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February 20th, 2017

Today Eric Dieterle, author of Where the Wind Dreams of Staying, shares what life has been like since the book's publication in October 2016. In his memoir, Dieterle reveals the events and experiences that shaped his search for a place he could call home. As his book advances between states, readers are further able to identify and connect with themselves through the storms of life. A big thanks to Eric for reflecting on the evolution of his writing life.

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In the five months since Where the Wind Dreams of Staying appeared on bookshelves, themes of isolation and connection have risen from the pages to play out in my post-memoir life. I should not be surprised, but I am.

It may be that I simply didn't know what to expect.

A week ago, I spoke on the phone with the chair of my thesis committee-- our first conversation in more than 30 years. He'd read the book, and wanted to congratulate me and tell me how much he enjoyed it. The workmanship impressed him. I told him how much it meant to me to hear that, for he was the professor who taught me so much about discipline and hard work at a time when I lacked much capacity for either.

Connections.

My mother wrote me a long letter, explaining what had been unexplained for decades, un-shrouding the mysteries cloaking my understanding of family history. My history. I would never have guessed the details of the story that now, even as I continue to process it, simply makes sense.

As I wrote the book, choosing carefully what to include and what to omit was more than merely a storytelling exercise. I wanted to balance disclosure with compassion-- for myself and for others-- and I feared rejection on more than just literary terms. I could imagine family, friends and coworkers recoiling, aghast that I had done this or said that, or appalled at the full spectrum of poor choices laid out before them. A lifetime of mistakes contained in 136 pages.

So far, compassion eclisped scorn. The column for sincere compliments contains a number of marks; the ledger of shame, regret and anxiety remains filled only with my own scribbling.

Still, I wince at the prospect of the recrimination I had so worried about when I wrote, and revised, and awaited publication. Because I never know what the next reaction might bring. If there is any reaction at all.

A few weeks ago, as I sat at a small table in the local iteration of a national bookstore chain, I decided to turn away from discouragement toward bemusement. Until that moment, I had not fully understood the capacity of people to not simply ignore someone, but to convince themselves that the periphery of their world simply did not exist. There I sat, next to a poster-sized cover of my book that was perched on a tripod stand, a stack of books in front of me, open to engaging all anonymous passers-by with a smile or even eye contact. Nothing. I was invisible. After about an hour of this, I decided that if I were ever to commit an offense that would cause law enforcement to pursue me, my best choice of escape would be to sit in a bookstore next to a poster of a book, inviting conversation or perhaps even a sale. No one would ever find me.

Isolation.

Please, I'm not complaining. I did sell six books that day-- four to the handful of people who attended my reading, and two at the table itself-- and I deepened my understanding of the human condition by observing those who so astutely managed not to observe me. So I'm a better person for it. A better writer.

As the weeks roll by, I'm mining the literary value of the highs and lows of post-publication experiences. Duality permeates the book: east and west sides of the Cascade mountains, interior and exterior landscapes, the promises of a spiritual realm and the pain of human endeavor. Each "fantastic book!" stands to counterpoint to the vacuum of non-response-- the non-stars, the non-reviews, the non-acknowledgement.

This is as it must be, and if something significant changes, I'll accept the new development as being part of the natural course of events in this writing life. Because honestly, I still have no idea what this writing life is, exactly.

As the author, I am merely the source of the lines. What lies between them-- and beneath them and in the margins-- may simply be empty, or is filled with what the reader experiences. Most of the time, I won't know either way.

Knowing the words are out there-- that needs to be enough for me.

February 2nd, 2017

Dr. Patricia Kullberg joins us today to give a sneak peek at her new book, On the Ragged Edge of Medicine, available March 2017. Dr. Kullberg has served as Medical Director of the Multnomah County Health Department as well as a primary care doctor for people living with physical, mental, and addiction issues in Portland, Oregon. On the Ragged Edge of Medicine  invites readers to take a deeper look at the world we live in, especially at the lives of those some may call the 'undesirables.'

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If we still thought of certain women as spinsters or old maids, Carla would have been one. That's what my mother would have called her six decades ago: a woman whose longing had fled before the impress of time. Carla was middle-aged, crumpled and dowdy, no shape to her skirts and blouses, no color either. She wore old lady underwear, like white cotton short shorts and full, white nylon slips, gray with age. You couldn't even buy a full slip anymore without going to an online specialty store, where, I was certain, Carla did not get hers. I was her doctor. I knew these things about her. I thought of her as someone who would never precede anyone through a door, who would not even complete a sentence if the signals looked wrong. She was well practiced in backing away. A woman peeping out from under a rock.

