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Start

Summer 2014
The eld of
epigenetics is
changing ideas about
when life begins
Writers Peter Rock
on starting and Brian
Doyle on not starting
An immigrant
familys strange start
in a new country
The beginnings of
six of Oregons claims
to fame
$8
editor
Kathleen Holt
art Director
Jen Wick
communications
coordinators
Ben Waterhouse
Eloise Holland
copy editor
Alex Behr
DESIGN ASSISTANT
Bryan Zentz
Oregon Humanities (ISSN
2333-5513) is published trian-
nually by Oregon Humanities,
813 SW Alder St., Suite 702,
Portland, Oregon 97205.
We welcome letters from
readers. If you would like to
submit a letter for consider-
ation, please send it to the
editor at k.holt@oregonhu-
manities.org or to the address
listed above. Letters may be
edited for space or clarity.
Oregon Humanities is
provided free to Oregonians.
To join our mailing list, email
o.hm@oregonhumanities.org,
visit oregonhumanities.org/
magazine, or call our ofce
at (503) 241-0543 or (800)
735-0543.
Oregon Humanities 2
editorial advisory
board
Debra Gwartney
Julia Heydon
Guy Maynard
Win McCormack
Greg Netzer
Camela Raymond
Kate Sage
Rich Wandschneider
Dave Weich
Oregon Humanities 3
Features: Start
11
To Begin Is to Start
by peter rock and peter
Mccollough
An excerpt from Spells, a
novel-within-photographs
12
Before You Know It
by caitlin baggott
If our health is determined by
stresses faced by our great-
grandparents, how should we
plan for the future?
19
Almost a Family
by colleen kaleda
After years trying to conceive,
the uncertainty of adoption
Departments
4
Editors Note
6
Field Work
My Walk Has Never Been
Average

Speak Up! A Day of


Change

Letters to Strangers

Humanity in Perspective Meets


Write Around Portland

OH
News

Foundation Grants
10
From the Director
40
Posts
Readers write about Start
3 Summer 2014
44
Read. Talk. Think.
Behind the Curve by Joshua
P. Howe

