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The Passing

The Passing 

My life peels away from me, leaving my soul bare against the harsh wind. Icy cold, it cuts me like daggers forged from each of my sins.

I’m in a void.

The landscape around me is an ocean of parched earth. Empty and endless. No North, South, East or West. Nowhere to go and yet,

I walk.

There’s a light ahead. It fills the sky and instinctively I know it has no origin. Warmth flows from it and embraces me. I’m compelled to move forward but with each step I struggle against the bitter wind.

Across the great emptiness joy appears and attaches itself to me through the light. Tingling sensations rise to a crescendo inside me, shooting out the top of my head in a shower of white sparks.

I smile with my whole self.

Hours pass in seconds and the shore of this strange land soon stretches out before me. The ocean I’d been walking upon ends in waves of light that wash up on a pristine beach.

It’s nighttime here.

In the distance shadows await me, but not darkness.

As I approach I begin to hear familiar voices. Individually and in chorus, I’m welcomed by everyone I have ever known with the love we’d always shared. Intense joy explodes inside every cell of my body.

I’m in Heaven.

Istanbul; a city seething with mystery and intrigue. It’s a place where each shadow has a story to tell and every man is a killer or a king.

DBW - Istanbul1It’s 1922 and I’m sitting on the roof of my hotel sipping strong Turkish coffee and watching the sun rise over Central Anatolia. Off in the distance the black dome of Hagia Sopiha is stark against the pre dawn sky. As shadow gives way to light, its stucco walls seem to glow red with the passion of worshippers from centuries ago.

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The Blue Mosque, with its seven domes and six minarets, is a solemn counterpart to the cathedral across the street. Built on the foundation of the Byzantine Grand Palace, it’s exterior is a balance of geometric shapes that hint to the magical world inside. Light and color reflecting from every corner puts you into a kaleidoscope of circles, triangles, rectangles and squares. Together they form patterns that are repeated a thousand times across the ceiling, walls, columns and floors, and the dizzying effect will leave you spinning like one of Rumi’s dervishes.

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The Whirling Dervishes—that puts me in mind of one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had traveling in Turkey. It was a moonless night in Cappadocia when we visited their temple to witness their sacred dance. Its simple ceremony was a mystical, transformative experience that I continue to study with a passionate eye to this day. The consistent whirling brought the energy of the heavens down to earth and for the first time in my life I felt physically connected to something larger and more encompassing than I’d ever known. Was it God? The Universe? I don’t know, but whatever happened in that cone-shaped room was the type of experience that you can only find when you step away from the world you live in and into unfamiliar territory.

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The docks at the foot of the Golden Horn are beginning to show signs of life now. The fog has lifted and people are finding their way through the twisted streets of the Old City. A few sailing ships are tied up along the dock and every now and then the sounds of engines from the steamships echo up to my rooftop perch.

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Across the strait, the Dolmabahce Palace looks out over the city from it’s stately position on the Asian shore. The balance and scale of the building hint at influences from the West but the sultans’ Asian heritage is on display as well. Pronounced rooflines and fluid, floral aesthetics allude to Eastern cultures. It’s East meets West on the building that once ruled both.

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The wind shifted and the scent of the hotel chef’s fire shifted with it. It reminded me of the destructive blaze at the Pasha’s palace last night. It’s grand facade backlit by orange flames and its brittle windows bursting every so often like fragile bubbles. The black plume of smoke escaped like a dying man’s last breath. It was a sight that was becoming more common these days as the last rulers of the Ottoman Empire abandon their homes to wander off in search of new fortunes. It was the sight, sound, and smell of a decomposing empire.

WBM Port - Istanbul

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Handing It Off to the Next Generation

by Kayla Van Lydegraf

Dale’s Remodeling holds much more meaning to our family than just a way to earn a living, it is a family legacy born from a request my grandparents had of my father, and one that he is now sharing with me.

