room has harbor views overlooking the little village of old town Bandon. There is an easy path down to art galleries, restaurants, a narrow pier for crabbing, and the petite harbor.  The old town is 2 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, with a few outlying businesses, such as the newly-built cheese factory on Hwy 101.  The shops have lots of kitchy treasures, nice local crafts, two fun bookstores (a new and a used), coffee houses, candy and chocolate stores, and some very fine art, and the restaurants are good. There are lots of free candy samples at the Cranberry Sweets Co, and cheese samples or ice cream cones at the Face Rock Creamery, and a Friday-Saturday indoor farmers market with great bread, fish and pastries sharing space with local craftspeople.  Here is a sampling of the views, windows and wares in town:


 A recent non-profit project based in Bandon is,  which exhibits in a warehouse -sized space giant sea life sculptures created from ocean debris,  offers environmental art workshops, and promotes awareness and action to save oceans and sea creatures from plastic pollution and other waste dumped into them annually. They say the project has impacted the lives of over 1 million spectators in several communities.  Here is some of their charming and shocking giant artwork displayed in the center of town, made only from found plastic in the oceans.

Without doubt the most remarkable gifts of this area are the beaches that stretch for a few miles in both directions, wild and open spaces with lots of bleached driftwood, some in the form of large tree trunks piled up as if giant logging trucks had flown over and tossed out excess tree baggage. The beaches are dramatic, powerful and awesome works of nature, with only a few walkers or families about. A place to contemplate and nurture the soul.  A favorite place to walk is the Coquille Point Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where a walking trail on the bluff has descriptions of the history of the area, staircases lead to the beach, and sea birds and sea lions share the coastline. Here are a few photos of the area.

We also wandered up the coast to Coos Bay, and discovered the stunning  Shore Acres State Park, graced by acres of English gardens alongside  the drama of  ragged wild coastline views.  The land was once owned by the  Louis J. Simpson family who  started the ship-building business in Coos Bay and originally was the site of a mansion that was lost to fire.  Eventually the property was  partially donated and partially sold to the state.  Today it is primarily tended and supported by volunteers who keep thousands of flowers in bloom through all seasons, and decorate with 300,000 holiday lights between Thanksgiving and New Years. In June the place was nearly empty, serene, and awesome.  I think it may be one of the best kept secrets of the Oregon Coast, as it took us seven years to hear about it!.  They have a website at

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Art and Music and All-Terrain Contrivances and Flowers, etc...

           Ashland is truly a haven for artists, with over a dozen galleries, two large art cooperatives and an art museum, all open year round and showcasing everything from jewelry and fabric wall hangings, wooden sculpture and tile mosaics, oils and blown glass,  classes as diverse as watercolor, mosaic, weaving, knitting, tile painting, fabric painting, hat making, ceramics and nearly any other creative form imaginable.  As summer arrives art begins to flow out of doors, appearing alongside the river on weekends, in street fairs and the walkways of art collectives, farmers markets, and even in open houses and backyards.  Neighbors of ours hold an annual art event each June, called "Art for the Home and Garden" featuring enchanting garden art and metal sculpture, pottery, ceramic art, purses -- a variety of  professional design in two gardens and homes open for the weekend. 

            As the summer art season opened this first weekend of June,  it also offered First Friday Artwalk (a monthly event greatly enhanced when warm weather and tourists begin to arrive);  music streaming on many streets along with open galleries, wine tasting and snacks; 7 or 8 theater stage offerings (always available here); performances of the charming play "Mulan"  in an aerial acrobatic form produced by Le Cirque Centre, a petite derivation of the famed Cirque du Soleil; a performance of Broadway music at a  local church; a singing rock concert by the Jefferson State Choral Coalition; the opening of a week-long Medford beerfest kicked off by a Beers, Burgers and Bluegrass celebration at Hanley Farm;  and the celebration of the opening of the Britt Music Festival, a grand outdoor summer-long series of musical events held in Jacksonville, about 40 minutes out of town. Also an option, several  venues with live bands -- including Irish Pubs, wineries and the Elks. There were many people  of all persuasions on the streets having a good time, running into friends. Street musicians included guitars and a didgeridoo!
            In Jacksonville on Saturday some of the charms of the Britt Summer Celebration included a street lined with antique cars, chalk artists, a strawberry social, great bands, and a free drawing to win $500 to spend in local shops. Here are a few images:

            I found the most intriguing exhibit there to be the kinetic sculptures (shown below). This relatively new hobby for people who want to put pedal-to-the-metal using their own pumping power involves creating human-powered amphibian all-terrain vehicles (yes, sand and mud and water) to compete in kinetic sculpture races in various towns in Oregon (and beyond -- the challenge apparently originated in Ferndale, CA, when Hobart Brown modified his son's tricycle and the idea mushroomed into huge bikes, and migrated to several states). No one is allowed an engine or even a push, although rumor is that rules are made to be broken.  Much of the fun is in the innovation and artistic flair, with a muscle-driven machine. They are racing works of art. The larger one below has 80" wheels and seats four drivers. If you want to know the when and where of races in Oregon check out,, or just google kinetic sculpture races and you will find a lot of you-tube film clips to peruse. One I liked was Kinetic Grand Championship Part 1.

