We didn’t weed out racism when we should have

Behold the blackberry root

The racism I grew up with was subtle. Not so subtle I didn’t recognize it, but subtle enough that it could live there in the background without offending too many people.

Without offending me enough to do something about it.

And I’m convinced that is why it’s still around in 2018 and factoring into a national election.

Racism is like Himalayan blackberry bushes. A thorny species in the rose family, these plants were brought in for fruit production in the 1800s, but they quickly spread out of control and changed the landscape by out-competing native plants. Each spring they pop up through the bark dust like other weeds, but you can’t just pull them out. They’re stubborn, and they have thorns. So you weed everything else and swear you’re going to come back for it. But you don’t, and they grow bigger. Continue reading We didn’t weed out racism when we should have

Three-Thousand Miles, Thirty Hours and Three Audiobooks

September and October have been two of the heaviest travel months of my career in conservation so far. I have seen the sun rise in Washington D.C. and set in Portland on the same day. I’ve traveled to the political heartland, and I’ve driven thousands of miles around Oregon.

With the demise of creative music and extremely limited options among the mainstays of the music industry, I have been listening to books on tape, or, more correctly, audiobooks.

Continue reading Three-Thousand Miles, Thirty Hours and Three Audiobooks

Grief at Thirty Thousand Feet

Sadness leaks in like the cold. You bundle up, prepared for it. Ready for the onslaught. But it comes in wisps – icy fingers that make you shiver at first. Then you choke as they tighten around your throat.

I stare at the text message, the orange glow of my phone in the dark of a strange hotel room in the middle of the country. I can’t read the letters on the screen, but the message has pierced the sleepy shrouds, the covers over me on the bed, the t-shirt I’m wearing, the skin of my chest and my heart. Continue reading Grief at Thirty Thousand Feet

Traveling with Dad

Dads are interesting creatures.

You spend your lifetime trying to figure out what they are and simultaneously how to be one.

From that moment of discovery, that realization that dawns when you crawl out from under your mother’s caring arms and into the world of men, you will never fully understand it, but it will consume you for the rest of your life.

At least it has consumed me these past fourty four years. Continue reading Traveling with Dad

Seven Billion Lonely People

Top of the Rock – New York City

I got up and read the news like everyone else did. I stumbled towards the toilet realizing in a wash of feelings, that another bright light had gone out of the world while I slept.

I felt a little lonelier than I had when I had gone to sleep the night before.

Anthony, Kate, Robin, my uncle Peter, so many other bright lights gone away leaving the night sky a little colder for the lack of their bright lights in it.

We are so damn lonely, we make it thirty two years, fifty five years, sixty one years, and we can’t make it another day. It compiles in remarkable abundance in some pit within us until it consumes us.  Continue reading Seven Billion Lonely People

Raging for Twenty Six Years

I remember the first time I heard Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut album.

I was a junior at a country high school. My brother and my best friend were deeply into punk rock, and I wanted to date this hottie college girl named Cheryl Carpenter.

I was all over the place, at times trying to fit in with the rednecks and the true-blue farm kids, and at other times trying to be what I saw my favorite others around me being.

I hadn’t really found a place for myself yet. Continue reading Raging for Twenty Six Years

The Zumwalt in Spring

Dark rain clouds hang low over the Zumwalt Prairie in May, 2018

A flat, steel-gray ceiling hangs low over the town of Enterprise as we leave headed north into the Zumwalt Prairie.

It doesn’t bode well for seeing the menagerie of raptors the region is famous for.

As you ascend the ancient volcanic plateau that houses the 330,000-acre prairie, agricultural production gives way to Idaho Fescue and Bluebunch wheatgrass.

Small cliff faces of exposed Columbia River Basalt line the road, and before the rain begins to fall, we see several golden and bald eagles, a Swainson’s hawk and a dark-morph red-tailed hawk.

As we level out onto the Zumwalt, the Findley Buttes, three shield volcano cones that managed to force their way up through the Columbia River Basalts, rise before us and dominate the landscape. Continue reading The Zumwalt in Spring

The Last of the Guardian Angels

Goodbye grandma Shook. The last time I saw her just a little over a year ago.

I have been so proud these forty four years to say that I still have a grandma.

My first set of grandparents passed away when I was in my early twenties. My last grandfather passed away about ten years ago.

And tonight, around 6:45 p.m., my last grandma breathed her last.  Continue reading The Last of the Guardian Angels

On binge-watching “Friends” with my daughter

Am I a terrible parent for letting my twelve-year-old daughter binge-watch the 90s super sitcom “Friends” over the last few weeks?

I’m sure by somebody’s standards I am.

But it’s been a particularly cold and rainy late winter and early spring, and I was curious about what she would think about the world I inhabited during my twenties. Continue reading On binge-watching “Friends” with my daughter

How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

Dr. Seuss’s art

This is not really a how-to essay. I’ve always hated anyone telling me how to raise my kids or giving me books about parenting.

But we’re living in the last days of the American constitutional federal representative democracy, and we have front-row seats to its rapid descent into hell.

What better teaching moment could you possibly ask for? Continue reading How to talk to kids about the end of democracy

"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY