OSU Libraries | OSU Home
May 21st, 2020

We’re excited to promote and celebrate the publishing birth month of Bob H. Reinhardt’s Struggle on the North Santiam: Power and Community on the Margins of the American West. With the restrictions and unfortunate outcomes of COVID-19, we offer an excerpt of Reinhardt’s brilliance as a satisfying distraction from these quarantine times.

 

INTRODUCTION

Next to a well-traveled highway on the margins of the American West, there is a place that seems easy to ignore. This particular place is the North Santiam Canyon, a fifty-one-mile stretch along Oregon’s Highway 22 on the western side of the Cascade mountain range, surrounded by Douglas fir trees on the banks of the North Santiam River. It takes about an hour, depending on speed traps, to drive through the canyon. A few landmarks jump out to motorists: Mt. Jefferson to the east, occasionally peeking out over the treetops; two large dams (Detroit Dam and its regulating dam, Big Cliff) and their full reservoirs or empty reservoir beds, depending on the season; and always the North Santiam River, burbling, swirling, crashing, pooling, and tumbling alongside the highway. Houses and buildings are scattered along the roadside, sometimes gathered into villages and towns, and perceptive drivers might even notice the signs alerting them that they have entered or left behind one of these communities. But driving along at fifty-five miles per hour, one would be forgiven for not finding anything remarkable or memorable about the North Santiam Canyon, like so many other marginal places in the American West.

But those who slow down a little—even just to the forty-five-mile-per-hour limit posted in a few of the towns—will see more detail that suggests depth and complexity in the North Santiam Canyon. Those welcome signs have names on them such as Mill City and Gates, marking specific places with their own stories. Some of the signs are in the shape of circular saws and evoke the area’s logging past, present, and future; a few signs include images of mountains and rivers, suggesting other ideas about the area’s economy and identity. Higher on the hillsides away from the road, clear-cuts mar the view, but second- and third-growth stands peak out, as do patches of old-growth forest. Buildings more than a century old stand faded and dilapidated as well as repainted and renovated, occupied by residents of different means and interests who have their own sense of home in the canyon. And that’s just the view from inside the car window. Stopping at a roadside restaurant such as Cedars Lounge in Detroit or Marion Forks Lodge offers not just a good sandwich or slice of pizza, but also selected stories about the area’s past: paper menus with a map of Old Detroit, now submerged under the reservoir, from which Cedars Lounge was hauled up on a sled; paintings of Native peoples situated next to old maps and taxidermized animal heads, mounted on walls made of lumber produced in now-defunct mills not that far from Marion Forks Lodge. Intrepid and interested travelers might even stop for a while to visit the Canyon Life Museum in Mill City, where a floor studded with holes from loggers’ boots supports exhibits on farming, mining, and more. In short, there is history in the North Santiam Canyon, as in other such places in the West.

 Paying attention to that history leads to interesting questions about important events and themes in the history of the American West. Visitors might note repeated use of the name “Minto” and wonder why someone who never even lived in the area got his name on a mountain pass, park, road, and other landmarks. Others might have a vague (and generally correct) sense that the word “Santiam” has Native American origins and perhaps puzzle about what happened to those Native peoples. Railroad history buffs might stop in Mill City to see the old railroad bridge now used by pedestrians in the same spot that the Oregon Pacific Railroad crossed the river in 1888, supposedly on its way to becoming a transcontinental railroad—an aspiration that died in the upper canyon just a few years later. That projected route ran right through Marion Forks and Township 11, Range 7, where at the beginning of the twentieth century twelve false homestead claims led to the infamous Oregon Land Fraud Trials and the downfall—and death—of a US senator. If driving by Detroit Reservoir during the late fall or increasingly dry summers, passersby would certainly take note of the empty reservoir and stumps, but they would see no sign of the old town of Detroit that sat at the bottom of the reservoir and how “new” Detroit came to be in 1953. Seeing the vacant mill buildings in Idanha might remind some travelers that the North Santiam Canyon featured prominently in the old-growth forest controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, and a few might make the connection between the Yellow Ribbon Rallies of that time and the Save Our Lake (SOL) protests that occurred during the summer of 2001, when Detroit Reservoir went dry and the vulnerabilities of the tourism industry became apparent. In short, visitors might be surprised to learn that the North Santiam Canyon has been the site of interesting and important regional and national history.

To see, interpret, and make sense of the history of this place, and to suggest a path for studies of other such communities, this book focuses on power in the North Santiam Canyon. As long as people have lived in the region, they have sought to assert their autonomy. They have done so for myriad reasons: to control their homelands and cultures, as did the indigenous Santiam Kalapuyans and Molallans; to build their own farms and homes, like Euro-American families in the middle and late nineteenth century; and to profit from the area’s resources, from miners in the nineteenth century and loggers in the twentieth century to tourism businesses in the twenty-first century. Their expressions of power have taken a variety of forms, from the resourcefulness of Depression-era subsistence hunting to loud demands for government assistance at the same time; from enthusiastic embrace of federal river development projects to passive acceptance or modest resistance to the same; from beautiful moments of family and community life to ugly expressions of xenophobia and racism. These efforts have shaped work, life, community, and lived experience, although local autonomy has always been structured and limited by powerful forces from beyond the area: citizens of larger urban areas in the Willamette Valley, capitalists from Portland and San Francisco and New York, national politicians and agents of the federal government, and, most importantly, distant and abstract market forces. In their responses to these external forces, people in the North Santiam Canyon have developed a narrative that celebrates local resiliency and independence while pitting a victimized “us” (local residents) versus a powerful “them” (outsiders, city folk, “the government”). That story has become a part of the identity of the North Santiam Canyon, where, as in so many other similar marginalized places in the American West, residents have in a multitude of ways, out of many motives, and to varying degrees of success tried to exercise limited power over their lives, their work, and their community.

 

UNDERSTANDING POWER IN THE WEST AND IN THE NORTH SANTIAM

This book draws on, builds upon, and departs from other histories of the American West that examine the workings of power on and within marginalized communities. Broad perspectives surveying the sweep of the region’s history have explored the breadth and depth of external power exerted upon places like the North Santiam Canyon. In contrast to urban centers of wealth and power, small resource-dependent communities can seem like hapless, powerless victims of distant forces: distant politicians and entrenched government bureaucrats, cultural and social pressures emanating from urbane trendsetters, and global economic systems. In a famous 1934 essay for Harper’s, Bernard DeVoto described the West as a “Plundered Province,” an economic colony whose residents had been “looted, betrayed, [and] sold out” by ungrateful Easterners.1 This direct interpretation was simplistic in laying blame solely on outsiders, but its focus on the influence of external forces has resonated with historians for decades, from the enthusiastic endorsement of Walter Prescott Webb to the thoughtful and complex analyses of Nancy Langston, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Earl Pomeroy, Hal Rothman, Richard White, Donald Worster, and others.2 William Robbins has developed perhaps the most convincing and nuanced of these interpretations through histories written at different scales, from a history of a small Oregon coastal community to a broad survey of the entire American West.3 As Robbins explains, the relationships of marginalized places to larger sources of power, “Isolated, with relatively small populations, and lacking significant influence in the trade and exchange relation, resource-dependent communities are by-products of industrial strategies and decisions made elsewhere.”4 From historical perspectives that appreciate the power of national and global forces, small communities like the North Santiam Canyon can seem relatively insignificant and powerless.

 

Things look a little different closer up. Historians studying marginal communities in the American West have explored how people in such communities have sought to assert their autonomy. These examinations of local power offer examples and paths that this book seeks to follow and extend. The first step on that path is to try to re-create a place’s history and explain how and why that place changed over time; Richard White’s Land Use, Environment, and Social Change, William deBuys’s Enchantment and Exploitation, and William Willingham’s Starting Over approach such description and analysis from the perspective of environmental change, evolving ideas about and uses of the land, and careful demographic study of the local population, respectively.5 In exploring the myriad ways people respond to the overwhelming influence of a specific source of power, Brian Leech’s The City That Ate Itself provides an excellent guide, showing how the residents of Butte, Montana, created community, endured hardship in the mines and in their homes, and at times actively resisted the power of the Anaconda Mining Company. 6 Bonnie Christensen’s history of tourism in Red Lodge, Montana, shows the multitude of ways in which Westerners have transformed their communities, their identities, and even themselves in an effort to confront the challenges of the transition from natural resource extraction to a tourism-based economy.7 To make sense of the actual experience of life and work in a Western natural resource extraction community, James Feldman’s engaging history of Sand Island, Wisconsin, demonstrates how local conditions, and the way local people understood and interacted with those conditions, shape exactly how “a peripheral economy work(s).”8 Such on the-ground perspectives explain a variety of ways in which people on the Western periphery have worked against and with external forces. Such an approach does not ignore or minimize the influence of outside forces, but it does show how the people subject to those forces have not sat back and watched things happen to them—they made things happen, too. By building on these analyses and focusing on local perspectives, choices, and actions, this book examines how residents of the canyon have responded to, interacted with, and even, rarely, gotten the better of external forces.

 

To explore those local perspectives, this book draws on both local archives and histories as well as regional and national sources. The North Santiam Historical Society (NSHS) has sought to preserve the area’s past, collecting thousands of photographs, hundreds of personal recollections, dozens of boxes of documents, and a bank vault full of newspaper clippings, maps, and other ephemera. The NSHS maintains an archive of local newspapers, which provide an invaluable chronicle of events as well as express a local point of view that needs critical contextualization, as William Willingham explains.9 The NSHS also maintains a number of local reminisces and narratives, from the oral histories recorded in Just a Few of Our Memories to the unpublished, three-hundred-plus-page manuscript of longtime resident and history buff John Lengacher. Others have written about aspects of the area’s history, including Cara Kelly’s master’s thesis on precontact land-use patterns, Evangelyn Fleetwood’s twenty-page time line of notable events, Jim Petersen’s history of the Freres Lumber Company in Lyons, Jim Quiring’s forthcoming book about the Little North Fork River, and the “autobiography of a place” about Niagara written by Lisa Chaldize, Melody Munger, and Debbie Corning.10 These local perspectives and sources complement insights from other sources, including qualitative and quantitative information from the US Census, records from the US Army Corps of Engineers, urban newspapers and trade journals, and materials preserved by the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem and the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. Taken together and critically analyzed, these firsthand accounts and information reveal the many ways people in the North Santiam Canyon have sought to assert their autonomy in relationship to the world outside.

 

 

THE PATH THROUGH THE CANYON AND ITS HISTORY

 

The path through the North Santiam Canyon’s history follows the routes that run into and through the area, especially Highway 22, a popular road connecting Oregon's Williamette

Valley to central Oregon and beyond. The Willamette Valley is the center of state and regional economic, political, and cultural power: it is the location of the state’s biggest cities (Portland in the north and Eugene in the south),                                                                                                             The North Santiam Canyon. Map illustrator: Edwin Xavier Pinedo.  
most of the state’s population, and the state capital in Salem. About twenty-two miles east of Salem on the highway, the North Santiam Canyon begins at the towns of Lyons and Mehama.11 There, the gently sloped farmlands of the Willamette Valley transition into mountain terrain and dense Douglas fir forests, and the highway saddles up alongside the North Santiam River for a sixty-mile journey into the Cascade mountains. Continuing east along the river brings one into Mill City, the largest population center of the area with about eighteen hundred residents living on either side of the river, which divides Marion and Linn Counties. A few miles up the river, the steep hillsides briefly spread out into a valley and the town of Gates, the last part of the lower canyon.

After Gates, the walls close in again and travelers enter the upper canyon. Ten miles up Highway 22, Detroit Dam rises 463 feet above the river, backing up a reservoir with thirty-two miles of shoreline. The town of Detroit sits at the northeast end of the reservoir. Idanha comes next, about fifty miles from Salem; its two hundred residents and vacant mill buildings represent the last population center. A few miles later, travelers come to a few vacation homes, a fish hatchery, and a historic restaurant at Marion Forks. The highway then skips over the North Santiam River for another ten miles, when the river breaks east for its headwaters in the Cascade mountains. Highway 22 continues to the junction with Highway 20, which crests the Cascades at Santiam Pass and heads east toward central Oregon. Each village and town along the North Santiam River has its own specific history, and there are differences between the lower canyon closer to the Willamette Valley and the more isolated upper canyon. But in practice—here in this book and in the lived experience of people in the area—the communities of the North Santiam Canyon have more in common than not.

 

This analysis of the North Santiam Canyon breaks roughly into two halves. The first part covers the period prior to Euro American contact in the mid-nineteenth century up through the Great Depression. Chapter 1 begins with the first people to call the area home: the Santiam bands of the Molalla and Kalapuya peoples. These Native groups created a multitude of connections into and through the area, creating a sense of home that incorporated the canyon as a place in which to survive and thrive and as a corridor through which to move. Chapter 1 also describes the first Euro Americans in the area: fur trappers and miners, explorers and road builders, and the first Euro American families to resettle the area, so recently dispossessed from Kalapuyans and Molallans, in the nineteenth century. These newcomers initially used and conceived of the canyon as a path to other places, establishing connections to the outside world, especially federal land policy largesse, that made their enterprises possible. Chapter 2 narrates the construction of the Oregon Pacific Railroad into the North Santiam Canyon during the 1870s and 1880s, a development that opened up opportunities for local agency as well as external influence, both legal and not. Chapter 3 focuses on life, work, and community in the area under the shadow of the Hammond Lumber Company, which dominated the area from 1894 to 1934. Chapter 4 considers the Great Depression and connections to the outside world, which had made it vulnerable to the effects of the Depression, retracted during this period, and local residents responded by pursing both self-sufficiency and government support. The Great Depression period highlights the theme of the book’s first section: people living in the canyon exercised autonomy and cultivated connections to external forces, hoping that both local power and outside power could coexist and even reinforce each other.

 

The second part of the book shows more powerful and abstract outside forces coming to the canyon, and explores how residents increasingly responded with anxiety, alarm, and anger. Chapter 5 details two infrastructure projects built between 1934 and 1953 that fundamentally transformed the North Santiam Canyon and the region: Highway 22 and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit Dam. Although most local residents enthusiastically supported these changes and their promised economic development, a few people expressed reservations about how these technological wonders might transform—or even destroy—their homes and communities. Chapter 6 examines the timber economy and identity of a “timber community” that developed along the new highway from the 1940s through the 1980s, during which time timber workers and local timber companies sometimes convicted but often cooperated with each other and among themselves, attracting at one time unwanted legal attention. Chapter 7 explains the development of a fiercely independent identity in the canyon at the end of the twentieth century. That identity crystalized during the old-growth controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, and it hardened into a more general canyon-versus-outsiders perspective at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the vulnerabilities of the local tourism economy became increasingly obvious.

At the end of this journey through this place and its history, the book’s epilogue considers the community that has emerged from the transformations and tumult of the second half of the twentieth century, reflecting on the possibilities for local autonomy in the twenty-first century. In looking toward this future, the people of the North Santiam Canyon, like other such marginal places in the community, have a deep reservoir of history from which to draw. That history contains frustrations, failures, and even foolish and destructive responses to external forces. But it contains power, too—the power of knowing that the residents of the North Santiam Canyon and places like it are real people making real decisions that have real consequences.

 

 

 

 

 NOTES

1 DeVoto, “The West,” 364.

2 Pomeroy, Pacific Slope; Limerick, Legacy of Conquest; Worster, Rivers of Empire; White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”; Rothman, “Selling the Meaning of Place”; idem, Devil’s Bargains; Langston, Forest Dreams.

3 Robbins, Hard Times in Paradise; idem, Colony and Empire. For Robbins’s analysis applied at the scale of Oregon’s history, see “Town and Country in Oregon.” See also his Landscapes of Conflict and Oregon.

4 Robbins, “The ‘Plundered Province,’ ” 595.

5 White, Land Use, Environment, and Social Change; Willingham, Starting Over; deBuys, Enchantment and Exploitation.

6 Leech, The City That Ate Itself.

7 Christensen, Red Lodge and the Mythic West.

8 Feldman, “View from Sand Island.”

9 Willingham, Starting Over, 7-9.

10 Lengacher, “History of North Santiam Canyon”; Petersen, Santiam Song; Lisa Chalidze, Melody Munger, and Debbie Corning, “Niagara, Oregon”; Fleetwood, “Timeline—North Santiam Canyon.” Other residents, current and former, have written about the North Santiam Canyon, including Rada, Singing My Song; Grafe, Gates of the North Santiam; and Ray Stout,“Mehama Story.”

11 Some definitions of the North Santiam Canyon extend downstream to Stayton and beyond, to where the North Santiam River joins with the South Santiam River to become the Santiam River, but that area is both moreproximate and similar to the Willamette Valley in its geography, climate, and economy than the North SantiamCanyon as defined here.

May 5th, 2020
Take 50% Off these Ebooks through May 31, 2020

Offer valid only through this website. The discount will not be automatically applied. Enter promo code E50 at checkout to obtain the discount.

 A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm by John Dodge; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

A Generous Nature: Lives Transformed by Oregon by Marcy Cottrell Houle; paperback $22.95 / ebook $11.99 $5.99

Accidental Gravity: Residents, Travelers, and the Landscape of Memory by Bernard Quetchenbach; paperback $22.95 / ebook $11.99 $5.99

All Coyote's Children by Bette Lynch Husted; paperback $18.95 / ePub $11.99 $5.99

Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica by Noah Strycker; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Beginner's Luck: Dispatches from the Klamath Mountains by Malcolm Terence; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Black Woman in Green: Gloria Brown and the Unmarked Trail to Forest Service Leadership by Gloria D. Brown, Donna L. Sinclair; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Boundary Layer: Exploring the Genius Between Worlds by Kem Luther; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

The Brightwood Stillness by Mark Pomeroy; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Building a Better Nest: Living Lightly at Home and in the World by Evelyn Searle Hess; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99 

Catch and Release: An Oregon Life in Politics by Les AuCoin; paperback $24.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Children and Other Wild Animals: Notes on badgers, otters, sons, hawks, daughters, dogs, bears, air, bobcats, fishers, mascots, Charles Darwin, newts, sturgeon, roasting squirrels, parrots, elk, foxes, tigers and various other zoological matters by Brian Doyle; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist's Journey by Kurt D. Fausch; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Holy Moli: Albatross and Other Ancestors by Hob Osterlund; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99 

 

Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions by Michael Helquist; paperback $24.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon by R. Gregory Nokes; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Mink River by Brian Doyle; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Naked in the Woods: My Unexpected Years in a Hippie Commune by Margaret Grundstein; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

On the Ragged Edge of Medicine: Doctoring Among the Dispossessed by Patricia Kullberg; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots by DJ Lee; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State by Floyd J. McKay; paperback $21.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature by Robert Michael Pyle; paperback $22.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Toward a Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition (A Memoir) by Jim Furnish; paperback $19.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Voodoo Vintners: Oregon's Astonishing Biodynamic Wine Growers by Katherine Cole; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart by Brian Doyle; paperback $17.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

Where the Wind Dreams of Staying: Searching for Purpose and Place in the West by Eric Dieterle; paperback $18.95 /ebook $11.99 $5.99

April 30th, 2020

This April of 2020—with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic raging, with each newscast bringing us higher, ever more staggering numbers of new infections and deaths, with unemployment and fear for the future growing—could there be any greater disconnect than between the rapid escalation of these horrors and the leisurely unfolding, all around us, of spring? Here in Western Oregon, glory abounds. Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, every day brings buds and green beginnings.

How do we cope with our awareness of this simultaneity, this irony? How do we maintain emotional and intellectual balance? I think of health-care workers, grocery clerks, neighbors on the front lines, risking their lives, being either being too occupied to notice the tender beauty around them, or being stunned by it. Wounded by it. To them, and to us, a raging storm might make more sense, though a storm would bring little comfort.   

When OSU Press asked me to say a few words about my favorite Ada Hastings Hedges poems, I never saw myself writing about COVID-19. But that’s what’s on our minds these days. It’s become the lens through which we see things anew.

And so, rereading these poems, some speak to me differently now, especially “Then April,” a poem Hedges wrote after the death of her husband: a poem so skillfully crafted, so elegant in its use of convention, the reader is unprepared for the “stab of pain” in that last stanza, for the ache that rises from within, so much like the ache we feel right now for all humankind. We might even know someone, personally, whose life has been lost to the virus, or whose loved one is fighting to stay alive, even as we rejoice in the coming of spring. For just maybe, right below our brave, bright surfaces, lurks anguish. And for us, the beauty of this spring is both glorious and almost unbearably sad.

-Ingrid Wendt


Then April

I saw the silent golden leaves
Fall from the autumn pear,
With sorrow for a summer’s end,
A bough of love left bare.

And through the gray of winter days,
Unwinding like a thread,
My heart knew peace as it is known
Among the dreamless dead.

But these things brought life throbbing back
With a swift stab of pain—
Wet fragrance from a lilac tree,
A bird-song through the rain.

by Ada Hastings Hedges, Good Housekeeping, April 1937, reprinted in The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges, Alan Contreras and Ulrich Hardt, editors. OSU Press, April 2020, p, 124.

 

April 29th, 2020

Since moving to Portland from upstate New York, artist Laura Glazer has been an active force in keeping the legacy of the poet Hazel Hall alive. She is the keeper of the Friends of Hazel Hall Facebook page, curator of a Hall-inspired art exhibit, designer of the Hazel Hall Traveling Library, and the creator of the Hazel Hall Mini Museum of Sound. We recently talked with her about the enduring appeal of Hazel Hall.


                                                    *     *     *     *     *     *


OSU Press:
How did you first learn about Hazel Hall?

Laura Glazer: Just after moving to Portland from upstate New York, my boyfriend introduced me to an old friend with whom he attended the University of Oregon, Matthew Svoboda. Matthew asked me about my artwork and I explained that for five years I photographed the life and work of a man who handwrote the bible. (His handwriting was a beautiful, simple cursive.)

The next time we saw each other he said, "I’m working on a project that I think you might be interested in." Then he proceeded to tell me about the life and work of Hazel Hall, about whom he was composing original music. And he was right! I was immediately compelled to find out more about her and share her story.

OSU Press: What is it about Hazel Hall’s poetry that you find so compelling?

Laura Glazer: The city, its people, and its patterns were her soundtrack. What she observed from her second floor vantage point informed and inspired her poems. I study and make artwork about how the rhythms of a place can inspire us to see our circumstances differently. From 2002-2018, I was doing a similar thing as the host of a radio show I created for public radio called "Hello Pretty City." For two hours every week, I played songs that sounded unique to my ears and made me tap my toes. My goal was to make and share a soundtrack to living in a place that didn’t feel very cool or exciting. (In this instance, that place was Albany, New York.) And based on feedback from listeners, I was successful!

OSU Press: Can you tell our readers about your Traveling Library?

Laura Glazer: I designed “A Hazel Hall Traveling Library” and collaborated with an industrial engineer to fabricate it out of clear acrylic. Basically, it’s a portable bookshelf that allows me to easily transport Hazel Hall’s original three books of poetry. I can take it to classrooms, outdoor events, aHazel Hall Traveling Librarynd libraries--anywhere there might be people who want to know more about Hazel Hall. The front panel slides off and slips into the back of the case allowing people to pull out a volume and immediately begin reading her work.