Thirty-six years ago, after returning from a stint in the U.S. Army, my grandparents asked my father, Dale Van Lydegraf, CR, to design and build them a custom A-frame retirement home along the N. Santiam River in Oregon’s Mid-Willamette Valley.

“You can figure it out,” his parents said. As the project came together, word spread and he was soon asked to turn his experience on this single project into a business. Nearly four decades later he is sharing his knowledge and experience with me, allowing me to take the…

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Helvetia Last Saturday was about as perfect a day in the Pacific Northwest as you can get. My family took advantage of it by stopping by The Meating Place, a local butcher shop and cafe, to pick up sandwiches before driving out into the country to our new favorite picnic spot in the gorgeous Helvetia countryside. DSC00923 We spread our blanket under a large maple tree standing next to the road and shared our lunch while we watched a herd of cows doing the same thing in a nearby field. DSC00912

Down in the lower lands a tractor was turning dirt in a field and it’s long dark track revealed the fertility of the Helvetia farmland.

DSC00917Across the road is the Helvetia Community Church, a quaint house of worship that is reminiscent of the churches found in the Swedish and Germanic villages from which Helvetia’s European settlers immigrated. Of course, they weren’t the first people to claim this region as their own. The Atfalati band of the Kalapuya Indians settled in this region 10,000 years ago and today are a celebrated part of Helvetia’s history, with their presence being honored each year at the Helvetia Cultural Fest.

The famous Helvetia Tavern is a family favorite and as we drive back home my husband can’t help but roll down the windows to see if he can catch a whiff of the burgers he so passionately loves. Hot off the grill, these tasty burgers Helvetia_Tavern_(Washington_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(washDA0029)are juicy goodness between a sesame seed bun. Their fresh cut fries and onion rings are so delicious we never can decide on one or the other so we opt for a “half and half” order. Recently, a back yard patio has been added and from there you can watch the setting sun gild the entire landscape in its warm light.

All along the road you’ll find signs leading to privately owned farms that offer an abundance of fresh-from-the-field produce, meat, and wool products. Throughout the spring and DSC03240summer you’ll be able to harvest your own fruits and vegetables at many of the U-Pick farms. During the fall and winter months bring your children out to the pumpkin patches and christmas tree farms and let them experience a bit of farm life, too. Helvetia is facing the familiar threat of urban expansion. As the influence of the Hillsboro tech companies continues to creep north, the residents of Helvetia have organized to fight for their border rights. Save Helvetia protects rural Helvetia by advocating for rural reserves, challenging unnecessary urban growth boundary expansions, advising governmental bodies about interchange improvements and new road construction, and clarifying soil fill practices. DSC02933 Helvetia, Oregon can easily boast one of the most beautiful rural settings in the state, and maybe even in the United States. It’s productive farms are a reminder of what enticed the settlers to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles to stake their claim to the American dream. I’m glad I’ve done it because I believe I just may have found paradise on Earth.

The Himalayan mountain range is a terrestrial scar where the Earth’s crust has buckled so profoundly the landscape looks like giant waves on a frozen sea. Rumors have it an ancient paradise can be found there, a utopia for the few blessed souls whose fate allows them to enter it’s jeweled city; Shangra la.


For the rest of us poor souls the endless climbing means another thing altogether. Long days spent hiking up and down those rocky, vertical footpaths make it so that all you really want is a hot shower and a steaming cup of soup. Sore muscles and oxygen deprived minds take their toll on those who are not fortunate enough to live at the top of the world.

Not that I can’t appreciate the landscape’s majesty, but as I look up to see the underside of the Overlook Hotel* my hopes soar with the realization that in this underdeveloped nation we are going to be staying in what appears to be some evil mastermind’s secret lair, like the Piz Gloria in the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

Himalaya Hotel

As it turned out, the hotel wouldn’t be our “home away from home”. Instead, we were given maps that led down several narrow footpaths to a series of ramshackle cabins. Other than suffering from a case of severe draftiness, they were decent enough and cleaner than other places we’d stayed in. They certainly would make very satisfactory overnight accommodations, except for one very disconcerting feature that was missing in our little, one room shack; a bathroom.