What I didn't know about Carla was this: she harbored a secret passion that would erupt with tragic consequences, ones that would implicate me in ways I had never anticipated.

I knew doctoring would be difficult. But not like this. Forty-two years ago as I sat in the lecture hall trying to absorb the principles of pharmacokinetics or glucose metabolism, I thought challenges would evolve from the science: understanding it and applying it with sufficient care and finesse More often the science was the easy part. The hard parts were these:

  • Accepting the limits of medical science.
  • Battling the self-sabotage of mental illness and addiction disorders
  • Caring for patients who were hateful, manipulative, contrary, or hostile.
  • Challenging bureaucracies that places rules over human welfare.
  • Facing up to my own lapses of judgment or knowledge.
  • Cultivating a sense of humor and agency against an irrational system of care.
  • Bearing witness to the unnecessary suffering of a sick society.
  • Placing band-aids on the wounds of poverty, racism, and abuse.
  • Embracing the mysterious and unknowable.
  • Making peace with uncertainty.
  • Coping with failure.
  • Struggling to do something when there was nothing to do.

Writing about it helped. I first put fingertips to keyboard during the second year of my two-decade practice among the dispossessed in downtown Portland. My patients were homeless or marginally housed. They suffered all manners of acute and chronic physical and mental health disorders. Many had fled war and repression in the countries of their birth. Or abuse within their families of origin. Or conditions in their American home town that deprived them of safety and economic security, only to land in yet another place that would treat them scant better. They were not necessarily innocent, but they never deserved the nastiness of what was dished out to them.

The patient who inspired my first writing was, like Carla, white and middle-aged. She suffered all the ill effects of massive obseity, like diabetes and arthritis and social isolation. What is most seared in my memory about her was her unrelieved grief over the death of her only child some decades earlier. At the time my own son was a toddler and I was simply unable to contemplate her loss. It was too painful to imagine. Still, we had a good relationship I thought, until I unintentionally breached her trust. I was never quite sure what had upset her. One day she became furious with me for not attending properly to her problems and never came back. It was confusing and disheartening.

Putting words to paper forces you to elaborate, clarify, and crystallize. If you enter into the process with an open mind, you can discover things you didn't know. The act itself can enable you to acknowledge, to forgive, and let go. I employed the writing process often in the years to come. I had many opportunities, as so many times things did not go as planned. I had lots to sort through. On the Ragged Edge of Medicine: Doctoring Among the Dispossessed is a collection of fifteen stories I wrote. They are snapshots of fifteen lives as seen through the lens of ill health and the struggle to survive. Too many of these patients did not.

The stories include these:

  • A woman who tested my loyalty, found it wanting, and chose to forgive.
  • An elderly man who repeatedly, wittingly or unwittingly, sabotaged efforts to fix his problem and still emerged with a good outcome.
  • A modern day hermit who cultivated a large garden on forbidden green space smack dab in the middle of town and got away with it.
  • A fellow who crashed his own lifeboat by refusing his medicine, but managed to survive.
  • A young woman who could endure most anything but loneliness.

My stories ask a lot of questions. They don't provide a lot of answers. They are an invitation to look into a corner of the world that usually escapes the public gaze, precisely because what you will see is disturbing. We should be disturbed.

January 25th, 2017

In a time of political and administrative change, we have taken the initiative to collect and recommend a group of books focusing on women in politics and tackling stereotypes placed upon them because of their gender. As a part of #awesomewomen, we would like to spread the love and knowledge of these powerful women with our readers.

 

For more information on each book, follow the link in the book titles.

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Ava Helen Pauling

by Mina Carson

Ava Helen Pauling: activist for civil rights, anti-nuclear testing, peace, feminism, environmental stewardship, and wife of the famous Linus Pauling. Despite beginning her career in her husband’s shadow, she soon felt torn between her duties to her family and her passion in political causes--feminism.

 

 

 

A Force for ChangeA Force for Change

by Kimberley Mangun

African American journalist Beatrice Morrow Cannady was one of Oregon’s most dynamic civil rights activists. Between 1912 and 1936, Cannady tirelessly promoted interracial goodwill and fought segregation and discrimination. She was assistant editor, and later publisher, of The Advocate, Oregon’s largest African American newspaper. Cannady was the first black woman to graduate from law school in Oregon, and the first to run for state representative. A Force for Change illuminates Cannady’s role in advocating for better race relations and dispels the myth that African Americans played little part in Oregon’s history.


