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November 30th, 2016

We are joined by author Kurt Fausch today in celebration of his being awarded the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA) for his book, For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey. Today we get an inside look into how close to home this award hits and the experiences building his career in conservation biology—serving as the acting Director of the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at Colorado State University (CSU) and also as a professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at CSU.

Dr. Kurt Fausch receiving the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award from Dr. Mark Peterson, Director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin

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I have never forgotten the sound of the loons, and of waves lapping ashore at night just before one drifts off to sleep. I grew up making annual peregrinations between the suburbs of the megalopolis of Los Angeles where we lived and went to school, and north central Minnesota where we spent summers building a cabin on a small piece of shoreline of a pretty large lake. My parents were natives of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and my mother loved lakes dearly. They both knew that we all needed respite from the choking smog and frenetic pace of southern California. A clear memory is sleeping on a cot in the walkout basement, hearing the haunting high forlorn calls of loons, and looking out across the bay to see the moon’s reflection being jostled in the waves. The sound of those waves is the last thing you hear before sleep swallows Kurt Fausch on the bench at the Listening Point cabinconsciousness.

Back in California one year, when I was about 13, I noticed a book on my parents’ shelf titled Listening Point. I had never heard of Sigurd Olson, butI was immediately attracted to the beautiful drawings that graced each chapterheading – pictures of canoes and campsites, loons and portages, and long vistasdown lakes in the border country between northern Minnesota and the vast Canadian Shield to the north. We had visited that country for a week every year, because my father’s sister owned a small cabin perched on the north shore of Lake Superior, a steep, rocky shoreline dashed by waves and shaded closely by spruce and fir. From there we ventured berry picking and fishing in the lakes that bordered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). I fell in love with the cold, crisp air and the stark rocks and waters of this lonely land, so recently scoured by glaciers which left many deep cold lakes, and swift streams tumbling south into the largest lake in the world.

Olson wrote not only of the adventure of canoe trips deep into this wilderness, but also of reverence for this land and these lakes, and why they are important for the human spirit. My first reading of Listening Point, and then other books of his like Runes of the North and The Singing Wilderness, left me entranced with the idea of canoeing in this vast wilderness, traveling along routes plied by voyageurs 300 years earlier. The romance of paddling through these chains of lakes, camping along their shores and fishing in pristine waters led me to work for an entire year at age 15 to earn enough to buy my own canoe. I papered my bedroom wall with the entire set of maps of the BWCA, and pored over the canoe routes through the chains of lakes. I knew that “when I grew up”, I wanted to study fish and become a fisheries biologist. Lakes in northern Minnesota would be the perfect place.Sigurd Olson’s cabin at Listening Point

My chance to start this adventure came in 1968. On our way to my aunt’s cabin on “the shore,” we visited the campus of the University of Minnesota in Duluth (UMD), where my older brother was considering attending college. He chose elsewhere, but I knew that Duluth was where I wanted to attend college when I came of age. After my sophomore year at UMD, I landed a summer job as a fisheries biology technician in the BWCA. My partner and I were responsible for surveying the fish and habitat in about 30 different lakes. We spent an entire summer traversing those waterways with boats and canoes, setting nets to sample fish, measuring water chemistry, and mapping shoreline habitat. The next year I did similar work on Lake Superior and several large lakes, focusing primarily on lake trout. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

And in those same years, I purchased and read all nine of Olson’s books, seeking in his writings a deeper understanding of the history and meaning of this wilderness and its lakes and rivers. In my reading since, I learned that Olson was a contemporary of Aldo Leopold, and indeed turned down a chance for further graduate study with him to earn a Ph.D. Instead, Olson returned to the North Country, taught at a junior college, and focused on advocating for this wilderness and writing essays about its values. He was at the forefront of those who fought to prevent roads to every lake starting in the 1920s, and in the 1940s to prevent aircraft flights that would bring anglers and canoeists deep into the wilderness. He knew from long experience as a canoe guide starting in the early 1920s that this wilderness had great value for the human spirit, but that these values could only be accessed through the hard work of paddling and portaging and camping in primitive places. He saw doctors and businessmen and lawyers and judges transformed from their harried state to people who could appreciate solitude and sunsets, and who pondered again the ancient ideas that only wilderness can evoke.

One day during my senior year in college I attended a talk on wilderness. I recall taking a seat near the back of an auditorium. Looking to the side, I was amazed to see sitting two seats away the man I recognized as Sigurd Olson, a man I would have given anything to talk to. Being rather shy, I didn’t say anything, but felt privileged just to be near him as we both listened to a talk that was probably like many he himself had given. I later realized that Sigurd Olson was in his late seventies then, and passed away six years later, while snowshoeing in the land he loved.

Kurt Fausch at Sigurd Olson’s Listening Point, near Ely, MinnesotaI now realize that Sigurd Olson’s essays have always been a touchstone for me, and for the career that I myself have created as a fisheries ecologist. My opportunity to study fish was not in lakes, but in streams, and so I now have a deep love for both. My journey led me throughout much of the West, and to northern Japan. As a scientist, I have seen many rivers, learned their inner workings, and developed a philosophy about why they are essential for humans. But my recent reading of Olson’s early essays on the meaning of wilderness, unavailable to me during my college years, has revealed that he arrived at many of the same ideas far earlier than I. In fact, his idea that modern humans seek habitats like those in which early humans evolved may have formed the basis for some of the theories advanced by other scientists, on which my work is based.

