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November 20th, 2014

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, it’s easy to get lost in the fervor of the holiday season or the concerns that surround family gatherings. Author Penelope S. Easton joins us today with a reminder of what the Thanksgiving celebration is truly about. Below, she details an incident that occurred early on in her stint as a dietary consultant in Territorial Alaska. You can read more of Penelope’s adventures in her recently published book, Learning to Like Muktuk.

______________________

 

Thanksgiving at Kanakanak Hospital, 1948

 

My first ride with a real bush pilot ended with landing on the snow-covered runway in a gale-force wind at Dillingham, Alaska. Schoolboys and their fathers rushed to save my luggage and the small amount of unloaded freight from being blown away. They held down the Piper Cub and me until the chief engineer from Kanakanak Hospital picked me up in a small truck for the six-mile trip southwest on snow-covered, rutted roads. Thanksgiving was only five days away, but it was the furthest thing from my mind at that moment. When my arrival as the new dietary consultant for the Territorial Department of Health had been announced in August of 1948, the Kanakanak people had requested help with weevils in the flour and “smelly” eggs. Instead of facing what should have been easy problems like those, I found a full- blown food shortage crisis. I didn’t believe such gloom was well founded until Betty Riley and I finished our inventory late that night.

 

Kanakanak Hospital was one of the bigger ANS hospitals, serving the whole Bristol Bay area, and could be reached only by boat or plane to Dillingham. One cook and two helpers prepared three meals a day for fifty people: thirty Native patients, ten of whom were children, as well as contract medical staff and local employees.

 LearningtoLikeMuktuk

Food deliveries came by barge in the summer months to all Alaska Native Hospitals in the northern areas. Desperately needed food might not arrive for as long as ten months. When it did come, no one was certain what the order would include because it had been submitted nearly two years before by a chief nurse, untrained in food purchasing, and who had already left the Territory. Betty was new and unfamiliar with such ordering, but she was bright and cheerful and together we came up with ridiculous solutions, which lightened the tragic outcome of our night’s work.

 

In November the storeroom should have had enough canned goods to last more than 300 days. Instead we found nineteen cases of corn and spinach, and enough slippery peach halves in thick syrup for one serving per person per day. No other fruit and vegetables were left. There was less than a month’s supply of meat and fish. A favorite protein source for the children, peanut butter, was rancid. Even more disappointing was the 630-days’ supply of soon to-be-rancid butter.

 

There had been no doctor at Kanakanak when Dr. John Libby had arrived earlier in the year. Since the shortage of food supplies was creating low morale among the staff and patients, he had already sent an emergency request for food to the Alaska Native Service Director in Juneau. Dillingham was a rapidly changing community, shifting from one where the people had lived from the land to one where they worked in canneries, so there was no local food available.

 

My reception by hospital personnel was complicated because the staff thought I had been sent to solve the food problem. I didn’t learn until my last day that they didn’t realize I was on a routine visit and not Juneau’s answer to their problems.

 

No plans had been made for any special Thanksgiving dinner, and there seemed little reason for anyone to be thankful; but I thought we should make some effort to celebrate.  Betty and the cook were eager to join me. The hot rolls that the cook made from some flour rescued by sifting out the weevils helped improve the plate of canned beef and gravy, canned corn and spinach. I had found some condensed milk in the nearly empty refrigerator. We diluted and flavored the rich, sugary mixture and made some freezer ice cream to have with the ever-available slippery peach halves. Although I was not particularly crafty, I did know how to make some nut cups from yellow copy paper. The cook filled them with brown sugar fudge from the almost solid brown sugar. We used orange sheets from X-ray film packages for tray covers.

 

We received some favorable comments but knew such cosmetic changes were not a solution to the food crisis. At a staff meeting the day before I left, a nurse, realizing that I was an innocent party to the sad conditions, said she was glad I didn’t blame them for eating the favorite foods too quickly or make outlandish suggestions for future menus. I didn’t know whether her fear of such behavior was due to the fact that I came from Juneau or because I was a dietitian. Members of my profession were not always perceived as being practical or understanding.

 

My detailed, urgent report to ANS headquarters received no more attention than did the doctor’s. Food supplies did not arrive for many months. Spring found some of the contract nurses leaving for the lower forty-eight because they were unwilling to suffer through such food-related hardships and became disillusioned with the romance of Alaska.  But Betty and loyal staff stayed to make the best of the situation, form plans for the next Thanksgiving, and enjoy the long awaited sun, fresh fish and beautiful berries of seasons to come.

 

I spent several weeks teaching nutrition classes for school children and women in the community. The weather delayed my return to Anchorage three times. Finally, the boys and men who had greeted me loaded my luggage for my departure and waved the bush pilot, me, and the Piper Cub off.