A Hunger for High Country

by Susan Marsh

Before the 1970’s, very few women were working for the United States Forest Service. However, because of new environmental and fair employment laws, Susan Marsh was hired on to the U.S. Forest Service around Yellowstone National Park. This was the first time women were being hired in the U.S. Forest Service as geologists, scientists, and biologists. Yet, what was thought to be her dream job became six years of frustration due to her inability to fit in, leading her to begin again in the mountains of western Wyoming.

 

Learning to Like Muktuk

by Penelope S. Easton

World War II veteran with a Masters in Public Health Nutrition, Penelope Easton journeyed to Territorial Alaska to work as the dietary consultant for the Alaskan Health Department. Taking this time to observe the effects of illness and disease epidemics, educational philosophies, and a scarcity of imported food supplies, Easton found herself fascinated by the food of the indigenous Alaskans, such as muktuk. Through her gained experiences, Easton advocated for the need of preserving native food customs.

 

Marie Equi

by Michael Helquist

Marie Equi, born in 1872, self-studied her way into medical school. After making the move to Portland, Oregon, she became licensed as one of the first practicing woman physicians in the Pacific Northwest. Alongside her medical work, Equi was active in the fight for women’s suffrage, labor rights and reproductive freedom, and became one of the first well-known lesbians in Oregon.

           

Naked in the Woods

by Margaret Grundstein

In 1970, Margaret Grundstein abandoned her Yale graduate degree in order to follow her husband, an Indonesian prince and activist, to a commune in the backwoods of Oregon. However, after being left by her husband for “freer love,” Grundstein was left with a choice. Would she be able to make it as a single woman in “man’s country?” Tensions rose and brotherhood became strained as food became scarce and lines were drawn over land ownership. Grundstein’s memoir illustrates the life of woman living during a period of rapid social change.

 

The Only Woman in the Room

by Norma Paulus with Gail Wells and Pat McCord Amacher

Norma Peterson Paulus was raised in Depression-era poverty in Eastern Oregon. Coming from a family of Democrats, she made the courageous move to switch parties, as she believed the Republicans were in politics for “all the right reasons.” She was soon appointed by Governor McCall to the Marion-Polk Boundary Commission in 1969, which helped launch her onto her path to Oregon House of Representatives in 1970. After three terms, in which time she took the reigns for environmental causes, women’s rights, and government transparency, she was elected as Oregon’s Secretary of State in 1976, not only as the first woman in this position, but the first woman in Oregon to be elected to a statewide office.

 

Remembering the Power of Words

by Avel Louise Gordly

Avel Gordly, the first African-American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate, gives an honest telling of Gordly’s life. As a black girl growing up in Portland in the 1950’s and 1960’s, she faced criticism for her ambition to attend college and her complete dedication to activism. Detailing the challenges faced in her decision to run for a seat in the state legislature. Gordly emphasizes the struggle of finding her voice in a time where her voice was denied.

 

Shaping the Public Good

by Sue Armitage

Drawing from the story of She Who Watches as a guide, Sue Armitage reveals the stories of women in the developing societies of the Pacific Northwest who created the history of our region. These women, of all races and ethnicities, were the guardians and active powers in the shaping of the public good, despite their inability to obtain positions of public authority.

 

Up the Capitol Steps

by Barbara Roberts

This memoir by Barbara Roberts surrounds the life of Oregon’s first woman governor. She began her mission of public service as an advocate for the rights of children with disabilities, eventually moving on to school board member, to legislator, to Secretary of State, and finally, Governor. With this memoir, readers are given the gripping details of hard policy decisions and Roberts’ personal ups and downs.

 

With Grit and By Grace

by Betty Roberts with Gail Wells

In the 1950’s, Betty Roberts took a step most often looked down upon by her contemporaries by going back to college at the age of 32, all while being a committed wife and mother. In this memoir, Roberts reflects on her experiences and struggles as she worked to break out of the prevailing stereotypes, working as a teacher and taking her career to be Oregon’s first woman Supreme Court Justice.

 

Yours for Liberty

by Jean M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety

Between the years of 1871 and 1887, Abigail Scott Duniway stood as a leader in the woman suffrage movement and recorded the experiences and stories of the events that unfolded in The New Northwest--one of the only newspapers in the United States devoted to women’s advancement. Jean Ward and Elaine Maveety provide a selection of Duniway’s articles in this volume from her time as an editor, writer, and suffragist.

