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 >

The New York Public Library’s Epic Digital Archives

In 2005 the New York Public Library launched one of the most extensive online library collections in the world. It is one of the most special online places I have ever visited and one of the few websites that I can lose entire days to. Part of what makes the collection special, aside from its open-access format- you don’t need a New York City Library System card to use the service, is the sheer breadth of the archive. While many libraries have online photo archives, the New York Public Library has added an original early manuscript archive, digital dance collection, curated public domain collections, and city-specific history among much more specialized content. It’s a tribute to the vitality of libraries, especially in the digital age and proof that far from… Read More >

What’s the Matter with Douglas County?

In the fall of 2016 Douglas County, Oregon, population 106,972 voted to reject additional funding for its public libraries by a whopping 55 percent. What they rejected, in tangible terms, was to pay an additional 44 cents on every one thousand dollars of property tax. Most polled voters on the issue, which has been ongoing for several years, advocated for the county to do everything within its power to increase revenue from the long-languishing timber industry instead, a notion perhaps spurred on by the impending (and failed) sale of the nearby Elliott State Forest. The consequence of this epic shirking of responsibility? The complete closure of all Douglas County Libraries. And then there’s this: Douglas County high schools rank lowest in the state for high school graduation rates, putting them… Read More >

Wildman Interactive Road Trip for the American Library Association

This week I’m turning Girl Gone Wild over to my friend Jeff Geiger’s amazing cross-country, interactive road trip celebrating the release of his new YA book, Wildman. He’s on the road, trying to get his way to the Big Apple, powered entirely by an ancient Buick and the miles he racks up with donations to the American Library Association. I love this project for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the pairing of the outdoors with literature. I’ve always railed against the notion that interest in reading and outdoor activities were mutually exclusive. If anything, I believe that reading more increases your curiosity and willingness to seek out adventure and that outdoor pursuits give you the time away to read and offer an essential wellness balance…. Read More >