The Night Guard at


the Wilberforce Hotel by Daniel
Anderson

The Enchanted by
Rene Denfeld

The Invisible Girls


by Sarah Thebarge

The Plover by
Brian Doyle

Sorry About That


by Edwin L. Battistella

Going
Somewhere by Brian Benson
46
Croppings
Expanding Vision: The
Contribution of Mobile
Photography at The Art Center
in Corvallis
23
Origin Stories
by Peter laufer, Melissa
Leavitt, Christen
Mccurdy, and Bobbie
Willis Soeby
The surprising beginnings of
six of Oregons claims to fame
30
Small Man in a Big Country
by alex tizon
Language is the just the
rst thing abandoned in an
immigrant familys efforts to
become American.
34
Clowns for Christ
by norina beck
Losing God and nding
Patches
38
On the Bench
by bri an doyle
On not starting and starting
again
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Oregon Humanities 4
We are excited to feature the work of
Oregon writers and artists in the pages of
Oregon Humanities. The cover of this issue
is a photograph of Confusion Hill in Northern
California taken by Ann Ploeger of Portland.
If youre an Oregon artist and have work
that we might consider for the Fall/ Winter
2014 issue, on the theme Quandary, wed
love to know about it. Please familiarize
yourself with our publication (back issues
viewable online at oregonhumanities.org),
then send us the following by October 29,
2014:
A high-resolution digital image (300 dpi
at 8 x 10; scans or photographs, JPEG
or TIFF)
Your name, the title of the work, the type
of media, as well as contact information
(email and phone number)
Description of the relationship of the
image to the theme
Please consider the constraints of a
magazine cover (e.g., vertical orientation,
nameplate, and cover lines). We are most
interested in works by Oregon-based artists.
Submissions can be sent to
art@oregonhumanities.org or by post
to Oregon Humanities magazine,
813 SW Alder St. Suite 702, Portland,
OR 97205.
Will, Work, and Imagination
B
EGI NNI NGS A R E A PPE A L I NG. THEY BEGUI L E
with promise and possibility: spring, weddings, the rst day
of a new job, the rst leg of a journey, the rst page of a book. Less
appealing and more complicated: going backward to nd the
source of something mystifying or troubling. Rooting around in
the past can be dirty, taxing work, especially as the future beck-
ons with its fresh starts.
While working on this Start issue, Ive rooted around in my
own life, thinking about the story Ive conjured up about where
I came from, where I started. As part of that story, Ive become
convinced that leaving Hawaii for the mainland and never
returning is both why I am who I am today and why I live the
life I live. There are other beginnings I could point to as well as
many false starts, but Ive built much of my identity on the acts of
leaving and not returning, and Ive made choices that reinforce
this identity. To explore what compelled me, but not the rest of
my family, to leave, will take yet more digging.
What are the genesis stories, both personal and shared, that
we are most reluctant to poke at and challenge for fear of disman-
tling an entire system of self- and sense-making? I thought about
this question as I worked with both the writers of the stories that
follow and the Oregon Humanities board and staff on crafting a
new vision for the organization, one that identies equity and
justice as key values in our work.
During this time, I also read Ta-Nehisi Coatess much-dis-
cussed essay in the Atlantic from earlier this year, The Case for
Reparations. Coates makes a nuanced and well-supported case
that America needs to consider its history as steeped in policies
and practices that gave whites supremacy over blacks, and that
this history is the genesis of the seemingly unsolvable problems
of racial inequity in the country today.
Coates writes, We invoke the words of Jefferson and Lincoln
because they say something about our legacy and our traditions.
We do this because we recognize our links to the pastat least
when they atter us. But black history does not atter American
democracy; it chastens it. Going to our origin stories to ponder
the whys, to look clear-eyed at where we came from and what
weve made of ourselves, is terrifying work. But its work we must
do in order to imagine a new country, as Coates encourages.
If imagining such a thing seems daunting, consider the care
and creativity that we regularly unleash in our lives: We imbue
personal events and experiences with metaphorical meaning.
We string myriad ideas and feelings into something substantial
and real. Daily we make valuable things out of little more than
will, work, and imagination: an essay, a family, a life. What more
can we makemeaning, sense, changeif we set out together,
mindful of but not tied to where we began?
kathleen Holt, Editor
k.holt@oregonhumanities.org
Editors Note
Cover Art Ideas for Quandary
Oregon Humanities 5
News from
both sides
of the bridge.
opb.org
ORHumanities.indd 5 6/30/14 12:29 PM
Oregon Humanities 6
Womens Work
Play sparks conversation about race and gender
in nontraditional elds.
A
LOT OF WOMEN IN NONTRADITIONAL
elds grew up chopping wood alongside
their father or working on cars with their uncles
or aunts, says Roberta Hunte, assistant profes-
sor in the Black Studies, Conflict Resolution,
and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
departments at Portland State University.
For her doctoral dissertation, Hunte con-
ducted interviews with black women in US con-
struction trades. She says, These are people
who understand working with their hands as
something they were meant to do.
Although construction trades are as natural
a t for women as they are for men, the industry
historically has been resistant to the entrance
of both women and people of color.
When you have a workforce that does not
have a lot of women and people of color, you
need to be aware of the realities of racism and
humanities across oregon
Field Work
sexism, says Hunte. Enter the August Wilson
Red Door Projects production of My Walk
Has Never Been Average, a play adapted from
Huntes dissertation by playwright and Red
Door executive director Bonnie Ratner.
When I read [the dissertation], I knew the
stories of these women should be embodied and
brought to the stage, says Ratner. Like every-
thing the Red Door does in its mission to change
the racial ecology of Portland through the
arts, My Walk is meant to make social change.
Toward this end, each production of the play
has been followed by a conversation.
In June, Hunte facilitated a community
forum, funded by Oregon Humanities, that fol-
lowed the plays presentation by the Red Door
Project and Oregon Tradeswomen. She says
that, across differences, audiences relate to the
women in the play.
My hope is that the play will raise more
awareness not only of the challenges of black
women in trades but also for all working class
women of color, says Hunte. My hope is that
people will talk more deeply about the issues in
the play and what can be done.
Eloise Holland
Speaking Up in Jackson County
Rogue Community College leads conversations
about diversity in a changing region..
J
AC K S ON C OU N T Y I S S OU T HE R N
Oregons fastest-growing region, and new
residents have brought with them new diver-
sityand new tensions.
Demographics are rapidly changing. Partic-
ularly our Latino population is growing signi-
cantly, says Mary OKief of Rogue Community
College (RCC). Helping people catch up with
the reality of differences in cultures, in color,
and in class is a real challenge.
From a June 2014 rehearsal (l. to r.):
Angela Bonilla, Roslyn Farrington,
and Skeeter Greene
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OKief is a member of RCCs Diversity Pro-
gramming Board, tasked with promoting a
community of inclusion and understanding at
the schools several campuses.
In 2013, the board hosted two Oregon
Humanities Conversation ProjectsEmily
Drews White Out? The Future of Racial
Diversity in Oregon and Walidah Imari-
shas Why Arent There More Black People
in Oregon? A Hidden Historythat attracted
a total of nearly 300 participants. (Conversa-
tion Project events typically involve ten to
thirty participants.)
The response was positive. People would
get so red up and inspired, and they wanted to
do something, OKief says. We just wanted to
take it one step further.
That step came in May 2014, when RCC
hosted Speak Up! A Day for Change, a free
conference featuring Tricia Rose, director of
the Center for the Study of Race in America
at Brown University. In addition to attending
panel discussions, participants could connect
with local organizations working on diversity-
related issues, including Rogue Valley Oregon
Action, the Maslow Project, the Lotus Rising
Project, The Rose Circle, and the Medford
branch of the American Association of Univer-
sity Women. The conference was funded in part
by a grant from Oregon Humanities.
Roses lecture gave people a much bigger
framework for understanding institutional
racism and discrimination, including why it
happens and why it continues to exist, OKief
says. Ninety-four percent of participants sur-
veyed said they had a better understanding of
diversity after the event.
RCCs Diversity Programming Board is
also helping community members connect on
a more personal level. In April, the board pre-
sented a Human Library event at RCCs Red-
wood Campus, inspired by a project started by a
Danish antiviolence organization. Participants
were invited to visit the library to check out
volunteers from diverse backgrounds for one-
on-one conversations.
The Human Library was a hit. It was just
overwhelmingly positively received, OKief
says. The board plans to revive the event in
2015, at multiple campuses.
Ben Waterhouse
Bridging Ideas,
Breaking Boundaries
Oregon Humanities partners with Write Around
Portland
T
WO NONPROFITS ARE BETTER THAN
oneespecially when it comes to provid-
ing learning opportunities for Oregonians.
This summer, Oregon Humanities joined
with its neighboring nonprot, Write Around
Portland, to provide alumni of their respective
programs with a seminar and writing work-
shop. The participants meet twice weekly for
Dear Stranger: Start
In the spring issue of Oregon Humanities, we
asked readers to write a letter to someone
theyd never met, to be exchanged through our
ofcea project were calling Dear Stranger.
We received 149 submissions from writers
from all over Oregon and a few from outside
the state, from cities and small towns and rural
areas, mountains and valleys and high desert.
So, naturally, we want to do it again.
Heres how it works: Write a letter. Address
it Dear Stranger. Fill a page, maybe two. Write
about startinggood starts, bad starts, false
starts, late starts. A time you started over, or
started something new. A rst try, or maybe
a second. Sign your letter and include your
address. (If you dont include your address,
your Stranger cant write back.)
Print and sign the Dear Stranger release
form at oregonhumanities.org. We cannot
exchange letters without a signed release.
Mail your letter, the signed release, and
a stamped, self- addressed envelope by
September 5, 2014, to Dear Stranger, Oregon
Humanities, 813 SW Alder St., Suite 702,
Portland, OR 97205.
When we receive your letter, we will
exchange it with a letter from another writer.
They will get your letter; you will get theirs.
Read the letter; what happens next is up to you.
We hope you will write back.
Tricia Rose at Speak Up! A Day for
Change in May 2014
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Oregon Humanities 8
ve weeks in June and July to take part in this
collaborative effort called What Follows.
Participants in What Follows previously
completed Write Around Portland writing
workshopswhich often take place in health
care and social service settings such as schools,
prisons, and homeless youth sheltersor grad-
uated from Oregon Humanities Humanity in
Perspective program, in which underprivileged
adults take free humanities courses from col-
lege professors. Oregon Humanities executive
director Adam Davis expresses the importance
of offering further learning opportunities to
these alumni, saying, We have an obligation
to keep providing meaningful, structured
opportunities to read, think, write, and talk
togetherand to sustain and broaden the sense
of community that has begun to develop.
Like Oregon Humanities, Write Around
Portland strives to create spaces for learning,
writing, and sharing ideas for people in dif-
cult circumstances. Almost three-fourths of
the people who take advantage of its free writ-
ing workshops live below the federal poverty
line. Davis expresses the intuitive nature of
the partnership, saying, Seems to me, Write
Around Portland and Oregon Humanities are
in the same business and that our methods, and
in some cases, our participants, overlap. These
common valuesalong with a shared history
and vested interest in each others organization
(organization members have sat on each others
board)sparked the creation of What Follows.
Devin DiBernardo, program coordinator for
Cheryl Strayed Final 2014
Think & Drink Guest
The final conversation of the 2014 Think &
Drink series, Private, will take place Thurs-
day, October 23 at the Alberta Rose Theatre
in Portland. Cheryl Strayedauthor of
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacic Crest
Trail, which has been adapted into a major
motion picturewill sit down with Oregon
Humanities executive director Adam Davis
to talk about privacy in the wake of a best-
selling memoir.
2015 Public Program Grants
Oregon Humanities Public Program Grants
are between $1,000 and $10,000 and are
awarded to nonprot organizations in Ore-
gon to support programs that invite diverse
perspectives and explore challenging ques-
tions. The deadline is October 31, 2014, for
letters of interest, and guidelines are now
available at oregonhumanities.org.
programming for veterans
Oregon Humanities is collaborating with
state humanities councils across the US to
engage and support our nations veterans.
We are currently working with veterans
service organizations to plan a variety of
humanities-based programs ranging from
facilitated conversations to writing work-
shops to reading and discussion programs.
For more information, please contact Jen-
nifer Allen, j.allen@oregonhumanities.org,
(800) 735-0543, ext. 118.
NEW CONVERSATION PROJECT
PROGRAMS
Our 201415 Conversation Project catalog,