Rustic Shower

Upon further investigation I found that we were to share a communal bath in another cabin further down the path, around a corner, and up a short rise. The infamous Everest wind had picked up so I pulled up the collar of my coat and wrapped my scarf around my head until only my eyes could be seen before heading out into the blustery, cold evening.

Over the rocky, rutted path I traveled, fortifying my resolve with the thought of streams of liquid warmth washing over my aching limbs, but as I neared the bathroom my hopes fell into the chasm whose edge I’d been carefully circumnavigating.

The bathroom shack’s weather beaten door swung back and forth with the wildness of the wind, as if it was frantically waving me in from the cold. When I opened it and stepped inside a prophetic drop in temperature greeted me. There was no light switch, which was probably a good thing considering the bathroom was, in fact, a one room shower stall. A string hung from a box attached to the wall, and next to it was a sign with an arrow pointing skyward. Squinting into the shadows, I looked up to see a rusted, tin shower head swinging from the ceiling. I pulled the cord and waited a few seconds as the sound of water rattled through the pipes. When it reached the shower head it burst forth to baptize me in the glory of ancient melting glaciers.

Shower HeadAnd by that I mean it was cold. Ice cold. Shockingly cold. Fresh-from-the-melting-glacier cold. Shards of nearly frozen moisture raked my body, leaving my skin tingling painfully as it adjusted to the, until then, unknown temperature. It was the kind of cold that enters directly into your bones and stays there, like a waking nightmare, for several minutes, or hours, or maybe even days. The leisurely hot shower I’d imagined quickly shortened to a rough scrub at the dust that covered my limbs and face, then a vigorous swipe of my towel, and a very quick, and I must say, extremely energetic run back over that footpath to the relative warmth of my cabin.

And by that I mean there were ample blankets.


*The name of the hotel and a few of the details are fictional. The temperature of the water is true.

To the Extremes


I’ve spent nearly my entire life living in two places. The first half on the great plains of Western Kansas, and the second half in the rain soaked forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Two extremes. For someone like me who has always seen themselves as existing in the middle, these two opposing environments seem ironic. One so wide open and big, contrasting with another that forces you to withdraw into your home and your mind during the long months of dark, rainy days. Certainly, at this point in my life these differences must have had an permanent effect on who I’ve become, postal codes forever stamped onto my character. Here’s my view of those extremes.



My childhood home is located on a gentle rise on the flat landscape of western Kansas. It’s a borderland where the prairie grasses thin out and the high desert begins. Prickly pear cactus, devil’s claws and echanacea grow wild there, as do the spiky yukka plants with seed pods that rattle like snakes in September.

A great big, blue sky curves around you in every direction, touching the very same ground you stand upon. There’s something magical about that. Standing above the horizon gives you the feeling of being a giant and an ant at the same time.


If it’s a windy day two of the most fundamental laws of physics are your constant companionsspeed and force. When you’re in Kansas you lean into the wind, hear its rhythm, smell its strong scents, and watch as it defies gravity to carry leaves away from trees horizontally, rather than vertically. The wind is amazing in Kansas, and when there’s a break in its velocity you notice it.

But there’s some benefits to that wind. Feeling that power blasting you in the face is energizing. It’s invigorating, it’s life affirming. And you know you can count on it, just as you can count on the sun burning up the ground beneath your feet.



Twenty years ago, on my first solo excursion out of Kansas, I met a traveler who’d seen the world. As she and I became acquainted she sized me up, saying, “You don’t seem like you belong in Kansas. You seem like you belong in Portland.” I’m not sure how that played into my decision to move to the Rose City but I ended up meeting my husband in Phoenix and together we moved back to his home state of Oregon.


