Posts tagged with "oregon" - Faerye Net 2010-11-01T20:35:08+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Regionalisms: flimsy footwear 2010-11-01T20:35:08+00:00 2010-11-01T20:36:01+00:00 <p>At the horrendous hour of 4:25 am on Thursday, I was trying not to fall asleep in the shower or fall behind in my travel itinerary for World Fantasy Convention. I looked down at my feet, and by some miracle managed to think the complex thought &#8220;I don&#8217;t like to shower barefoot in hotels.&#8221; This led to the even more complex question of what to do about this problem, which led to my wondering if they sell the proper footwear at the airport and in turn to my making a small resolution. No matter how sleepy I was, I wasn&#8217;t going to embarrass myself by asking after the object in my native dialect.</p> <center><a href="" title="Floating Havaianas Again by Jessica.James, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="Floating Havaianas Again" /></a></center> <p>You see, this informal footwear, a foam sole with two plastic or cloth straps which radiate from the space between the first and second toes, has gotten me into trouble before. Growing up as I did in Oregon, we called these things &#8220;thongs&#8221;. Signs at the local Bi-Mart advertising a sale: &#8220;<span class="caps">THONGS</span> $1.99/<span class="caps">PAIR</span>&#8221;. Mom, always worrying: &#8220;Thongs are for the beach or the pool! Don&#8217;t wear them all the time, they&#8217;ll deform your toes!&#8221;</p> <p>I learned that this was not the term the rest of the country used when I went to college. Yes, in the schoolyear which would see the release of the Sisqo song about that <span class="caps">OTHER</span> sort of &#8220;thong&#8221;, I was an intensely prim 17-year-old very fastidious about her feet, and all the Midwesterners laughed and laughed. &#8220;What? What&#8217;s wrong? It&#8217;s a thong. What do <em>you</em> call them?&#8221; I think my ears may have out-heated the radiator that day.</p> <p>Anyhow, I managed to unearth some feeble manicure-shop freebies Thursday morning, and didn&#8217;t have to ask any airport shop clerks about &#8220;flip-flops&#8221; (as I&#8217;ve learned to call them). But I did enjoy the memory, because it triggered another one: reading <a href="" target="links">Craig Lesley&#8217;s</a> <em><a href="" title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780312147389'>The Sky Fisherman</a></em>. Craig grew up in a different part of Oregon from me and from <a href="" target="links">my parents</a>, but this novel of an Oregon boyhood was palpably in my home language, the dialect of the adults pervasively familiar. Of course, by the next time I had a chance to talk to Craig, the only example of this I could remember was that remarkable piece of footwear, the &#8220;thong&#8221;.</p> <p>Stop laughing!</p> On making a difference 2010-10-04T17:15:01+00:00 2010-10-04T17:15:57+00:00 <p>I <a href="" target="links">tweeted</a> yesterday about a <a href="" target="links">student teacher being reassigned for admitting he&#8217;s gay</a>. It&#8217;s a story that came to my attention <a href="" target="links">through my <span class="caps">RSS</span> reader</a> but, sadly, is local: the district where this student teacher was originally assigned is the one where I went to elementary school.</p> <p>I wrote a letter yesterday, planning to send it to the Superintendent and post it here, but an attack of cynicism shook that intention. There&#8217;s a lot of easy, feel-good (re)activism that goes on here on the interwebs. You submit your name for an online petition, retweet something, and ta-da! You are an activist! Writing one letter is sort of the same thing: drive-by activism. It&#8217;s shallow, brief, and perhaps accomplishes little but puffing up the letter-writer. Some might say one person picking up a pebble, repeated many times, will move a mountain; but it&#8217;s easier to find historical examples of dedicated mountain-movers pushing boulders over years and decades.</p> <p>But on the other hand, this news story isn&#8217;t coming from another state or another country, the vast hinterlands of Elsewhere that filter through webpages and <span class="caps">RSS</span> feeds into our consciousness. This is where I grew up. This district, thanks to the execrable <a href="" target="links">Measure 5</a> (which my family campaigned against while I was matriculating in that school district, and which is why I ultimately left), is underwritten by Portland&#8217;s tax dollar as well as Beaverton&#8217;s.