featuring thirteen new programs on sub-
jects such as surveillance, solitude, sports,
and the second amendment, is now avail-
able! The Conversation Project offers Ore-
gon nonprot and community organizations
low-cost, humanities-based public discus-
sion programs about provocative issues and
ideas. To view the new catalog, including
videos featuring conversation leaders, visit
oregonhumanities.org.
Oregon Humanities News
Students in What Follows (l. to r.)
on this page: Gary Harris, Patty
McKinley, Verna Glass, and Carlos
Dory; next page: Robert Christian
and Maurice Oliver
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Oregon Humanities 9
Thank you for
making a difference.
To learn more about how your support helped
tens of thousands of Oregonians engage with
one another, visit the Oregon Humanities
2013 Annual Report, now available online:
oregonhumanities.org
Funders Keep Oregon Talking, Listening, and Learning
Thanks to the support of
funders, Oregon Humanities
brings tens of thousands of
Oregonians togetherface-to-
face, online, and on the page
to talk, listen, and learn from
one another. This year to date,
the following funders have
helped us make Oregon a more
vital and dynamic place to live:
Write Around Portland, shares a similar senti-
ment about the power of organizational collab-
oration. What Follows is an even more engaged
way for our organizations to work together to
connect people through writing and conversa-
tion, she says. Were excited to partner with
other organizations to combine what we do best
with what they do best. Together, we can bring a
wide range of people around a single table who
might not otherwise engage with one another.
Davis says this partnership will continue
to break boundaries for Oregonians: Im
very excited about exploring more intentional
ways to strengthen Portlands civic infra-
structure together.
Sierra Bray
Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund; $60,000
(Three-year challenge grant to match new and
increased donations)
Fred W. Fields Fund of the Oregon Community
Foundation; $25,000 (capacity building)
James F. and marion L. miller Foundation;
$20,000 (Oregon Humanities magazine)
The collins Foundation; $18,000 (idea Lab and
Humanity in Perspective)
The Kinsman Foundation; $15,000
(Conversation Project)
The Bloomeld Family Foundation; $10,000
(Humanity in Perspective)
Leotta gordon Foundation; $7,500 (idea Lab)
Juan Young Trust; $5,000 (idea Lab)
Jubitz Family Foundation; $2,500 (conversation
Project)
u.S. Bank/u.S. Bancorp Foundation: $2,500
(idea Lab)
Autzen Foundation; $2,000 (idea Lab)
Oregon Humanities 10 from the director
T
ODAY I HEARD A STUDENT IN OUR
summer Humanity in Perspective/Write
Around Portland workshop say that the best
part of the class we had just wrapped up was the
diversity of the group. This person is probably in
her forties and probably white.
Today I heard Portland referred to as
Whitelandia and remembered a recent con-
versation in which an African American man,
who was relatively new to the state, described
Oregon as a mayonnaise sandwich accompanied
by a glass of milk.
Today I read in an article from the Pew
Research Center that one in four kindergarten
students in Oregon public schools is Hispanic.
Today I learned that nine in ten second-
generation Hispanic immigrants to the United
States are procient English speakers and that
eight in ten are also procient in their parents
native tongue. For lunch I ate a burrito, which I
ordered in English.
Today I remembered an executive director of
a prominent Oregon charitable foundation tell-
ing me that he, a white man, had experienced a
profound change in his understanding of race
and equity and that the biggest impact he hoped
his foundation would have was in this area.
Today I read that Native Americans, male
and female, serve in the Armed Forces at an
exceptionally high rate.
Today I was still not able to make sense of an
exchange I had several weeks ago with a veteran
of four tours in Iraq. He looked like mein his
forties, white. He would not have been able to
make sense of the Humanity in Perspective stu-
dents claim that the diversity of the class was
what made it so valuable. He spoke of what was
wrong with this country, gesturing toward some
of the people around us, the ones who looked
different than us. I nodded. I tried not to look at
the knife strapped to his belt. I didnt want to be
there with him. I wanted to be alone. But instead
I nodded.
Today I read the comments below an online
Oregonian article about a young man of color
who had been shot and I felt for a brief and over-
dramatic moment like I had been shot. Then I
went to my next meeting.
Today I talked with my brother in Chicago
who was leaving a memorial service for a young
African American man who was killed on the
Fourth of July. My brother and I had gotten to
know this man and his family when he was a boy.
Among the things my brother said to me over the
phone was that the service went on for hours,
that it was full of joy, that there were hundreds
of people there, that two were white.
Today I puzzled over how best to proceed
with two of Oregon Humanities most popu-
lar Conversation Project programs, both of
which deal with race, both of which have incited
threats from white supremacist groups and
other individuals. I wondered how OH could
keep the people leading and having these con-
versations safe, to keep the conversations going
because they need to keep going.
Today I looked up at the fairly new organiza-
tional vision scrawled in black ink on the white
board in Oregon Humanities seminar room:
an Oregon that invites diverse perspectives,
explores challenging questions, and strives for
just communities. I thought about the verbs,
the adjectives, the nouns. I hoped for courage,
and help, and hope.
Today
adam davis
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Oregon Humanities 11
A
N IDEA IS NOT A THING YOU HAVE. It cannot be possessed like that, like an envelope
or a letter. A risk is a thing you take, and a decision is a thing you make. Sometimes the
invitation comes from another person or another animal, a bear or dog or ghost; sometimes it
comes from oneself. It does not matter if an invitation comes from without or arises from within.
Be still, yet ready to strike. Poised and taut. A snake has more than two hundred teeth, pointed
backward to zip you up, to bite and hold you securely. Security is always a misapprehension.
You can slip away; you can take a risk. Be decisive. Power ceases in the instant of repose, and the
inside of you never stops, your heart circling your blood around and around right now, two thou-
sand gallons in your lifetime. Wind blows in and out of you, across the deserts and mountains.
It slams doors in the middle of the night, wakes you with a start.
To Begin Is to Start
STORY BY Peter Rock / Photo by Peter McCollough
Peter Rock is author of seven works of ction and the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim
Fellowship. This piece is from his current project, Spells, a novel-within-photographs
collaboration with ve photographers that was inspired by his work as a museum
security guard in the early 1990s. This project will be the subject of a show at Blue Sky
gallery in Portland in September 2015. His novel Klickitat will be published in 2016.
Oregon Humanities 12
W
I TH MY DAUGHTER FI NI S HI NG
her rst year of school this spring I think
a lot about what I have offered herwhat parts
nature and which nurture. Compared to pho-
tos of me at the same age in 1984, she could be
my twin. My eyes, my nose, my chin. She will be
tall, because I am and so is her father. My skin
has grown dappled with freckles and moles, and
this spring her rst few freckles blinked open
one on her cheek, and a minor constellation
across her nose.
But I also wonder what else she might have
gleaned from her family tree: weak joints,
addiction, depression, heart disease? She loves
language play and prefers books to people. Is
that hesitant perfectionism mine? And is it in
the blood, or have I somehow (despite my best
efforts) conveyed it in sharp glances and wor-
ried frowns?
You want to give your child the best. Better
than you got. To somehow manifest a step forward, or a reach
beyond your own span. I remember holding my red and birth-
tired baby in those minutes after her rst breath and wondering:
Had I done enough? She was long, scraggly, and full of impossible
personality. Id carried her through those months to term, and
the rest was up to genetics. Or so it seemed.
Turns out, a pediatrician can fairly accurately predict a babys
futureWill he succeed in school? Die from violence? Succumb
to heart disease?based on where the child was born.
Our zip code may be more important than our genetic code
in determining our health, says Larry Wallack, part of a team of
sixty researchers and analysts at the Moore Institute for Nutri-
tion and Wellness at Oregon Health & Science University who
work in a eld called epigenetics, which is the study of the layer
of information that surrounds the genetic code. Scientists com-
monly compare the epigenetic function to an on/off switch for a
persons DNA. According to this analogy, if your genome includes
inheritable asthma, the epigenome determines if the asthma is
on or not. The study of epigenetics has demonstrated that cer-
tain kinds of stressessuch as famine, war, or pollutionmay
Before You
Know It
Your health may be determined
by stresses experienced by your
great-grandparents. How does this
change how we plan for the future?
Caitlin Baggott
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MATTHEW HOLLISTER
Oregon Humanities 13
ip the on/off switch in a way that lasts for multiple generations.
This responsiveness to stress continues to puzzle scientists.
Experiences and behaviors that were once believed to affect
only an individual are now seen to produce lifelong and inherit-
able changes in how DNA is expressed. In other words, smoking
is bad for your health. If you smoke at a young age, or while preg-
nant, it may also create changes in your body that your children
can inherit.
The scientic community now draws on twenty years of data
analysis and research to show that this happens, but they dont
yet know why or how. The data say that two
moments in a persons life present the greatest
vulnerability to these stresses: the rst thou-
sand days of life and a phase of prepubescence
called the slow-growth period.
The team at OSHU is focused on the part
of the field that concerns the first thousand
days, which is called developmental origins of
health and disease (DOHaD). The theory goes
that these rst thousand days, from conception
WAR
RACISM
POVERTY
Certain kinds of
stressesfamine,
war, or pollution for
instancemay ip the
on/off switch in a way
that lasts for multiple
generations.
Stress is a
trigger for
otherwise
unexplained
epidemics in
public health.
Scientists compare the
epigenetic function to
an on/off switch for the
DNA. If a genome includes
inheritable asthma, the
epigenome determines if
the asthma is on or not.
Oregon Humanities 14
to age two, may determine not only aspects of
that particular childs lifelong health but also
inheritable changes in the childs epigenetic
structurewhich therefore affect the health of
that childs children and grandchildren.
Its the fastest-moving eld in all of medi-
cine, says Kent Thornburg, director of the
Moore Institute. It has put the scientic com-
munity in a tailspin.
In the last two years alone, scientists around
the world have begun to look to epigenetic
inheritance to explain a growing series of epi-
demics: rising rates of obesity, ADD, heart dis-
ease, depression, stress response syndromes,
diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. The list
goes on. Epidemiologists point to stressfrom
the personal stress of living in a refugee camp or
in New York City on September 11, 2001, to the chemical stresses
of the plastics revolution, to the nutritional stress of chronic poor
nutritionas potential triggers for otherwise unexplained epi-
demics in public health.
These discoveries about genetics and inheritance challenge
the most basic ideas about when life starts, why life ends, and
what our responsibilities are to our children, our grandchildren,
and our community. In just two decades epigenetics has radical-
ized how scientists think about chronic disease and the origins
of health. But social understanding, public policy, and actual day-
to-day medical practice may be decades away from shifting in
any meaningful way. The fastest-moving eld in all of medicine
may be moving faster than the pace of our ethical, legal, medical,
and imaginative faculties.
I FI RST HE A RD A BOUT EPI GENETI CS LI STENI NG
to the syndicated public broadcasting show Radio Lab while
A main risk factor for
low birth weight is the
level of continuous
stress on the mother,
the type of intense
stress brought
on by conditions
such as racism,
inadequate housing,
unemployment, and
lack of options and
opportunity.
Oregon Humanities 15
weeding my garden. The science program hosts spun the mar-
velous and confounding story of the Swedish town of verkalix,
which has become the ur-story for epigenetics. In a nutshell: pre-
teen boys who overindulged on the harvest bounty in the 1800s
had grandchildren who died an average of thirty-two years ear-
lierfrom diabetes, heart disease, and related illnessesthan
the grandchildren of those who didnt. The host asked, So,
should I change how I feed my son?
There is something jarring about the concept of epigenetic
inheritance. While I appreciate the weird science at the heart
of it, my mind quickens at the kinds of questions it begs: How
should I take care of my daughter in her preteen years? How
should we take care of all of our children? How do we do that as
a society?
While these types of provocative questions naturally follow
a story like the boys of verkalix, Wallack cautions, This is not
news you can use.
Thornburg agrees: We know that stress changes the gene
expression. We know that some of those changes are inheritable.
But were not sure how it works.
The closest researchers have come to a prescription is simple:
Eat healthy food, expose yourself to good stresses that strengthen
you, and avoid environmental toxins and toxic stress. But these
ideals are not equally accessible to or as easily effective for all.