 

______________________

 PenelopeEastonPenelope S. Easton learned from an early age to “make do” with what she had, leading to a vibrant spirit of adventure that was essential in preparing her for work in Territorial Alaska. Over a long and distinguished career, she would serve as a clinical dietitian, nutrition consultant, school food service supervisor, professor of dietetics and research assistant. Born in Vermont during the Great Depression, Penelope now lives in Durham, North Carolina. At the age of 91, Learning to Like Muktuk is her first book.

November 12th, 2014

UP Week

“Oregon’s only university press, OSU Press has shined a bright light on the Pacific Northwest and Oregon by publishing exceptional books about its people and landscapes, its flora and fauna, its history and cultural heritage for more than fifty years. A vital part of Oregon State’s mission to serve the people of Oregon, the Press reflects our commitment to new ideas, research, and innovation in service to others. Through the Press, Oregon State engages the broader public as well, extending our reach and influence far beyond our borders.”  

—Dr. Ed Ray, President, Oregon State University

 

November 9th through the 15th marks the third annual University Press Week, highlighting the extraordinary work of nonprofit scholarly publishers and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society.

 

This year’s celebration focuses on vital collaborative projects spearheaded by university and academic presses with research libraries, scholars, and other universities around the world. Members of the Association of American University Presses showcase examples of projects that demonstrate successful collaboration in the Collaborative Projects Gallery.  

 

For a complete list of events and activities, visit the University Press Week home page.

 

Closer to home, OSU Press celebrates UP Week with local author events in Corvallis, Eugene, and Newport:

 

 

Thanks for supporting Oregon’s university press!

October 30th, 2014

 

In 1982, Susan Marsh had just arrived at the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. As part of the Supervisor’s Office staff, she visited each of the five ranger districts to introduce herself. Marsh narrates this experience in her forthcoming memoir, A Hunger for High Country:

 

 At the Gardiner Ranger District I was greeted by a woman with graying blond hair, a tanned face full of wrinkles, and dark, friendly eyes. She led me down a hallway to a collection of map tubes and mismatched file cabinets where half a dozen employees gathered at a folding conference table over day-old doughnuts. Veiled eyes assessed me from under cowboy hats as I stood there in my Birkenstocks. The district ranger was a tall, florid-faced man with sun creases at the corners of his eyes. He had the long arms and large hands of a farmer. When I held my hand out, he declined to shake it. 

 

Today, Marsh joins us to reflect further on this moment—and the overall climate of the male-dominated U.S. Forest Service at the time—from which she managed to establish the prolific career A Hunger for High Country recounts.

 

******

 

It wasn’t the first time I’d been snubbed – left standing there alone and apparently invisible as a meeting ended and all the men filed out to have lunch together – but it was the most blatant signal to date of how welcome I would be.

 

In the 1980s, minorities, women, professionals other than foresters and engineers, and other ‘newcomers’ had a hard time of it—at least in the mountain west. People don’t like change, and we represented a lot of change coming all at once. In my own case, I didn’t help make the changes any easier to swallow for the old guard who were used to a predictable, familiar way. I could have learned to be compliant and tell others what they wanted to hear. I could have been less defensive and thicker-skinned about the insults – everyone endures them, after all.

 

But what frustrated me as much as how people were treated was how the land was managed – not as the crown jewel of the national forest system, with six major mountain ranges and legendary trout rivers on the northern border of Yellowstone National Park, but as just another “multiple-use” forest that could have been anywhere. Trees were seen as crops. A living forest was called “standing volume.”


 

Having held jobs in support of the timber program in Washington and Oregon, this was not a new concept to me, but somehow it didn’t seem to apply in a place of low rainfall and high elevation and spectacular mountain scenery. Visiting foresters from the west slope of the Rockies found reasons to chuckle over what was included in the Gallatin National Forest timber base. “Hell,” one old forester from the neighboring Beaverhead National Forest said. “They’ll have to load those pecker poles with a pitchfork.”

 

Ultimately, A Hunger for High Country isn’t just about people like me who struggled to fit in. It’s a portrait of the Forest Service, but not in the sense of airing a bunch of dirty laundry—in the end, I defend the agency. It's also a portrait of the wonderful wild places found at the headwaters of the continent and the world’s first national park. I hope to illuminate the value of the national forests that we are so fortunate to share and to relate my own story in terms of how these precious forests helped heal my spirit and transform me—from an angry, resentful person to one who is magnanimous and grateful for the experiences, good and bad, that have taught me how to live.

 



 

 

******

 

Susan Marsh is a naturalist and award-winning writer in Jackson, Wyo., with more than 30 years’ experience as a wild land steward for the U.S. Forest Service. Devoted to the conservation of public land and a deeper understanding of the relationship between people and wild country, her essays have appeared in a host of magazines and anthologies. Her latest book, A Hunger for High Country, will be available for purchase this November.

October 23rd, 2014

A most commanding muse, nature continually captivates scientists and citizens alike. Perhaps few understand the call better than author and photographer Tim Palmer, who has spent decades traversing the Pacific Northwest by both foot and water. A prodigious writer and celebrated paddler, Palmer joins us today to share a piece of the beauty he found while researching his latest work, Field Guide to Oregon Rivers.