OSU Press: You are a successful photographer, designer, disc jockey, and curator. Have you ever considered writing poetry?

Laura Glazer: Thanks for those compliments! Every once in a while I think about writing poetry but I have not formally put pen to paper. Mostly, I like printing my photos and adding short annotations to them like I did for an exhibit on Hazel Hall at Lane Community College. Maybe this is my own form of poetry.  

OSU Press: Do you like to sew?

Laura Glazer: I love wearing hand-sewn clothing but unfortunately, I don’t know how to sew. At some point in my life, I can imagine learning to sew especially since I love the idea that I could figure out how to add pockets to all my clothes!

April 28th, 2020
Author Ann Vileisis reflects on how the chance discovery of an abalone shell on a California beach ultimately led her to write Abalone: The Remarkable History and Uncertain Future of California's Iconic Shellfish, the first comprehensive history of this charasmatic and coveted shellfish.


*     *     *     *     *     *     *


I like to take walks at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I love the fresh breeze, the blue water, the steady beat of the waves, gulls riding air currents, whales spouting, and the draw of the expansive horizon. But I also love casting my eyes downward in search for whatever has washed ashore—sea glass, driftwood, or pieces of shell. Several years back, when I scrambled over rocks to reach a small stony cove along the rugged Big Sur coast, I had no idea that I'd find a treasure that would literally change my life.

I remember it vividly. Cliffs towered, cool salt air blew in my face, and giant waves pounded—each one striking a boom that reverberated against the eroding walls and thrust some potent charge into my body. In pauses between the thrusts of seawater, I could hear rocks rumble beneath the outwash of surf. I hopped from one large surf-tumbled stone to the next and then, on a short stretch of beach, a glimmer caught my eye—a lustrous little bowl set in the dark, coarse sand. Less than two inches in length, the shell was as thin as porcelain. I turned it over in my hand. The sea had eroded its rough exterior, leaving just a fine form of silvery mother-of-pearl, through and through.

I had no idea how the fragile shell landed intact on a beach where pummeling waves jostled bowling-ball-sized boulders like so many marbles. The shell seemed to be a gift—a precious token to enter an expansive moment of heady wonder. Holding it up to sunlight, I could see the swirls of pale pink, blue, green, and yellow that made up its mysterious iridescence. How on earth could an animal—an invertebrate—create such a stunning structure?

When I found that shell, I didn’t know much of anything about the animal that made it. I remembered abalone from a favorite childhood book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I didn't yet know that abalone had for a time grown thick along California's coast. I didn't yet know that abalone had inspired poetry, art, and California cuisine. I hadn't yet learned about abalones' ecological relationship with their sea otter predators. I didn't yet know that for decades, perhaps millennia, people had considered hunting and eating abalone as an integral part of living on the coast. I didn't yet realize that two of California's seven abalone species had been listed as "endangered." But as a historian of food and nature, I had a strong hunch that the brilliant shell I held in my hand had an important story to tell.

Once I started to look closely and ask questions, I found vestiges of abalone in many places—in shimmering flecks along headland trails, nailed to garden posts, as pendants in Rumsen and Pomo baskets, cemented whole into seawalls, pulled proudly out of closets, and yet sometimes, only in people’s still vivid and wistful memories. Many I talked with felt nostalgic for past times when the shellfish were abundant and could be hunted and eaten with abandon, yet I realized there was a bigger and far more important story that needed to be told.

Through my previous book, Kitchen Literacy, I'd become interested in food history, heritage foods linked to specific places, and the way that people have become disconnected from the source of their foods. As an environmental historian, I knew, too, that the wild animals we eat are particularly vulnerable to being consumed into oblivion. I was also aware of what marine scientists call "shifting baselines," the phenomenon of considering historic populations of marine animals based only on relatively recent time periods, leading to misunderstanding not only the past, but the present, as well. Yet historic populations of wild animals can also be misperceived if not placed into broader human and ecological contexts. In the case of abalone, the superabundance of shellfish found by European colonizers was actually an artifact of the brutal fur trade that killed off abalones' sea otter predators and ravaged Native people decades earlier.

I soon realized that all these threads were part of the history of abalone that still needed to be woven together into a whole—into a book. That stunning little Big Sur shell inspired me to begin a journey through the history of California. I found a remarkable story that also turns out to be incredibly timely because these unique mollusks now face enormous challenges to their survival.

In just the past few years, northern California's red abalone, long considered to be the most robust population, have been decimated as a result of a series of environmental stresses that turned rich kelp forests into extensive urchin barrens. Meanwhile, in southern California, hopeful efforts to save white abalone from extinction are ramping up with marine biologists—after decades of research and work—outplanting captive-raised babies, aiming to restore self-sustaining aggregations of this rarest and most endangered mollusk.

Understanding a fuller history of abalone—one that encompasses culture, cuisine, fisheries, politics, ecology, the risk of extinction, and hope for restoration—opens the door to understanding so much about our relationship with the marine environment of the Pacific Coast, and, in particular, what we need to know to be better stewards of the ocean and marine life today.

In the past, people believed that abalone could provide an inexhaustible supply of seafood, but we know now that they are highly vulnerable to overfishing and environmental stressors. We need for state fishery agencies on the Pacific Coast to act accordingly and manage abalone—and all the wild animals we use for foods—with the utmost precaution, more so than ever in this time when marine heat waves and ocean acidification are rearranging and degrading whole ecosystems. Above all, if we want our precious marine life to endure, we must commit to tackling the climate crisis.

Correcting our course will not be easy, but I hope that the perspective of history can help more people rediscover our deep and meaningful human connection with abalone and feel moved to support the conservation and restoration of these unique animals and the larger community of marine life. Abalone have long given us sustenance, enjoyment, and economic benefit, and now it is time for us to give something back. Only by doing so can we hope that future generations will have their own opportunities to find abalone and become inspired in their own ways by the glimmer of a shell at the edge of the Pacific. 

April 22nd, 2020
On a warm day in April, when the COVID-19 public health authorities are advising Oregonians to stay home and enjoy the effulgence of spring from “balconies or open windows,” I have been thinking about the poet Hazel Hall (1886–1924), whose life and work are admirably detailed in John Witte’s introduction to OSU Press’s centenary edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall (2020). The Collected Poems is three books in one, thematically linked by the burdens of social isolation and the gifts of profound solitude—Curtains (1921), Walkers (1923), and the posthumous Cry of Time (1928).

      
Jozef Israels (Belgium)                 Georges Serat (France)             Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Denmark)
Woman at the Window                            Untitled                           Woman at a Sunny Window

Hall lived a shut-in existence from the turn of the century to her death in 1924, just blocks from my residence in Northwest Portland (the house still stands, marked by a historical plaque). A bustling neighborhood known for well-coiffed Victorian houses, its tree-lined streets are now stunned into sudden quiet, desolate but for the occasional jogger in a face mask.

Hall was not a shut-in poet by choice or public duty. She was confined to a wheelchair following a childhood bout with scarlet fever, limited to viewing the outer world from a second story’s cross-pane windows in her family home. From this narrow space, poems were written and posted to national publications, earning her a lasting literary reputation. To assist with family finances, she took in sewing and needlework; her poems include fascinating details about fashioning often-glamorous fabrics into elaborate garments and embroidered table linens for the wealthy. She propped a mirror on the window sill to expand the limits of vision from her stationary position. Yet it is impossible not to note that Hall was also the casualty of a pandemic. In the pre-antibiotic age, the Bureau of Labor and Commerce Tenth US Census Report notes that scarlet fever outbreaks were especially severe in Western Oregon in the waning years of the nineteenth century: many died. Long-term effects of untreated or inadequately treated scarletina included a range of potential complications, from rheumatoid arthritis to heart conditions. Although exact details of Hall’s illness and lingering disability are scarce, the phenomenon of the “cytokine storm,” a reactive misfiring of the immune system we hear so much about in COVID-19 cases, offers at least a plausible explanation for her fragility. We know—the poems tell us—that she could not move without pain; she enjoyed literary celebrity as a poet for a decade, and died in her thirties.