THER E S A R E A S ON THAT ONE OF THE LE A DI NG
centers of DOHaD research in the world is here in Oregon. David
Barker, an epidemiologist from the University of Southampton,
risked his reputation and career in the 1980s to establish the sci-
ence behind the eld. He cared about public health and inequal-
ity, and he found a welcoming home for those concerns at OHSU
with Thornburg.
Our current understanding of the science of epigenetics grew
from Barkers simple desire to understand the health and mor-
tality of poor people in England. Statistical maps of mortality in
England showed heart disease was a leading cause of death in
working class areas. Barker found this information problematic.
Heart disease was supposed to be a rich persons disease.
Working with a statistician named Clive Osmond, Barker
searched archives and hospital record departments throughout
the United Kingdom looking for maternity and infant welfare
records from the early twentieth century to see if they could
track individuals health from infancy to death. The research-
ers focused on the low-income areas where the mortality maps
showed high levels of heart disease. In an essay on his work,
Barker wrote, Some records were detailed and some perfunc-
tory. Some were in archives; others were in lofts, sheds, garages,
boiler rooms, or ooded basements.
In 1989, The Lancet published Barker and Osmonds rst anal-
ysis of the new data, which correlated rates of heart disease with
low birth weight. They proposed that an individuals weight at
birth might have a greater impact on his lifelong cardiac health
than any other behavioral choice. They even went further and
speculated that the mothers nutrition and life
experiences prior to pregnancy, perhaps even as
early as her own adolescence, might be a factor.
The backlash was swift and two-pronged.
First, the scientic community refuted the data
behind Barkers analysis, stating it couldnt pos-
sibly, biologically, be true. Darwinian evolution
prescribes a specic view of what is inheritable
and how changes take place from one genera-
tion to the next. These observations didnt t.
According to Darwin, behavior doesnt influ-
ence the genetic code and is not heritable. How-
ever, critics of the Barker hypothesis who set to
work proving it wrong soon became champions
when their research proved the basis in biol-
ogy was correct. The Barker hypothesis is now
widely accepted. In 2003, Time magazine called
it The New Science.
We used to use geneticsthe gene code
to explain everything, in addition to some
behavioral choices people made, Thornburg
says. Its possible now to rethink the way evo-
lution works.
While Barkers data challenged major con-
cepts in biology and genetics, the public health
community launched an even stronger oppo-
sition to his work than the scientific commu-
nity. A riveting story about Barker in the New
Yorker in 2007 describes how the hostility of
the health community grew from the challenge
that his work posed for agencies that were try-
ing to improve health outcomes in poor com-
munities: It undermined a decades-long public
health message that linked heart disease to
adult behavior.
For decades, the prevailing wisdom had
beenand continues to bethat heart disease
is a result of behavioral choices that lead to obe-
sity, such as a high-fat or high-sugar diet, sed-
entary lifestyle, or smoking. In his interview
with the New Yorker, Barker summarized an
almost philosophical rejection of that prevail-
ing wisdom: The answer was not going to lie
in the way that poor people lead their lives as
adults. Instead, the answer was in their fetal
health and their earliest years of life.
A NS WE R S T O S TA R K DI S PA R I T I E S
in the health and wellness of poor and mar-
ginalized communities are what public health
advocates and activists seek. These solutions
take the form of policies, such as funding for
healthier school lunches and regulations on
Oregon Humanities 16
air pollution. They also take the form of edu-
cation, such as public service announcement
billboards posted throughout Oregon that
illustrate seventeen packets of sugar in a bottle
of soda.
Public health focuses on improving the
health of populations, not individuals. How-
ever, most of our cultural, medical, and policy
norms set up health as an experience and
responsibility of an individual, not a popula-
tion. Wallack, who is the former dean of the
College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland
State University, spent the rst three decades
of his career working on precisely this problem.
He is a nationally recognized leader on reimag-
ining the concept of health.
One key concept in his work in public health
is the metaphor of the stream. When he lectures,
Wallack inevitably starts with a simple but illu-
minating anecdote: One day people notice that
citizens have fallen in the river and are drown-
ing. They hasten to pull them out. But there are
so many drowning, and more are coming down
the river all the time. Finally, someone decides
to go up the stream to stop people from falling
in the river in the rst place.
Unless we link whats going on downstream
with whats going on upstream, well never get
ahead of the game, Wallack says.
For years, Wallack and many public health
advocates throughout the United States
have focused on discovering and tackling the
upstream factors that affect health. Poverty,
educational attainment, and social connected-
ness correlate so closely with health and disease
that they have come to be seen as determinative
of a persons well-being. But Wallack shifted
his career course three years ago when he met
Thornburg and learned about epigenetics and
DOHaD, saying, This redefines what consti-
tutes upstream.
Now hes working to create public policies
that focus on womens and childrens health at
those moments when epigenetic triggers might
cause multigenerational health disparities. If
focusing on the health of populations is chal-
lenging because it raises questions about indi-
vidual responsibility, focusing on the health of
future populations is challenging in a very dif-
ferent way: It raises questions about our collec-
tive responsibility for the next generation.
SINCE THE DISCOVERY OF THE DEVELOPMENTAL
origins of health in the 1980s, researchers have begun articulat-
ing a tricky question that could change how the medical commu-
nity thinks about genetic and chronic diseases: What if disease
starts earlier than we had ever imagined, in a fetus or in a bundle
of cells a generation or more before a fetus was ever conceived?
Barker, Thornburg, and Wallack have also raised another,
equally difcult problem: If rates of disease in low-income com-
munities arent primarily a result of how poor people lead their
lives, how do we understand and reverse trends in community
health? Fundamentally, the distribution of health and disease
in our society is not random, Wallack says.
By random, Wallack means randomly distributed. Wherever
you are on the social ladder the group above you will tend to have
better health, and the group below you worse health, he says. But
he also stresses that in societies that have the greatest levels of
inequality, health outcomes are lower across the board.
As with the prevalence of heart disease among poor commu-
nities in England, in the United States, chronic diseases are more
common in specic populations: racial minorities, immigrants,
and the poor.
Take, for instance, heart disease. African Americans face the
highest risk of death due to heart disease among all racial and
ethnic groups. About half of all African American adults develop
some form of cardiovascular disease. Compared to white Amer-
icans, African Americans are 1.3 times more likely to develop
heart disease, 1.8 times more likely to develop diabetes, and 1.5
to 2 times more likely to have hypertension that leads to stroke.
Epidemiologists have offered many theories about the cause
of heart disease in the African American community. The theo-
ries basically fall into the two categories that Thornburg attri-
butes to the scientic worldview before epigenetics: genes (i.e.,
African American genes predetermine a weak cardiovascular
system) and behavior (i.e., African American diet and exercise
cause obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease). As a result,
the preventive approach to reducing these chronic illnesses in
the African American community focuses on helping adults
change their lifestyles, because cause and treatment are linked.
But the Barker theory would contend that infant develop-
ment in the womb is more likely than adult lifestyle choices to be
the cause of these illnesses. A major indicator of poor develop-
ment in the womb is low birth weight. As it happens, low birth
weight in African Americans is a well-documented and widely
researched fact: low birth weights are twice as high among Afri-
can Americans than whites, and average weights are lower for
both full-term and pre-term births. If infant development is the
cause of illness, interventions focused on adult lifestyle might
be healthy but still ineffective in lowering rates of heart disease.
Researchers have now begun to connect low birth weight
and cardiovascular weakness in the African American popu-
lation with an epigenetic trigger: significant levels of toxic
Oregon Humanities 17
stress experienced only three generations ago in slavery. Other
researchers point to levels of toxic stress experienced directly by
African American mothers throughout their lifetimes, and par-
ticularly as preadolescent girls, as a result of racism and the sys-
tems of inequality that have persisted since slavery was abolished.
OUR PUBLIC HEALTH, MEDICAL, AND LEGAL
systems may be unprepared to address the needs and rights of
those harmed by toxic stress. For example, consider that the
rates of obesity and diabetes have doubled in the last fteen
years in Oregon. The collective hand-wringing about this epi-
demic has included a lot of collective nger-pointing as to the
root causes of this increase and the best way to handle it. While
Wallack and Thornburg, like many in the medical community,
promote healthy diets and exercise as partial solutions, they
also see the trajectory of causality that began generations ago.
If you get educated, middle-class people together and get them
to eat right, you can improve their health, Wallack says. But for
populations that have inherited the epigenetic changes from
generations of poor nutrition, the solutions are
not so simple.
In another example, consider pollution as
an epigenetic trigger. If a company knowingly
dumps chemicals in a watershed, and residents
develop skin diseases associated with those
chemicals, the causality and responsibility
are clear: the company pays for the damage it
caused. As the eld of epigenetics grows, when
will we be able to establish which activities trig-
ger negative health outcomes over the course of
multiple generations? Could a plastics manu-
facturer be considered a point-source polluter
of human DNA? Could that company be sued?
Which agency would regulate toxins that cause
epigenetic shifts, the EPA or the FDA? Discov-
ering and attributing financial value to the
harm experienced over multiple generations
would be difcult.
Poverty, educational
attainment, and social
connectedness correlate
so closely with health
and disease that they
have come to be seen
as determinative of a
persons well-being.
Oregon Humanities 18
In a secular democracy, laws are citizens
expression of ethics and values. We set policies,
establish authority to regulate, and require
that companies pay or that governments offer
reparations. But the ethical and legal language,
precedent, and logic to address intergenera-
tional health disparities are unclear. This is
where the questions outweigh the answers
three to one.
The trouble with shaking a cultures ethi-
cal framework to see where the joints give out
is that they dont necessarily all collapse in the
same direction. These are complex ethical and
legal questions because they raise liberty, indi-
vidual responsibility, collective security, harm,
and the value of health as competing concepts
that vie for precedence. At this point, our cur-
rent understanding of epigenetics highlights a
new need for enhanced protection of certain
groups of people: pregnant women, infants, and
preadolescent youth. Will we as a society act
with more urgency to address inequality now
that we know it has multigenerational, biologi-
cal consequences?
The care and health of pregnant women is
now denitively connected with the wellness
of multiple generations of citizens. In recent
testimony to the Oregon House Committee
on Health Care, Wallack explains a main risk
factor for low birth weight is the level of continuous stress on
the mother, the type of intense stress brought on by conditions
such as racism, inadequate housing, unemployment, and lack of
options and opportunity.
This understanding suggests the need for new denitions of
liability for those that do harm to these classes of people, such
as powerful corporations and governments that fail to prevent
experiences that ip the epigenetic switch. But while it seems
relatively to simple to point to responsibility when were talking
about a company dumping toxins into the air or water, its more
complicated when were talking about a community in which
racism and discrimination create toxic stress.
And more complex again when we consider that protecting
a fetus requires dening that fetus as a life. How do our laws
simultaneously protect the health of an individual from concep-
tion through age two and also protect the freedom of women to
choose when and if to have a child?
Could we imagine a world in which our society limits certain
freedoms now to protect the health of those more than a genera-
tion in the future? Which activities would we regulate? Would
preadolescent girls and boys, whose biology is highly vulnerable
to environmental and nutritional stresses, experience more reg-
ulation on their play, nutrition, and activities? Would a pregnant
woman enjoying a glass of wine be ned? And, further, in a soci-
ety where mothers currently earn fty-eight cents on the dollar
when compared with men and motherhood is the single greatest
indicator of poverty in old age, how do we ensure that protections
for pregnant women and new familiessuch as restrictions on
work, activities, or dietwould not create new forms of economic
inequality?
Obviously, these are provocative questions. The science is far
from dictating specic changes in lifestyle, never mind broad
social or policy changes. But Barker, who passed away last year,
was impatient: He saw where the science was heading, and he
knew the work was too urgent to wait, Wallack says.
The story of the developmental origins of health is not yet
complete. It may not be for decades to come. Much remains
unansweredboth scientically and for our culture. In Oregon,
the research is focused now at the cellular level: the lining of
the placenta. Chances are, the science will continue to advance
ahead of popular imagination and far ahead of the laws and poli-
cies that will be needed to address the disparities in health that
Barker wanted to understand twenty years ago. But this is how
the change begins.
Caitlin Baggott is a writer, political organizer, general
busybody, and mother living in Portland.
A pediatrician can
fairly accurately
predict a babys
future based on
where the child
was born.
Oregon Humanities 19
I
VE COME TO BELIEVE THAT CONCEPTION
occurs for adoptive parents the day they
see their childs photo. In the hours following
that moment, rapid cell division happens in the
brain as they imagine a big, glorious life for a
little human and they tell themselves, yes, this
will be my child.
Thats what happened to my husband and
me last year at a coffee shop in Hillsboro off
of Highway 26. Among the rst to try to adopt
through our agencys new program in the Demo-
cratic Republic of the Congo, we thought we were
just checking in with the adoption agency direc-
tor and getting a few details of the process before
it started. We didnt know wed see pictures of
two children: little Marie-Louise, age three, and
David, age two. Even as we told the director wed
need more time to discuss our nal decision to
adopt these children, privately, we already knew
we would: conception.
Almost a Family
After years of trying to conceive, we decided to adopt.
But the uncertainty was just beginning.
Colleen Kaleda
J
E
N