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not endorsing a proximal approach to morality and politics in general, since all too often that means a cozy sort of privileged insulation. But in this case I think it&#8217;s reasonable: perhaps I can&#8217;t make a difference in every case of homophobic discrimination in the world, or even in America, without devoting my life to it. But this is my neighborhood, this is my home. If I <em>don&#8217;t</em> speak out, I&#8217;m letting this be part of my home without protest: my silence says this discrimination is acceptable. (Just like not voting at all is an extra-effective way of voting down taxes and ruining our schools! That&#8217;s a little <a href="">Measure 47</a> joke for the locals.)</p> <p>Perhaps I look a little foolish, and perhaps I&#8217;m an armchair activist. But I&#8217;m printing out my letter, and I&#8217;ll post it here tomorrow. Because this is where I live, and because <span class="caps">LGBT</span> people live here too.</p> Home places 2010-08-03T13:58:59+00:00 2010-09-04T23:12:28+00:00 <center><a href="" title="Grants Pass sunrise by sylvandmike, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="375" alt="Grants Pass sunrise" border="0" /></a><em>Grants Pass sunrise, taken by my cousin</em></center> <p>I recently spent the week with my grandmother, engaging in family traditions such as DeCourcey-rules Scrabble, Jeopardy! viewership, and politely refusing to put Grandma to the trouble of baking powder biscuits at breakfast, then politely eating upwards of three.</p> <p>We also discussed, in passing, the possibility that she will move soon. While we were discussing it, my mind was very much on the implications for her, and perhaps for the rest of my Scrabble-ating tribe. But some days afterward, I realized that once my grandmother leaves Grants Pass, <em>none</em> of my family will live there. I won&#8217;t have any cause to visit, and the sort of half-citizenship of that little burg in Southern Oregon that I have long enjoyed will quite dissolve.</p> <p>My family&#8212;the other side, as it happens&#8212;moved to Southern Oregon in the early 20th century. My Oklahoman great-great-grandfather came for a promotion with the railroad, and brought his family. My Canadian great-grandfather came for a lumber industry job, married the daughter of the aforementioned railroad man. They lived in the little town of <a href=",_Or" target="links">Glendale</a>, 28 miles away from Grants Pass through thick conifer forests. My maternal grandparents moved to Medford, then Grants Pass, after World War II, and Grandpa started a business. Most non-Native Westerners&#8217; family stories are stories of migration, and our stories brought us to Grants Pass, the nexus of my recent genealogy.</p> <p>Is that the only reason I love Grants Pass? That my parents met in the halls of the old Grants Pass High School (now demolished), drawn together by their identical paperback copies of <em><a href='' title='' rel='powells'>The Two Towers</a></em>? That my Grandpa is buried in a woodland cemetery outside of town, bright with dry grass and the sound of insects? That my family orbited around that valley for generations, and even now I feel it&#8217;s our home planet?</p> <p>I don&#8217;t know. I think we have a powerful drive to connect to places. For me, the Willamette Valley feels like home, with its <a href="" target="links">waterfalls</a>, <a href="" target="links">rain</a>, its <a href="" target="links">particular shades of green</a>. But most of us&#8212;I know I speak for myself and <a href='' title='' rel='powells'>Taran of Caer Dallben</a>, at least&#8212;have a desire to know where we came from. It manifests in genealogical research, in recording family reminiscences, in sequencing our <span class="caps">DNA</span>, and in attaching ourselves to places.</p> <p>My parents moved to the Portland area about 9 months before I was born, and before that lived for a few years in Eugene. I have never lived in Grants Pass for more than 3 weeks or so, but I&#8217;ve become accustomed to &#8216;owning&#8217; it, to thinking it&#8217;s part of me. When people mention it (or name anthologies after it), I perk up my ears. My car still has its Grants Pass license plate surround. I know the <span class="caps">GPHS</span> colors, remember feeding the ducks at Riverside Park, have walked the main street, passed under the <a href="" target="links">&#8220;It&#8217;s the Climate&#8221;</a> sign, had many milkshakes at the old soda parlor in the Grants Pass Pharmacy. I feel at home in that bowl of blue-green hills. Even though I&#8217;m a proud Portlander, I know my roots are in small towns like Grants Pass and Glendale, <a href="" target="links">Llanfyrnach</a> and <a href="" target="links">Marvejols</a> and Taupinet. Perhaps that&#8217;s silly, or meaningless, or maudlin, but I&#8217;ll be sorry when there are no more DeCourceys in Grants Pass, when I am only a traveler passing through, and not a native grandchild returning.