 
    Gwen John (UK)                           Childe Hassam (US)               George Albert Thompson (US)
Woman Sewing By the Window         The Goldfish Window                    Woman by the Window

I find it easy to reach for Hall’s poems now because they evoke the sensations of a life in which the colors and pollens of spring are experienced largely at a distance. These include a keen awareness of space, of visualization, a heightened attentiveness to listening for what lies in the world beyond the scope of a narrow room. Above all, her poems take the measure of the troubled human spirit in imaginative unrest. In some poems, the sense of limited mobility is nearly unbearable; in others it also opens onto soaring transport. Her poems combine scrutiny of the walls, floors, ceilings, and window views, with contemplation of vast unknowns and the passage of time. Many poems achieve their effects by juxtaposing that which is most painful—an impending dread or acceptance of inevitable mortality--with that which is most immediately beautiful—the touch of luxurious fabric, the warmth of the sun on her hand, the flicker of shadows on the wall. In one poem, she describes the sun as her “glamour” (3). Witte’s introduction describes the moments of transport as “oceanic” (xv). Today, the poems seem nearly to collapse the distinction between individual and private illness and our collective isolation, the sensations of cramped-in solitude we are witnessing on a larger scale, while news daily floods the grids of our screens.

     
          Mo Nong (China)                          Henri Matisse (France)            C.D. Friedrich (Germany)
Chinese Woman by the Window         Young Woman by the Window       A Woman by the Window

Hall’s poems, while disciplined and detailed, register what we can readily observe in our housebound selves--the mind’s propensity to wander and dig deep when the body is confined. A single Hall poem may travels all seasons within its compass. Window frames organize the movement between things and thoughts, the metaphoric edges of her existence. In “Counterpanes,” the mind travels from the “four grey walls’ grey winds” to a compensatory patchwork of lines on the page that offer gratification in the shape of a poem:

I will patch me a counterpane
For mine is worn with scars
And I fear the iron rain
Of a ceiling’s splashing stars” (14).

“Curtains” juxtaposes the beauty of “filmy seeming” and “chintz of dreaming” with the grim deluge of “what rains utter” (1). And in “Frames,” the narrow space of the window sill marks the threshold of wonderment:

Brown window-sill, you hold my all of skies
And all I know of springing year and fall,
And everything of earth that greets my eyes—
Brown window-sill, how can you hold it all? (2)

The arts of pandemic for our time, I’d like to think, include the tensions between housebound domesticity and the forces that propel the imagination toward outward and inward vistas. In visual art from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the genre paintings of “women by the window” took up the question of emerging women’s voices and represent the force of that longing. I have assembled a compilation of my favorites here.

In the meantime, Hazel Hall’s poems make worthwhile reading now. Her time has come round again, as we settle uneasily before our open windows, and wonder when and how all this will come to an end.

- Anita Helle, Professor of English in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University
April 20th, 2020

Welcome to the Hazel Hall Mini Museum of Sound

Portland poet Hazel Hall knew a thing or two about isolation and social distance. Reliant on a wheelchair since childhood, Hall viewed life from the window of an upper room in her family’s house in Portland, Oregon. To better observe passersby on the sidewalk, she positioned a small mirror on her windowsill. Hall was an accomplished seamstress; her fine needlework helped to support the family and provided a vivid body of imagery for her precisely crafted, often gorgeously embellished poems.

In celebration of Hall's legacy, Portland artist Laura Glazer created this Mini Museum of Sound, which was originally slated to debut May 1 at a book launch celebration for the new paperback edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall, edited by John Witte, with a new afterword by Anita Helle. That exhibit has been postponed, but we're delighted to be able to bring you this collection of regional voices reading poetry by Hazel Hall. Each contributor was familiar with her work and selected a poem to read.

                                  request a postcard for National Poem in Your Pocket Day!


THE HAZEL HALL MINI MUSEUM OF SOUND PLAYLIST


The complete playlist is available on the OSU Press Soundcloud.

Reader’s name:
Chayo Wilson
Poem read: Curtains
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Chayo Wilson is named for her Costa Rican Grandmother, Chayo, who made pottery. She took every ceramics class she could take during her school years, obtaining her teaching degree from Washington State University. After graduation, she taught classes in clay in the Seattle schools as a roving ceramics teacher. She taught clay in the Los Altos Waldorf School and was involved in the “Teaching Teachers to Teach” program. Now she teaches out of her studio in Portland where she creates sculpture and utilitarian pieces full time. www.chayoceramics.com

________________

Reader’s name:
Anne Greenwood
Poem read: Instruction
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Anne Greenwood Rioseco (b. Jamestown, North Dakota, 1967) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, curator, and community arts facilitator based in Portland, Oregon. Her artistic practice navigates an infinite network of connections: narrating the simple and complex, physical and ephemeral, past and present, within the context of place, history, and transformation. https://www.annegreenwood.net/

________________

Reader’s name: Kim Stafford
Poem read: Seams
Listen Here (spoken word only) | Listen Here (with harp accompaniment) | Get the PDF

Kim Stafford writes, teaches, and travels to restore the human spirit. He is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently Wild Honey, Tough Salt. He has served as Oregon's poet laureate 2018-2020. 

________________

Reader’s name:
Leanne Grabel
Poem read: Filet Crochet
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Leanne Grabel, M.Ed., is a writer, illustrator, performer & retired special education teacher. Currently, Grabel is teaching graphic flash memoir to adults in arts centers and retirement communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. In love with mixing genres, Grabel has written & produced numerous spoken-word multi-media shows, including “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression”; and “Anger: The Musical.” Her poetry books include Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Short Poems by a Short Person; Badgirls (a collection of flash non-fiction & a theater piece); & Gold Shoes, a collection of graphic prose poems. Grabel has just completed Tainted Illustrated, an illustrated stretched memoir, which is being serialized in THE OPIATE and HUSBAND, a collection of graphic flash memoir. She and her husband Steve Sander are the founders of Café Lena, Portland’s legendary poetry hub of the 90s. Grabel is the 2020 recipient of the Bread and Roses Award for contributions to women's literature in the Pacific Northwest. http://www.orartswatch.org/conversations-with-leanne-grabel/

________________

Reader’s name:
Andrea Hollander
Poem read: Breath
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Andrea Hollander moved to Portland in 2011, after living for more than three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she was innkeeper of a bed & breakfast for 15 years and the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Hollander’s 5th full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Best Book Award in Poetry from the American Book Fest; her 4th was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her 1st won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays appear widely in anthologies, college textbooks, and literary journals, including a recent feature in The New York Times Magazine. Other honors include two Pushcart Prizes (in poetry and literary nonfiction) and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017 she initiated the Ambassador Writing Seminars, which she conducts in her home. Her website is www.andreahollander.net.

________________

Reader’s name: Matthew Svoboda
Poem read: On the Street
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Matthew Svoboda is a teacher, conductor, pianist, and composer living in Eugene, Oregon. He enjoys improvisations and collaborations with instrumentalists, poets, dancers and choreographers.  For his latest large scale work, The Room Upstairs: Uncovering the Life and Poetry of Hazel Hall (2019), Svoboda collaborated with many artists to present a tribute to Hazel Hall through the lens of dance, music, poetry, storytelling, and the visual arts. When he is not doing something musical, Matthew can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his family and friends.

________________

Reader’s name: Sue Mach
Poem read: Rain
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Sue Mach’s plays have been produced by Theatre for the New City in Manhattan, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Portland Repertory Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, Icarus Theatre Ensemble, and Clackamas Community College where she teaches writing and literature.

________________

Reader’s name: John Witte
Poem read: A Baby’s Dress
Listen Here | Get the PDF

John Witte is a widely published poet, teacher, and former editor of Northwest Review. He is the editor of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall. His more recent book is Disquiet. He lives in Eugene, Oregon. 