W
I
C
K

S
T
U
D
I
O
Oregon Humanities 20
For my husband and me, then both in the
twilight of our thirties, the false starts had
added up over what we call the infertility
stress years: two years of trying (and failing)
to have a baby; a battery of tests for both of us;
then, for me, surgery, a round of hormones, and
three tries at articial insemination. Nothing
worked.
False starts had been the norm, too, for
Marie-Louise and David. Both had been dis-
covered abandoned, too young to produce their
own names, in separate parts of Kinshasa, the
capital of Congo. Kind strangers brought them
to the same small orphanage, where the direc-
tor chose names for them. For more than a year,
no adoptive parents emerged for the children,
despite their age and good health. Orphanage
staff felt they belonged together, even though
they were not biological siblings: Marie-Louise,
older than David by about a year, had decided
she was most denitely Davids big sister. My
husband and I wanted two children. Would this
be a new start for us all?
Before our decision to adopt, near the end of the infertility
stress years, swayed perhaps by others success stories, my hus-
band and I prepped for in vitro fertilization. Blood tests, scans,
and literature would ready us for a procedure that, for a thirty-
eight-year-old woman, had only a fty-fty chance of success.
For months, I pored over every page of the thick IVF packet. It
detailed the expensive, invasive process; the decisions wed be
forced to make; and the contracts wed have to sign cementing
those decisions. I couldnt shake the facts: embracing IVF meant
wed have to draw a line concerning when life starts.
My husband could see the pained look on my face. If you dont
want to do it, we wont do it.
I responded in my usual way: Let me think about it a little
more.
Worse than my squeamishness over how doctors would pull a
bunch of mature eggs out of my ovaries, I couldnt stop visualiz-
ing what would come next: growing our embryos in a petri dish
or was it two? I couldnt remember. It was all so dizzyingly sci-.
Regardless, I knew once our embryos existed, wed be start-
ing something we couldnt stop. Following our legally binding
contract, doctors would place a specic number of the healthiest
embryos inside me. Theyd either attach and Id be pregnant, or
theyd die and I wouldnt be.
Oregon Humanities 21
Wed need a legal plan for the remaining embryos. Most IVF
couples choose to either freeze them to try again later or destroy
them. If we wanted to, we could actually lock them in a freezer,
forever avoiding any decision, or donate them to other hopeful
parents-to-be. How many potential new lives with our unique
genetic stamp would we end up with? No one really knew. None
of the choices felt right, so we ultimately chose not to pursue IVF.
But the scans to check my uterus, preparation for the procedure,
brought up, again, the possibility of cancer in my uterus. A second
surgery and more tests later, we had peace of mind and a new
resolve to try adoption.
The day we saw pictures of Marie-Louise and David, we
started thinking of them as our kids, orphans no more. They
already had us wrapped around their little ngers. Once home,
work all but forgotten, we called the agency. Within an hour, wed
withdrawn tens of thousands of dollars from our account. Within
two hours, my husband had driven the twenty-three miles to our
agencys ofce to hand-deliver a cashiers check.
With the money, the legal process to adopt them could start.
Wed already spent ve months to get approved by Oregon to
adopt, then another ve waiting for our surprise in the coffee
shop. Most of that time, wed waited to be matched with chil-
dren in another African country. But international adoption
programs were disintegrating there, so our
agency welcomed us into their new program.
At home, we displayed Marie-Louises and
Davids pictures prominently on our refrig-
erator. I blazed through our agencys required-
reading list of more than a dozen adoption
books in three months. I got to work painting
their rooms with trees and animals. Friends
threw us a shower. By then, my husband was
forty and I was thirty-nine; most of our friends
already had kids and were more than ready to
give us their barely used everything.
Congratulations owed in from friends and
family. With mixed emotions, I showed the kids
pictures to my widowed mother, who was suf-
fering from Alzheimers disease in an assisted-
living facility. Every subsequent time shed see
them, the adoption was news to her, and shed
get excited all over again.
It wouldnt be long, though, before we
learned that the process of starting a family
through adoption would inict a new kind of
aching, sometimes stabbing, pain. When nearly
four months passed with no new photo of David,
we began to worry. Why had we received a new
photo of Marie-Louise, but no new pictures
of our son? It turned out the explanation was
a simple mistake of two boys at the orphan-
age with the same name, David; orphanage
staff had made a mistake with the rst picture,
pointing the photographer from our agency
to the wrong boy. The boy in the picturethe
one with the piercing eyes, the one wed loved
for four monthshad actually never been our
child. Our David had been in and out of the hos-
pital, and not present when the photographer
came to take subsequent photos.
By then, we were well into the legal process
of adopting the David who was Marie-Louises
best friend: a healthy, quiet boy whose picture
we quickly received soon after the mix-up was
discovered. By then, I already had tickets to
travel to Congo to meet the children and forced
myself to reconcile with the error. With an
unsettled heart, I slid the picture of our rst
David into its original envelope. I couldnt bring
myself to throw him away.
I had two brief visits with the children dur-
ing my four-day stay in Kinshasa. I met them in
a way that adoption experts informed me was
At home, we displayed
Marie-Louises and Davids
pictures prominently on
our refrigerator. I blazed
through our agencys
required-reading list of more
than a dozen adoption books
in three months. I got to
work painting their rooms
with trees and animals.
Oregon Humanities 22
best for everyone: short visits accompanied by
people the kids already knew and liked, people
who could facilitate a casual, its-no-big-deal
meeting. Yet despite the plan, it was everything
but no big dealthe rst meeting was surreal,
awkward, warmyes, joyfuland far too short.
Marie-Louise stared at me, up and down, with
laser-sharp eyes, examining what felt like every
hair on my head. David, as gentle in person as
he appeared in his photo, hung back more. But
both kids warmed up quickly. They tried on my
sunglasses, Marie-Louise posing like a movie
star with her hands on her hips. Both sat in my
lap for pictures and showed off counting to ten
in English with a little help. Both sweetly took
off their shoes so I could trace the outlines of
their feet on pieces of paper. The second visit
lasted just long enough for Marie-Louise to
greet me with bonjour, Mama and sit in my
lap, enjoying my sunglasses again, and for David
to cry soft tears, overwhelmed. Our rst foray
as a family was truncated, rushed, wrapped in
yearning for more time that we couldnt have
yet. It made no sense either to me as a new
mother or to the children.
Still, buoyed by our lawyers enthusiasm
to move forward on our case, we were hope-
ful that we could bring the children home by
Christmas. Just three months to go, I thought,
as my plane lifted off over the night-darkened
jungles of Congo.
But two days later, back in Oregon, we
received the sucker punch: The Congolese gov-
ernment had halted exit visas for all interna-
tional adoptees. Ofcials said the suspension
could last a full year while they investigated
possible abuses in international adoptions. All
adoptive parents, regardless of how long theyd waited, or how
far the cases had progressed, would be punished on behalf of an
unscrupulous few.
Several weeks later, Congolese courts granted our adoption
decree, deeming us Marie-Louises and Davids parents. To be
fully legal, nalization stamps would be necessary, and those
would come soon, we were told. Once we had those, even if the
DRC wouldnt allow exit visas for us to bring them home, we
could at least go to Congo as their parents.
But then, just days after Christmas, Kinshasa came under
attack by rebels in an attempted coup, and dozens were killed
in the violence. The city shut down for weeks in fear of another
uprising, and our precious adoption decree and all of our sup-
porting paperwork sat inside a locked office: unstamped,
unnalized.
Congolese officials are sticking to their yearlong exit visa
ban, and it looks like it will last even longer as we wait now for
new adoption laws to be written and passed, despite the US gov-
ernments urging that the ban be lifted soon for all the children
who already have adoptive parents waiting. And so our children,
alongside hundreds of other already adopted Congolese children,
wait for their new families to start.
When my husband and I see familieswhich is everywhere
we go, it seemswe ache for that life. A life that is so close. A life
we cant give up on. Even if it doesnt look like it to outsiders, we
have two children: a boy and girl, now three and four years old,
who are old enough to know they have parents, but too young to
understand why we cant all be together.
Our rst foray as a family was
truncated, rushed, wrapped
in yearning for more time that
we couldnt have yet. It made
no sense either to me as a new
mother or to the children.
Colleen Kaleda is a freelance writer and photographer,
adjunct professor at Portland State University, and
cofounder/director of a small nonprot, The Community
Project: Ethiopia. Her work has been published in maga-
zines, journals, newspapers, and online. She and her hus-
band divide their time between Portland and Mosier, where
they train their racing sled dog team.
Oregon Humanities 23
The Grass Is
Always Greener
G
RASS SEED S START IN OREGON WAS A CONVER-
gence of perfect conditions: wet soil; mild, damp winters;
and warm, dry summers. This prole had limited value for most
other crops but was well suited to growing grass seed, which has
grown like a weed: grass seed was the states sixth top agricul-
tural commodity in 2012.
It began in tiny Tangent in Linn County, where the states rst
grange was established in July 1873. In 1891, a farmer named Wil-
liam Felzer acquired a small amount of grass seed that may have
