Resistance in Ten Easy Steps

1) Read the news. 2) Civics lessons, civics lessons, civics lessons. 3) Know your elected officials. 4) Make your opinion known to people who set policy. Call. Email. 5) Unify with others. 6) Vote with your dollars. 7) Unplug. Take back the analog aspects of your life. 8) Show up. To vote, to speak, to show support, to volunteer. 9) Retain the ability to be shocked and outraged. 10) Stay woke.

An April Call to Action

After a winter of deep freezes the wilds of Oregon are bashful. The oaks in particular, seem wary of continued cold, refusing to show even the early signs of leafing out. I, in my eagerness, have already thrown open windows, scrubbed floors, knocked down cobwebs, trimmed brush, and cleared beds. But still it rains and the air clings to its chill. Only the rare brave azalea or rhododendron seem with me, cutting bright swaths of color across my neighbor’s yards. “Come!” We call. “The time for action is now. Why would you ever want to wait?”

One More Cup of Tea

There was a lot going on in the United States in 1961. It was the beginning of a cultural revolution and the space race. It was the year of Bay of Pigs. It was a time when politics and the news of the day were primary fixtures in the minds of average Americans and elected officials. Unless, it seems, you were the Mayor of a small, work-a-day town in southern Oregon. Then you might decide you have bigger fish to fry. Jay W. Snider, the Mayor of Medford, Oregon did just that. In 1961 he sent a $1.96 check to the United Kingdom as what he had calculated was the city’s portion of reparations for the Boston Tea Party. In 2016, I am afraid to too-closely contemplate the modern implications… Read More >

Local Histories- College Hill

Eugene, Oregon is nothing if not a college town. Which is why, presumably, no one questions the locals referring to a small lump of a hill in the middle of town more than a mile from campus College Hill. Duck country. What most locals aren’t able to tell you is that College Hill was named for Columbia College, an early predecessor to the University of Oregon and an ambitious undertaking in 1855 for a town of only 200 residents. Like a lot of things in the region at that time, the college was burned to the ground by the end of its first month. The fire was decried as arson, an attempt to oust the anti-slavery and pro-woman board of directors by a pro-slavery group. Undeterred, the University resumed classes… Read More >

Local Histories- Junction City Fire

It takes a special kind of place to resist the urge towards self-preservation. In 1877, the newly-established town of Junction City, Oregon voted down a proposed tax to pay for the establishment of a local fire brigade and the purchase of a fire engine. Just months later, a fire started in the local general store and spread down the main street engulfing several residences, warehouses and the opera house and hotel. Three additional fires in the following year did nothing to sway the residents, who protested so strongly a city council proposition for a fire department was rescinded before a vote. The next year, the issue was returned to the local ballot and rejected, then another warehouse burned. By 1882, fire had wiped out so much of the town that… Read More >

The Hoary Bats of Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove, Oregon is one of those old mining and timber towns that time really has forgotten. Surrounded by mud-track trailer parks, it’s four-block downtown is dominated by century-old Oddfellows lodges and barber shops. The town pride is displayed in mural across brick- Buster Keaton gripping the front of a steam engine in the universally-panned 1926 silent film The General. It’s a short step to ghost town on the best of days. It doesn’t help that after dark, the town is taken over by giant, screaming bats. It’s not something they publicize. Probably because these are not typical bats, meaning the mouse to rat-sized bats that swoop relatively silently and often in large groups in most of the region. The bats of goofy Halloween decorations. The kind of bat your… Read More >

City Parks

One of the ways that I think about the natural world and our daily lives is in the context of public outdoor spaces and wild lands. I wonder about the vitality of these places, if and how they are being used. So, on a rainy winter day I spread out a local map and begin ticking off the parks I’ve visited, surprised to have missed so many in the mid-sized city that I live in. In the weeks that follow, I tramp through wetlands, survey playgrounds, and the follow trails, almost all built over old dumps. It takes a satisfyingly long time to work my way through the city’s wilds. And then, it doesn’t. Before the seasons even change my map tells me that my task is complete, I have… Read More >

Losing the Elliott State Forest

In the midst of the turmoil and fervor over the Federal government the State of Oregon is locked in a battle over an 83,000-acre forest in the southwestern corner of the state that provides essential habitat for endangered Coho salmon and the infamous Spotted Owl and revenue for the state’s beleaguered school system. This odd arrangement, the funding of schools directly via timber sales rather than, say, a sales tax, did not result from careful consideration or planning. It was the easy solution to school funding from a state with too much money and whole bunch of down trees. Timber from the Elliott State Forest began being harvested after the Columbus Day storm of 1962 knocked down an appreciable portion of trees on the forests over-steepened hillsides. Once roads were… Read More >

Local Histories- Ping Yang School

In early 2017 the Mowhawk Valley Schools made the belated decision to change their mascot from a Native American caricature to…pretty much anything less offensive. Ironically, this is not the first time the tiny community has had to address institutionalized racism and their schools. In the late 1890’s the then timber boom-town of Mohawk, Oregon built a new grade school and named it Ping Yang. They did this, not to honor their Asian community, as there was none, but rather, it seems, because the ringing of the school bell and shrieks of the playing children reminded the residents of the sounds of battle at Pyongyang- which the locals pronounced Ping Yang. The name was only the first indication of the local’s disdain for the school. It was set on fire… Read More >

Barbara’s Books

Imagine. I have been thinking lately about the power of taking action, however small or simple. It’s part of the musings of the time, and like most people, many of my thoughts on the subject have been political or social in focus and scope. Life, however has been more elegant and instructive in this matter than I could ever be on the subject, with the simple matter of Barbara’s books. In January I see a notice in a newsletter that I never read about a woman helping a couple-friend of hers, an elderly man looking for a home for his wife’s collection of fairy and folk tales. The notice describes the collection as consisting of several hundred volumes- the accumulation of an entire life’s curiosity, and makes it clear they… Read More >