On Earth Day 2016, the book I wrote, For the Love of Rivers, was honored with the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. I am still utterly astounded by this. I can’t imagine a higher or more meaningful honor for my work. But only after re-reading Listening Point, and traveling back to Ashland, Wisconsin to speak and receive the award at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, did I realize how much the course of my entire career, and my approach to writing this book, were influenced by Olson’s essays and books. I even spent an entire year working with artist Kristine Mackessy to create the pen-and-ink drawings that grace the chapter title pages, showing her the images from Olson’s books as examples of what I sought.

Who knows how what one writes or speaks, or what actions one takes, will affect others? Every professor like me has the chance after a long career to see their legacy through students who were influenced by things they said or did – often not realizing what different messages each person would draw from one’s teaching, writing, or working. Sigurd Olson influenced several generations of people through his best-selling books during an era when the environment came to the fore, and influenced both presidents and policies that conserved many tracts of wilderness, including the BWCA Wilderness. But he also influenced me personally, and for that I am forever grateful. If the book I have written can influence someone else to seek their own path forward and cherish lakes and rivers, especially those in wilderness, then it will have been an amazing success.

 

©by Kurt D. Fausch, all rights reserved, 27 November 2016

 

 

November 18th, 2016

 

Author and photographer Tim Palmer, author of Rivers of Oregon, joins us again today to share his experience travelling down the Chetco River, which provides a lively contrast to his journey on the gentle waters of the Willamette. The Chetco runs an expanse of approximately 57 miles. However, much of the river runs wild. In today's piece, Tim gives readers the chance to encounter the sights found in these 57 miles, allowing us to glimpse into the often-unseen wild of the Chetco.

 

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At the beginning of my book, Rivers of Oregon, I reflected on a journey down the Willamette River, gently winding through the heart of Oregon's most populated valley. Plentiful flows whisked me past shores constrained by farmland but still green with cottonwoods. The riparian artistry that I found will enchant anyone who drifts with the current and notices what's there.

For a counterpoint to the Willamette's welcoming ease of travel, I journeyed with my wife, Ann, and a small group of friends to one of Oregon's least tamed and most remote rivers, the Chetco.

While upper reaches of that coastal stream are all wilderness, and visiting requires a long hike, an isolated mid-section can be reached by a rough road leading to a remote riverfront. There we unpacked our inflatable kayaks, strapped a waterproof bag of supplies onto each, and began to paddle-- not downriver-- but up. We wanted to see the nature of an extraordinary canyon, and our boats offered the only way to go.

We paddled through pools that were crystalline and so deep we could not dive to the bottom. Then we dragged our gear over boulders and gravel bars up to the next pool, again and again. We passed the mouths of tributaries feeding pristine waters into the river. We encountered cliffs and tangles of fallen cedars as we pressed onward for several miles to Boulder Creek and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness-- among the first Wilderness Areas designated in America and the third largest in Oregon. We camped on the gentle slope of a gravel bar where evergreens shaded our tents and where the Chetco shimmered past, its music entertaining us from rapids both above and below. While the Willamette had offered me a comforting tour through Oregon's heartland with farms and towns along the way, the Chetco was as wild as it gets.

The next day we began our descent, passing our put-in point and continuing downstream for another two days through lower canyons. We dropped over dozens of rapids that would have been threatening in the flush of springtime, but on low summertime runoff we slipped through, or bounced off rocks in our forgiving air-filled craft, or clamored over slippery rocks, lugging our gear and pairing-up to push and pull our boats.

Two impressive bottlenecks required portaging over boulders the size of cars and busses. The first was an extravaganza of maroon, white, and gray-striped rocks in a rapid called Radiolaria for the microscopic creatures that had fossilized to create those rocks undersea prior to the Coast Range uplift. Then Conehead's radical drop-- shaded by two pointed monoliths and clogged with logs-- demanded that we line our craft through narrow chutes and a slot barely boat-wide.

Downstream from that last canyon, a more casual Chetco is easily reached along a forest road. Its refreshing riffles and deep green pools-- alive with spawning salmon in winter and swimming children in summer-- are no less beautiful than the wilderness above. It's a riverfront, like many in Oregon, where you can see a free-flowing waterway connecting mountains to sea, forests to fish, and people to the natural world around them.

For other wild scenes and remarkable river adventures in Oregon I traveled to the Salmonberry, North Umpqua, and Collawash; the Metolius, Imnaha, and Wenaha. Whether we go exploring at these or the Willamette-- or any of the hundred rivers and thousands of streams in between-- Oregon is a wonderland of waterways. The rivers flow all around us.