            As if all of this was not too much choice already for one weekend, there were two major garden show events, one in Ashland, an annual garden tour sponsored by the AAUW, and another tour to support charities in Central Point and Medford.  These draw enthusiastic gardeners (or wannanbes) who want to see the best designs and use of plants for the area, enjoy the beauty of the hills and yards, decide if they want water features, and figure just what it is the deer will not eat!  The Assn. of University Women (AAUW) is a major presence in Ashland, with over 140 members, numerous clubs, and community-wide fundraisers for local charities. The garden tour is a major project of theirs, always including lemonade and cookies and lots of good advice.
            So goes a typical summer weekend -- one really has to work to become bored in this town!
            Below are some Ashland gardens from the garden tour, all lovely living works of art. Did you know there is a scaled replica of the Trevi fountain in the acreage of a beautiful Ashland mansion built in the style of a 17th century Normandy chateau? Tours like this always have surprises. This estate also boasts a vineyard, cherry orchard, vegetable garden, passive solar and water well.  Other homes on the tour featured flowers, gardens, walkways, drought resistant plants, and a charming greenhouse. Some of the photos are from the large community gardens shared by residents of the Mountain Meadows retirement community.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Flea Market Adventures

      Today was Flea Market Day at the Medford Armory, a monthly event where folks gather to sell a bit of everything.  There is nothing I need from the flea market, until I see it, nothing I thought about needing before I arrived.  This is a large market with treasures ranging from baseball cards and marbles, dolls to dogs, to Elvis posters, indian jewelry, Japanese wall hangings, old china and flatware, beer mugs, bikes, dragons,  Polynesian gods, guns, crocheted baby clothes, DVD's , clocks -- things you never thought of wanting but have fun considering.  I enjoy wandering in markets like this for several reasons.
  •             It's fun to discover something my mother owned like a meat grinder I used for grinding bread for dressing on holidays (no such thing as instant dressing or even pre-made breadcrumbs when I was a kid!), or a metal toy cash register I once played store with, or rhinestone jewelry and tiaras like I once wore to proms. It brings back memories of "ancient" times, and  reminds me of family events long past.
  •            It's fun to see things I have never seen before like carved wooden horses 4 feet high, tiny wooden doll carriages, iron tools without a modern purpose. It's an adventure in history.

  •             It's fun to find a bargain, even when it is something you never thought to need. Today my bargain was a great  $20 set of  strong binoculars with a leather case. Another time it was a beautiful $15 crystal cake tray. Another time it was a collection of large and lovely seashells. Who knows what will appear?

Here are some photos of the Medford Armory Flea Market. The next one is July 28th.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Writers Who Gather in Ashland

I spent Saturday at a southern Oregon Williamette Writers gathering learning about the eMedia Publishing Revolution!  Julie Fast ( an expert speaker on publishing and media, and the author of seven books related to bipolar disorder, presented a mind-blowing variety of new social  media that writers must  use if they hope to promote their books -- blogs, newsletters, podcasts, tele-seminars,  HARO (Help a Reporter Out), virtual book tours, e-newsletters, MP3s, Facebook, YouTube, and more.  She also covered Kindle, Lulu, and the variety of e-publishing options that offer a bit more income for the writer than the traditional approach of finding an agent/publisher, which gains prestige but rarely a good income.  Writers today have to be expert web navigators, or hire others who do it for them.  Who knows how they find the time and still produce books and other content for their fans?

The Williamette Writers meet monthly in the council chambers of a little town called Central Point, and are affiliated with a larger Williamette Writers of Oregon that is headquartered in Portland.  Many published authors are part of the group, all willing to share advice and encouragement to others.  It is one of several writers organization in Oregon.

Ashland alone has over 80 authors, and will be holding an annual Ashland Book and Author Festival from 10 to 5 on June 22 at Oregon State University. (info at or If you are a writer you can find everything from play-writing classes to poetry slams along with over 100 book clubs here in town. There are two new bookstores, one used book store, one new and used store, and one free book store just in Ashland, with more options down the road in Medford. I have heard OSU is also hosting a writers conference this summer -- details yet to come!

I guess its the weary four-month winter that keeps all this reading and writing going, because from my perspective the other seasons are just to beautiful to stay indoors.

A Taste of Chinese Wisdom

One of the charms of Ashland is that someone is always inviting you to meet unique creative or spiritual individuals who are passing through town, so educational or experiential programs, lectures, new or ancient spiritual practices, or uplifting and fun musical events often arise unexpectedly and there is always an opportunity to learn something new. Recently for me it was an opportunity to meet a Taoist philosopher and teacher, Li Siming, who is traveling through the US from Wudang Mountain , China.

Li Siming, also known as Derek, speaks impeccable English as he holds an engineering degree from MIT and lived in the states for eight years. His style of teaching is remarkably clear. After returning home to China he became attracted to Qigong, Buddhism and Taoism, and took a year off of work to go to the mystical mountains of Wudang, to meditate and study.  While there his life perspective shifted dramatically, and he stayed to master the energy and meditation practices and deep wisdom of  the ancient Chinese masters.  Today he teaches in China and hopes to teach in the US as well.

Derek gave a talk to a small group in a local home that encompassed a brief overview of Taoism -- the history in China, the practices of Qigong and the philosophy of living and expanding awareness that is the foundation of this ancient teaching,   He made the invitation to inner realization very appealing, with his own peaceful presence, warmth and wisdom.  You can learn more about him on his website or on Facebook at or on Linkedin at
Derek LI.