The Sound of Silence

It’s been years since I’ve heard my own, or any other neighborhood for that matter, alive with the sounds of children. It’s not a subject much discussed, perhaps in large part due to the lack of adults outside to notice. The streets of the small city I live in are barren. On any given day I step outside to find a world more similar to the beginning of an apocalyptic movie than any of us might have imagined possible. But it is, and it’s the world we live in now, as evidenced by study after study documenting American life in the 21st Century. Suffice it to say, studies of ourselves indicate that we are overweight, lonely, inside, staring at screens, drowning in piles of our own possessions, and pumped full… Read More >

Year of the Artichoke

This year spring has arrived with a whimper, heralded by icy rains and hard-frost mornings, dense fogs and high winds. Crocuses sat for weeks with lonely daffodils, waiting for an early rush of greenery and blooms that never appeared and snow clung to low hills with alarming tenacity. Now, the daffodils are stooped from frosty mornings and the cherry blossoms float like snow through the air, carried by whipping winds. I do not know what to make of this. My mind fights back perseverations on hidden meanings of such an extended winter, dark thoughts of warnings, canaries, and the consequences of these strange and changing times. I try hard not to take each cold rain as a sign of impending doom. And then, hope, in two small leaves. The sad… Read More >

Overheard- Playing with Fire

Building a fire in the 21st Century is a political act. Camp fires, that is. For most of human history camp and cooking fires were symbols of home, safety, and security. Today, modernity has replaced hearths with screens and kitchen fires with microwaves to such an extent that the skill of fire building itself is becoming a lost art form. In A Woman’s Guide to the Wild I argue that fire building is not only an essential and life-saving skill, it serves a clear purpose in increasing feelings of self-reliance and competence. Further, I argue that a lack of fire building skill decreases female participation in outdoor activities in general, which has negative consequences for mental, emotional, and physical health and for the environment as a whole. What I learned… Read More >

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 >

And We Watch It All Burn Away

There is no possible way at the moment to be a resident of Oregon and not take note that the entirety of the state, it seems, is burning. The skies have grayed, filling valleys with dense smoke, replacing our beloved rain with delicate flakes of ash. And the fires are close. Our safest havens and most treasured places, those that have been protected for so long as to constitute little more than a pile of tinder, are burning towards vistas, lodges, highways and restaurants. It has, finally, become impossible to ignore. Not that we haven’t tried. In truth, forest fires are a relatively new phenomenon in the psyches of Oregonians. For decades, they have been a growing concern but for most residents, they remained intangible. Forest fires to the average… Read More >