November 16th, 2016

Now through December 31st, enjoy 25% off these selected titles when you order directly through the OSU Press website. Enter the promotion code 16HOLIDAY at checkout. This special holiday discount is valid on these titles:

A School for the People

A School for the People

 
Hiking from Portland to the Coast

Hiking from Portand to the Coast

 
Wild in the Willamette

Wild in the Willamette

 
Reporting the Oregon Story

Reporting the Oregon Story

Building a Better Nest: Living Lightly at Home and in the World by Evelyn Searle-Hess; Regularly $18.95 – SALE PRICE $14.21


The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West by Max G. Geier; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist's Journey by Kurt D. Fausch; Regularly $22.95 – SALE PRICE $17.21


A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon by Douglas F. Markle; Regularly $22.95 – SALE PRICE $17.21


Hiking from Portland to the Coast by James D. Thayer; Regularly $10.95 – SALE PRICE $14.96


Holy Moli: Albatross and Other Ancestors by Hob Osterlund; Regularly $18.95 – SALE PRICE $14.21


The Jewish Oregon Story, 1950-2010 by Ellen Eisenberg; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


Living with Thunder: Exploring the Geologic Past, Present, and Future of the Pacific Northwest by Ellen Morris Bishop; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


Living Off the Pacific Ocean Floor: Stories of a Commercial Fisherman by George Moskovita; Regularly $17.95 – SALE PRICE $13.46


Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions by Michael Helquist; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


Morning Light: Wildflowers, Night Skies, and Other Ordinary Joys of Oregon Country Life by Barbara Drake; Regularly $18.95 – SALE PRICE $14.21


A Naturalist’s Guide to the Hidden World of Pacific Northwest Dunes by George Poinar, Jr.; Regularly 24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


Reporting the Oregon Story: How Activists and Visionaries Transformed a State by Floyd McKay; Regularly $21.95 – SALE PRICE $16.46


Ricky’s Atlas: Mapping a Land on Fire by Judith L. Li, with illustrations by M.L. Herring; Regularly $17.95 – SALE PRICE $13.46


Rivers of Oregon by Tim Palmer; Regularly $40.00 – SALE PRICE $30.00


A School for the People: A Photographic History of Oregon State University by Lawrence A. Landis; Regularly $50.00 – SALE PRICE $37.50


State of Giving: Stories of Oregon Volunteers, Donors, and Nonprofits by Greg Chaillé and Kristin Anderson; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $18.71


Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature by Robert Michael Pyle; Regularly $22.95 – SALE PRICE $17.21

 

A Week in Yellowstone's Thorofare: A Journey Through the Remotest Place by Michael J. Yochim; Regularly $19.95SALE PRICE $14.96


Where the Wind Dreams of Staying; Searching for Purpose and Place in the West by Eric Dieterle; Regularly $18.95 – SALE PRICE $14.21

 

Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957 by Terry Toedtemeier and John Laursen; Regularly $75.00 – SALE PRICE $56.25


Wild in the Willamette: Exploring the Mid-Valley’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas edited by Lorraine Anderson and Abby Phillips Metzger; Regularly $24.95 – SALE PRICE $17.47

 

 

Enter the promotion code 16HOLIDAY at checkout by December 31st to get 25% off these titles!

 

 

Ricky’s Atlas

Ricky's Atlas

 
A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon

A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon

 
The Color of Night

The Color of Night

 
Wild Beauty

Wild Beauty

November 9th, 2016

Guest post by Marcy Houle, author of One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park

 

Last September, something truly amazing happened in Portland’s Forest Park. It was an achievement never before attempted. And, at its conclusion, it stands as an inspiration for many more to follow.

One City's Wilderness

On September 4 and 5, Alex Schay, set out to do a goal he had made for himself. He wanted to hike the entire Wildwood Trail, that winds 30 miles through the largest urban wilderness in the United States, and do it in two days. 

 

Other people have set and achieved this goal. Alex was not the first to do it. But one thing makes his goal unique, and never before attempted.

 

You see, Alex Schay is blind.

 

What’s more, the guide dogs for the blind, one of which is Alex’s faithful companion, Clifton, are only trained for city streets.

 

Alex, who loves the outdoors, knew this was an important objective he wished to accomplish. With his beautiful and smart guide-dog, Clifton, they worked together, hiking easy places at first, then more complicated, to get Clifton used to exploring native trails. At last they were ready. 

 

Alex contacted me to ask if OSU Press might provide him the Word documents for my book One City's Wilderness: Portland's Forest Park, so he could follow the trail descriptions written for Wildwood.  He wished to use the book to get a better understanding of the trail, and information on trail crossings and connections. The Press gladly consented. Before long, Alex set off, attempting to walk the trail only with Clifton, as his companion and assistant.

 

Alex also used a GPS-based app called Blind Square, to help him be aware of and navigate various trail crossings in Forest Park.


 Alex Schay and Clifton on Wildwood Trail. Photo: Wesley Mahan, NW Examiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Caption: Alex Schay and Clifton on Wildwood Trail. Photo: Wesley Mahan, NW Examiner)

 

On Sunday, September 4, Alex left the zero-mile marker for Wildwood Trail, at the Vietnam War Memorial.  He covered half the park, contending with “washed-out bridges or sections of trail, overhangs, and roots and rocks too numerous to mention.” On Monday afternoon, September 5, he  successfully reached Wildwood’s conclusion at NW Newberry Road, near Sauvies Island.

