Road Signs

Washington State is a place of divergent cultures, a meeting ground for tech and timber, old and new. It is a region in flux, redefining itself on a generational scale so broad that it can’t help but run against itself. For example, the northwestern corner of the state houses Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, and also the largest protected stand of old growth in the United States, the Olympic National Forest and adjoining Wilderness Areas. One way of taking in this culture clash, and perhaps coming to understand the essential nature of a place, is via its road signs, which I did, on a recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula. In no particular order: ‘Roddy O’s Square Dance Lessons’ ‘We plant some more/for future bounty’ ‘What supports habitat, houses and hospitals? State… Read More >

The Affluence of Time

Recently, I have been reading about a shift in the American psyche related to how we define, and experience, affluence. Like most institutions of the 20th Century, affluence itself is undergoing a radical makeover, shifting from the mid-century model of keeping up with the Joneses, in which your collection of things, and the leisure time to enjoy, them were the primary indicators of affluence to a culture in which affluence is primarily defined by busyness. Busyness, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the state or condition of having a great deal to do, the quality of being excessively detailed or decorated.’ Busyness, evidenced by living one’s life from event to event, by constant contact, connectedness, and a carefully curated sense of frazzled urgency. Busyness, the reliance on texts to… Read More >

The Next Generation

Years ago, when I was writing A Woman’s Guide to the Wild, I knew that I wanted to include the knowledge, stories, and voices of other outdoor women throughout the book. What I didn’t know was just how hard it would be to find and connect with them-how few there really were. I found this to be especially true when looking for women-owned outdoor businesses and woman-centered and designed products to showcase. What I wanted was to give women choices outside of the male-dominated mainstream, products better suited to their tastes and needs, and the opportunity to support women-owned businesses. What I found, was not a lot. Then I met Kate Blazar of Animosa, an outdoor company dedicated to equipping and empowering women to explore. At the point that I… Read More >

The Exquisite Contentment of Fall

If asked, investigators of the art and science of happiness will say that one path to happiness is finding contentment in the reaches of one’s life, rather than chasing exhilaration. Fall, and all its peculiarities, transitions, and bustling preparations are a constant reminder of this philosophy for me. The streaking of rain across windows, a cup of tea, jazz playing softly, warm pumpkin bread; life in fall can be fully navigated between these simple, exquisite things. Today, true happiness appears between the ticks of the kitchen timer, in the light escaping between two dark clouds, the warmth of a familiar hand held tight. On days like this it is easy to want for nothing.

The Tacoma Narrows

Drive west out of the Seattle area towards the Olympic Peninsula, and you will cross what must be one of the loveliest and most precariously perched bridges in the Pacific Northwest. Standing 540 feet high and almost a mile long, the twin Tacoma Narrows suspension spans seem imposing, or even overbuilt, but if you ask a local, they’ll tell you they like it that way. That’s because before the Narrows, there was Galloping Gertie, what was hailed as the ‘most modern’ bridge of its day when construction was completed in July of 1940. By November, Gertie had collapsed, having succumbed to an aeroelastic flutter caused by a 42 mile an hour wind. There was no loss of life in the incident, save for a cocker spaniel named Tubby who belonged… Read More >

Local Histories- Kumbaya

The last thing one might think of when considering the cultural origins of the ubiquitous hippie-camp song Kumbaya, is early 20th Century Oregon. Even if you did, it would be easy to wrongly assume that the song had its origins in regional Native American culture and was appropriated at some time for the drum circles and festivals of the New Age generation. Not so. In fact, the copyright for Kumbaya (Come By Here) has long been held by a white Pastor from Portland, Oregon, who claimed to have first heard it sung by a street evangelist in the city in the early 1930’s. In truth, Kumbaya, is now widely considered to have originated with slaves in the Southeast, speakers of Gullah, and gained popularity during the scouting and summer camp… Read More >

Local Histories- Glenwood, Oregon

Between the sister cities of Eugene and Springfield, Oregon sits an unincorporated community that is neither Eugene, though its postal code is, nor Springfield, of which it is an official annexation. It’s wasteland, half trailers, half bygone industrial complex, the few hundred residents squeezed into aging trailer parks along one of the least picturesque stretches of the Willamette River. How did this come about? It’s a story of racism, classism, and greed. In the first hundred years of the Eugene area’s history (and much of Oregon’s) African Americans were legally barred from first residence, then land ownership and were systematically brutalized in retaliation of anyone that challenged the status quo. In the mid and late 20th Century, the area’s staunch refusal to enact or acknowledge civil rights laws was paired… Read More >

Women to Know- Sadako Sasaki

Born in Hiroshima in 1944, Sadako Sasaki was exposed to wartime nuclear radiation at the age of two. By 1955, she had developed full-blown leukemia and was placed in hospital, given less than a year to live. From her hospital room, inspired by a Japanese legend about whoever folded a thousand paper cranes receiving a wish, she started folding paper cranes in the hopes of saving her own life. Her effort, though not lifesaving, became an international symbol and movement for peace. The simplicity of her vision and the enduring symbolism of her work have rung true for generations that have read her story in Sadako and the Thousand Cranes, myself included. In these dangerous and uncertain times, I think it’s important to de reminded of the powers we grant… Read More >

Patriotism, Freedom of Inquiry, and the Texas Library System

In the Trumpian era, I think there is a good argument to be made for viewing the act of going to a library as one of healthy and patriotic subversion. Libraries are not just symbols of education, free speech, and truth, they are actual physical repositories of these things. They are the keepers of our public, and often private, histories, first points of contact to government agencies and documents, and safe havens for thinkers of all kinds. Texas is not where I thought I would find this point most publicly, and fervently, underscored. The Texas Library Association has an entire portal dedicated to Intellectual freedom, based on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, a document that until today, I had no idea existed. But it does, and that… Read More >

Not to be Forgotten

Anyone who has ever driven across the high deserts of the American Southwest can attest to the barren and foreboding nature of the landscape. It’s a part of the world that few people see in any more depth than through the windshield of an over-heating car; a place you drive through, not to. What almost no one realizes is that for much of the distance, you are driving through a foreign country- the sovereign lands of the Hopi and Navajo Nations. Referred to generally as the “Big Res” it covers an area almost as large as Arizona itself. It is comprised of some of the harshest and resource-free lands in the United States and was ‘given’ to Native Americans because of the inherent hopelessness of survival. Extraordinarily, and against all… Read More >