January 24th, 2017

Author, journalist, and broadcaster Peter Laufer published his book Slow News with the Press in 2014. Laufer provides readers with an examination of modern-day news consumption and creation. Considering the world we live in today--instant news, fast food, immediate gratification--it is important to take a step back to survey the information being presented to us. What is the validity of any piece of news? How do we determine what is “fake news?” What about accuracy? What is the true value of this constant stream of news? Today we are sharing with you an excerpt from Laufer’s book, Slow News. The excerpt, “Rule 9: Avoid Echo Chamber Reporting”, analyzes the meaning of journalism and the various bits of information introduced to us in our everyday lives attempting to pass as verifiable news.

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"Rule 9: Avoid Echo Chamber Reporting"

By Peter Laufer

 

 All journalism is investigative. If what is purported to be a news report is not investigative, it is merely clerical work.

 The New Republic’s critic Stanley Kauffmann famously said about Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, “This isn’t writing, it’s research.” He was wrong, of course, but it was a witty paraphrase of a famous claim against the work of Jack Kerouac by Capote: “This isn’t writing, it’s typing.” These exchanges of insults make me think about stories presented as news that aren’t.

 Remember in this era of Facebook and Twitter that Facebook updates and tweets from newsmakers are not news. They may be information, but that’s not news. News, since we were cavemen drawing on our cave walls, requires an intermediary: the journalist. If the caveman who whacked the mammoth came home and scrawled his own experience on his cave wall, that was autobiography. If another caveman was along on the hunt, watched the kill, came home, and recorded what he saw on the wall, that was journalism. Sometimes the newsmaker and the journalist can be one and the same, but that requires both a rare news event and rare reporting talent. 

 As for non-news, the worst offenders are news organizations that print or broadcast verbatim announcements from public relations agencies. There is nothing wrong with accepting material from PR functionaries as background for stories. But to stuff such propaganda as is into the news pages or a newscast is scandalous, the scandal made more egregious only by those print and broadcast businesses who completely prostitute themselves and sell the opportunity for self-promoters to appear as if they and their causes (usually commercial) were legitimate news.

 Almost as bad are the lazy reporters and editors who accept information without checking it and without advancing the story by reporting further developments. Crime statistics from the police are examples. Earnings reports from a company are others. An account of a battle by the military of one side of the conflict is still another example.

 That’s not journalism, that’s stenography—without at least verification, it’s just stenography. All news reporting should be investigative reporting. The latter term is redundant.

 There is a difference between information dumping and knowledge building. In today’s heavily mediated world we’re awash with information. We can Google anything and find factoids. We’re bombarded with information via the Internet and our mobile phones and other so-called New Media even while the relics of Old Media continue to thrive: books, for just one example.

 The Slow News rule is to seek information that builds knowledge. Thorough reporting about important world news developments or about news that interests us or about news that is particularly crucial to our lives builds knowledge, makes us smarter, better citizens, and makes us much more fun to hang out with.

 Beware of the Big Story Syndrome. When mobs of reporters flock to one story the result is needless repetition. Think about the hordes of writers and photographers waiting for the Chilean miners to come out of the bowels of the earth alive and well in October 2010. It was a thrilling positive news story, of course, full of human pathos and redemption. But think also of all the news stories that were going unreported or underreported worldwide all those days the miners were underground because of the resources that were shipped to Chile.

 When the world’s attention is riveted on one Big Story, it’s a good time to troll obscure news outlets to find intriguing news pushed from the front pages by the Big Story.

 Skillful media manipulators know how to take advantage of distraction. That’s why government and businesses tend to announce bad news when few are paying attention. Saturday afternoon is a good choice for obscurity. The weekday news reading/watching/listening routine is disrupted by the leisure of the weekend. The audience is at the beach or at the theater or sleeping late. The bad news slips with ease quickly into the ether, reported but often undigested. In 2011, for example, on the afternoon of Saturday, August 13 (which in Italy is more of a Saturday than any other because it is smack in the middle of the summer holiday period), the appointments of presidents and commissioners of the Italian public research agencies were announced on the Ministry of Education’s website. The editor of the Italian section of Scientific American, Marco Cattaneo, called this choice for a date “carboneria,” that is, “it looks like the news was meant to be kept hidden.”

 The Big Story Syndrome can distract the public just as thoroughly as a premeditated maneuver to hide bad news on the weekend. Seeks news that teaches something new.

 

The Slow News rule: All journalism worth your while should be investigative journalism, and sometimes it must be actively sought.

 

 

 

 

Laufer, Peter. Slow News. Corvallis: Oregon State UP, 2014. Print. A Manifesto for the                                     Critical News Consumer.

January 10th, 2017

Today press author Dr. Derek Larson joins us to discuss his book, Keeping Oregon Green. Larson guides us through the making of his book, including his inspirations and the influences in his life that led him to pursue this endeavor. Larson also provides us with an interview that was conducted just after the book’s release in November of 2016 by the Jefferson Public Radio, highlighting the environmental legacy built in Oregon “before green was cool.”

Click the link below to be directed to the Jefferson's Public Radio website to listen to Larson's interview.

http://ijpr.org/post/oregons-environmental-golden-age-remembered-new-book

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It was hard to avoid environmental debates in Oregon in the 1970s. Even schoolchildren like myself were aware of looming threats to air and water quality, controversial efforts to preserve wilderness, and the obvious impacts of urban sprawl. When they showed a film called “Pollution in Paradise” in our classrooms, it made us worry about the future. But Oregon, we quickly learned to our pride, was leading the nation in addressing the environmental crisis. We knew this from reading newspaper headlines, from the educational segments broadcast between cartoons on Saturday morning TV, and from parents who told us we were lucky to live in a state blessed with natural bounty and not yet overrun by concrete or choked by smog.

It wasn’t until much later that I began to wonder what it was that made Oregonians take action to protect the environment when other states did not. What were the origins of the distinctive “Oregon way” I had witnessed as a child in the 1970s, when the state was routinely featured in the national media as a bellwether for environmental protection? The roots of my book Keeping Oregon Green began with this question and the answer turned out to be more complex than I’d initially imagined.

Environmental history and the history of the American West have been staples of my teaching since the late 1990s, which offered frequent opportunities to explore the broader context of Oregon’s environmental era. Summer and sabbatical travel offered time to dig into archival collections, to conduct interviews, and to explore the history of the national environmental awakening that culminated with the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. In the process it became clear that Oregon emerged as the national leader in environmental protection when it did for a number of reasons, not the least of which being rapid growth in the 1960s and its proximity to California’s famous smog, sprawl, and unplanned growth. But perhaps most important was the belief that Oregon had more to lose than other states, and thus its residents had greater reason to act.

Ultimately I decided to frame the book around the definitive victories of Oregon’s environmental revolution: the Beach Bill, the Bottle Bill, the revival of the Willamette River, and creation of the Land Conservation and Development Commission. To illustrate the pace of change I prefaced those events—all of which took place between roughly 1969-1974 –with a study of the failed effort to establish a national park in the Oregon Dunes a decade earlier. Collectively the stories of these environmental conflicts tell us a great deal about what made Oregon different in the environmental era, why these advances were not easily replicated in other states at the time, and what it might ultimately take to build a strong political consensus around environmental protection again. Today Oregonians enjoy the benefits of advances made over forty years ago but the coalitions that made them possible have dissolved, leaving the state’s environmental future uncertain and its status as national leader resting more in its past than in its future promise. It was my hope that a deeper look at these once familiar stories might serve as a sort of orientation to younger and newer residents while helping anyone concerned to better understand “how things came to be this way” in Oregon and perhaps even how they might work together for a brighter—and greener –future.

In the 1950s Oregon was just starting to show the impacts of its wartime industrial boom and post-war population growth. Political leaders were concerned more with economic growth and luring migrants into Oregon than about environmental quality. When Richard Neuberger, the state’s junior US Senator, began a push to have a second national park designated in Oregon his approach was couched in pride as much as preservation: Oregon, he argued, deserved another national park. After all, both California and Washington had several, and their landscapes were no better than his state’s! Neuberger explored park possibilities in Hell’s Canyon and on Mount Hood, but quickly settled on the Oregon Dunes near Florence, one of the nation’s longest stretches of natural sand dunes and a relatively undeveloped area that was already partially managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Joining forces with Massachusetts senator John Kennedy and Texas senator Lyndon Johnson, Neuberger co-sponsored a bill that would create a new category of federal land called a “national seashore” under the aegis of the U.S. National Park Service. The ultimate failure of the bill despite Neuberger’s efforts to rally support for the park in Oregon illustrate a lack of widespread concern over environmental issues prior to the 1960s.