It was at the end of October when we got to the Pacific Northwest and it was like moving from day into night. A persistent night that lasted until April. I remember the striking feeling I had the first day the sun shone after months of cloudy skies. I was walking across a parking lot and I noticed my shadow following me, something I hadn’t seen in over a hundred days. It was like a visit from an long lost friend.


All that rain creates a lush, verdant landscape that resembles piles of fluffy green cotton. Mountains surround the city of Portland, and every so often a volcano’s peak will jut up far enough to pierce the clouds.

The mountain ranges of Oregon tell a fabulous story of moving tectonics plates wrinkling up the landscape and causing volcanic eruptions that still threaten to change the topography millions of years after the first eruption.

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Two rivers cut through the city, formed by cataclysmic flooding from an ancient melting glacier. The rushing water dug a trench on its journey to the Pacific Ocean, filling up the Columbia River and carving out a spectacular gorge when it came to the porous volcanic rock of the Cascade Range.

Shades of the Oregon Coast Range

All this moisture provides an ample amount of fog that can take a familiar landscape and turn it into a mythical land of intrigue and secrets. Things as great as mountains blur until they are simply graduating shades of grey, and well-traveled roads twist and turn into oblivion. It’s a silent, secluded world that encourages inward reflection and room for your imagination to flourish.


I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost twenty years and like many of my fellow Portlandians I can tire of the seemingly endless days of darkness, but I still love this region. It’s beautiful in a way that is easily understood by the casual observer. The emerald valleys, steely-grey rivers, golden sunsets and abundance of rainbows make up the color palette of fantasies. And quiet moments spent in the shadows of clouds are a gift of time travel, taking me far into my imagination to reflect, to learn, and to create from this land’s endless inspiration.

But the part of me that grew up in Kansas continues to flourish inside my soul. The aliveness of a land where there is rarely ever stillness stirs up energy inside everything connected with it. It’s a beauty that is felt, as much as it is viewed. Visitors may miss the grandeur of this endless land if they spend their time passing through it inside a car. It’s a living, breathing, thriving beauty that’s fighting to survive against intense elements, and to truly know it you must experience it, not just look at it. 

I guess for me the combination of these places helps put balance in my extremes and keeps me centered in the middle where I feel most at home.

All around the globe you’ll find the resting places of the famous and infamous. More than just mere curiousities, their tombs offer us a chance to reminisce on their achievements, while we reconcile the fact that they were human beings just like us. There they lie, in beautifully crafted tombs, rotting away or mumified into eternal slumber. Here is my list of the top ten places to visit rulers who’ve gone to the grand palace in the sky–or maybe to a heated dungeon far below.


10. Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalides; Paris, France – Napoleon Bonaparte was a spectacular war strategist, conquering most of Europe during his military career. Some speculate that this need to dominate people originated in his self-esteem issues regarding his less than spectacular stature. His tomb comes in at number ten for a similar reason. Les Invalides, the building in which it is housed, is a wonderful example of French Imperial architecture but it’s beauty overshadows the large but understated sarcophagus where Napoleon’s body lies at rest. If any soul would attempt to come back from the dead to protest this slight, it would be the “Little Corporal”.

9. St. Paul’s Cathedral; London, England – St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by master

architect, Christopher Wren in the seventeenth century, contains the bodies (or what’s left of them) of leaders who’ve caused thedeaths and subjugation of millions of people. Within the marble walls and floors rests over two hundred prime ministers, admirals, and counts who reigned throughout the British Empire. They might not like the fact that now they are the ones being walked all over.

8. Peter and Paul Fortress; St. Petersburg, Russia – All of Russia’s emperors and empresses, from Peter the Great to Nicolas II and his family, are entombed inside the fortress’ cathedral. Lined up side-by-side behind wrought iron fencing, they represent years of court intrigue, outright murder, and horrendous oppression over their own subjects. The remains of the newest occupants, Tzar Nicolas, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children paid the ultimate price for the wrongs of their relatives and were only given their places in the chapel after having been retrieved from their forest graves ninty years after their deaths. Not a very dignified way to enter the afterlife.

7. The Taj Mahal, Agra, India – It was one of history’s greatest love stories, and the beauty

and symmetry of this magnificent building that contain the tombs of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife reminds me of a set from one of Shakespeare’s most romantic plays, Romeo and Juliet. Each day at sunrise and sunset the white marble catches the sun’s rays and magically turns the entire building a golden pink hue under the changing light. Love still lives inside this tomb between the sarcophaguses of the Shah and the love of his life.


6. The Vatican Catacombs, Vatican City – Two thousand years worth of tombs holding

 the leaders of the Roman Catholic church are buried deep beneath the seat of one of the most powerful institutions that has ever existed. Money, prestige, power; its what these popes railed against but its also what’s behind the numerous accusations of horrendous criminal acts leveled at them over the centuries, including murder, theft, and even covering up acts of pedophilia. I wonder if there is an actual fight between good and evil down there at night.

5. Westminster Abbey; London, England – With its Gothic towers, arches, and dark alcoves, there are hundreds of shadowy corners where the ghosts of England’s kings and queens could come to life once again. The sarcophaguses of seventeen Medieval rulers’ sleep comfortably all around you, and their marble likenesses continue to intimidate with their stony smiles and hardened hearts. In quiet places you can almost hear the echoes their steely voices demanding the beheadings of wives, the imprisonment of lovers, and the deaths of the condemned.

4. Lenin’s Tomb, The Kremlin; Moscow, Russia – Mummification in the modern age, that’s what you’re seeing inside Lenin’s Tomb. His lifelike appearance is almost translucent as it lies in it’s dark coffin. His head and torso are raised a bit and his hands rest on top as though he’s about to climb out. Tourists file past the Soviet leader under the watchful eyes of Kremlin guards, who ensure that the proper respect is given to the man who freed them from the grip of an uncaring elitist class and delivered them to one of the most feared dictators the world has ever seen. It’s deathly quiet in there. Maybe it’s because Lenin looks ready and able to rise up and personally scold you, with a scratchy but still powerful voice.

3. The tombs of Rumi and the Mevlana Dervishes at the Mevlana Museum & Shrine in Konya, Turkey – Under a green dome, in a low-lit room, lies the sarcophagus of Rumi, the Sufi mystic and poet. On its brocaded shroud verses from the Koran gleam in golden thread. The haunting music of flutes, drums, and a stringed instrument called a Ney fill the cool room. The world of the exotic and unknown lives inside this room and it transports you to an alternate universe where we commune with the spirits as if we’ve known them for an eternity.

2. The Egyptian Collection of Berlin’s Neues Museum – Who knew the long dead rulers of Ancient Egypt would be moving to the cosmopolitan world of Berlin in the mid-nineteenth century, but during the archeology craze that occurred during the last years of the Imperial Age they were excavated from their Egyptian tomb sand shipped across the Mediterranean Sea to a new home in Germany. You can see them, wrapped or partially unwrapped, in their newer glass sarcophaguses inside the Egyptian rooms, still surrounded by their treasures. Their curse seemed to follow them half a century later when, not one but two, German Empires were dramatically defeated inside the nation’s own borders.

1.  Xin Zhui (wife of the Marquis of Han), Hunan Provincial Museum; Changsha, China – The body of China’s “Lady Dai”, a two thousand-year old mummy, was so well preserved that when it was found in 1974 a modern-day autopsy was performed. Her skin retains its suppleness and her limbs can still be manipulated even to this day. Her organs, including a set of perfectly pink lungs, were removed and now reside in  hermetically sealed jars in a separate room. Obviously, the ancient Egyptians could have learned a few things from the Chinese when perserving their crusty ancestors for the afterlife. So, for this reason, and the permanently gruesome scowl on Lady Dai’s face, Xin Zhui has nabbed the number one spot on this royally creepy list.

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