Saunter. This is the way to know the Metolius River in June. A Common Yellowthroat (a sunny masked bandit of a warbler) sings “witchity witchity witchity.” A Song Sparrow belts out his own aria of tumbling notes from the highest twig of the same blooming ninebark bush. A Macgillivray’s Warbler tilts his gray head back to the cerulean sky, bares his yellow chest and lilts a rolling river of notes with two emphatic syllables on the end as if to say–“Cheery, cheery, cheery.. and you?”
Yes. All is well with the world right here and right now. Here, where ancient ponderosa pines, cedars, larch, and fir preside above the Metolius Wild & Scenic River, not far from Sisters, Oregon. Here, where sleek dippers nab caddis fly larvae from the frigid blue and bedazzled currents. Here, where ospreys circle on high and give that pure “chiiirrrpp” call of clairvoyance only possible from such a height above us. Here. Wildness. Here. Beauty.Wes, my friend Sandra, and our two easygoing black labradors Summer and Pepper breathe in a halcyon day. It’s summer solstice. And it is good. All of it, from that that first sip of coffee in the morning to the the smoky, crackling fire in the evening, and from the swaying of our hammocks midday to the stretching of limbs by this singing, trout-filled river. And then there are the butterflies….
To be on the Metolius on a warm June day is to inhabit Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude…. “It was then that she realized that the yellow butterflies preceded the appearances of Mauricio Babilonia.” On this river, butterflies precede all of us who savor sunshine along the trail. Surreal. How else to describe the undulating flower of many swallowtail butterflies converging on one small puddle within the cup of one river boulder –flapping, unfolding and folding, creasing and uncreasing, closing up tight and letting go, contracting and expanding on this day in this life that is all in one moment?The butterflies are sipping minerals and water. Practical magic. Look closer and within the quivering blossom of pale swallowtail butterflies are smaller, yet also boldly patterned and bright tortoiseshells, admirals, and more toppling upon one another for a precious taste of the elixir. A California tortoiseshell butterfly lands on my arm to taste the salt. Minuscule feet tickle my skin and that probing antennae is the gentlest of all touches in a world that needs far more softness.
Birds, Butterflies, Bliss. Bless this day.
Upon returning, I immediately joined this wonderful group: Friends of the Metolius. On their website are ways to give back while imbibing of this river’s joy–like pulling invasive weeds (like ribbon grass and yellow flag Iris), and attending always to the future of those magnificent big pines. Thanks to the foresight of conservationists, there are significant protections for the Metolius Basin–yet it takes watchful citizens to assure they are carried out!