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The Beauty and Care of Children

Yesterday morning, I heard the sound of children’s voice, and when I looked out the window, a preschool teacher was taking a picture of her students with our ridiculously large rhododendron as the background.

Those sweet faces and smiles were exactly what I needed to see after the awful news out of Texas the day before.

Leaving aside, for a moment, the discussion of guns and gun violence in this country, we need to do everything we can to protect our children in every way, not only from killings but also poverty, neglect, and abuse. If we aren’t willing to care for and protect children, whether they are ours or someone else’s, what kind of a society are we?

My Review of ROUGH HOUSE, a Memoir Set in the Pacific Northwest

New on WritingtheNorthwest.com: my review of Tina Ontiveros’s rough house (Oregon State University Press, 2020), a difficult but moving memoir about growing up in the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest and the dry brown land around The Dalles, Oregon.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Contrary to popular belief, you can sometimes tell a lot about a book by its title. In addition to the double meaning of physical fun and difficult circumstances, it’s significant that rough house is printed in lower case. Ontiveros is shining a light on minor characters whose stories, though filled with poverty and violence, are worth telling—and worth reading—for what they reveal about the hardships many Americans face, as well as how those Americans—especially women, like Ontiveros—find a way forward despite the odds.”

Still There Is Much That Is Fair…

I took this picture after a fierce deluge battered our just-blooming dogwood tree yesterday. It seems a good illustration of the Tolkien quote below–the kind of reminder I need with all that is going on these days.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

A Unique and Wonderful Book on Traditional Life Along the Columbia River

My latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com celebrates a unique and wonderful book about the history, customs and daily life of Native American tribes along the Columbia River. Click here to read: “When the River Ran Wild!–Excavating the Memories, Customs and Ways of the Mid-Columbia Tribes.”

Memento Mori

Illustration by Charlotte Ager (from Notre Dame Magazine)

I hope you’ll take a moment to read this honest and moving piece by Robin Bartlett, a writer I worked with last year at Collegeville: Memento Mori.

Here’s what Robin wrote when she posted it on Facebook today:

I am a preacher and not a writer, but today my writing is published in a magazine. The writing teacher that I worked with at Collegeville Institute, Michael N. McGregor, really pushed me to stop sermonating and start sharing more of myself. As a result, this essay is much more personal than what I typically preach, so it feels a little bit like “bleeding in public.” But here it is, in public anyway. Thanks, Notre Dame magazine, for giving me this forum. And thanks, Michael, for believing in me.

Feeling Wild and Lyrical: Jack Kerouac Spends a Night in Seattle

Jack Kerouac by Tom Palumbo circa 1956 
(image from Wikipedia)

There’s a new post on my WritingtheNorthwest.com site: “Feeling Wild and Lyrical: Jack Kerouac Spends a Night in Seattle.” It’s focused on Kerouac’s still-fresh description of Seattle in the summer of 1956, when he passed through on his way to working as a lookout on Desolation Peak in the N. Cascades.

Kerouac, of course, was a friend of Robert Lax, the subject of my book Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax. You’ll find a post here about a letter from him to Lax in which he laid out his thoughts about Christianity and Buddhism.

There are many pages about Kerouac and his friendship with Lax in Pure Act.

 

New Posts Explore the Role of Writers in Creating the Myth of a New Eden and a Gateway to Riches

Image from aype.com

Two new posts on my WritingtheNorthwest.com site look at the role of writers in creating the myths that brought the Pacific Northwest attention and population growth in the 19th century.

The first one, called “How Writers Helped Shape the Myth of a New Eden,” explores the mythologizing of the Oregon Trail and the Eden at the other end of it, leading to growing settlements in what was called the Oregon Country.

Image from nps.gov

The second one, called “How One Man Made Seattle by Selling It to the World,” examines the role of a man named Erastus Brainerd in marketing Seattle as the Gateway to the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush. His before-their-time efforts led to 70,000 of the approximately 100,000 men who traveled to Yukon passing through Seattle, changing the city overnight.