 

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The temperature hovered at 112 degrees. Ann and I had tied up our raft late in the afternoon and crammed ourselves among ancient rocks under the limited shade of alder shrubs, only ten feet from the prodigious flow of the Snake River. We looked across at Idaho on the other side.

 

Hot! In that precious shade we hid from the frying-pan heat of direct sunlight on blackened volcanic rock while we waited for the shadow of westward cliffs to creep our way with the relief that comes only in summer's evening hours.

 

There, in Hells Canyon, the temperature lived up to the name, but the scenery was far more heavenly than hellish: craggy outcrops stairstepping up to golden grassy benches, then farther to ponderosa pines pointing higher toward ridgelines green with groves of Douglas-firs, and then onward to heights of the Wallowa Mountains, which soared skyward to an alpine paradise, out-of-sight beyond the canyon rim. 

 

There at the eastern limits of our state was the last waterway I would be floating in a quest to complete research for my Field Guide to Oregon Rivers.

 

It couldn't have been more different from the cool, rain-soaked, intimate rivers of the Pacific Coast, where I had started the book, and where my wife, Ann and I normally live. In between lie the rivers of the Willamette basin, the Cascade Mountains, and Columbia Gorge, along with dryland streams radiating from isolated ranges and down to the Columbia, Klamath River, and Great Basin desert. 

 

The Snake is the largest tributary to the massive Columbia and the second-largest river in Oregon (though the Willamette is the largest flowing wholly within the state). The river's powerful flow streamed past at 17,000 cubic feet per second, a lot like the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The upper half of the original Hells Canyon was dammed, and its salmon migrations blocked. But thanks to courageous citizen activism, the lower half remains a free-flowing river where thundering rapids have long enticed adventurers in rafts to join the flow for one of the classic wild river journeys of the West. Here below the dams, a few of our beloved Chinook salmon still spawn in the main stem of this great waterway. 

 

 I felt privileged to be there, and to be learning about the place first-hand, but even more fortunate for my opportunity to systematically explore the rivers of Oregon over the course of the past several years—experience that I added to several entire decades of intermittent canoeing, rafting, and hiking along small streams and large from the Willamette to Winchuck, Umpqua to Imnaha.

 

 Rivers are the essence of Oregon, and so to know the state one must know its streams. They are the lifelines that provide for our fisheries, our wildlife, our farms, towns, and cities. The rivers underpin entire ecosystems that make life possible. The rivers' health is essential to our own health. Yet the perils of development and mismanagement challenge us in striving for a future that will serve not just people today, but for all the generations to come. In launching my Field Guide project, I reasoned that knowing about these waters is fundamental to meeting that challenge. 

 

 Ann and I relaxed in the heat of the day, refreshed by a cool dip in the current, and I took immense satisfaction in completing my tour of Oregon rivers along that impressive artery at our eastern border.

 

Now, all I had to do was write the book.

 

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Tim Palmer is the author of 22 titles, including the recently published Field Guide to Oregon Rivers. He lives with his wife, Ann, on the Pacific coast, where he combines his love for nature with the power of words to promote conservation. An avid paddler, Tim was recognized for his efforts by conservation organization American Rivers with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Learn more about Tim and his work by purchasing a copy of Field Guide to Oregon Rivers today or by visiting his website at www.timpalmer.org.

October 14th, 2014

Rock on, friends: it’s Earth Science Week! And from a geological standpoint, there are few better places to celebrate than the Pacific Northwest.

 

“Earth’s Connected Systems” reigns as this year’s point of emphasis, according to the American Geosciences Institute. Daily activities across the nation will “help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the earth sciences and encourage stewardship of the Earth.” From coast to coast, organizations are hosting events that cover a variety of topics, from engineering to plate tectonics.

 

As Oregonians, our environment teems with unique topographical features and prime examples of nature’s inspiring power. Hike local favorite Mary’s Peak or take a day trip to the coast to join the festivities. But before you do, consider reading up on our local geography and the processes that made it so. Browse below to find just the resources you need to make any Earth Science Week event more meaningful and enjoyable!

 

 

Oregon Geology

Sixth Edition

Elizabeth L. Orr and William N. Orr

 

A comprehensive look at the state’s geologic history, Oregon Geology moves through Oregon’s regions to closely examine the unique geologic features of each, from the Blue Mountains to the Willamette Valley and beyond.

 

This 2012 edition includes biographical sketches of notable geologists, highlighting current environmental problems and tectonic hazards. Lavishly illustrated with an extensive bibliography, Oregon Geology offers an in-depth analysis of the state’s striking topography and geologic features.