Things changed quickly soon after. The publication of Rachel Carson’s indictment of pesticides in the book Silent Spring rang an environmental alarm bell for the nation in 1962, coincidentally the same year a Portland news reporter named Tom McCall produced a television special called “Pollution in Paradise” for KGW-TV. McCall’s documentary awakened Oregonians to the reality of environmental decay in their midst: sewage-choked rivers, smoke-filled skies, and escalating waste problems that belied the state’s reputation as a clean, uncrowded, natural paradise. Carson’s book is often credited as the launchpad of the American environmental movement, shifting attention from traditional conservation issues like parks and wilderness to quality of life concerns that impacted people where they lived. McCall’s local expose did the same for Oregon, while also raising his profile with the public; he was elected secretary of state in 1964 and governor in 1966. McCall’s political reputation would center around the environment more than any other issue.

During two terms in office—serving from 1967 through 1975 –Tom McCall helped lead Oregon to national prominence in the environmental arena. Pledging upon his first election to clean up the fetid Willamette River, he oversaw a public campaign to reduce the flow of industrial and municipal waste that culminated in a National Geographic cover story in 1972 headlined “A River Reborn.” Campaigns to reduce litter by targeting disposable beverage containers and to secure the state’s beaches for public access also drew national attention, as Oregon became the national leader in progressive environmental legislation and McCall became the nation’s “environmental governor.” At the outset of his second term in office McCall charged the legislature with its biggest task yet: developing a plan to manage growth in the future so Oregon did not end up like California, which he often used as rhetorical shorthand for the collective ills of unmanaged population growth and environmental decline. The result—the Land Conservation and Development Commission –remains the nation’s most successful and studied land use planning system, as well as one of its most controversial.

At the heart of Keeping Oregon Green are the stories behind these environmental advances. The laws themselves are important, both for their impact within the state and as national models. But more interesting to me is the cultural context in which these political acts were fashioned. Once awakened to the declining quality of their environment, Oregonians of varied political backgrounds collectively called for change. Their state, it was thought, was special. It was their duty to protect it, both for future generations and out of respect for their forbearers. Allowing it to be consumed by litter, clogged with sewage, and choked with smoke was simply unacceptable. The arguments they made, be they within the halls of the state capitol, on the editorial pages of the region’s newspapers, or in letters written to Governor McCall, were most often framed in personal terms and expressed concerns about specific places that were important to them as individuals or families. When the governor called for sacrifice, as during the 1973 energy crisis, most people willingly complied. This collective sense of place was a powerful weapon against environmental decay, one that bridged other differences and helped produce a consensus in support of actions that would have been inconceivable in many other parts of the country then or now.

Those of us who were in Oregon in the 1970s likely remember many of the changes wrought as a result. We started picking up bottles and cans along the roadsides and returning them to stores for pocket change. We walked the sandy beaches of the Oregon Coast secure in the knowledge that nobody could fence us out or proclaim part of “our” beach to be private. We watched the wigwam burners go dark and their smoke drift away for the last time, smelled the fresher air in towns with paper mills, and watched the salmon return to the Willamette. Even more important is what we didn’t see: Oregon did not plow under its farms for subdivisions, nor pave its forests for highways. While growth did come, it came in a managed fashion that helped keep Oregon green. All of these things are the legacy of a relatively short period of time and a remarkable series of political (and cultural) events that made Oregon the envy of the nation’s environmental advocates and at times the bane of the “growth at any cost” crowd who would put economics before all else. Through exploring the stories behind these events and their broader context I was finally able to answer the questions I raised years ago—why Oregon? why then? –while also gaining some insight into what might be required to address some of the environmental challenges we’ll face in the 21st century. Keeping Oregon Green, in the end, is an ongoing project that requires renewed dedication with each generation. The stories of Oregon’s first environmental era should serve simultaneously as inspiration and warning: quality of life in the region is high but it will take significant commitment to keep it that way in the future.

 

December 2nd, 2016

Today we are joined by Mike Mix as he guides us through the journey of writing his new book, Leaded. Taking place in the Silver Valley of Idaho, Mix's new book explores the exploitation of the land and the many troubles faced in his research. Having a personal connection with the area lead to his initial interest in the Silver Valley and the concerns that came with it.

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Idaho's Coeur d' Alene Mining District, today known as the Silver Valley, was one of the foremost metal producing areas in the world for almost a century. From 1884 to 1980, its mines produced quantities of lead, silver, and zinc worth almost $5 billion. Yet, the immense wealth came at great costs in environmental devastation and adverse human health effects. In Leaded, I trace the history of those consequences from Silver Valley mining operations and the causal factors responsible.