</p> Day trip: White River Falls 2010-06-28T13:32:57+00:00 2010-06-28T13:33:23+00:00 <p>I thought I&#8217;d post a photo from the trip <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a> and I took this weekend to White River Falls State Park, just a bit south of The Dalles in our fine Beaver State.</p> <center><a href="" title="White River Falls -- Upper and Lower by Felicity Shoulders, on Flickr"><img src="" width="374" height="500" alt="White River Falls -- Upper and Lower" border="0"></a></center> <p>As a side note for gadget geeks, this photo (and my <a href="" target="links">other photos</a> from the trip) were taken with my new iPhone 4. Not bad for a phone.</p> Top Ten Reasons I'm glad to be back in Oregon 2009-01-14T12:00:41+00:00 2009-01-15T14:22:58+00:00 <p>10. <strong>Online access to the <span class="caps">OED</span></strong> through Multnomah County Libraries. Oh yes.</p> <p>9. <strong>Shopping Locally.</strong> Also see #7. The area of San Jose where I lived had astoundingly few locally-owned businesses. One per shopping center or less. In this area of Portland, the ratio is almost reversed. In t.c.e.c. (the current economic climate), it feels good to know your money is going directly into your community.</p> <p>8. <strong>The roads</strong>, and being on them less. Fewer potholes (save for I-5 North after three freezes and a week of chained semis), fewer drivers, lower average speed, and less merging. This also means <a href="" target="links">fewer &#8216;grouse&#8217; entries</a>.</p> <p>7. <strong>My favorite shops</strong> &#8211; from tea purveyors to stationers, I know where to go to get what I want.</p> <p>6. <strong>Walks.</strong> I haven&#8217;t always lived in a walkable area, but I do now, and I cherish it like the dickens. Besides, it&#8217;s easy to get somewhere to stroll all the afternoon using&#8230;</p> <p>5. <strong>Tri-Met.</strong> I never knew how much I loved you until you weren&#8217;t there with your low, low fares and convenient routes.</p> <p>4. <strong>Weather.</strong> Actual weather. Rain for my amphibian skin. Wind for brisk walks. Clouds to watch as I ponder.</p> <p>3. <strong>Landscape.</strong> Dark points of conifers, mist-veiled mountains&#8230;this is where I belong.</p> <p>2. <strong>People.</strong> I left some good friends in California, but I&#8217;m not just talking about my pals, Ryan&#8217;s folks across the Water, my uncle in our quadrant of Portland, or my sister up in Seattle. I grew up in the friendly but unassuming civility of the Northwest, and it is my natural habitat.</p> <p>1. <strong>Powell&#8217;s.</strong> Yes, feel free to be insulted, #2. And no, this is not part of #9 or #7. Powell&#8217;s is the center of my universe and the signed pillar in the spec-fic section holds up my sky. I am gravitationally attracted to books. Don&#8217;t judge me!</p> Home again, home again, jiggety-jig 2008-10-01T15:28:45+00:00 2008-10-01T15:30:19+00:00 <p>Since <a href="" target="links">Ryan let the cat out of the bag</a>, it seems time to mention that I&#8217;m in the midst of a big ol&#8217; move. Ryan&#8217;s dream job was, as advertised, both dreamy and jobby, and has proven so dreamy that they will let him telecommute from home. I kid you not, his boss said &#8220;work should enrich life, not vice versa.&#8221; Really. People say that.</p> <p>Anywho, I&#8217;ve been an endless ball of whine about moving down here, and I know it. As Anya said once, &#8220;This tone in my voice? I dislike it more than you do, and I&#8217;m closer to it!&#8221; I can tell that I&#8217;ve been a kvetch about the (cloudless) weather, the crazy traffic, the constant merging, but I just couldn&#8217;t stop. I&#8217;m an alien here. I&#8217;m a creature of water. My skin needs it, my lungs need it, my soul needs it. I&#8217;m dry, itchy, asthmatic (smog and smoke, more than lack of water) and grumpy. It&#8217;s time to go home.</p> <p>So home we go! I&#8217;m moving closer in to Portland than I&#8217;ve ever been before, which is quite exciting. I&#8217;m hoping to utilize Tri-Met and my own two feet and let <a href="" target="links">the Poky Puppy</a> rest a bit. Walking is good time to ponder plot and pick up details from the real world to cram into my writing. I feel like walking&#8217;s more or less our primary mode as humans, and that we don&#8217;t do it enough in modern America.</p> <p>So that is one of the reasons (a recent push of story submissions is another) why I&#8217;ve been posting less lately, and I&#8217;m sure in the next few weeks I&#8217;ll be sporadic about it. But then I will be home, and a happier blogger for it. Let&#8217;s face it, adaptability is not one of my greatest virtues, at least when it comes to leaving my home region. Webs between my toes and they never go away.