 

 

The Next Tsunami

Living on a Restless Coast

Bonnie Henderson

 

In The Next Tsunami, Bonnie Henderson shares the stories of scientists like meteorologist Alfred Wegener, who formulate his theory of continental drift while gazing at ice floes calving from Greenland glaciers, and geologist Brian Atwater, who paddled his dented aluminum canoe up muddy coastal streams looking for layers of peat sandwiched among sand and silt. The story begins and ends with Tom Horning, a local geologist and native of Seaside—arguably the Northwest community with the most to lose from what scientist Atwater predicts will be an “apocalyptic” disaster.

 

Henderson’s compelling story of how scientists came to understand the Cascadia Subduction Zone and how ordinary people cope with that knowledge is essential reading for anyone interested in the charged intersection of science, human nature and public policy.

 

 

Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest

A Survivor’s Guide, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded

Robert S. Yeats

 

An essential guide for anyone interested in understanding earthquake science or in preparing for the next earthquake, this book is also a call to action. Vivid descriptions of recent disasters – including the great Northwest coastal tsunami of 1964 and 1993 earthquakes – underscore the urgent need for better earthquake planning and awareness.

 

In this expanded new edition of Living with Earthquakes, Robert Yeats, a leading authority on earthquakes in California and the Pacific Northwest, offers fascinating, updated information about the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a great earthquake fault which runs for hundreds of miles offshore from British Columbia to northern California.

 

 

Ever Blooming

The Art of Bonnie Hall

Bonnie Hall

 

Resolved to "share the privileged close scrutiny of nature" that she had enjoyed as a scientific illustrator, Hall created her first screenprint in 1992 while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. Inspired by old botanical prints and motivated by a desire to draw attention to "the overlooked, undervalued, or threatened wild things native to our Pacific Northwest landscape," Hall produced scientifically accurate prints that revealed the personality, life stages, and the very essence of her subjects – what a fellow artist aptly called the "gesture" of each plant.

 

Hall’s narratives are rich in detail and informed by thorough study into plant distribution, life histories, use by Native Americans, taxonomic discoveries, and conservation issues. For botanists, wildflower enthusiasts, gardeners, and artists, as well as anyone who loves the Pacific Northwest wilderness, Ever Blooming offers a singular glimpse of the natural world as seen through the eyes of a gifted and inspired artist.

 

 

Oregon Fossils

Second Edition

Elizabeth L. Orr and William N. Orr

 

Providing an unparalleled fossil record of the state, Oregon Fossils covers a variety of terrains and time periods. From ocean beaches to the high desert and Blue Mountains to the Siskiyous, all known fossils are organized by county, age, rock formation and published source.

 

Unique among fossil field guides, Oregon Fossils includes both specimen identification and interesting notes about their discovery naming and conservation. Sprinkled with biographical sketches of influential paleontologists, the text is richly illustrated with photographs, line drawings, charts and maps. A complete bibliography lists full citations to fossil material. The only single volume that provides Oregon’s fossil record and history, Oregon Fossils is an excellent reference for classroom and library use, for researchers, and for private collectors and hobbyists.

 

 

Living with Thunder

Exploring the Geologic Past, Present and Future of the Pacific Northwest

Ellen Morris Bishop

Available Nov. 2014

 

Celebrate the beauty of Earth Science Week all year long with this beautiful upcoming title. In Living with Thunder, geologist and photographer Ellen Morris Bishop offers a fascinating and up-to-date geologic survey of the Northwest—Washington, Oregon, northern California, and western Idaho. New discoveries include Smith Rock as part of Oregon’s largest (and most extinct) volcano, portrait of Mount Hood’s 1793-1795 eruptions and new ideas about the origin of the Columbia River basalts and course of the ancestral Columbia River.

 

Intended as an introduction for the general reader and geological non-specialist, Living with Thunder enlivens Northwest geological history by combining engaging science writing with the author’s stunning color photographs. In addition, color maps and time charts help guide the reader. The book presents evidence of changing ecosystems and ancient life, as well as the Northwest’s exceptional record of past climate changes and the implications for our future.

October 9th, 2014

Author Brian Doyle chats with former OSU Press intern Maya Polan about his passionate writing style, unusual obsessions, and why kids are “like the otters of human beings.” Catch Brian yourself at one of his upcoming readings promoting his latest book, Children and Other Wild Animals:


·       Fri., Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m.: Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR)

·       Thurs., Oct. 16 at 7:00 p.m.: Broadway Books (Portland, OR)

·       Tues., Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m.: OSU Valley Library (Corvallis, OR)

·     Thurs., Oct. 30 at 7:00 p.m.: Buckley Center Auditorium, University of Portland (Schoenfelt Distinguished Writers Series)

Maya Polan: You write so ferociously and passionately about many a subject, creature, and scene that it’s made me want to ask you about obsession. (I love the scene “The Creature Beyond the Mountains,” where your wife says: “What is up with you and sturgeon?”) Do you consider yourself obsessive? Or does the “obsessiveness” (read: your ferocity, attention, passion, regard) happen primarily on the page, as you craft?