The surprising beginnings of six of
Oregons claims to fame
illustrations by Leo Zarosinski
ORI GI N
STORY
1
BOBBI E
WI LLI S
SOEBY
Oregon Humanities 24
been the beginning of the present ryegrass
industry.
By 1921, Tangent farmer Forest Jenks had
established the first commercial grass seed
farm. Jenks employed W. A. Vollstedts local
seed-cleaning plant to clean the seed, which
was then distributed via the Jenks-White Seed
Company. The latter helped open the market
for grass seed beyond Oregon, priming Linn
County to become the grass seed capital of
the world.
Oregon saw swift development in grass
seed farming techniques, and growers became
both foremost experts on the crop and the
worlds leading producers. According to Grass
and Legume Seed Estimates for 2013, Oregon
growers harvested more than four-hundred
thousand acres of grass seed on more than fifteen hundred
farms in 2013, for a value of more than $417 million.
There are downsides. First, post-harvest eld-burningtra-
ditionally used to control weeds, remove debris, and kill crop
diseasescame under scrutiny in the 1960s for its impact on air
quality. In 1988, an out-of-control eld-burn in Albany produced
enough smoke to severely compromise visibility on nearby
Interstate 5, leading to a multicar pileup. This prompted legis-
lators to consider tighter regulations on burning, and in 2009,
the Oregon legislature narrowly passed a ban on the practice.
Second, the stretch from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July
in the valley basin is typically punctuated by citizens snifes
and sneezes, not to mention wheezing and watery eyes, as the air
teems with invisible but ferocious grass seed pollen. Portland
is ninety-fourth this year in the Asthma and Allergy Founda-
tion of Americas [top 100] allergy capitalsnot bad in terms
of allergy capitals, but certainly something to sneeze at.
Bobbie Willis
Soeby is a
writer and
teacher
who lives in
Eugene with
her husband
and two
young sons.
Oregon Humanities 25
Good
Intentions
F
ROM THE R AI NBOW FAMI LY OF
Alpha Farm to the devotees of Rajneesh-
puram, Oregons terrain has long drawn the ide-
alists and dreamers, the intentional and their
followers. The draw could be that Oregons val-
leys and coastlines are mostly lush and bucolic;
bucolic is earthy, and earthy is secure, provi-
sionedsafe. And Oregons central and east-
ern deserts are clean, sparse, and not entirely
hospitable; there is freedom in that solitary and
erce geography. It is in these small corners of
this small corner of the world where collectives
are able to nestle, establish a separate but paral-
lel universe, and ourish.
But those countercultural intentional com-
munities were predated by more practical,
conservative ideals in the Aurora Colony, estab-
lished in 1856 by Wilhelm Keil. In his eyewit-
ness account for The Communistic Societies of
the United States (1875), Charles Nordhoff says
of Keil, I thought I could perceive a fanatic,
certainly a person of very determined, imperious will united to
a narrow creed. After leading a train of twenty-seven wagons
from Bethel, Missouri, to Willapa, Washington, Keil changed
course to settle in the rich farmland of the Willamette Valley in
what is now known as Aurora.
In the summer 2009 issue of Oregon Historical Quarterly,
historian James Kopp wrote that to some, Auroras leader was
known affectionately as Father Keil, to others more critically
as King Keil. Despite the criticism, most accounts agree Keil
was a charismatic leader, who was able, according to University
of Missouri historian and language instructor William Godfrey
Blek, For thirty-four years ... to rule this extremely loosely-knit
body dogmatically and ... to his own liking.
The colony, just south of Canby and west of the Pudding River,
was a Christian community of about six hundred German and
Swiss emigrants. According to the Old Aurora Colony Museum,
religious beliefs provided the basis for the colony, as did a need
to protect their business interests in a new country.
Aurora Colony persevered under Keil, with new members
arriving from Bethel until 1867. Colonists built homes and busi-
nesses, including shops and mills, on eighteen thousand acres
of land purchased with communal funds. The boom came to an
abrupt end upon Keils death in 1877. Historical records indicate
the community persisted to 1883, but, without clear leadership,
momentum eventually faltered. The community dissolved, and
members received a fair share in total property and holdings.
While Nordhoff describes the colony as subsistence, even
somewhat primitive, living, Bleks records indicate that at
Aurora Colonys height, There was much leisures and many
celebrations. Saturday afternoon was
observed as a half-holiday. There was
a great deal and variety of music. For
the believers, Aurora Colony was what
it intended to be.
ORI GI N
STORY
2
BOBBI E
WI LLI S
SOEBY
I thought I could
perceive a fanatic,
certainly a person
of very determined,
imperious will united
to a narrow creed.
Oregon Humanities 26
Rise of the
Roses
R
OSES CAME TO OREGON WITH THE
first white settlers, but Portlands civic
identication with them took root during the
Progressive Era, when the citys population
and economy boomed. The phrase city of roses
first appears in a June 1899 Oregonian story
about the upcoming national convention of the
National Editorial Association. The conven-
tion program includes a ower show, under the
direction of the State Horticultural Society, to
feature roses as well as local wildowers. The
uncredited author implores Portlanders to be
enthusiastic in this oral display and do every-
thing possible to show to the strangers that this
is indeed a city of roses.
Informal rose shows had been a part of high-
society life in Portland dating at least to 1889,
when Georgiana Pittock held a competition
under a tent in whats now known as the Pittock
Block. In December 1901, during the planning
of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, local attorney
Frederick V. Holman wrote an Oregonian piece called Make
Portland the Rose City. He suggested readers start planting
roses the following March, so that by the summer of 1905, the
streets would be lined with them.
Holman also suggested that readers should plant roses
because of Portlands agreeable climate and because the city did
not yet, like other cities, have a nickname emblematical of their
particular charm or characteristic. Seven years later, he con-
tributed a piece to Sunset celebrating roses for less-savory rea-
sons: The rose is the ower of the dominant white races of the
world, and it has been from the beginning. It is interwoven with
their traditions. It is in their poems and songs from the begin-
ning of civilization. Consciouslyand at the same time uncon-
sciouslythe rose, in its perfection, quickens the beauty-love
and satises the beauty-hunger of every normal human being. It
assists in making life worth living.
In the years following Holmans article, three public rose
gardensthe Ladds Addition Rose Garden, the Peninsula Park
Rose Garden, and the International Rose Test Gardenopened
in Portland. In 1936, Mary Drain Albro founded the Pioneer Rose
Association and started several public gardens dedicated to pre-
serving heirloom roses. Only one of these gardens still exists, in
a shady corner of the Lone Fir Cemetery.
Christen
McCurdy is
a Portland-
based writer
whose work
has appeared
in Pacic
Standard,
Bitch, the
Oregonian,
the Portland
Mercury and
The Lund
Report.
ORI GI N
STORY
3
CHRI STEN
MCCURDY
The rose is the
ower of the
dominant white
races of the
world, and it has
been from the
beginning.
Oregon Humanities 27
Leave Us to
Ourselves
W
E WER E OUR OWN S TAT E B ACK I N 1 9 4 1 !
hardcore secession advocates insisted as I criss-
crossed the region researching my book The Elusive State of Jef-
ferson. If it hadnt been for Pearl Harbor, they mused.
As four counties on the California side of the border voted in
2013 and 2014 to embrace the Jefferson mythology, the 1941 tale
is now worshipped as reality. It goes something like this:
Suffering from bad roads and tired of sending tax dollars
to faraway government capitals, secessionist seekers threw
roadblocks across Highway 99 and, armed with long guns and a
righteous cause, stopped trafc to pass out their Proclamation
of Independence establishing the State of Jefferson. We rug-
ged individualists living between Salem and Sacramento would
prosper free of urban shackles, they said in 1941, words parroted
todaydespite the nancial and political impossibility of Jef-
ferson as a fty-rst state.
Oregons separatist movement traces back before statehood.
At a meeting in Jacksonville in 1854, a collection of local mov-
ers and shakers considered carving what they called Jackson
Territory out of the whats now Jackson and Josephine counties
(and maybe grabbing Curry, Klamath, and the
southern reaches of Douglas). Many of them
envisioned Jackson becoming a slave state.
Not so fast, warned General Joseph Lane,
who rose to speak against the hyper-locals.
Back from the MexicanAmerican War and
about to ght in the vicious Rogue River Indian
Wars, Laneproslavery himselfwas Oregon
Territorys governor, and he feared a separate
Jackson Territory sympathetic to slavery would
doom Oregons statehood aspirations.
By 1941 Mayor Gilbert Gable of Port Orford
was using his ample public relations savvy to
gin up developers interest in isolated Curry
Countyits mineral wealth, cedar forests, and
pristine coastline. Mayor Gable threatened
secession from Oregon and sent a note to the
California governor suggesting he annex Curry.
When the governor laughed, Gable approached
fellow disgruntled pols in far northern Cali-
fornia, and the contemporary
State of Jefferson was born.
The San Francisco Chronicle
responded by sending star
reporter Stanton Delaplane to
cover the histrionics. Delaplane
won the Pulitzer Prize for his
antics, which, he later claimed,
included staging those road-
blocks and writing that famous
proclamation.
Yet the daydreams keep
growing. Jefferson, Jeffer-
son, sings local jam band State
of Jefferson, leave us to our-
selves, to Jeffersonian cheers
from Redding to Roseburg.
ORI GI N
STORY
4
PETER
LAUFER
Peter Laufer is the author of more than
a dozen books that deal with social and
political issues, including The Elusive
State of Jefferson: A Journey through
the 51st State, and is the James
Wallace Chair Professor in Journalism
at the University of Oregon School of
Journalism and