 

He reached his goal, hiking 30 miles of the nation's longest hiking trail in any city -- Wildwood Trail.  He hopes his terrific and brave success will only be the beginning.  He encourages other blind hikers to attempt the hike, using the aides he did,  and find the great satisfaction of facing a challenging goal and connecting with the beauty of nature.

 

Congratulations to Alex! Below is a letter he sent to friends and supporters after the hike. Alex’s story is also featured in a recent NW Examiner article.

 

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Hello:

 

I thought that some of you might be interested to learn that on Sunday & Monday, September 4th & 5th, my guide dog, Clifton, and I made a successful independent hike of Forest Park’s Wildwood Trail. We began at the Vietnam War Memorial near the Oregon Zoo on Sunday morning, and came out at NW Newberry Road near Sauvies Island Monday afternoon. At just over 30 miles in length, the Wildwood Trail is the longest contiguous urban trail in the United States, crossing numerous watersheds.

 

Many tools and techniques enabled a successful hike. First, I used textual descriptions about the Wildwood Trail, taken from Marcy Houle’s book, One City’s Wilderness, to get a general understanding of the trail, as well as an understanding of some of the trail crossings and connections. Thank you to Marcy! Mike Yamada from the Oregon Commission for the Blind may also be gratified to learn that Blind Square, a GPS-based app that helps blind people navigate and understand their surroundings, may be used to determine the proximity of various trail crossings in Forest Park. Blind Square can also announce upcoming trail crossings, which can be quite helpful. I was also able to consult with other hikers to confirm that I was on the right track, or to get back on track. And of course, Clifton did an amazing job focusing on details, like washed-out bridges or sections of trail, overhangs, and roots and rocks too numerous to mention.

 

 I am revising Marcy’s textual description of the Wildwood Trail so that it can be an even more effective tool for blind hikers, giving more blind people access to Portland’s remarkable Forest Park.

 

In the event you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to give me a shout

 

Warm Regards,

Alex

November 3rd, 2016

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, author and lepidopterist, shares with us today an essay that wasn't selected for the final draft of his new book, Through a Green Lens. With the book spanning his entire career as a writer, difficult decisions had to be made concerning which pieces would and would not reach republication through the Press. The piece we share with you today, Ripples Through a Pool of Meltwater, explores his experience with the Northwest Forgotten Language tour in the Columbia River Gorge. Pyle provides readers with insight into the choice not to include Ripples Through a Pool of Meltwater and a reflection on the essay itself.

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Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature brings together 47 essays selected from my entire life's work as a writer, to date. All but one (the first, just out of high school) have been published previously, and almost all in the periodical press. A few came from anthologies or books for which I wrote forewords or chapters, but none from my own stand-alone books (a reader drawn from these will comprise a future collection). As there were many more pieces to pick from than we could possibly include, it was necessary to make hard choices. We wanted both coherence and diversity, without too much overlap or repetition. We wanted to include only pieces that could argue for themselves that they had a reason to live on. We wanted the whole to be concise enough so as not to suggest a telephone book.

This meant that there would be a good many out-takes. Some of these were judged to be too ephemeral, dated, or narrow for general interest. Others were held back for another book of longer, philosophical essays. But there remained a residue of pieces I might have liked to share again with a broader audience than those who saw them in the first place.

One such essay was called Ripples Through a Pool of Meltwater. It was originally published in 1995 in a pre-blog newsletter associated with Orion Magazine called the Orion Society Notebook. I rejected it from the book partly because of its length, although we did include some other very short pieces; and because its subject, the late, great barnstorming whistle-stops conducted by shifting knots of Orion writers to celebrate literature and the land seem a little narrow without an explanation of its history (such as its name, which came from W.S. Merwin's poem, Witness). But rereading it now, I find I still like some of its words, its images, and its conclusion--which captures, I think, just what we were trying to accomplish on those occasional magic carpet capers. It is short enough to include here in its entirety.

 

Ripples Through a Pool of Meltwater

When consummate Cascadian naturalist David Lukas led the Northwest Forgotten Language tourists up the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, the deep green mosses and the canyon's tracheae of ferns and liverworts breathed a moist awareness of life and regeneration into all of us, writers, students, and guests. When we reached the waterfall, sunstruck that February morning, I felt a distinct connection between the readers and the listeners, the text and the field, the Tour and the world. At the base of the plummet, rough ripples spread through a pool of meltwater. Days later, recuperating from the sweet rigors of the minstrelsy, that image returned to me. I realized that, as the wavelets went out into Eagle Creek, so spreads the gentle impact of the Forgotten Language visits: barely noticeable in the general clamor, yet insistent and cumulative in their influence far beyond the source.

In all the stops where I've been privileged to read for the Forgotten Language Tour, the field forays have affected me as much as the readings and the interchange they bring. I think of a remnant of old-growth forest as deep in rain as moss, on a bluff above Willapa Bay. A reclaimed urban landfill in Seattle, once again a vibrant habitat. A hardwood copse in western New York, colored like melted crayons heavy on the red. A Sonoran arroyo studded with saguaros, daubed with orange mariposa lilies and black buckeye butterflies. We've engaged the ground at least a little everywhere we've gone, even on horseback in Monument Valley, where our Navajo guides sang a prayer as raven circled overhead.