My interest in this project originated when I was a child growing up in Spokane during the 1950s. Each July Fourth, family members from Idaho and Washington were invited to a picnic at my great-aunt Lucy's home on Coeur d' Alene Lake-- a palatial mansion where she spent her summers. Her magnificent summer home was built in the 1920s after she married on of the owners of a fabulously rich mine-- the Hercules-- in the Silver Valley, 70 miles east of Spokane. In December 1958, I made my first trip to the mining town of Kellogg as a member of the North Central High School basketball team. I retain vivid memories of being defeated by a Kellogg team that won the Idaho state championship a few months later, their enthusiastic fans, and stepping off the bus and inhaling acrid smelter smoke when we arrived. I learned more about the mining district while working summers in 1962 and 1963 at a sawmill in Coeur d' Alene and talking with men who had once worked in the mines and smelters. Their stories about the hardship of working in mining operations, the close-knit communities, and the pervasive industrial culture, were often lively and educational in different ways.

Subsequently, after graduate school, I was a professor at Oregon State University for thirty-five years. During the 1960s and 1970s, I occasionally traveled through Kellogg, observed industrial activities and degraded landscapes, and, as the "environmental movement" was gaining speed, pondered what the future held for Silver Valley mining and smelting operations. The answer became generally understood by 1981 when Bunker Hill, the largest mining company in the district, close, in part because it could no longer comply with new federal environmental and occupational laws and standards. Two years later, in 1983, the Bunker Hilll industrial area was listed as the largest Superfund site in the United States; the total cost of cleanup activities was estimated to be over $1 billion and it would take decades to complete.

Because of my historical interest in the Silver Valley and experience in studying chemical contamination, I began doing casual research in the early 1990s on the large-scale environmental problems and their underlying determinants. Two questions guided my studies: what accounted for the transformation of a pristine wilderness area to a Superfund site in less than a century? By the late 1990s, after acquiring partial answers to my questions, I began to engage in deep research with an ultimate goal of writing a book about the environmental history of the Silver Valley. Consequently, I faced significant challenges in identifying and locating relevant information resources to write an accurate account of my complicated Silver Valley story. Along the way, I conducted extensive interviews with State of Idaho personnel, miners and smelter workers, EPA staff, newspaper reporters, lawyers, and local activists involved in ongoing activities related to Silver Valley children and their health. Conversations with these people were a highlight while working on my project. Additiona sources included: historic records published in the 1800s; scientific articles on lead poisoning published early in the twentieth century; original peer-reviewed articles in science and history journals; government documents from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control, and others; and Bunker Hill Records in Special Collections at the University of Idaho Library. I also obtained period newspaper articles from many local and regional papers that were essential in writing about events and life in the district. The greatest difficulty in acquiring critical information sources, however, lay ahead.

In terms of historical importance, the 1970s are conceivably the most significant period covered in this book. During that decade, events revolved around a lead-poisoning epidemic of Silver Valley children and related developments involving state and federal government agencies, the Bunker Hill Company, and district residents that are described in Chapters 5-7. Originally, my primary interest was focused on a landmark lawsuit brought against BUnker Hill by children who had been harmed by lead smelter emissions in 1973-1974. To accurately discuss the case and the trial, I wanted to locate the offical court records and exhibits obtained through formal legal discovery prior to the trial, which turned out to be a major ordeal. After the trial in 1981, the court records and exhibits were sealed and stored in Boise, but later unsealed in 1990 and sent to the Federal Records Center in Seattle. In 2001 and 2002, I, along with two attorneys, examined those unsealed records and, after carefully comparing the available records with the ofical trial records/exhibit list, concluded that many vital records and exhibits were missing. Eventually, I gained access to all relevant case documents from the principal lawyer in the case who had them in storage at his law firm in Seattle. Ultimately, I examined seventy-eight large legal boxes containing those materials, and copied and analyzed hundreds of relevant documents. Those records were not only vital in recounting the case and trial but also in broadening discussions of significant related developments through the 1970s concerning: increasing scientific knowledge of lead health effects on children; exposing lead industry practices that had deterred scientific lead health research for decades; the absence of federal laws regulating lead concentrations in the environment and workplace; the subsequent passage of effective federal environmental and occupational laws; and judgments and actions (or inactions) of EPA, state, and Bunker Hill decision-makers from 1970 to 1981.