Communication.
Oregon Humanities 28
Priming the
Pumps
A
STANDING INVITATION TO ARSONISTS.
That s how Senator Jack Lynch
described self-service gasoline stations in
1951 during the legislative debate in Salem
that would ultimately result in Oregons self-
service ban. The bill hadnt been getting a lot
of attention in the press, overshadowed by the
much more controversial measure to legalize
colored margarine. Maybe Lynch felt it was his
duty to fan the ames, as it were. He tried to
make Oregonians aware of the menace lurking
just around the corner, just off the highwaya
menace that could detour your Sunday drive
into a blazing crime scene.
The ban was always intended to reduce
fire hazards. Senator Phil Brady, who intro-
duced the bill, pointed out in the same debate
that eight gasoline station res had recently
occurred in California alone. Whether those
res were set on purpose remains unclear, but
either way, fuel pumps apparently posed a danger. The state re
marshal had already issued a temporary self-service ban three
years earlier and at least thirteen states had similar bans on the
books, so when the law passed 253, there was little resistance.
Efforts to rescind the law failed in 1969, 1977, 1982, and 2003.
By 1951, Lynch was winding down his nine-year run in the
state senate. He capped off his career with a urry of efforts to
keep Oregonians from harm, both accidental and otherwise.
That same term, he introduced a bill to ban the sale of reworks
a bill that became law in time for a subdued Fourth of July. He
also introduced the fugitive fathers bill, which required men
who had abandoned their wives and children to return to the
family fold. Lynchs Oregon was no place to hide, and no place to
wander off into temptation.
His fear tactics probably werent meant to change any-
ones behavior. He must have felt that something much larger
was at stake, perhaps the moral rectitude of the entire state.
Anyone still against the bill, Lynch seemed to imply, would be
dangling a forbiddenand highly flammablefruit in front
of would-be wrongdoers. Law-abiding citizens who extended
that standing invitation would be just as guilty of death and
destruction as the arsonists who RSVPd. Lynch spent his last
year in the Senate trying to save Oregonians from themselves.
melissa Leavitt
is a writer living
in Portland.
Her work has
appeared in
Willow Springs,
Stanford Business
Magazine, and
New Delta
Review, among
other publica-
tions. She is the
science writer for
a national organi-
zation and is cur-
rently working on
a childrens book
and a collection
of essays.
ORI GI N
STORY
5
MELI SSA
LEAVI TT
Lynchs Oregon
was no place to
hide, and no place
to wander off into
temptation.
Oregon Humanities 29
Lifes a Public
Beach
T
HERE S THE BEACH BILL, AND THEN
theres Beach Bill. The Beach Bill was
signed into law in 1967, establishing the entire
Oregon coastline as public beaches. Oregons
beaches had been largely protected from devel-
opment since 1913, when the coast from the
mouth of the Columbia River to the Califor-
nia border was declared a public highway. But
it wasnt until 1967 that the beaches were set
aside for free, recreational use, all the way up to
where the sand gives way to soil.
Beach Bill, on the other hand, is Bill Hay,
owner of the Surfsand Motel in Cannon Beach,
who fought the bill. His attempt to barricade the
beach for private use made Oregonians realize
why they needed the bill in the rst place. In 1966, he incited
public ire by blocking off an area of dry sand that only his guests
could use. He put up lounge chairs and beach umbrellas, and at
night he built a bonre to make things cozy.
The Surfsanders loved it, but that was about it. Lawmakers
were pelted with thousands of cards, letters, and telegrams,
urging them to restore public access to the beach. The problem,
whether Hay knew it or not, was that nobody knew exactly where
the beach was. Those cabanas raised some perplexing ontologi-
cal issues about the nature of property rights and, well, nature.
Did the beach only include the shore? The wet sand left after the
tide pulled back? Or did it include dry sand, toothe best place
to picnic, y a kite, lie back and gaze at the sea?
Governor Tom McCall rode the tide of public sentiment as
far up the beach as he could go. With the help of scientists from
Oregon State University, he determined that the beach was the
beach all the way to the vegetation line; public access encom-
passed everything from the shore to the grass and trees. The bill
became law, but Beach Bill didnt care. As soon as it was intro-
duced in the state legislature, he planted grass on the dry sand in
front of his motel. Take that, vegetation line.
ORI GI N
STORY
6
MELI SSA
LEAVI TT
Oregon Humanities 30
O
UR EARLY YEARS IN AMERICA WERE
marked by relentless self-annihilation,
though of course we did not see it that way at the
time. Everything was done in the name of love,
for the cause of tting in, making friends, mak-
ing the grade, landing the job, providing for the
future, being good citizens of paradiseall so
necessary and proper.
First was the abandonment of our native lan-
guage and our unquestioned embrace of English,
even though for my parents that abandonment
meant cutting themselves off from a fluency
they would never have again. Possessing a lan-
guage meant possessing the world expressed in
its words. Dispossessing it meant nothing less
than the loss of a world and the beginning of
bewilderment forever. Language is the only
homeland, said poet Czeslaw Milosz. My
parents left the world that created them and
now would be beginners for the rest of their
lives, mumblers searching for the right word,
the proper phrase that approximated what
Small Man in
a Big Country
Alex Tizon
Native language is just the rst thing an immigrant family
abandons in order to become American.
Oregon Humanities 31
they felt inside. I wonder at the eloquence that must have lived
inside them that never found a way out. How much was missed
on all sides.
We left behind Jos Rizal and picked up Mark Twain. We gave
up Freddie Aguilar for Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, Bayan
Ko for The Star-Spangled Banner and She loves you, yeah,
yeah, yeah.
My parents adulation of all things white and Western and
their open derision of all things brown or native or Asian was the
engine of their self-annihilation. Was it purely coincidence that
our rst car, rst house, rst dog in America were white? That our
culminating moment in America was a white Christmas? White
was the apex of humanity, the farthest point on the evolutionary
arc, and therefore the closest earthly representation of ultimate
truth and beauty.
I grew up hearing my parents offhanded comments about
how strong and capable the Americans were, how worthy of
admiration, and conversely how weak and incapable and deserv-
ing of mockery their own countrymen were: They cant do it on
their own; they need help. I heard it in their breathless admi-
ration for mestizospersons of mixed European and Asian
bloodhow elegant and commanding they were, and the more
European the better. To be called mestizo was the ultimate
flattery. White spouses were prizes; mestizo
babies, blessings; they represented an instant
elevation, an infusion of royal blood, the prom-
ise of a more gifted life.
ONE L ATE E V ENI NG AT THE WHI TE
House I was playing on the oor of my parents
bedroom closet, behind a row of shirts, when the
door opened. It was my father. Instead of reveal-
ing myself, I just sat there watching him in
silence, cloaked by a wall of sleeves. He changed
into his house clothes and stood at a small mir-
ror appearing to massage his nose, running an
index nger and thumb along the bridge, pinch-
ing and pulling it as if to make his nose narrower
and longer. He stood there doing that for a short
time and then left, shutting the door behind
him. I thought it curious but did not think about
it again until a few months later, when I saw him
do it again as he absently watched television. He
didnt know I was in the room.
What are you doing, Papa?
It st artled hi m. Nothi ng, son. Just
massagi ng.
Does your nose hurt?
He looked at me, deciding what to do next,
and then he seemed to relax. Halika dito, anak.
Come here, son. You should do this, he said to
me. He showed me how to use my fingers to
pinch the bridge of my nose and then tug on it in
a sustained pull, holding it in place for twenty
seconds at a time and then repeating. You
should do this every day. If you do, your nose
will become more tangus. Sharper. Narrower.
Youll look more mestizo. Your nose is so round!
And so at! Talagang Pilipino! So Filipino!
Whats wrong with at?
Nothing is wrong with at. Pero, sharper, is
better. People will treat you better. Theyll think
you come from a better family. Theyll think
youre smarter and mas guapo, more hand-
some. Talaga, anak. This is true. See my nose?
The other day a woman, a puti, a white, talked to
me in Spanish because she thought I was from
Spain. That happens to me. I massage every day.
Dont you think I look Castilian? He turned to
show his prole. Ay anak. My son. Believe me.
I did believe him. Just as he had believed
his father when the lesson was taught to him
Americans did seem
to me at times like a
different species, one
that had evolved over
generations into supreme
beings. Kings in overalls.
Tizon family photo, circa 1965 (l. to r.): the author; father, Francisco; mother,
Leticia; older brother, Arthur, with younger brother, Albert, on his lap; aunt
eudocia Lola Pulido, with the authors younger sister Leticia Jr. on her lap.
Oregon Humanities 32
decades earlier. These were the givens: Aqui-
line was better than at. Long better than wide.
Light skin better than dark. Round eyes better
than chinky. Blue eyes better than brown. Thin
lips better than full. Blond better than black.
Tall better than short. Big better than small.
The formula fated us to lose. We had landed on
a continent of Big Everything.
One sunny afternoon, my father and I
walked to a hardware store a few blocks from
our house. As we were about to go inside, three
American men in overalls and T-shirts walked
out, filling the doorway and inadvertently
blocking our path. They were enormous, all
of them well over six feet tall, with beards and
beefy arms and legs. My father and I stood look-
ing up at this wall of denim and hair. The Ameri-
cans appeared ready to scoot over. Excuse us,
my father said, and we moved to the side.
One of the men said, Thanks. Another
snickered as they passed.
My father leaned down and whispered in my
ear, Land of the Giants. It was the name of a
television show my family had started watch-
ing, a science-ction series about a space crew
marooned on a planet of gargantuan humans.
The crew members were always being picked up
by enormous hands and toyed with. The shows
tagline: Mini-peoplePlaythings in a World of
Giant Tormentors. My family was captivated
by the show. I think we related to the mini-people who in every
episode were confronted by impossibly large humanoids.
Americans did seem to me at times like a different species,
one that had evolved over generations into supreme behemoths.
Kings in overalls. They were living proof of a basic law of con-
quest: victors ate better. The rst time I sat as a guest at an Amer-
ican dinner table, I could scarcely believe the bounty: a whole
huge potato for each of us, a separate plate of vegetables, my own
steak. A separate slab of meat just for me! At home, that single
slab would have fed my entire family.
The size of American bodies came to represent American
capacities in everything we desired: they were smarter, stron-
ger, richer; they lived in comfort and had the surplus to be gen-
erous. They knew the way to beauty and bounty because they
were already there, lling the entryway with their meaty limbs
and boulder heads and big, toothy grins like searchlights,
imploring us with their booming voices to come on in. Have a
seat at the table! Americans spoke a few decibels louder than
we were used to.
We were small in everything. We were poor. I mean pockets-
out immigrant poor. We were undernourished and scrawny, our
genetics revealing not-so-distant struggles with famine and dis-
ease and war. We were inarticulate, our most deeply felt thoughts
expressed in halting, heavily accented English, which might
have sounded like grunts to Americans, given how frequently
we heard Excuse me? or Come again? or What? The quiz-
zical look on their faces as they tried to decipher the alien sounds.
My father, who was a funny, dynamic conversationalist in
his own language, a man about Manila, would never be quite so
funny or dynamic or quick-witted or agile or condent again. He
So I worked on becoming an American,
to be in some ways more American
than my American friends. But I
learned, eventually, that I could never
reach the ideal of the beloved.
Oregon Humanities 33
would always be a small man in America. My mother was small,
too, but it was acceptable, even desirable, for women to be small.
American men found my mother attractive. She never lacked
attention or employment. My father was the one most demoted
in the great new land. He was supposed to be the man of the fam-
ily, and he did not know which levers to pull or push, and he didnt
have the luxury of a lifetime, like his children, to learn them.
Im convinced it was because of a gnawing awareness of his
limitations in the land of the giants that he was a dangerous man
to belittle. Gentle and gregarious in the company of friends, he
was a different person in the larger world of strangers: wary,
opaque, tightly coiled. My father stood all of ve feet six inches
and 150 pounds, every ounce of which could turn maniacal in an
instant. He took offense easily and let his sts y quickly. He was
not deterred by mass. He recognized it, yes, but became blind
with fury when it trespassed on him or his family. I once watched
him scold a man twice his size, an auto mechanic he thought was
taking advantage of him, and threaten to leap over the counter to
teach him a lesson. You kick a man in the balls and hes not so big
anymore, he once told me. Actually, he told me more than once.
My mother corroborated the stories of my father challeng-
ing other men over perceived slights, losing as many ghts as he
won and getting downright clobbered on a few occasions, once
landing in the hospital for a week. My mother was present at
some of those ghts; she was the cause of at least one, in which
an unfortunate young man ogled her and ended up laid out on
the sidewalk.
I got another glimpse of his inner maniac once at a park in New
Jersey when I was about twelve. A big red-haired kid on a bike
spit on me and rode away laughing and making faces. My father
followed him all the way back to where his family was picnick-
ing and confronted the three men in the group, all Americans,
one of whom was presumably the kids father. They all appeared
startled. I heard only part of the conversation that followed. We
could take care of it right now, right here, my father told the men
in a low, threatening voice, his sts clenched into hard knots. He
stood leaning forward, unblinking. The men averted their gaze
and kept silent. On the walk back to our spot, my father said, Tell
me if that boy comes near you again. I was speechless. His met-
tle astonished me. But it was something more than bravery on
display that day. His fury was outsized, reckless, as if something
larger was at stake, and of course now I know there was.
Unlike my father, I worked hard to get along with strangers.
We moved so much in those early years that I got used to strang-
ers as companions as we passed from place to place. I learned
American English, trained out whatever accent I had inherited,
picked up colloquial mannerisms. I kept a condent front, not
in a loudmouthed way but in a reserved, alert manner, and I got
more surefooted in my interactions as I got better at English. If I
had to guess, Id say my classmates would have described me as a
little shy but smart and likable. I brooded in private. How could
someone be ashamed and capable at the same time? I was fated
to have a secret life.
So I worked on becoming an American, to be in some ways
more American than my American friends. But
I learned, eventually, that I could never reach
the ideal of the beloved. And when the realiza-
tion came, it seemed to land all at once, blunt
force trauma, and I felt embarrassed to have
been a believer.
Its one of the beautiful lies of the American
Dream: that you can become anything, do any-
thing, accomplish anything, if you want it badly
enough and are willing to work for it. Limits
are inventions of the timid mind. Youve got to
believe. All things are possible through prop-
erly channeled effort: work, work, work; harder,
faster, more! Unleash your potential! Nothing
is beyond your reach! Just do it! I believed it
all, drank the elixir to the last drop and licked
my lips for residue. I put in the time, learned to
read and write and speak more capably than my
friends and neighbors, followed the rules, did
my homework, memorized the tics and slangs
and idiosyncrasies of winners and heroes, but I
could never be quite as American as they. The lie
is a lie only if you fail, and I most certainly did.
When I ask myself now when this shame
inside me began, I see that I inherited the
beginnings of it from my father, and he from
his father, going back in my imagination as far
as the arrival of the Spanish ships almost ve
hundred years ago. An ancient inherited shame.
It accompanied us across the ocean. We carried
it into a country that told us: not reaching the
summit was no ones fault but your own.
Alex Tizon, a Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist, was a
national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a
longtime staff writer for the Seattle Times. He teaches at
the University of Oregon.
Excerpt from Big Little Man by Alex Tizon. Copyright
2014 by Alex Tizon. Used by permission of Houghton Mifin
Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Oregon Humanities 34
P
A
T
R
i
c
K