</p> The control of risk 2008-08-04T16:21:42+00:00 2008-08-04T16:22:14+00:00 <p><center><a href="" title="San Gabriel Mountains, photo by exquisitur"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="San Gabriel Mountains" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by Jason Hickey via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>The San Gabriel Mountains are some of the steepest on Earth. They&#8217;re geologically complex, riven by faults and scraped back and forth by plate tectonics. They are coming down.</p> <p>I read about them in &#8220;Los Angeles vs. the San Gabriels&#8221;, the final essay in John McPhee&#8217;s <a href="" target="links"><em>The Control of Nature</em></a>. McPhee&#8217;s description of the way the mountains&#8217; unstable rock interacts with the local cycle of fire and flash-flood is chilling; what&#8217;s more disturbing is that at their feet, in the path of the debris flows, are expensive and expansive human settlements, sprawling bedroom communities of Los Angeles.</p> <p>I highly recommend reading the book; in fact, I&#8217;ve already lent my copy to my family so they can read it, or else I&#8217;d be quoting more extensively. But my own reaction to the book made me think. Reading about families buying or building uninsurable multi-million dollar homes in the foothills of these moving mountains, I was incredulous. How could they live there just because it&#8217;s pretty and less smoggy than other parts of the LA Valley? How could they trust their lives and the integrity of their homes to the partial protection of a debris basin?</p> <p><center><a href="" title="Debris Basin, photo by yikai1"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="Debris Basin" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by yikai1 via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>There are other stories in the book that mystify me as much. In &#8220;Atchafalaya,&#8221; the first essay, the author describes a <a href="">city in Louisiana</a> in a uniquely precarious position &mdash; &#8220;Water approaches Morgan City from every side.&#8221; (page 80) &mdash; one entirely dependent on the Army Corps of Engineers for the sea walls that protect them from flood. Years have passed since <em>Control of Nature</em> was published, so I went to check the city&#8217;s Wikipedia page to see how they&#8217;ve fared. The words &#8216;wall&#8217; and &#8216;flood&#8217; don&#8217;t appear; apparently no one deemed the dangers notable.</p> <p>We all live with risks, calculated or ignored. It&#8217;s easy to disapprove of the choice to build new mansions in the foothills of the San Gabriels, and hard to understand the Caltech geologists who outline the dangers of the mountain front for McPhee and then admit to living there. Easy to condemn the citizens who shrugged off their town government&#8217;s attempts to educate them about the season&#8217;s high likelihood of flows, refused to engage in mitigation activity, then sued that city when flows devastated their property. But what of the hardy men and women McPhee interviewed who live in the mountains because they love nature, who know the dangers better than anyone and stand in defiance in order to live in the wilderness? Is it knowledge that makes risk-taking acceptable in the eyes of an observer? Is it love?</p> <p><center><a href="" title="Mt. St. Helens at sunset, photo by Bmaas"><img src="" width="240" height="180" alt="Mt. St. Helens steaming" border="0"/></a><br /> <em><font size="1">Photo by Barry Maas via <a href="" target="links">Flickr</a>.</font></em></center></p> <p>I have lived most of my life in Oregon. I&#8217;ve known, most of that life, that there are dangers. The weather is generally mild, and floods are not too common or dangerous, but underneath the state it&#8217;s a different story. The Juan de Fuca and North American plates have been locked without a major earthquake since <a href="" target="links">1700</a>. I&#8217;ve been told all my life that we&#8217;re overdue for a big quake, and learned in college that much of the earthquake proofing in the Northwest is proven against San Andreas style shaking, not the subduction zone movement it will someday need to withstand.</p> <p>But I love Oregon. I want to move back there, and I accept the risk. When friends from the Midwest ask about earthquakes, I usually say, &#8220;Yeah, it&#8217;ll happen someday, and it may kill me, but it may not.&#8221; It sounds fatalistic, but it does represent my position: A quake will occur, possibly within my lifetime, possibly later. It is likely to be massive, so there&#8217;s a limit to how much I can do about it. It&#8217;s an omnipresent, huge threat, but its very omnipresence and size make it ignorable. I can&#8217;t stress about it every minute, and when it happens, I&#8217;ll either be too dead to care or able to stop fretting about it for the rest of my life. Living in San Jose concerns me a little more, but not worrying is a similar process here, pretty easy to accomplish.