 

Brian Doyle: This made me laugh out loud, for I once answered a moppet who asked me Sum up your writing career? with Serial obsession (dead silence from muddled class). I suppose I get fascinated by something and then dive into it and away we go; and everything is fascinating (I mean, I have written about automats, hawks, basketball, noses, Van Morrison,  angels, dragonflies, crewcuts, portapotties…you get the picture); and so…

 

 

MP: When I read your writing, I am always struck by its humor—by your willingness to include the silly, delightful, and incongruous facets of your subject matter. Blue Jays as a “little blue biker gang” is a great example from Children and Other Wild Animals. But I have also heard you read on multiple occasions, and am always struck then by the raw emotion that accompanies your readings. Why do you cry as you read your work?

 

BD: Because stories just nail me, and when you tell a really piercing one, like about unbelievably brave firemen on September 11, or the two incredibly brave women who ran right at the rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary, or about little kids who are awfully terribly sick but they won’t quit, how could you not weep, you know? Plus more and more I think that tears are good, tears and laughter are windows opening in your usual dignified prison wall. I try to open all my readings now with true funny stories so we all start out giggling, which seems healthy, and laughter lets people drop their masks a little, and then you can more easily talk about pain and grace, I think.

 

 

MP: Do you ever reread books? Are there books you find yourself returning to?

 

BD: Dear yes. Stevenson, Conrad, Jan Morris, E.B. White, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez’s essays, Steinbeck, Tim Robinson (I wish Tim Robinson would be reborn as Tim Robinson so he can have another sixty years to write more books about Ireland), the King James Bible. Books singular? Hmm. The King James, Kidnapped, Morris’ Pleasures of a Tangled Life. Alice McDermott’s Charming Billy and Someone and After This. I reread or re-dip into some writers as compass points, lodestars, refreshers; I mean, when I feel convoluted as a writer, clogged, I go cruise Gilead for a while and emerge cleaner and refreshed and attentive again to a sort of held note of music that some writers achieve – Robinson’s one, Jan Morris, David Duncan.

 

 

MP: One of the notes in Children and Other Wild Animals, “Fishering,” ends with the line: “Remember that.” This shivery direct address, both intimate and instructive, appears throughout these pages. Is there someone in particular you are speaking to?

 

BD: Us. You. Me. Us. Me as you as us.

 

 

MP: I noticed you often don’t use quotation marks for dialogue—why is that? (I was particularly interested in how “The Unspoken Language of the Eyes” morphs from a narrated anecdote to a monologue.)

 

BD: I really feel that they are mannerisms, generally, and if I write clearly enough I can avoid them. Also I love the way the lack of quotes allows me to slide between and among voices – spoken and heard, written and spoken, spoken and thought silently, spoken and thought by all sorts of beings. I dislike any filters between me and the reader and try to destroy them cheerfully where possible, as long as I stay clear in communication, and avoid self-indulgent self-absorbed writing. I suspect that’s partly why I like laughing in my prose – if we grin together, another filter fell down and died.

 

 

MP: I kept noticing your use of the word “salt” and “salty” as a descriptor—not just in “My Salt Farm,” but sprinkled throughout your writing: a salty soul, a salty song, “the salt of that feeling.”  What does that word in particular mean to you?

 

BD: Hmm. Tough, wry, bony, blunt, pithy, tart, painfully honest, a distilled grainy character, I guess. I have several times received letters from readers listing all the words I am addicted to.

 

 

MP: One wildly unfair question. In “Mascots,” you write about the thrill we derive from even the removed representation of a wild animal—a cougar or a wolverine or a boll weevil—how “even wearing one on a shirt, or shouting the miracle of its name in a stadium…gives us a tiny subtle crucial electric jolt in the heart, connects us somehow to what we used to be with animals…” so, on that note, if you had to chose one animate mascot for this collection of writing—right at this moment—what would it be and why? 

 

BD: Haw – probably an otter, one of the all-pro cool animals – no real enemies except us, a nutty sense of humor, bad-ass musculature and maritime skills. Otters rock.

 

 

MP: In another essay in Children, “Otter Words,” you say: “sometimes I feel like the eyes in my heart close quietly without me paying much attention…and then wham a kid, it’s always a kid, says something so piercing and wild and funny and unusual that wham my heart opens again…” Why is it, finally, “always a kid” for you?

 

BD: Because it’s all about kids. Whatever else we say and do in life it’s about kids – protecting them, teaching them, being taught by them, laughing your ass off at them, listening to them, being saved and salved by them, roaring at them, dimly remembering when you were them, quietly hoping that you might get another chance, even if it’s being an otter kid in Scotland. Kids are like the otters of human beings, quietly the coolest of us all, with total respect for oboe players and Kevin Durant.