Yet these are no junkets; the field trips refresh from grueling schedules, but comprise in themselves a key component of the Tour. Absent contact with the land, the words become sterile. Composted by the green tissues, brown soils, and moving parts of the biome, fine writings come alive, able to move others and make them care.

This is what I hope we bring to those who hear us: a keen sense of the power of a language that must not be forgotten after all, and a parallel understanding that the words grow out of the land, where we must return to give them meaning. Beyond that, I believe our visits have the potential to stimulate action--application of the ethic implicit in the bond between the Orion writer and reader, reader and listener-- in direct ways that honor communities and help to preserve the fabric of the landscapes on which they depend.

In The Gift, Vladimir Nabokov tells of physical sensations that are "utterly incomprehensible, like the words in a forgotten language." It is the job of these itinerant storytellers to render the world and its parts comprehensible, to find the land-word bridge to understanding. If we can help a few people to remember the language we need, they will tell it to others... and who knows what could happen next?

October 27th, 2016

Tim Palmer, author and photographer of OSU Press's new book, Rivers of Oregon, joins us today to share a brief interlude from his time exploring Oregon's Willamette River. Rivers of Oregon contains beautiful photos of the scenery on and around Oregon Rivers -- both east and west. The photographs allow readers to look beyond themelves and into the landscape they inhabit. How has the landscape changed? What have we done with it? What has become of the vastly wild and beautiful land that was here before us? In today's blog post, Palmer provides vivid imagery, helping the reader to see what he saw and to feel what he felt on his journey down the Willamette.

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As I paddled down the Willamette, with its western shore ramping up toward the Coast Range and its eastern bank climbing toward the higher Cascade Mountains, I thought of this river as the metaphorical keel of Oregon- a balancing feature that all the rest depends upon. Without the Willamette's watery path headed northward- along with the valley it shaped and the runoff it delivers- few people would ever have settled in the most populated corridor of Oregon. Portland wouldn't be there.

I knew also that the Willamette was the supply line on which salmon, birds, beavers, and hundreds of other creatures depend. More whimsically, and more personally from my own cherished experience, the Willamette is the Huck Finn river of the Northwest. Its riffling current made it possible for me to set out on a revealing expedition of two weeks, traveling 189 miles from upper reaches down to tidewater.

My fluid route and ticketless transit touched cities, farms, and wild remnants of the original Oregon in a way that brought all these elements together into a sojourn that -- though tame relative to other wild rivers nearby -- was spiced with adventure and discovery. I had to be alert to the swirls and boils, to currents and headwinds, to seductive back channels that drew me to explore but could serve me up to logjams or wooded swamps with no pleasant way out. But lacking steep drops -- except notably for the largest cataract in the West at the upstream edge of Portland -- the Willamette drifts at a gentle pace that's suited to many people in canoes or other craft. It invites us on a quintessential "beaver-state" outing. In my unbridled fantasies about education, paddling the length of the Willamette would be a coming-of-age ritual for every boy and girl in Oregon.

The Willamette has been affected by two centuries of efforts to tame and subdue an awesome and primordial force that's inherent in the simple conveyance of water from source to sea. But a certain magic remains, and I felt it in every view of the river bending in front of me, in the rise of great cottonwood trees at the shoreline, and even in the dark of the night. Lingering on a spacious gravel bar at my second campsite where cold undertows of the McKenzie River joined the larger flow, I watched stars fall into a navy-blue sky. Then moonlight streaked the river in white while the curent bubled its song to my ears. From the top of a cottonwood, a great blue heron -- aroused by some mystery in the dark -- squawked like a bird-call from the beginnings of time. A great horned owl resonantly hooted from a roost deeper in the floodplain forest, telling me that this place was his. A beaver, inexplicably aware of my presence though I hadn't moved a muscle, smacked its tail on the water's surface and dove to swim underwater as it passed.

There on the Willamette, just a few miles from Eugene, my world was reset to the milllennia of days, nights, seasons, floods, droughts, and deep passages of time as the river has carved its course and as life has evolved in the watery depths and along the shores. The river took me back to a universe that's lasting and real. In setting out on a paddling adventure to a place I had never been, I felt like I had come home. And I also felt that my home had grown much larger. The river opened the door to new acquaintances with everything that lay downstream.

Each day I drifted farther. I enjoyed both solace and excitement from the rhythms of river-life: sunrise followed by high noon and then sunset, morning calms followed by afternoon winds, pools followed by rifles, over and over in what hydrologists call the pool-and-riffle sequence. Each evening I took my camera in hand to capture sunset's glow on animated currents. Every night a big dome of stars and cottonwood limbs arced overtop my camp. Every morning in the tender light of dawn I watched for the wake of an otter or mink, the whistling flight of a merganser or wood duck, the dive of a kingfisher, osprey, or eagle. 

The Willamette is the largest stream flowing wholly within Oregon, but it's just one of hundreds, each with its own purpose and path, its own charm and appeal, its own intrinsic worth.

I wanted to see them all, and so I set out to write and photograph Rivers of Oregon.