________________

Reader’s name: Anita Helle
Poem read: Seams
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Anita Helle wrote the afterword for the 2020 edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall. She is a professor of English in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon Statue University. She has served as poetry editor for American Literary Scholarship and is the author of The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath.

________________

Reader’s name: Brandi Haile
Poem read: Echoes
Listen Here (song by Brandi Haile) | Get the PDF

Many Americans traveled the Oregon Trail in the middle years of the 19th century, leaving their homes in colonial lands behind to seek new lives in the great western territories.

Brandi Haile arrived in Portland by jet airplane in 2014, bidding adieu and au revoir to her rural western Kentucky hometown and the brighter lights of Nashville, Tennessee, where she made her mark and sharpened her star as a singer-songwriter.

Many labels have been thrown at her. Folk. Indie. Avant-Americana. Female solo artist. Sometimes these apply, and sometimes they do not. She is not a creature beholden to definition. Equally adept behind a piano, funeral-parlor organ or six-stringed acoustic guitar, she is a good witch who casts spells of nostalgia, pain, love, loss, beauty and misery in equal measure.

"For this song, I was trying to find a poem that encompassed sound but also lended to visualizing her at the window too."

Bonus Track: "Ravelling" by Brandi Haile
"A hodgepodge from multiple [Hazel Hall] poems and some of my own lines and artistic liberties."
Listen Here

________________

Reader’s name: David Biespiel
Poem read: Stranger
Listen Here | Get the PDF

David Biespiel is the founder of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters in Portland, Oregon, and Poet-in-Residence at Oregon State University.

                                                   *     *     *     *     *

In late 2020, these recordings will be installed on-site at the Mini Museum inside NOUN, a boutique and gallery in southeast Portland, at 3030 SE Belmont Street. The museum is a restored wooden phone booth from the 1940s, complete with its original accordion door and pressed tin walls.

Laura Glazer makes artwork that combines photography, publishing, and curating, and is based in Portland, Oregon. She regulary shares her visual and audio discoveries in her online journal, Minutiae is my muse.


                                                   *     *     *     *     *


For National Poetry Month, Add Your Voice to the Hazel Hall Chorus

- Post your own recording of a Hazel Hall poem to your social media feed. (Use hashtag #HazelHall and #OSUPress on Twitter)

- Mail a postcard to your poetry-loving friends. Send your postal address to osu.press@oregonstate.edu and we'll happily send you up to 10 pre-printed postcards to share. Just let us know how many.

- If you live in Portland, walk past NOUN at 3300 SE Belmont Street and admire the Hazel Hall window exhibit beginning May 1.

- Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30 by requesting a postcard or by downloading one of the PDFs. Put the poem in your pocket, or post it above your kitchen sink (inspired by Poets House).



April 17th, 2020
Meet Ada Hastings Hedges

Ada Hastings Hedges was among Oregon’s foremost mid–twentieth-century poets, best known for her superb poems set in Oregon’s high desert. Hedges wrote in a style notable for precision, clarity, and smoothness of line. A poet of the city as well as the desert, her work offers a compelling perspective on mid-century Portland life. For readers interested in women’s literature, Pacific Northwest poetry, and the literature of Eastern Oregon, The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges reintroduces a compelling regional voice.

For National Poetry Month

Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30 by downloading one of our PDFs. Put the poem in your pocket, or post it above your kitchen sink (inspired by Poets House). Better yet, read an Ada Hastings Hedges poem aloud and post it to your own social media channels (tag @OSUPress).

THE ADA HASTINGS HEDGES PLAYLIST


The complete playlist is available on the OSU Press Soundcloud.

Reader’s name:
Alan Contreras
Poem read: Wild Geese
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Alan Contreras is coeditor of The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. He is best known for his writing about the natural world and higher education. He is the editor of Edge of Awe and the author of Afield, both published by OSU Press. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.

___________________

Reader’s name: Ulrich Hardt
Poem read: Sonnet XIII from Desert Poems
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Ulrich Hardt is coeditor of The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. He was managing editor of the Oregon Literature Series published by OSU Press with the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, and he is coeditor-in-chief of the Oregon Encyclopedia of History and Culture.

___________________

Reader’s name: Ingrid Wendt
Poem read: Then April
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Ingrid Wendt wrote the afterword for The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. She is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, the Carolyn Kizer Award, and three Fulbright Professorships. As coeditor of From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, she researched and selected the works of poets born before 1930, including Ada Hedges. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

___________________

Reader’s name: Quinton Hallett
Poem read: Resurgence
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Quinton Hallett writes and edits from Noti, Oregon. For the Oregon Poetry Association, she has co-hosted a reading series, facilitated poet visits to a rural high school, led craft workshops, and served on the board. She has four chapbooks and a full-length collection, Mrs. Schrödinger’s Breast, from Uttered Chaos Press.
April 13th, 2020
Foss CoverIn the interview below, Chris Foss, author of Facing the World: Defense Spending and International Trade in the Pacific Northwest Since World War II, discusses his motivation for writing the book, the coronavirus crisis, and his hopes for the future of US politics.

*****

Ashley: Why did you decide to write a book on this particular aspect of Northwest history?

Chris: This book began during my frantic search for a dissertation topic, as I was coming to the end of my graduate coursework at the University of Colorado and a deadline loomed for me to decide on my project. I read an article in the academic journal Diplomatic History by Andy Fry, a history professor at UNLV, who argued that historians of US relations with the world should also consider how different regions of the US were impacted in unique ways by US foreign policy. I had one of those "light bulb" moments when I read that article. I'm from Portland, and I had read and heard about Wayne Morse, Mark Hatfield, Henry Jackson, Tom Foley, and others in some of my coursework already. It seemed like many of these Pacific Northwest politicians played an outsized role in US foreign policy during the post–World War II period. I set out to understand why this was.

Over the course of my research, I found out that the reason was, to be blunt, power. These men (and a few women) wanted to gain and maintain political power. I don't think they sought to be malevolent in their use of this power, however. They sought to be responsive to their constituents. In an era in which the US was highly involved in global affairs, senators, congressmen/women, and even governors particularly saw defense spending and international trade as arenas both for undertaking the national mission of bettering America as a whole and the local mission of taking care of the constituent by "bringing home the bacon" in terms of defense contracts, forging new trade agreements, and so on.

I found all of this really fascinating because I had never thought of Northwest politicians as merging domestic and foreign policies in this way. We either think of Mark Hatfield working on behalf of Oregon's infrastructure on the one hand, and against the Vietnam War on the other hand, but my contribution is to show how his various foreign and domestic policies were intertwined. Same with the other figures I spend an extensive time talking about in the book.

Ashley: Why do you think it’s important that we recognize the intertwined nature of foreign and domestic policies?

Chris: Because, especially as current events (i.e., the rapid global spread of COVID-19) have demonstrated, there is increasingly little difference between so-called "foreign" and "domestic" policies. Almost any policy enacted, even at the local level, will have some sort of ramification beyond US shores. Even during the Cold War, this was often true. It seemed like Americans saw almost everything through the prism of fear of international communism. The political figures I discuss in Facing the World recognized this, and seized on the growing importance of foreign affairs to the American public to gain support for their pro-defense, pro-trade policies.

Ashley: There are a lot of public crises that the US is currently facing, many of them—like COVID-19—hitting the Northwest particularly hard. You write about Senator Mark Hatfield's efforts to redirect national security funding to health, especially to the National Institutes for Health and OHSU. What can we learn from Hatfield’s warning that you discuss in your book—that "viruses are coming, and they're here"?

Chris: Hatfield understood, in ways that most politicians—and, I dare say, most Americans—fail to understand, that research and thinking in the long run about tomorrow's problems are important. He also understood that public health is an arm of national security. Hatfield was not against national security, per se. He was against military adventurism, such as in Vietnam, where the US mission was unclear and all we were doing was shooting and bombing. To him, however, disease was a clear national security threat. How could you have a functioning society, he wondered, if you didn't have a healthy people? Those ideas informed his support for OHSU and the NIH over the decades.