 

___________________

 

Brian Doyle is the author of many books, including the recently released Children and Other Wild Animals, a collection of short vignettes.  Other works include the novels Mink River and The Plover; The Grail, his account of a year in a pinot noir vineyard in Oregon; and The Wet Engine, a memoir about his infant son’s heart surgery and the young doctor who saved his life. He edits Portland Magazine at the University of Portland.

 

 

October 2nd, 2014

He teaches creative writing in public schools.  He's a dad.  And most recently, a novelist. Author Mark Pomeroy joins us to share how a kid from northeast Portland, Ore. found vivid and lasting impressions in the forests of Vietnam and shadows of Mount Hood.  His debut novel, The Brightwood Stillness, is available now.


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I was raised partly by a Vietnam veteran stepfather whose anger and silences over the war both terrified and intrigued me. What had happened to him in that mysterious far-off land? What had he done? What was so difficult for him to talk about?


 Later, I started reading about the war. Watching documentaries. Then, toward the end of high school, I began tutoring Vietnamese refugees, whole families in some cases, often going into their apartments or houses and hearing stories about their lives in Vietnam, their escapes, and their adjustments to the United States. Here were actual Vietnamese people, offering me cashews and tea, sitting across from me, trying to sound out strange vocabulary words.


 After college, I put on a backpack and traveled for six months with a friend through Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Nepal. I kept a journal, and nearly every evening I would record what I’d seen, smelled, tasted, or heard that day. Scabby dogs nosing through trash alongside a Balinese rice paddy. Papayas, barking deer, and raw meat in a Bangkok open-air market. The soot-covered awnings along Calcutta’s avenues.


Ngoc Ha Market Hanoi                          


 When I was thirty-two, I journeyed with my wife to Vietnam. I had to see it with my own eyes, finally. Had to smell it. Here were the places I’d read about, seen on TV, heard about from Vietnamese students and from veterans willing to share their stories. Hanoi’s old quarter. The seared wasteland of the former DMZ. Saigon, where hundreds of blank-faced people on motorbikes were stopped at each red light, jammed in, awaiting the surge.


 My wife and I went to the mountains for a walk through one of the few remaining forests. At one point, I took a couple of minutes to myself, wandering off into a dim thicket. This was the land, and yes, this was the heat. Sweat in the eyes, sweat trickling into the mouth, streaming down the back. Insects alighting on my neck. A chaos of native hopea trees, imported acacia, bamboo, and shadows.    

        

 Everything could become an enemy in this forest, fast. Yes it could. And yet, of course, for other human beings it was home.


USMC-100531-M-4569K-159

                        

 Meanwhile, back in Oregon, my grandparents went on living in Brightwood, a village at Mount Hood’s western base, where they’d bought a cabin in 1972. My grandfather, a World War II veteran, had adored that green, mossy, shadow-strewn land ever since he was a boy; after a long career at the phone company in Portland, he managed to convince my grandmother to move up to Brightwood. My mother and I would drive up there often to visit, and from the time I was three years old, that mountain land began to seep into me. The moist woods, the Salmon River, the small dark cabins built at the turn of the twentieth century. The shadows.

           

Many years later, Brightwood would feature in my first novel, one written over the course of 17 years, The Brightwood Stillness. As would certain journal entries from that 1992 backpack journey through Asia. As would classroom stories that I’d heard from other schoolteachers. And as would the experience of Vietnam—both the place itself and the war—for American soldiers and their families, and for the Vietnamese and theirs.

           

We are all walking wounded.  Yet so often, of course, walking helps the wounds. At least a little. Walking, traveling, facing old enemies now and then. To say nothing of reading and writing, those ever-daring acts of imagination in a beautiful scarred world. 

             

The Dark Forest Ranger


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The Brightwood Stillness is OSU Press' second novel in its fifty-three-year history. Order your copy here.


Mark Pomeroy lives with his family in Portland, Ore. A recipient of an Oregon Literary Fellowship for fiction, he earned his MA in English Education from Columbia University, where he was a Fellow in Teaching. The Brightwood Stillness is his first novel.

August 14th, 2014

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the first national conference on citizen science, held in Portland, Oregon in August, 2012. Nonfiction writer and citizen scientist Sharman Apt Russell, whose book, Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World comes out this fall, was in attendance. Russell, a native of New Mexico, joins us on the blog to reflect on her time here in Oregon, and on the lessons she carried with her back home.

In August, 2012, I attended the first national conference on citizen science in Portland, Oregon. Portland. That Harry Potter city with rose gardens, light rail, independent bookstores, ten thousand restaurants, and all the secret signs of wizards in training. Over three hundred professionals in the field of citizen science had gathered together at the Conference Center on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to discuss the newest trends and best practices—to forge a vision of how the ongoing revolution and renaissance of citizen science could get even better.