 

October 14th, 2016

Today, Dr. Ellen Eisenberg will share an excerpt from Chapter Six in her new book, The Jewish Oregon Story, 1950-2010. Religion may not be the first thing a person thinks of when they think about Oregon. However, Dr. Eisenberg has provided an eye-opening, thought-provoking book, allowing readers to delve into the history of Judaism in Oregon and how Jewish identity has been affected by the progressive ideas in this ever-changing state.

Before diving into this Chapter Six excerpt, Dr. Eisenberg shares some of her inspiration for the chapter, as well as giving a brief view behind this particular anecdote.

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From the moment I began thinking about a book on recent Oregon Jewish history, I imagined a chapter on “Jewish Portlandia.” Inspired by my own impressions of differences between the East Coast Jewish communities I was raised in and those I’ve encountered in Oregon, I wanted to explore what is distinctive about local Jewish culture and identity. How does the Oregon Jewish community reflect, embrace, and shape the state’s image as a trendy, progressive, innovative, quirky center? If the Pacific Northwest is the “none zone,” the part of the country where residents are most likely to check “none of the above” when asked about their religious affiliation and where they are more likely to identify as spiritual than religious, how does that affect local Jewish communities? How do regional sensibilities about politics, style, food and sustainability impact Jewish identity?

Drawing on archival sources as well as current expressions of communal identity through websites, public programming, and institutional innovation, Chapter Six explores the connections between contemporary Jewish communities and twenty-first century Oregon sensibilities. It opens with the story of Mayan Miriam, a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath), used traditionally for purification prior to conversion or marriage, and, monthly, by women to mark their transition back to a pure state in which marital relations are permitted. The mikvah, housed in a yurt in a backyard in Eugene, is an apt symbol of twenty-first century Judaism in Oregon, with its embrace of place, innovation, environmentalism, inclusion, spirituality, and do-it-yourself ethos.

________________

Libby Bottero first immersed in a mikvah when she converted to Judaism in the late 1960s, just before marrying her first husband and bearing their child. The marriage was short-lived, but her connections with Judaism and with the ritual of the mikvah were not. She found that first experience “transformative,” and made a point of visiting the local mikvah wherever she traveled for many years afterward. Although it would be over four decades before Mayan Miriam took shape, she recalls, “I always had this dream to build a mikvah where anyone could come.”

In 1968, after visiting a variety of synagogues to explore different streams of Jewish life, Libby and her young son moved into the House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco. Founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who would later become a major figure in the Jewish Renewal movement, the House of Love and Prayer was known as a “Jewish hippie commune,” which was, in Libby’s words, “both Shomer Shabbat [Sabbath observing] and a source of certain mind-altering substances.”5 There she met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of Renewal Judaism, and Aryeh Hirschfield, who became a major figure in Eugene Jewish life in the 1970s and early 1980s. After his ordination, Rabbi Hirschfield served Renewal congregations in Ashland (Havurah Shir Hadash, 1985–1995) and Portland (P’nai Or, 1996–2009).6 It was during her time at the House of Love and Prayer that Libby began regular visits to the mikvah in San Francisco’s Mission District.

After moving from San Francisco to Corvallis, Libby met and married her second husband, Joseph Bottero, also a convert to Judaism, and became involved in the community, first at Beit Am in Corvallis, and then at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene. Relocating to Eugene, the Botteros began thinking seriously about building a mikvah. For women such as Libby, who found deep meaning in the monthly ritual of immersion, the only options at the time were to drive the four-hour round-trip to the mikvah in Portland, or to immerse in a natural body of water, such as the Willamette River. For much of the year, the latter was an uncomfortable and unsafe option. The Botteros first established a natural pond mikvah in their Eugene backyard, but soon began talking about building a more lasting structure. Inspiration came from Rabbis Carlebach, Schachter-Shalomi, and Myron Kinberg of Eugene’s Temple Beth Israel, as well as from The Jewish Catalog, a 1960s-era popular guide that “encourage[d] ordinary Jews to be empowered with the knowledge to do mitzvoth,” such as hanging a mezuzah or building a sukkah. When it became clear that Beth Israel was not going to incorporate a mikvah in its plan for a new synagogue building in the early years of the twentyfirst century, the Botteros moved toward fulfilling their long-held dream.

While taking care to fulfill all the specifications for a kosher mikvah, they were also committed to making the mikvah experience welcoming to all and available for diverse, often nontraditional, ceremonies. Along with conversions, monthly, and prenuptial immersions, Mayan Miriam has been the site of a variety of life cycle and healing rituals: marking a clean start after a divorce or a miscarriage, ritual cleansing before or after cancer treatments, and many others. The mikvah has been used, as is tradition, by brides to be and also by same and opposite-gender couples immersing together in advance of their vows. It has been the site of women’s Rosh Hodesh (new month) ceremonies and women’s minyanim (prayer groups). Although not a large pool, it has hosted a rather crowded group immersion by a local women’s minyan. In 2015, the mikvah was the site of a ceremony to mark the conversion of twin boys carried by a surrogate mother from Oregon for a gay Israeli couple (because the surrogate mother was not Jewish, an immersion ceremony preceded the baby boys’ bris). Libby Bottero recalls that the two Israeli men, each of whom was biological father to one of the twins, “wrote the most beautiful, deeply moving essay in Hebrew and English, explaining the names, what it meant to them to be fathers. . . . We were all in tears and hugging. . . . It was so deeply meaningful to them and to us who were witnesses.”

