Tag: nature

shutterstock_111755141Photo by Jane Rix

A year ago, I didn’t know anything about the hang. Discovering the music of Matt Venuti changed that.

While researching Portland massage therapists, I stumbled upon Andrea Shuman’s website — and the only auto-play audio (or video) experience I’ve ever found soothing and not jarring. The music sample, I learned, was titled “Dove Supreme.”

After leaving the page of audio samples on Matt Venuti’s website to further explore his music, I enjoyed song after song, video after video. The hang is a fascinating instrument, and in Venuti’s hands, it’s spellbinding. Eventually, my clicks led me to a video featuring an iteration of “Dove Supreme” called “The Yolanda Trail,” which follows.

But, wait! The next discovery was “Bliss Attack,” which Venuti discusses on the video below.

A new song picks up the theme running through “Dove Supreme” and found in “The Yolanda Trail.” It’s called “The Yolanda Trail, Pt. 1,” and you can find it on iTunes along with the entire “Bliss Attack” album (it’s now my new ringtone). There are other links on Venuti’s site where you can find more.

One thing I loved about the background he provided how the “Bliss Attack” album came to be was that a fan of his music used that term to describe the effect it had on him. While I can’t say I would have used those words, I get it. The audio sample at the beginning of this post represents a place where I have gone to approximate mindfulness when I am unable to shut out the clutter and find it all on my own.

But perhaps my favorite part of that video is that it begins with those familiar notes from “Dove Supreme,” now “The Yolanda Trail, Pt. 1,” and a look at Monument Valley. The latter is one of the places I go to in my mind when we need to go away together. Last summer, after recognizing the calming nature of “Dove Supreme” for me during a stressful stretch of months, I regularly listened to it via my computer — which has a photo of Monument Valley as its wallpaper.

Call is blissful serendipity, maybe. Or kismet.



RitaTen years ago today, Hurricane Rita made landfall along the Louisiana-Texas border. Coming less than a month after Katrina’s surge across the Louisiana-Mississippi border, Rita scared millions across the Gulf Coast as it developed into the fourth-most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. Lessons learned from Katrina prompted mass evacuation of Houston and other cities as Rita approached, saving lives. Katrina’s official death toll is just short of 2,000 people; Rita’s is slightly more than 100. In the collective memory of America and the rest of the world, Rita is the forgotten hurricane of 2005.

Not so in my family. Like many others in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, we lost someone whose terminal illness in the months after the storms was part of the unofficial death toll from the deadly hurricane season of 2005.

My oldest sister and her family live in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 30 miles north of the Gulf, 35 miles east of the Texas state line. They live directly behind the house that was my mother’s home during the summer of 2005. I was living in Baton Rouge, about two hours’ drive east of Lake Charles, where I was born and raised. Affected by Katrina mostly in terms measured in lost power and lost sleep, I had settled into what was the new normal in Baton Rouge: taking alternate routes on surface streets every day because of the crush of people who relocated to Louisiana’s capital from the New Orleans area after post-Katrina flooding.

When it was obvious that Rita, a Category 5 hurricane at its most powerful, was not expected to hit Baton Rouge, we decided that my family’s best evacuation option was to head my way. For two weeks, my two-bedroom apartment was home to me, my mother, my sister, her husband, their two children (a daughter and a son), a dog and a hermit crab (my nephew’s). Tight quarters, for sure, but nothing like the many situations after Katrina in which 20 or more people crowded into a home or an apartment.

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How strange to wake up to this sound just outside my window on Aug. 29, 2015. Ten years ago, I woke from a restless sleep before dawn as the outer bands of Hurricane Katrina reached my apartment, about an hour’s drive from downtown New Orleans.

The electricity went out, and it would stay off beyond the next few sleepless days and nights. As the wind rushed through the trees that were as close to my bedroom window as these are to my sliding-glass patio door today, it was accompanied by rain. Not so right now. Here in the Pacific Northwest, amid a relentless drought, our forecast called for rain today and next week, but as I look outside, I see thirsty leaves holding on to their branches and their green as they await what the gray sky seems to promise. It is not the verdant green of trees nourished by south Louisiana rains, or challenged by a major hurricane, and I swear I can hear the difference as the wind cuts through the brittle branches.

(Updating to add that I’ve discovered we had a thunderstorm hours before I awoke. It dumped more rain than we’d had since early June, but the ground and trees soaked it up so quickly, they still seemed drought-stricken by the time I opened the curtains.)

As the largest wildfire in Washington state history rages a few hours away from me, and much of the West Coast deals with problems associated with ongoing severe drought, there is other news of nature’s power. I’m reading reports of trees falling and injuring people this morning during a triathlon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Runners in Hood to Coast arrived in Seaside amid sideways rain and wind so powerful, organizers scrapped the usual tent city for safety reasons. There are reports of residents without electricity in Oregon. I don’t know if I want to know what else could be happening in the region.

(Another update: Reports of high wind gusts followed: 85 mph on the southern coast of Washington state, 90 mph in Oceanside, Ore., and 43 mph at Portland International Airport, eclipsing the record August wind gust of 39 mph set in 1953. Our 37 mph high wind gust probably occurred around the time I stumbled out of bed to find out what was going on outside. They tell me this was a once-in-30-years storm, a freak occurrence for August, or even if it had been September.)

I wasn’t going to write anything on this anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. My plan was to spend as much time as possible in quiet reflection about the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, and the hours, days, weeks, months and years that followed in Louisiana. That’s still the plan, although my quiet time comes with a soundtrack, an eerie reminder of that Monday morning 10 years ago today.

This is the sound of wind.