Among the policy makers and directors of programs and ambitious graduate students, I may have been the only actual citizen scientist there—something of a groupie come to admire the rock stars of this world. There was the creator of Galaxy Zoo, which allows amateurs help catalog the 200 billion galaxies in the universe! And over there, the supremely successful Fold-it program, where video-gamers synthesize protein molecules! I even spotted the genius behind Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with its over 200,000 participants out watching birds—their data used in an impressive number of scientific papers and studies!

In two days of speeches, free coffee and pastry, what impressed me most, however, was the growing role of citizen science in environmental activism. Ben Duncan, a policy analyst at Oregon’s Multnomah County Health Department, talked about bucket brigades. Community volunteers measure air quality using a plastic bucket with a simple pump system and send these air samples to labs where they are tested for gases and sulfur compounds. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade, one of many such projects around the world, has a ten-year record of documenting toxic emissions in neighborhoods near oil refineries and chemical plants. Their team of citizen scientists begin complaints to officials with: “I know you say that billowing black smoke outside my window is harmless, but I’m getting a high reading of benzene that violates state standards.” Increasingly, the point is not how citizens can serve science—but the other way around.

Since the conference, citizen science has continued to explode (in the nicest possible way). In Oregon, you can join state programs like Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey, Willamette Riverkeepers, CoastWatch, Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and Blue Water Task Force. National programs co-sponsored with Oregon State University include Plankton Portal (identify plankton from photos posted online) and Community Collaborative Rain and Snow Network (report precipitation data). Researchers at OSU are even now building a new, larger network of trained citizen scientists to help monitor the environment—go here for more information. The Xerces Society, based in Portland, has citizen science programs in which you can helpfully chase after butterflies, dragonflies, ladybugs--and mussels. In Project Budburst and Nature’s Notebook, you can track climate change by monitoring plants and animals in your backyard.

After the excitement of the convention, and more than a few good restaurants later, I went back to my home in southwestern New Mexico to continue my own citizen science research on the Western red-bellied tiger beetle. You can imagine me there now, walking the banks of the Gila River, collecting net in hand. Catching tiger beetles typically requires the stalking movements of a great blue heron—or Tai Chi master. Sometimes it is necessary to crouch, inching forward so as to not frighten the beetle, angling the body so as to not let one’s shadow signal one’s approach. Think pure thoughts. Think flow. And be prepared to slam the net down before the high-energy Type-A tiger beetle suddenly flies off in pursuit of prey or water or some private exultation. (Click the link for a demonstration!) I have found my own exultations in my pursuit of citizen science, knowing that I am not alone in my efforts, but part of something much larger.

—Sharman Apt Russell

Diary of a Citizen Scientist is now available for pre-order here, and will be in print this October.

Sharman Apt Russell lives in the Gila Valley of southwestern New Mexico. As well as Diary of a Citizen Scientist, she is also the author of Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist, Hunger: An Unnatural History, An Obsession with Butterflies, Anatomy of a Rose, and other books. Her work has been translated into Spanish, German, Swedish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Korean, Chinese, and Russian. More information on her books can be found at www.sharmanaptrussell.com. She welcomes emails and news about your own thoughts and experiences in citizen science.

July 30th, 2014

New non-fiction from Justin Wadland, Trying Home: The Rise and Fall of an Anarchist Utopia on Puget Sound, explores the historical realities of Home, Washington’s turn of the century “practical experiment in anarchy,” and an array of colorful former residents, whose experiences ranged from practicing free love, spying for a detective agency, defending free speech at the Supreme Court, and for one couple—who resided in a tree house that doubled as a popular dining spot—an elf-life existence.

On the blog, Wadland continues his present-day exploration of Home—and his conversations with current residents—that set Trying Home apart from a conventional history narrative. Wadland writes of a recent return to Home: how, even after he’s completed his book, he still searches out Home’s mysteries—including the former site of that storied tree house.

Want to explore Home yourself? On August 23rd, the Key Peninsula Historical Society will host Justin Wadland for a book event and ice cream social at the lovely Cape E Farm & Vineyard.

***

For many years, Sylvia Retherford, or Stella as her friends called her, served as the local historian of Home. As the granddaughter of founders George and Sylvia Allen, she came by her passion honestly. The six volumes of her Compilation of Writings and Photos Concerned with the History of Home, Washington can be found in several nearby libraries, and it is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the practical experiment in anarchism that once existed on Joe’s Bay.

I acknowledge my huge debt to Sylvia in Trying Home, but while I was working on the book, I was unable to meet her in person. I had heard that she had Alzheimer’s and sadly, could no longer remember the history she loved so much. So I was deeply gratified to receive an email from Sylvia’s daughter, Leila Luginbill, telling me that her mother, who has since passed away, would have approved of my book. Leila had purchased her parents’ house and was now living there, and she asked: Would I like to visit and see her mother’s collection? Of course, I would.

We met a few weekends ago, and Leila had spread out the binders and photo albums on the bed upstairs. She asked whether I was looking for anything in particular. I was hoping to see a photograph of the “famous” tree house that Joe Kopelle and Franz Erkelens resided in for several years. She remembered a big photograph, one which was colorized, and it didn’t take long to find it in an album, along with another from a different angle.