   

Eisenberg, Ellen. "Chapter Six: The Jewish Oregon Story." The Jewish Oregon Story, 1950-2010. Corvallis: Oregon State UP, 2016. 208-10. Print.  

August 24th, 2016

Whatever your favorite outdoor recreation is, we’ve got a book for you! Check out our hiking books, field guides, memoirs by trail builders and wilderness advocates, a collection about fishing the Northwest, and many more.

Birds of Lane County, Oregon (describes the 100 best birding sites in Lane County, with maps, directions, etc.)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/birds-of-lane-county-oregon 

Corvallis Trails: Exploring the Heart of the Valley
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/corvallis-trails

Discovering Main Street: Travel Adventures in Small Towns of the Northwest
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/discovering-main-street

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Oregon: A Field Guide (includes a map & description of 30 best dragonfly-observing locations in Oregon, and Portland)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/dragonflies-and-damselflies-of-oregon

Exploring the Tualatin River Basin: A Nature and Recreation Guide
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/exploring-tualatin-river-basin

Field Guide to Oregon Rivers
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/field-guide-to-oregon-rivers

Fishing the Northwest: An Angler’s Reader
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/fishing-northwest

A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon (forthcoming, October 2016)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/guide-to-freshwater-fishes-of-oregon

Hiking from Portland to the Coast: An Interpretive Guide to 30 Trails (forthcoming, October 2016)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/hiking-from-portland-to-coast

Listening for Coyote: A Walk Across Oregon’s Wilderness (Hiking maestro Bill Sullivan’s tale of his long trek across Oregon)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/listening-for-coyote

A Naturalist’s Guide to the Hidden World of Pacific Northwest Dunes
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/naturalist%E2%80%99-guide-to-hidden-world-of-pacific-northwest-dunes 

One City’s Wilderness: Portland’s Forest Park, 3rd edition
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/one-citys-wilderness

Oregon Coastal Access Guide: A Mile by Mile Guide to Scenic and Recreational Attractions
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/oregon-coastal-access-guide

Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America (Memoir by Ron Strickland, founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail)
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/pathfinder

Turning Down the Sound: Travel Escapes in Washington’s Small Towns
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/turning-down-sound

Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/walking-distance

The Wallowas: Coming of Age in the Wilderness
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/wallowas 

A Week in Yellowstone’s Thorofare: A Journey Through the Remotest Place
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/week-in-yellowstone%E2%80%99-thorofare 

Wild in the City: Exploring The Intertwine: The Portland-Vancouver Region’s Network of
Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas,
2nd edition
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/wild-in-city

Wild in the Willamette: Exploring the Mid-Valley’s Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas
http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/wild-in-willamette

AND: If you’re interested in traditional wayfaring skills and using natural phenomena to navigate, do check out John Edward Huth’s The Lost Art of Finding Our Way. It’s a fascinating read, with over 200 illustrations, published by Harvard University Press.

July 20th, 2016

In today's blog post, Scott Slovic, co-editor of Numbers and Nerves, writes about his encounter with an Allen Ginsberg poem at a museum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Among the most ecologocially vulnerable places on the planet, Bangladesh also bears the devastating scars of its 1971 civil war, the scale and brutality of which is hard for the human mind to fathom. How can poetry make emotional sense of vast statistics? Read on. 


* * * * *

I spent the first part of August 2015 lecturing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and helping to establish the Bangladesh branch of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE). Bangladesh is one of the most ecologically vulnerable regions in the world, highly susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels and with a large, impoverished population unable to avoid environmentally damaging sources of income that are also hazardous to human health (such as “ship breaking”).

I remembered from my childhood that Bangladesh had been the location of terrible human suffering, but I did not recall the specifics. More than anything, I knew about the famous Concert for Bangladesh that former Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Ravi Shankar had organized in New York City in 1971. I did not realize that most Bangladeshis have the year 1971 scarred into their memories. That was the year of the brutal civil war between West Pakistan and East Pakistan that led to the separation of Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was a war fought over “language autonomy” (the right of Bangladeshis to use Bangla, the major language of East Pakistan). The language autonomy movement was spurred in great part by the efforts of intellectuals at Dhaka University, where my conference on ecocriticism was taking place. Everywhere on the campus there are murals and statues and small museums, remembering the efforts and sacrifices of freedom fighters some forty-five years ago.

On August 10th, before heading to the airport to begin my thirty-six-hour trip home to Idaho, I went with a student to visit the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka. Along with many tattered, yellowing documents, laminated photographs of shirtless men carrying machine guns, and a room full of neatly stacked skulls and femurs in glass cases, there is an open-air, covered walkway on the top level of the simple museum, as one nears the end of the series of exhibits, where international responses to the liberation war are displayed in a scrap-book like array of photographs and documents on the wall of the building. Many world leaders are shown expressing their support for the Bangladeshi people in their fight for freedom and in their time of humanitarian struggle. I learned from this wall of images that President Richard Nixon supported Pakistan during this war, while liberal American leaders, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, were outspoken in their efforts to aid Bangladesh.