This book concludes a stimulating project that I started many years ago but, for me, the journey continues in following events in the Silver Valley. I also occasionally make trips there to visit with people, travel through the towns again, and observe and photograph the ongoing environmental restoration activities funded by Superfund monies. I am astounded by landscape improvements in the Bunker Hill Superfund site-- the indusrial area where the lead smelter, zinc plant, central impoundment area, and the Silver King School once stood, and the towns of Kellog and Smelterville-- which began in the 1980s and was mostly cleaned up by 2000 at the cost of $215 million. In an unexpected development in 2002, the EPA was obligated to expand the original Bunker Hill Superfund Site to include the entire Coeur d' Alene Basin, from Coeur d' Alene Lake to Mullan. It was estimated that it would take at least thirty years to complete the Basin cleaup at a cost of $750 million. However, since then, from recent analyses by the National Research Council, it is now understood that the scope of the cleanup as originally defined will be only a first step in achieving environmental and human health protection goals; further, "the volume of mining wastes in the Basin is so large that it is doubtful that complete removal can ever be attained." Thinking about the two original questions that guided my research and writing, I sometimes reflect on those enormous costs of the environmental devastation but for adverse human health effects, there are no cost estimates.

December 1st, 2016

Author and outdoors enthusiast James Thayer joins us today to introduce us to the many hiking opportunities available in Oregon's northern Coast Range. Thayer runs a popular blog called Forest Hiker, that served as a starting point for his new book, Hiking from Portland to the Coast. This book includes extensive details about 30 different trails, including access information and historical anecdotes about the places hikers will pass along the way. In today's blog post, Thayer shares the sense of excitement and adventure that he found at the end of Belding Road.

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Hiking from Portland to the Coast is a unique collection of 30 never previously published trails in the North Coast Range of Oregon. These are the result of seven years of hiking these mountains and extensive local research. Alongside each hike you'll find a linked story, making this more than a guided trails book. It is also a unique anthology of stories, events, and folklore about all the people and places along the way.

"What else is there to know about any of these places?" my friend asked, gazing out across the Salmonberry Gorge. It was a blank slate to him. For me the view captured a myriad of perspectives and stories which, taken altogether, give these places their own unique resonance. The result of this "mash up" is the blending of the sundry oral histories, newspaper clippings, railroad histories, logging chronicles, personal papers and community newsletters. What emerged was a two-sided effort: 30 short stories to accompany the 30 trails.

The Chaos at the End of Belding Road

I've been attempting to get to the bottom of the Belding Road.

The Belding Road is an old logging road that descends way down to the Salmonberry River. No one I know (and that includes forestry types) have been down this abandoned road that crosses back and forth for 11 miles as it sinks nearly 2,500 feet in elevation down into the Salmonberry River Canyon.

Some people get a kick out of climbing up things. In my world the rivers run along the bottom of deep canyons and I'm descending from above. Because the only roads out there are logging roads, they all lead to nowhere in particular. In fact, they're everywhere-- but only along the ridge tops.

Sometimes, to get out into the really remote rivers, you have to drive a labyrinthine route that unspools itself along the mountain spines. Ridgeline roads built to carry heavy loads of timber snake out along the heights pushing ever outwards until the very last ridge has been traversed. The Belding Road is one of these sinuous and convoluted trails cut into the steepest slopes along the Salmonberry Canyon. It is both primally beautiful and terrifyingly brutal at the same time.

This close to the Coast the landscapes become fiercer: precipitous ravines with towering timbers growing off the cliffs. One of my favorite eyries is a place called Windy Gap. From there, on a good day, you can see the ships sailing up the coast. But when the gales came in 1955 this was no place for mortals. That winter it blew Lee Carrigan's cabin right off the mountain.

When the big expected gale comes roaring ashore tomorrow, these slopes will be the first landmass they encounter. The barometer is dropping, there is an edge in the air, the elk are hunkering down, and the doug firs are clenching their roots. There is a promise of violence in the air that Coleridge would appreciate.

In 2006, a gargantuan logjam blocked the Salmonberry River at Tunnel Creek. Caught in the tightly twisting canyon, the river breached its banks and poured through the train tunnel. A roaring brown whirlpool swept back up the valley pulling the steep slopes down upon itself.

I bet that by tomorrow when the first storms are due to hit, the river will churn once again. This once placid stream will be transformed as the heavens open up, the storm roars up the canyon and the syrupy brown water is whipped and churned with great chunks of wood and rock. As the storm intensifies the Salmonberry will froth and thrust forth gouts of muddy water. Tossing rocks and limbs as much as 50 feet above the river, it will scour the cliffs of vegetation.

Now can you understand why I want to descend the Belding Road to see the chaos at the end of the road?

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

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


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Ricky’s Atlas

Ricky's Atlas

 
A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon

A Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Oregon

 
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The Color of Night

 
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Wild Beauty

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