Critics accused him, in terms of OHSU, of being a pork-barrel spender, bringing Oregon goodies and not taking the needs of the nation as a whole into account. But when OHSU is on the front line fighting COVID-19 in Oregon, I doubt anyone is going to think of it as a waste of money anymore. Hatfield wasn't able to build up the health infrastructure of the US and Oregon as much as he would've liked, though; merely saving the NIH was the best he could do on a national level. Even before he died, the SARS and H1N1 pandemics threatened the US; Ebola and Zika followed right after his death, yet the American people and leaders were complacent. He's probably looking down at us right now and saying, "I told you so!"

Ashley: What do you think Hatfield would be advocating for today, in the midst of the current pandemic?

Chris: Hatfield would be demanding more widespread COVID-19 testing to help protect the public and provide more knowledge about the outbreak, and he'd be trying to speed money through Congress to give healthcare providers more tools to fight the outbreak: more masks for the doctors and nurses working with sick patients, more hospital beds, more money to convert nonmedical facilities to become temporary hospitals. Given his knowledge and expertise, he'd become the de facto expert in Congress on COVID-19. In addition, he would also be a calming voice to a rattled public. Hatfield was very good at public speaking and at connecting with people, and while he'd relay honest information, he would also, I think, want to let us know that we'll be OK in the long run. He survived the Great Depression and fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II, after all.

Ashley: Broadly, what do you hope readers will walk away with after finishing Facing the World?

Chris: I hope the big takeaway for readers is that politicians can be effective, and that they can work for the public good. It's easy today to become jaded and cynical about politicians and to think that they are only out for themselves, that they're only out to win the next election, that they pander/cater to special interests and put those interests above the citizenry, that they are hyper-partisan. That may all be true to an extent today, but Facing the World covers a period of time in which all of those elements were somewhat muted in American society, particularly partisanship.

Bipartisan thinking pervades the work of these politicians. Henry Jackson relied on conservative support to bolster his Senate campaigns, even though he was a liberal. Tom Foley was a liberal congressman in a conservative part of Washington State. Mark Hatfield was a liberal Republican, an extinct species even by the time of his 1996 retirement. Wayne Morse was first a Republican, then an Independent, then a Democrat who supported Hatfield's first election campaign. Vic Atiyeh was perhaps the most partisan of the individuals I focus on, but even he was a moderate by today's standards–he held strong pro-civil rights credentials, he helped form the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, and he hired a female chief of staff (Gerry Thompson) when that was unheard of, to have a woman in that high of a position of authority in the governor's office.

Unfortunately, we're in a different time now, and I'm not too optimistic that we can get back to the kind of civility (to start with), but also the set of particular historical conditions, either regionally or nationally, that allowed for bipartisan figures like Hatfield and Morse to gain power.
April 7th, 2020
 DJ Lee’s Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots takes readers on a journey not only through the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness but also through history, acquiring access to family legacies, and recovering selfhood in a time of loss. In today’s blog, Lee’s colleague, Peter Chilson, a literature and writing professor at Washington State University, interviews Lee about her writing process and how her emotional connection to the Selway-Bitterroots enabled her to persist through the challenges of her journey. 


                                                                 *****

Chilson: Your book starts off with your friend Connie’s disappearance. Can you talk about that? 

Lee: I’ve been actually writing this book for fifteen years, and going back into the wilderness, really in search of my grandparents’ story. I was in the midst of getting the manuscript into shape when my parents called and told me that Connie had gone missing and I couldn’t believe it. Connie Saylor Johnson knew the Selway-Bitterroot more than almost anyone. She helped me learn the trails, I hiked back there with her, visited her, we corresponded. I went back several times and she showed me documents about the history. So on a very physical level, but also a scholarly and intellectual and on a spiritual level, she was super important to the book. And to me--so when she went missing, it was devastating. It was devastating for me and hundreds of people who loved her. Because she was such an important part of my book and the process itself, I had to start from scratch and rewrite the book to incorporate her disappearance. 

Chilson: That’s a compelling story. I read the book and you talk about Connie being not only important to you but key to your understanding of what wilderness is all about. Can you talk more about that?

Lee: I think with the things I learned from Connie and that everybody learned from her is that wilderness is something almost mystical. It’s the solid trees and rocks and water and wild animals and stewardship of the land, but it’s also something bigger than the sum of its parts. Connie really gave people not just the physical being in the place but also the way that it contributes to your soul. 

Chilson: Another character in this book who knew Connie but whom I also find very compelling is Dick Walker. I’m a student of the French writer [Antoine de] Saint-Exupéry, who was also a pilot like Dick. Saint-Exupéry spent all these years criss-crossing the Sahara delivering the mail in the French African colonies during the 1920s. He also flew the mail across South America in a plane very much like Dick and you flew together over the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. That’s part of what I bring to your book as a reader. Your book seems rooted in the stories of these kinds of people. Dick Walker is this compelling, visceral character, and so is Connie, and there are people in the book that have names like Puck. These people have real, hard substance They’re golden characters for a story. How do you find these people and get them to talk to you? 

Lee: Well, you probably remember the part about meeting Dick for the first time, I learned his name from a forest service archeologist who told me I should get in touch with Dick Walker. The way the person described Dick, I got an image in my mind of some kind of hermit living out in the woods, which he does. He lives up on a mountaintop. But even just hearing about him, he was a frightening kind of figure for me. The archeologist said that he had a lot of documents and history stored in his house. I was looking for information about my grandparents. So finally I drove to his house, up this mountain, dirt road, and he was kind of frightening to me at first, but I just spent time with him and was open to everything he had to teach me and made a fool of myself again and again and again because I didn’t know anything about the wilderness. Some of the conflicts that we had are detailed in the book, but besides Connie, Dick was one of my greatest teachers. 

Chilson: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing the book and how that has changed you? 

Lee: This is where my family story comes in and where it transitions from history and on-the-ground research to memoir. On my grandmother’s deathbed, she gave me this box that was full of documents and letters and photographs about the Selway-Bitterroot. At that point, I had no idea that this place even existed. I heard the word ‘wilderness’ once or twice in my childhood, but I was in my mid-thirties when my grandmother passed away. She was very important to my life, but my mother and I had a conflicted relationship just as my grandmother and my mother had, so I felt compelled to go to the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. I was very trepidatious. I didn’t want to step on toes. I didn’t want to hurt my mother by trying to find out more about the family history than I should have known. I didn’t want to uncover dark secrets that would hurt people, but at the same time I wanted to. I couldn’t help it. I’m an archivist and scholar and historian. When I found that box of letters and documents and photos, I had to pursue it. I think the greatest change—or maybe the one most important to me—is that through that painful process of going back again and again, sometimes with my mother also was going back there and my father and other members of my family, my mother and I started off, in my mind, kind of competing for information and family memories, but by the end we were walking hand in hand. The land itself and the journey changed us. 

Chilson: So your mother was a willing participant in your research? 

Lee: She was. Sometimes she didn’t know she was. My grandmother had some mental illness and that was kind of hard for my mother and I to start talking about, but I asked her and she would open up. At some point, I told her I was writing this family story and she said, “You write what you need to write. It’s your story.” That was a big moment for me, so I’d say she’s a willing participant cautiously. 

Chilson: I know a little bit about the Selway-Bitterroots. I hiked into it a few times myself. Both alone and with other people including you and your family at least once. It’s one of the most beautiful—and at the same time foreboding—wilderness places I have ever been to in my life. High-peak mountains, rattle snakes, wolves, beautiful rivers. It’s an incredible place. But you came to this wilderness as a scholar, as somebody who really wasn’t that experienced in hiking in the backcountry. How did you acclimate? 