On the museum wall, near photos of Indira Gandhi and other political leaders, there are two long posters presenting both English and Bangla versions of American poet Allen Ginsberg’s “September on Jessore Road,” which details his first-hand experience of the human suffering during the 1971 liberation war. Immediately it struck me that Ginsberg’s poem was profoundly relevant to the Numbers and Nerves project in his effort to convey a situation of vast suffering vividly to people who might be able to help in some way. In fact, one stanza in the middle of the poem exhorts, “Ring O ye tongues of the world for their woe … Ring in the conscious of America[n] brain,” suggesting that the goal of this work is to somehow resonate in the “brain” of Americans and other citizens of the developed world in order to elicit intervention and aid.

Readers of Numbers and Nerves are likely to think of many other examples of powerful literature, music, film, and visual art that seek to convey numerical information and inspire individual and collective action. The story of my encounter with Allen Ginsberg’s poem shows that even though I have been thinking about the Numbers and Nerves project for so many years, I continue to stumble across relevant texts that I hadn’t previously thought about.

Although Ginsberg’s poem does not do what so many of our examples in the book Numbers and Nerves end up doing, which is to switch back and forth between individual stories and portrayals of “the big picture,” the writer relies in interesting ways on rhetorical questions (which draw the reader into contemplation as he or she tries to answer the questions) and repetition of dizzyingly large numbers (Millions…, millions…, millions). If you go online and listen to the poet recite—or, rather, sing—this work on Youtube, there is a lulling, incantatory repetitiveness to the performance until Ginsberg gets to the final stanza, which he sings slowly and with a kind of agonized emotion, suddenly shifting from numbness to pain. “September on Jessore Road” is powerful demonstration of the effort to communicate the emotional meaning of large-scale social upheaval and human suffering. I recommend that readers of Numbers and Nerves also go online to find the written text of Ginsberg’s poem and recordings of his performance of this work.

The poem can be found at this website:

Ginsberg, Allen. (1971 / 2011, November 7). “September on Jessore Road.” The Allen Ginsberg

Project. Retrieved from http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/mondriaan-string-quartet-september-on.html

 

 

 

June 27th, 2016

 The Oregon Historical Quarterly features the scholarship of OSU Press author Michael Helquist with two contributions in its Special Summer Issue on Birth. Helquist analyzes the 1916 visit to Portland by birth control advocate Margaret Sanger and he collaborates with Portland graphic artist Khris Soden to present a graphic comic account of the occasion. Titled “Family Limitation,” the collaboration is the first time the journal has published a history comic. Helquist and Soden wrote the comic narrative, and Soden drew the four pages of comic panels.

In his current OHQ article, Helquist documents Sanger’s visit, one of her final lecture stops on her first national tour. During Sanger’s lecture at the Heilig Theater in downtown Portland, local authorities arrested three men who distributed her basic how-to guide “Family Limitation.” The men were charged with providing obscene materials to the public. Sanger then asked local Portland physician Marie Equi to revise the pamphlet. The 1916 “Portland edition” reflects a stronger focus on working class concerns, less explicit support for abortion, and a pointed criticism of Portland’s leaders for the arrests of Sanger supporters. When Sanger delivered a second lecture, she, Equi, and two other women were also arrested and jailed. The trial judge found all the defendants guilty for making available “lewd, indecent, and obscene” materials. The incidents created a furor among hundreds of Portlanders who objected to the conviction.

In the same issue, OHQ recognizes Helquist as the winner of the 2016 Joel Palmer Award for the best article written in the quarterly the previous year. In “Criminal Operations,” The First Fifty Years of Abortion Trials in Portland, Oregon,” Helquist examined the factors that complicated and discouraged successful abortion prosecutions during the period 1875 to 1925.

To complement the journal’s observance of Sanger’s centennial visit, the Oregon Historical Society Library is presenting an exhibit of the rare vintage “Portland edition” of “Family Limitation.” Helquist loaned the pamphlet, and he disclosed that several years earlier he purchased it for a modest sum from Ebay. The exhibit also features poster-size versions of Soden’s comic. During the last weekend of June, Helquist will present three talks in Portland related to his biography -- Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions published by OSU Press in September 2015.

 

·      The McMenamins History Pub presents “Portland to the Rescue: The Rose City’s Rush to 1906 Stricken San Francisco,” Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Av, 7pm, free and open to the public.

·      The diversity programs of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bonneville Power Administration present, “Whatever Happened to Marie Equi?” and the Eastside Federal Complex, 911 NE 11th Av, 1:30 pm. Note this talk is limited to federal employees.

·      The Equi Institute and the Q Center present, “Whatever Happened to Marie Equi?” at the Q Center, 4115 N. Mississippi, 7pm, free and open to the public.

 

Helquist and activist Charley Downing will also be interviewed on Monday, June 27 at 9am on the KBOO radio program “Old Mole Variety Hour.” On Wednesday, June 29, Helquist and other historians and reproductive rights activists will re-enact the 1916 Sanger arrest and discuss current restrictions that block full access to reproductive services. 

 

Member of AAUP