At Home in the Natural World
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Oregon State University Press
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It is often said that what a writer needs most is time alone to think, to write, to agonize: the writer chewing forlornly on a pencil, or last fall—an experiment in the writing life. I learned to build a fire in a cookstove and revise text with my mittens on. But most important, I learned that I can no more write in isolation than build ...
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In the green, light-shot sea along the Oregon coast, bullwhip kelp lean toward land on the incoming tides and swirl seaward as the water falls away, never letting go of their grip on the ocean floor. What keeps each plant in place is a holdfast, a fist of knobby fingers that stick to rock with a glue the plant makes from sunshine and ...
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At the upper end of a high desert lake, where spring runoff floods into dwarf willows and marsh grass, the coots are so noisy we don’t even try to talk. Two males lower their heads, run across the water, and charge at each other. Butting chests, they start to kickfight. It apparently isn’t easy to kick when you’re a coot on water, but ...
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The sea otters at the coast aquarium drifted slowly in the currents, clasped across their bellies. One bumped against a kelp, then gently rotated and drifted away. Another floated around the tank until its feet bumped into the wall. It ran a hand over its face and went back to sleep, peacefully pivoting across the bay. I made my way ...
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All 128 of us want to hear a wolf howl. So we are overflowing the bleachers and crowding around the edges of a room facing a picture window. Children sit on their heels under the window, their noses plastic name tag like flight attendants wear. “Hi, I’m Cheri, your wolf specialist, and I’ll be talking to you today about our wolf ...
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My son reads field guides at the breakfast table, leaning over his bowl and scooping cereal into his mouth while he scans the color plates of banded snakes or studies the pawprints of cats in snow. He will study the same set of drawings for long minutes, absorbing the differences between stingrays and sharks. Or he will read a field ...
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I have never liked dogs. One. They drool. Whenever you sit down, here comes a dog to rest its chin on your knee and leave behind a glistening tracery of saliva, like a tent caterpillar or something. Two. They smell like dogs. Three. They do uncivilized things, like lie on their backs, twist themselves up, and lick their own tail ends, setting ...
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Frank rolled down the window and shouted over hammering rain to a man who was lifting a chain saw from the bed of a pickup truck. “Any chance of getting through?” Rain drove in the open window, wetting our laps and filling the car with the smell of crushed bracken ferns and pines. ...
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The first cut scrapes through hard sand that falls off the shovel with the shape of the blade still on it. The second push cuts into mud and clicks against pebbles and the rough edges of oyster shells. The hole fills with water, and the third shovelful flows off both sides of the blade, leaving clams scattered on the flat. I kneel down to pick them ...
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The song of the canyon wren is the sound of falling water. Its bright tones drop off the canyon rim and fall from ledge to ledge a step at a time, sliding down a pour-off bouncing onto a sandstone shelf, then dropping to the next layer of stone and down again—a falling scale, eight tones, a liquid octave of birdsong in the hard, sun-cut canyon. ...
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I was standing with the doctor in the kitchen of my father’s house, leaning against the stove. The handle of the oven door was pressing into my back, and I was staring across the room at the moths and butterflies behind glass, framed and mounted on the kitchen wall. It was full-blown summer, a sweet July morning, the kind of morning ...
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I’m driving between banks of forest duff, through a leafy tunnel lined with sword ferns and foxgloves. Morning fog spreads through the trees and along the narrow road, like milk poured in water. I turn on the windshield wipers and swerve to avoid a salamander. reaching over the road. I’m not sure how tall these trees are; their ...
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...“How will I know?” Jonathan mumbles. He flops on his stomach in his sleeping bag, still sound asleep. I prop myself on an elbow and stare at him, waiting for another question to surface. It’s a black Jonathan, drawing a question mark that seems to emerge from his subconscious into conversation. Damp air drifts past, carrying the ...
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Snow this morning. A chickadee appears at the feeder, snatches a sunflower seed, flashes its wings and disappears. A pine squirrel crouches on a branch and chatters, its whole body vibrating with distress. The squirrel will cache piles of spruce cones and sunflower seeds that will sustain it through the winter. But the chickadee hides ...
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...unwieldy, and it took all her strength to turn it. When I looked at her, I hardly recognized this woman-child, her face all planes and no softness. She reached across her body to rub her shoulder, leaving This pain has no logic. It makes no sense. There is nothing to be learned from illness in a person so young. The only fact is pain, and ...
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I usually try to avoid estate sales, the whole of a person’s life reduced to things the next of kin don’t want, and then priced and spread out with pocketbooks stretches out to the street, I duck through the hedge and come in the back door of my neighbor’s house as if I lived Inside the house, hazy light drifts from all the windows into the ...
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A branch cracks, over by the water. Another branch snaps, closer this time, on the game trail next to the marsh. Is a moose blundering into camp through the dark? A lost canoeist? Or is it a bear, heaving its weight along a trail filled with deadfall? My books say not to be afraid of bears, and so does Frank. Black bears aren’t bloodthirsty ...
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Campus Way runs under the brick arch of the Ag Sciences Building in Corvallis, past the greenhouses and the small-fruits building, crosses Thirty-fifth Street, and at that point becomes a macadam bike path that cuts through the fields all the way to Fifty-third. ...
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When you’re a middle-aged professor, a mother twice over, and fully five-and-a-half feet tall, it’s hard to disguise yourself as a little kid. But I didn’t want some lady to say, “Aren’t you a little old for trick or treat?” so I gave my costume a lot of thought. The real stumper was my height. All fall, I had mulled over ways to make myself shorter, ...
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As a bald eagle coasts over his head, a little boy walks along the boardwalk toward school, wearing a life jacket, clutching a handful of daffodils. He passes an old man on a four-wheeler. “Hiya,” the waiting for the boy to figure out the joke, he laughs, downshifts, and trundles off, rattling the planks of the boardwalk past the cold ...
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It’s an unsettling thing, to come so suddenly into a new landscape. kitchen table is a chaos of yellow-tabbed guidebooks, forest service pamphlets, canoe route maps. I scan the names of lakes, matching them with their descriptions, trying to figure out where to go. On clouds bucking northeasterly winds. I can read the shapes of the ...
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Seven A.M. on Easter morning, and time for the sunrise service. The congregation—just me so far—sits quietly on a damp pew, soaking up moisture from barnacles and bladder wrack. A few more parishioners float in, a gull, a bufflehead duck. They flutter their feathers, shoulder to rump, and we settle in, waiting for trumpets. ...
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Dead reckoning is navigation by deductive logic. When you can’t see the stars, when you don’t have any landmarks, you can sometimes figure out where you are by knowing where you started, how long used dead reckoning to find the Caribbean four times, measuring his speed with rhyming chants, an hourglass, and the beating of ...
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Cascade Mountains. It’s been almost fifteen years since I floated here one blue evening and scrawled notes about the lake’s chorus of frogs and ducks—notes that would become “The Testimony of the Marsh.” I could not have imagined, and probably wouldn’t have believed, how completely the world would change during the next ...
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Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River, 1810-1813, Botanical Exploration of the Trans-Mississippi West, by Susan D. McKelveyChildren of the Fur Trade: Forgotten Métis of the Pacific Northwest, Down in My Heart: Peace Witness in War Time, by William StaffordDriftwood Valley: A Woman Naturalist in the Northern Wilderness, ...
Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Northwest Reprints