</p> <p>But tornado season every year? Regular flooding of the Mississippi? Knowing that every time the <a href="" target="links">chapparal</a> on the mountains burns, two good rains in a row could move a hill down into my neighborhood? I couldn&#8217;t cope with those risks.</p> <p>This isn&#8217;t just a question of my comfort levels and yours; of my childhood practicing earthquake drills and learning about the volcano that erupted nine months before I was born versus <a href="" target="links">Ryan&#8217;s childhood</a> of riding the schoolbus home playing &#8216;spot the twisters&#8217;. Our cities are crowded; people want to live on the fringe where rents are low, or in the foothills above the smog. People want to retire further away, to remote but growing towns vulnerable to forest fire. The rich want to build beach houses on shifting dunes, while others cannot afford to move out of the floodplain, out of the trailer park in Tornado Alley, out of the path of the Mississippi. Our world is crowded. And, as the ice caps melt, our field of options will get smaller.</p> <p>We all underwrite each other&#8217;s choices. Within the US, by paying for rescue, for flood or high-risk home insurance, for disaster relief with our taxes. Across the globe, with international aid and our emotional investment in the lives lost at the edge. Who is going to decide what risks are reasonable? Whose freedom to risk can be respected, and whose should not? In this society of contradictions, where rugged individualism is espoused and habitual litigiousness is practiced, who has the right to decide where you or I make a home?</p> Final residency 2008-06-19T16:20:11+00:00 2008-06-19T16:20:11+00:00 <p>In Oregon for fewer than 6 hours, and I&#8217;ve already bought a book at <a href="" target="links">Powell&#8217;s</a> (okay, airport Powell&#8217;s, but still) and eaten <a href="" target="links">Pizza Schmizza</a>. Huzzah for home, for easy no-sales-tax math and shade, glorious shade!</p> Back on the beach 2008-01-13T23:52:13+00:00 2008-05-25T20:12:04+00:00 <p>What is the difference between very little and nothing? Approximately the difference between my posting habits in the last few months and my posting habits for the last week and change. I&#8217;m back in my grad school grind (tho&#8217; not a Gradgrindian school). It&#8217;s my final semester&#8230;only one more of these mad, lovely swirls of theory and work, friendship and inspiration awaits me. </p><p>So I write from a hotel room looking out on the Pacific, whose surf is still white even when the water stares black at the starlit sky. Oregon is in my bones as well as in my heart. It&#8217;s good to be home.</p> Waterfalls 2006-04-06T20:02:09+00:00 2008-06-08T14:22:50+00:00 <p>I took an out-of-town friend up the Gorge today, and we wended our pilgrim way from fall to fall, taking away photos, misty blessings, and newly waving hairstyles. We were both struck, standing in the susurrating roar of Latourell (first fall we found), at the strange shape of the place. Factually, actually this place has been carved out by millennia of busy water; fingers shaping, wearing, prying. But in the presence and immediacy of the spring-swollen waters, it does not seem a prosaic thing of friction and time.</p> <p>The walls curve, great massy things of mossy basalt, hewn large and rough from the earth. They tease at the eye, falling in towards the wraith of water. So also does it seem that light falls, and gravity; reality itself making soft obeisance. These do not seem like places which work themselves softly out of the world of physics; they seem like temples sprung to life to house these falling gods.</p><p> I have studied my geology, and I know these places; sheltered Latourell and welcoming Wahkeena, the majestic plunge of Multnomah; are merely small tributary waters showing their chisels are much less busy than those of the mighty Columbia. I know the softly curving walls did not appear in reverence, but slowly crumbled into being over long years of water&#8217;s caress and ice&#8217;s invasion. I know that water is just the dance of polar molecules, drawing life and death&#8217;s debris over the globe in accordance with laws of physics and chemistry. I know that my eye interprets its falling disarray according to its own confused fancy, and no matter what shapes it seems to have, the water has no spirit and no life. But I cannot stand in such a place, kissed by the chill of the falling water, and swear I know no magic. I cannot tell you I am not on holy ground.</p> <p><center><a href=""><img src="" alt="The plunge pool at Latourell" title="Latourell Falls" border="0"></a></p>