Framed. Lower Parsnip Creek meander 005

We turn off the Blue Lake road onto a dirt track that descends a forested hillside. As we drop out of the timber, the vegetation transitions into dry grass and sage. Down the open slope to our left lies a meadow. That’s when I see the water pattern I have been looking for: a meander. Officially a meander is not just a wandering stream but a scientific designation for a precise configuration as the result of the flow of water across a fairly level plain. Here Parsnip Creek spills out of Blue Lake and tumbles down a slope until it reaches the meadow’s more level floor. To flow through the meadow the creek curves back and forth in an fairly evenly balanced “s” shaped snakelike pattern. A perfect example of a meander; I want to take a closer look.

We cross the creek and follow the dirt track as it curves to the other side of the meadow where we can park. Always on the alert for visual patterns, my inner artist has learned that it is key to the basic structure of whatever I plan to sketch. I scramble downward into the meadow through dry grass that transitions to green nearer the wet area. Small butterflies flutter above the grass, and insects buzz in the warming air. Except for a hawk flying high at the upper end of the meadow, there’s not much bird life at the moment, which is probably due to lack of plant cover. There are no trees along this lower portion of the creek, no shrubs except for a few willows at the upper end. The grass is marshy close to the stream. The channel is narrow and dark, but even so I can see to the bottom through the crystal clear water. The current is steady, unrushed. With a sense of peace and purpose the stream flows quietly downhill, bringing life to an otherwise dry area. It is an oasis, and for me, somehow a source of contentment.

I go back to fetch my art pack and folding stool. Don is already photographing; the children have gone up the meadow, bug net in hand. I settle far enough from the water so that I can view a whole section of meanders. It seems odd there are no cattails, but my guess is the stream freezes to the bottom in winter, thus inhibiting growth. Grasses are taller bordering the stream, but it’s mid-summer and deer and cattle have grazed down most of the area, including wildflowers…





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