Heading south from Medford, Oregon, stands a fairly quiet and quaint little town. Founded in the 1800’s, the city of Ashland began unofficially with just a water-powered sawmill and also a flour mill that stood along Ashland Creek, giving credibility to those who wanted to call this paradise their new home.
Ashland is known for its Shakespeare Festivals, the Ashland Hotel, wineries, outdoor recreational attractions and more, not to mention Southern Oregon University. But the greatest treasure I have found in Ashland is a not-so-small park, tucked away just off of the main road. And I mean, right off the main road.
Lithia Park boasts 93 acres of pristine and lush blades of soft, green grass, picnic area, blooming flowering cherry and magnoliia trees in the spring and colorful autumn-hued trees in the fall. In the summer, the playground equipment is in full use and the creek cools off tired hiking tootsies.
In the early 1800’s, people from Ohio and Kentucky made their way to western Oregon, settling in this small area and since these settlers hailed from Ashland, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky, they most likely agreed the best choice for a name was that of the hometowns from which they came. With the opening of their post office, the city of Ashland became official.
In 1892, Lithia Park was started as an 8-acre project for a city of then almost 3,000. Ashland was the largest town in the county at that time and was growing faster than any town south of Portland, six hours north. People began coming from all over to visit and camp in what would become Lithia Park and drink the fresh, bubbling, lithium rich fountain water, now known as Lithia-water, right from the porcelain fountains at the entrance to the park.
Parts of the park have been restored and in 2014, Lithia Park was named one of the top ten Great Spaces by the APA. Parts of the park are stil undeveloped, which gives you the feeling of being out in naature, but also knowing you can stop for a slice of great pizza at Martolli’s Hand Tossed Pizza on the way back to the car. (Yum!)
I have lived in Medford for almost eight years now and have driven by Lithia Park a few times, strolled it briefly less times, but this week I have visited twice and plan to revisit it tomorrow as it’s nothing short of breathtaking. Especially now, with Spring’s buds and blooms opening wide to the fragrance of a new and bright season.
As the cherry trees drop their petals in the soft afternoon breeze and gently land on the pond water like freshly fallen snow, the wood ducks that have stopped over on their migration north show off their colorful, feathered coats for all to see. A flutist sits on a bench inside the bandstand, playing classical tunes that echo out and through the wooded areas that are filled with cedars and firs, rhodededrons, azaleas and more. A trail guide is available and one day I will pick one up to see all the places there are to behold, but for now I don’t want to miss what’s right in front of me.
Today I went wandering.
And this is what I found…
Have you ever thought about the fact that God was the originator of color –
the first to paint a sky, spot a cow, draw stripes on a zebra, detail a flower.
Have you ever thought about how creative our God is?
Have you ever had your breath taken away by nature?
Have you ever thought about how God may have put that object that took your breath away,
right there, right then, just for you?
Listen closely next time your breath is taken away by His beauty…
you just may hear Him whisper,
“I did this just for you.”
Some say there is no God.
Some say the earth evolved from a mess in the cosmos.
I say there is a God.
All I have ever seen come from a mess
is a mess.
I say the earth evolved from the hands of a creative God.
And I say it was not just for His pleasure,
but for ours as well.
I say nothing that man can conjure up,
try to replicate,
attempt to reproduce
– not ever –
compare to the beauty that comes from
that which was formed by the Creator of the universe.
We will never
– not ever –
be able to do what God has done.
That’s why He’s God.
Almighty, Magnificent, Unchangeable, Unstoppable God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. Someone recently told me that I was obsessed with taking pictures. In a bad way. I admit, it hurt. And I thought long and hard about this and while I’ve thought about it, I haven’t taken any pictures. Until today.
I awoke earlier than usual to a familiar sound. The birds were singing. I knew by their songs that outside at the feeders there were Chickadees and Juncos, Finches and Doves, Hummingbirds and the ever pesky Blue Jays. I couldn’t stand it.
I got up, got dressed, grabbed the camera, and while everyone else was still sleeping, I was shooting birds. Not literally.
First, I shot the hummingbirds – two babies and their nattering mommy, telling them to be careful of that lady with that big black thing strapped around her neck. To which they responded to her by sticking out their tongues and talking back. Not very honoring, but very amusing to watch.
Next, the other birds beckoned me with their chatter. I walked toward the fir tree where the other feeders hand and of course they all flew off. In the summer months they will stay and eat because they’ve gotten used to me being out there with them, as I work in the garden. This year, however, I was gone a lot and when I was home, was not able to work outside like I was able to do in my previous life before Parkinson’s because my new life with Parkinson’s is a pain in the – almost every place but my …butt. TMI.
Anyhow, I stood off to the side of the tree and waited. And, one by one they came back. The Juncos and the Chickadees, the Finches and a new little bird I didn’t recognize. So – I shot them, too.
After a few more shots of the hummingbirds on the way into the house, I grabbed my purse and keys and went hunting for more birds to shoot. I drove through the outskirts of town where the orchards and the vineyards are. Grapevines were still rich in colors of rusts, bronze, golds and purples. Orchards were barren trees spotted with forgotten, golden pears. I saw cows who wondered why I was shooting them. And then I saw my favorite of the morning. Two red-tailed hawks sat atop a telephone pole in silence as I approached. I slowed and stopped. No one was coming and so – I shot ’em. And then, one flew off and so I shot him from behind as the other one watched, as if saying to him (or her – I can’t tell), “Chicken.” I would think that would be an insult to a bird of prey. The one left perching let me shoot him several more times without flinching. I tried hissing like a snake, roaring like a lion – anything to get him to fly so I could shoot him in flight. He just looked at me as if I was crazy. As I drove away, I laughed. Perhaps I am.
Down the road an American Kestral waited for me to shoot him before he chickened out and flew off.
One thing that bothers me when I am out shooting little creatures and such is how fast people drive. I was going slow, I was enjoying God’s gifts and this guy just races around me as if he’s got a pregnant wife who is labor, inside the car. But that wasn’t the case. He was alone. And it is at times like that I wonder, “Do you know what you’re missing? Have you noticed the colors? The details?”
Perhaps I am obsessed, but I don’t think of photographing God’s creation as an obsession. If it is, it’s an obsession with the Creator because what excites me, what prompts me to take pictures is the beauty I see. The amazing color wheel God created and dips his brushes in to paint the sunrise and the sunset, the feathers on each different bird, each cow, each fallen autumn leaf. You usually won’t find me photographing manmade creations (unelss it’s a picture one of my grandkids drew).
I came to this conclusion: my love for photography is a love for God and His marvelous, majestic creation. For me, it is a form of worship. It is impossible for me to separate the two from one another. If some think that is an obsession, so be it. I can’t think of a better one (unless of course, writing about being obsessed with a marvelous God).