Lee: It was hard. I grew up in Seattle. I spent many years in Calgary, Alberta. I lived in London for a bit. I’m a city person. I had this odd confidence that I could just do this. Like why not? Like of course. But it was physically really difficult for me. My very first trek in was so difficult I almost turned back and I would have if it would have been easier to turn back. There were other times where it was hard for me to be back there just physically. I mean blisters and scrapes and wild animal encounters and trail finding. A friend and I almost drowned in a rushing creek called Bad Luck Creek in late May one year. We were doing a fifty-mile hike down the Selway River, total wilderness, and we almost drowned. It was very frightening...And then like flying in fogs a couple of times with the plane getting really squirrelly. There were also times when I was really searching for my grandparents when I was there by myself and then after Connie went missing, I’d been camping there by myself all fall— I just felt very comfortable there. After she went missing, I physically felt okay, but psychologically and spiritually I felt a disturbance and it was hard for me to be there sometimes. I feel like I’ve acclimated, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100 percent at home there and I think that’s a good thing. I think a wilderness should not be a place where you feel comfortable like you’re sitting on your couch in front of a TV. You should always feel a little bit challenged. 

Chilson: You write about the place with a great deal of respect. I think that comes from, in regard to wilderness, a certain amount of fear. That being said, we’ve been talking a lot about your own story within the wilderness and Connie and Dick and your mother, but you also weave in a lot of history. Lewis and Clarke, the history of the forest service, homesteading, and the Nimíipuu. How did you strike a balance between these different layers of history and your own story?

Lee: That’s a good question, because at first there was no balance. It was all history and context...My own story was not important to me at first. I was really interested in my grandparents, but I denied the personal part. I thought they were only historical subjects. I’ve written about a lot of authors and historical characters from the early nineteenth century, so I just approached them as historical characters and the place as a place that I just had to contextualize in terms of geological history, indigenous history, the history of colonial settlement, and all the different stakeholders that have passed there throughout the years. Maybe about seven years in, I realized that this was my story. I always kept a journal. I’ve been a journal and diary keeper since I was seven years old, so I had all of these personal notes too, and I realized that my story was intimately wrapped up with the story of this place. I did a lot of personal writing in the later draft of the book, but the first drafts were mostly historical….I realized that, when I started doing the first edits, that a little bit of scholarship goes a long way, so I had to learn a different kind of writing. I had to learn a writing that braided the history and the personal in a much more intimate way than I was used to. 

Chilson: You do have all of these scholarly books in your past. You’re a scholar of the great romantic poets and you’ve done a lot of that type of writing. Was it difficult to make the transition from scholarly, third person, formal writing to memoir?

Lee: Yeah. It was. I think the topics are similar. Of course I love the British romantic poets like Woodsworth and Blake and Keates and Coleridge and the novelists Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. But my first book was about the slave trade and British poetry, so I’ve always been interested in these social justice topics and these histories that have maybe not received as much attention as the great artistic movements and I like bringing those two together. That mode of braiding came naturally to me. The technique itself was really hard for me. I’m not saying this is a general rule, but for me personally it was hard to learn a way of writing that was much more intimate and honest and close to the bone. It’s a difficult thing for some scholars to go to that deep on personal level and find language for it that you’re willing to put into writing. That’s something I had to learn. 

Chilson: One of the historical narratives within the book that you explore is the history of the Nimíipuu in this particular wilderness. I’m wondering how you did that research. There are human characters involved in that story, some of whom you met in your life. I’m wondering how you blended the historical research with the human characters. 

Lee: My grandmother was a good friend with a Nimíipuu elder. They grew up together on the edge of the wilderness. They went to school together and kept in touch. When I met him I was in my twenties. He made a very strong impression on me. He had a really deep, kind of commanding voice, but a really gentle manner. I guess what really struck me is the way he and my grandmother talked about people they knew just like you’d gossip with your friend in junior high school, but they were in their eighties. I really liked observing their friendship and hearing them talk about the old times. But one time when I was visiting them, they talked about what I later realized was the wilderness. They both had stories and lives back there. I did know some about the Nimíipuu, but I did a lot more research. I spent probably an entire year in this history. I read all of the accounts of General Howard. I read the first New York Times article criticizing the Nez Perce war of 1877. Later I went back with this archeologist and he told me about how the Nimíipuu had lived. A lot of that didn’t make it into the narrative because it’s been told by other people, but it was a really important story to me. It’s a really important story for the land. I mean the land is the Nimíipuu’s land. It doesn't belong to the National Forest Service or the Wilderness Preservation System of the US government. I consider it Nimíipuu homeland to this day. I think it always will be. As long as this earth is here, it will always be Nimíipuu land. 

Chilson: In my reading of the book, I noticed that there’s a real gender balance here. There are a lot of major male characters in the book as well as major female characters, but to me the women in the book are the governing characters of the story. Do you see the book as making the contribution to the subject of women in environmental history in the United States or women in the wilderness? 

Lee: I very much do. I see it as a book about women in the wilderness. Connie, for example, is the spirit of women in the wilderness. There’s also my grandmother who was back there for twelve years off and on and had a very conflicted relationship with the wilderness. There’s my mother, too. I’m not going to give you a spoiler—you know it—but she’s very comfortable back there. My mother is more comfortable back in the wilderness than almost any woman I’ve seen back there. Of course there’s me, but there are also a lot of other women. One of my favorites is a woman named Amy. I’d met her early on but I also reconnected with her after Connie was gone. She has to be one of my favorite wilderness women. There are so many other women that I wasn’t even able to write about like my friend Marg, who’s an amazing horse woman and a mule wrangler. There’s my friend Hannah who packs back there and rides back there. 

Chilson: You mention the photograph of Amy which I noticed because it’s from the present day. It’s probably a photograph you took. Because so many of the other photographs are from history. I’m wondering how did you select the photographs and, even more importantly, where did you find them. Were they a part of the family archive or did you do more detective work to find them? 

Lee: Some of them came from Dick Walker. He’s an archivist himself. He collected thousands of Selway-Bitterroot photographs. It’s an amazing collection. Some of them came from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest archeologist and some of them I took. I was very fortunate because the publishers let me have twenty-eight photographs. The photographs tell a story separately. Some of them illustrate chapters, but if you line them all up, they also tell their own narrative. They interweave into different chapters where you don’t expect them. I wanted the photographs to tell a narrative that was complementary but also separate from the book itself. 

Chilson: I find the book, just the way it’s designed, to be very handsome. The foreboding nature of the wilderness is right there on the cover with the shadowy photograph of the woman looking down into the wilderness. Then we open up the book and we have this beautiful map. Maps like this are really hard to get published in books. How do you go about capturing a sense of this incredible wilderness on the page? I realized it took you a number of years to write this, and that’s part of it, but sitting down at the typewriter: how do you do that? 

Lee: Thank you. The map is beautiful. It’s made by a company called Cairn Cartographics in Missoula. I know the woman who made it. Amelia Hagen Dillon. She loves the Selway-Bitterroot, so it was really special to have her make me the map. But yeah, a map is a map. It’s a different kind of imaginative place than it is when you hike it and when you know all the history and when you put your blood, sweat and tears into the place. I think that was one of the reasons why it took me so long to write about this place because it’s such a complex, nuanced place. It’s a mythological place. 

                                                             *****

DJ Lee is Regents Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Washington State University and earned a PhD from the University of Arizona and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her creative work includes over thirty nonfiction pieces in magazines and anthologies. She has published eight books on literature, history, and the environment, most recently the 2017 collection The Land Speaks: New Voices at the Intersection of Oral and Environmental History. Lee is the director of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project and a scholar-fellow at the Black Earth Institute.

 

Peter Chilson teaches writing and literature at Washington State University. He has written four books, including most recently Writing Abroad: A Guide for Travelers (with Joanne Mulcahy). His work has appeared in The New England Review, The American Scholar, New Letters, Consequence, Foreign Policy, Poetry International, Gulf Coast, Best American Travel Writing, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

Member of AAUP