Just like utopia, there is something alluring about a tree house. At the book launch, a man approached me who had done a considerable amount of research on Home and published it in a zine. He wanted to know if I had ever found the site of the tree house. Since I had written a short chapter about it, I could say that it was on the outskirts of the settlement, but I had never been to the exact spot. I put the question to Leila as we were looking over the photos. Sure, she could show me the general location—she had grown up visiting Joe Kopelle and his wife.

After we finished looking at and talking over the binders, we walked up 6th Street, away from Joe’s Bay, then turned left on C Street, which we followed down to the Key Peninsula Highway. There, we cut through the parking lot of Lulu’s Homeport Restaurant and Tavern, crossed the highway, and walked down a road into Happy Valley, a slight depression in the land. At the lowest point, a blue and white sign with a picture of salmon identified Home Creek, and we could hear the water burbling out of the culvert below the road. Surely this was the one where Joe and Franz used to wash their dishes and in which the trout would nibble off the remains of the food.

We strolled a little past the creek and Leila pointed to a stand thick with what looked like birch trees. “Their house was somewhere in there,” she said but admitted that it was hard to tell because so much had changed. Apparently, even though Joe moved to the ground out of consideration for his wife, the couple’s residence remained rustic: they lived in a lean-to against a giant stump, a stove inside to keep them warm. Joe would point to another stump nearby as the site of his tree house.

Speaking of Joe and his wife, Leila continued, “I loved to visit them. They looked like little elves, with round little cheeks. They were small people, coming up to about here.” She held her hand up to just below her shoulder.

Even though the book is done, I am still learning about Home from the descendants of George and Sylvia Allen.

—Justin Wadland

Justin Wadland works as a librarian at the University of Washington Tacoma Library. He holds an MLIS from the University of Washington and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University. His reviews and creative writing have appeared in Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Believer, Crab Creek Review, and other publications. After growing up in Michigan and Vermont, he now lives with his wife and two sons in Tacoma. To learn more, visit his website.

 

 

OSU Press is grateful to Leila Luginbill for providing these photographs.

July 2nd, 2014

Award-winning author Barbara J. Scot's new memoir, The Nude Beach Notebook, is steeped in the landscape, history, and culture of Sauvie Island. Lovers of Sauvie Island, and lovers of exquisite prose, can hear Scot read from and sign copies of The Nude Beach Notebook in Portland next Tuesday, July 8th, 7 PM, at Broadway Books and Saturday, July 12th, 7 PM, at St. Johns Booksellers.

But first, Scot joins us on the blog to reflect on the origins of her place-based narrative.

***

A few years ago, Tom Booth, one of my editors at OSU Press, suggested that it might be time for another book about Sauvie Island. Did that pique my interest at all? I did, after all, live on the island, or rather, lived moored to the island in our houseboat that floated on the Multnomah Channel of the Willamette River. And my emails to him concerning the book we were working on then often included details of the island’s natural history I had observed that day; the wing-beats of low-flying cranes in the autumn, a sea-lion surfacing with a salmon outside my window in the spring. 

I’d give it some thought, I said, and I spent one winter reading and taking notes from old island histories and on-line editions of explorer’s journals, but in all honesty, I was thinking of other things. I had one last family mystery that wanted solving now that I was nearing my biblical allotment of three-score years and ten. Where was my brother, lost thirty years to alcoholism? Why had this brother, to whom I had been so close as a child, wasted his life? Or had he? The physical part of the search was the easiest; more difficult tasks were to define what family meant, the extent of family responsibilities, and what constituted a meaningful life.

The Nude Beach on the Columbia River side of the island where I walked my dogs at first light each morning started the process, the mists rising in spiral columns like dancing ghosts. I walked the island, past oak trees with 600 growth rings, through aisles of Oregon Ash. I noted the arrival of purple martins in the spring, the day when the osprey came back. 

But it was the ghosts of the past culture of Sauvie Island that offered the most helpful metaphors for my own understanding: fog canoes, an onomatopoetic language with the sound of wind, a brother who carried his sister’s body on his back.

I emailed Tom Booth. “I think I’ve written a book about the island,” I said. “It isn’t exactly what I set out to do but it seems to be about the importance of place in understanding one’s own life. And my place is Sauvie Island.”

“I’ll take a look,” he said.                                                          —Barbara J. Scot

In addition to The Nude Beach Notebook and Child of Steens Mountain (with Eileen McVicker) Barbara J. Scot is the author of The Violet Shyness of their Eyes: Notes from Nepal, a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award winner; Prairie Reunion, a New York Times Notable Book; and The Stations of Still Creek. She taught public school for twenty-six years and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal.

To hear more from Barbara Scot, check out her author interview in The Oregonian. You can order a copy of The Nude Beach Notebook online here.

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