Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hope in the Blast Zone


I just returned from Blue River Writers Gathering sponsored by the Spring Creek Project at Oregon State University. The Gathering was at H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. I was glad to attend workshops by Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford, Jourdan Keith, Kathleen Dean Moore, and spawning spring chinook. A major theme was hope, or lack of hope, or how to work without any hope of carbon / methane reductions to stop near-term immense planetary suffering for all species. I was grateful Nancy Cook of Astoria tried to put together a raft trip for the two of us down the McKenzie River.  Maybe that will happen at the next Gathering two years from now. The film Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by Arwen Curry was memorable.

Afterwards, my wife and I drove into Mt. St. Helens blast zone so we could hike, enjoy fall colors, and write poems.  I recalled Tim Fox speaking about Jerry Franklin "who was one of the first scientists to enter the Mt. St. Helens blast zone following the 1980 eruption. He and his colleagues had anticipated a barren wasteland, they predicted, would last for centuries. Instead, he was greeted by a fireweed sprout poking up green through the gray ash. His response was to cry out in delight 'We were wrong!'"  Similarly, it would be great for The Guardian to be wrong about a possible "150 million 'climate refugees' by 2050."

At the gathering, Jerry Martien's insight stayed with me about the movement to spirit taking place in the climate activist community, along with Tim Fox's words about gratitude for even life's hardest challenges, and Tom Titus' essay about landing a huge fall chinook that broke his line, but he caught anyway.  It was good to meet artist Ian Boyden, and learn about his work in China. I enjoyed hearing about Mary DeMocker's new book The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution.

I was encouraged by other insights, writings, readings, nature walks, and activist works of believers and atheist-humanists.  Below is a poem I wrote for a student while hiking in St. Helens blast zone.

For a Student Fighting Depression

Each day I don't kill myself
is an adventure like today's September green
in St. Helen's blast zone

or fall chinook fishing
under a flame of maples that heals
instead of burns.

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