L
O
n
g
Oregon Humanities 35
W
HEN I WAS THIRTEEN, A NEW FACE APPEARED IN
church. Her name was Coletta, and she had been a nun
before leaving her order to attend clown school in Denver. There
she had learned to be a mime and worked as a street performer
for a year before moving back to Rapid City to be close to her fam-
ily. One day, after mass, there was an announcement that she was
starting a Christian clown group, and anyone, children as well as
adults, were welcome to join. My siblings and I exchanged excited
glances. It was as if God had invited us to join the circus. Who
would say no to that?
I was in middle school. On my rst day, a boy stopped me in
the hall to tell me I was ugly. He was more or less pleasant about
it, said my hair was nice but my neck was too long and I had no
tits. I knew my breasts were small, but my neck? I looked at in the
bathroom mirror. He was right! It was freakishly long, and I had
never even noticed it before. To make matters worse, I had grown
three inches in a single year and we didnt have enough money to
buy new pants. This was the time when it was popular to peg your
jeans by folding them over several times. I did this with my too-
short pants, which left them about midcalf. I stretched my socks
up to meet them, hoping no one would notice. But my efforts to
conform did not win me any new friends. The few friends I had
relied on in elementary school had made new, exclusive alliances.
They shot me guilty looks from across the cafeteria at lunch, and
I often sat alone.
There was a table in the lunchroom where the popular kids
sat, all scrunched together on one side. I watched them carefully,
analyzing their behavior, trying to learn their secrets. I longed to
sit with them and be one of them. And one day I came up with a
plan of how I might inltrate their ranks. The plan was simple. I
would carry my tray to the empty side of the table and sit down
on the far end. Over a period of months I would scoot closer and
closer to the middle, an inch or so every day. In this way, the pop-
ular kids would get used to me so slowly they would hardly even
notice it. By the time I made it to the occupied side of the table,
we would be friends.
The next day, I carried my tray to an unoccupied end of their
table and sat down gingerly on the opposite end. I did not even
dare to look at them. There was a rustling at the other side of the
table, and then all of them stood up and carried their trays to
another table and left me sitting there alone. After that, I gave up
my plan to inltrate. I started eating my lunch in the girls bath-
room. In the quiet darkness of a bathroom stall, there was no one
to look at me and no one to make fun of me. I felt hidden and safe.
At our first meeting with Coletta, we deliberated over a
name. Laughter for the Lord? Jesters for Jesus? Merriment for
the Messiah? After making a long list, we decided on Clowns for
Christ. Coletta taught us how to put on full clown makeup, which
involves layers of oil-based makeup and powder. We designed our
clown faces. I had an orange nose with blue swirls on my cheeks
Clowns
for Christ
by Norina Beck
How I lost my faith and found my nose
Oregon Humanities 36
and a heart-shaped mouth. I gave myself the name Patches and
wore a Hawaiian shirt with a giant pair of mens overalls patched
with scraps of cloth. I nished off the costume with a pair of my
dads old shoes that were so big I could hardly walk in them.
There are two rules for being a Christian clown: The rst is
that once you put on your clown face you cant talk. The second
is that when youre a clown, you have to let go of all of your prob-
lems and let yourself be moved by the Holy Spirit. We worked up
a few skits and performed them after church to small audiences,
which included my parents and a few other charitable souls.
We did clown walks in public parks and the local Walmart. I
loved being a clown, with the strange makeup, but most of all
I loved making a spectacle of myself that was completely and
absolutely anonymous.
When youre a clown, performing in a public place, like
Walmart, most people wont look at you. Children are the one
exception. Adults pretend that youre not there, because you
kind of freak them out. Theyre just trying to get some grocer-
ies, and theres a clown in the middle of the aisle pretending to
walk on a tightrope. Even though they ignore you, theyre actu-
ally hyperaware of everything you do. It made me feel powerful. I
carried around a jug of milk in my arms like a baby, showing it off
to passersby like a proud mother. I pretended an orange weighed
a hundred pounds and dragged it around the produce section. I
could be as ridiculous as I wanted to be.
One day Coletta arrived with exciting news. Pope John Paul II
was coming to Denver for World Youth Day. If we raised enough
money, the troupe could go. So we began to fundraise. We had
bake sales. We washed cars. We organized a fastathon where we
tried to get people to sponsor us to go without eating for twenty-
four hours. None of these ideas made more than twenty dollars.
The application deadline was less than a week away, and we were
nowhere close to having enough money. Then, out of the blue,
an anonymous donor gave us the rest of the money. Ive always
thought it was from the Kateri circle, a group of Lakota women
in our church, whose mission was the canonization of a Mohawk
girl, Kateri Tekakwitha. They were always raising money to peti-
tion the Vatican by selling their beautiful star quilts.
Our little church seemed to attract people who were on the
fringe of the Catholic Church. My family attended this church,
instead of the fancy Catholic cathedral, because my dad was
a former priest. He had discovered his calling as a teenager.
When sitting by a river the light changed, and my dad felt the
strong, physical presence of God enveloping him. All his trou-
bles melted away, and he felt a calm assurance that he would
be taken care of, that everything would be OK. He entered the
seminary at fourteen and became a Catholic priest when he
was twenty-three. He was still a priest when he met my mom
and they fell in love. After they married my dad left the active
clergy, but he never renounced his vows. Because of his deci-
sion to marry, our family wasnt welcome at the cathedral. The
priest there, who later became the bishop of Chicago, refused
to give my father communion.
As I prepared to leave for Denver, I found myself hoping that I
would have a spiritual experience of my own on our trip. I could
picture it. The pope would be passing by, he would stop and lay
his hands on my head, and it would happen: my religious experi-
ence. The yellow light would surround me and my problems with
middle school and the popular kids would melt away.
When we arrived in Denver we were excited and a little bit
scared. None of us had ever been to a big city like Denver before,
and we thought there was a chance that we might be robbed.
What if someone tried to steal the ten dollars in spending money
my parents had given me? Just in case, I wore my fanny pack
facing the front and kept one hand on it at all times. It was the
middle of August and 103 degrees. We quickly abandoned any
hope of dressing up as clowns because the makeup would melt
in the extreme heat.
Christian teenagers from all over the world thronged the
streets. We met a group who had traveled from Madrid. I won-
dered how theyd raised enough money to travel across an ocean,
when we had barely made it from two states away.
The big event with the pope was going to happen in the foot-
ball stadium. We ooded into the gates with the other teens and
found a place high up in the bleachers. At this point, I abandoned
my dream of having the pope lay his hands directly on me. But I
did not give up hope of having a religious experienceI thought
it could still happen remotely. It was the middle of the day and
terribly hot. We were guzzling bottled water and people were
passing out from the heat. At last the pope arrived. The stadium
went wild, with people doing the wave, shaking pom-poms, and
throwing owers.
From our vantage point the pope was incredibly small, a tiny
white gure standing up in a special car, encased in bulletproof
I had been a clown for Him,
but it didnt matter. God was
just like the popular kids at
school. What was the point
of being a clown for someone
who treated you that way?
Oregon Humanities 37
glass. The car made a lap around the eld and he stepped out and
walked onto the stage. We watched him on one of the big screens
as he approached the microphone and began to speak. He had a
thick Polish accent and the speakers were reverberating in a way
that made him almost unintelligible. I remember straining to
get any meaning out of it. My head was buzzing with the effort,
and I could hardly understand anything he was saying. To make
matters worse I really had to go to the bathroom. But despite the
pain in my bladder, I resolved to stay.
Then he nished talking and it was over. The magical experi-
ence I hoped would change everything hadnt happened to me.
Before I could feel properly disappointed someone came up to
the microphone and made an announcement that anyone who
felt called by God should come forward and the pope would
lay his hands on them. I couldnt believe it! I jumped out of my
seat and started to work my way down the aisle. Then he spoke
again, to clarify: Any young man who feels called by God, who
is considering becoming a priest, should come forward. I stood
there in disbelief as a stream of teenage boys passed by, form-
ing a small crowd in front of the stage. The pope began to lay his
hands on them.
The feeling I had was the same one Id experienced in the
lunchroom when everyone stood up at the popular table and
left me sitting by myself. The religious experience that had hap-
pened to my dad would happen to all those boys waiting in line.
Because I was a girl, it was not going to happen to me. I retreated
to a bathroom, closed the door to my stall, and cried. I was angry
and humiliated and confused. I had been a clown for Him, but it
didnt matter. God was just like the popular kids at school. What
was the point of being a clown for someone who treated you that
way? I decided to give up clowning. But even as I considered this,
my heart sank. I loved being a clown. In a ash of inspiration it
came to me. I would continue with the clown troupe. I would go
through all the motions of a Christian clown, but in my heart
I would be a free agent. I would be a clown for everyone, and a
clown for myself, but I would not perform for God anymore.
When I returned home, I started mouthing the words to
prayers instead of saying them. When I ate the Communion
wafer it was just a dry piece of bread in my mouth. It wasnt that
I had felt a strong connection to these rituals before, but I had
always thought belief was something I would grow into with the
other mysterious trappings of adulthood. Now I considered the
possibility that sitting in church was like waiting in a long and
pointless line. And that middle school was not a uke I would
pass through with the help of divine intervention, but the real
and actual truth of the rest of my life.
Through it all I continued clowning. I loved improv sessions
because I liked connecting with people, especially children, who
delighted in the unusual and unexpected. Through the charac-
ter of Patches, I had permission to be myself in a way that was
immune to insult. I was strange and silly and conspicuous. I was
able to poke fun at myself without feeling that there was any-
thing wrong with me. Although I did not recognize it at the time,
this was exactly the gift Id hoped to receive via a lightning bolt
from the pope. When I was a clown I did not feel excluded, but at
the center of things. If this feeling did not last when the makeup
came off, the memory was still with me. Perhaps divine interven-
tion had come when I needed it, after all. Not in the shape of the
pope, but in the guise of a clown.
The summer of my eighth-grade year, Coletta decided to move
to Las Vegas to become a blackjack dealer. Our nal clown walk
was in the city park. After an hour of improv, entertaining kids on
the playground and surprising people trying to walk their dogs,
the entire troupe packed into Colettas VW bug and headed back
to church. We stopped at a red light and watched as four lanes
of trafc came to a halt, drivers and passengers staring at us in
shocked surprise. There were two clowns in the passengers seat,
and four in the back (me and my three siblings: Bobo, Chuckles,
and Lucky). Coletta was driving, wearing a soft red clown nose
and a oppy green hat. No one even registered the light as we
hammed it up, making silly faces, waving and gesturing, laughing
so hard our stomachs hurt. Coletta caught my eye in the rearview
mirror, and gave me an exaggerated shrug, as if to say, Whats
the big deal? Just a car full of clowns. The light turned green
and we were off.
Norina Beck lives in Portland where she runs a small
preschool and tends an overgrown garden. She is the
recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts fellowship for fction.
This is her rst piece of published writing.
Beck family photo, 1991 (l. to r.) Jim, Bridget, Peter,
and the author
Oregon Humanities 38
I
T WA S HUGE. I T WA S THE MOST
important thing in the whole world. I was
sixteen. I had come off the bench the year
before, and this year it was my turn to start at
small forward, and believe me I had spent many
hours that summer envisioning opening night,
when we would all be sitting nervously jiggling
our legs on the bench, and the announcer, a his-
tory teacher, would clear his throat, a deeply
strange sound to hear over the public address
system in that little gym, and then he would
hurriedly introduce the visiting team, and mis-
pronounce their coachs name maybe on pur-
pose, and then there would be a magic pregnant
pause, as the hundred or so fans in the stands
began to applaud, and then he would Intro-
duce the Starters, beginning with the small
On the Bench
by Bri an Doyle
deft stern point guard, and then the handsome
arrogant self-absorbed shooting guard, and
then, nally, nally, after thousands of hours
of sweat in the gym and playground, after hun-
dreds of practices and pickup games and drills
and long runs along the beach, he would intro-
duce me as the Starting Small Forward for the
Cougars, and I would pop off the bench grin-
ning, and slap hands with my teammates, and
trot out to the foul line and stand with the start-
ing guards, waiting for our silent burly ferocious
power forward and our sinewy center with his
small beard in deance of team rules, and for an
instant The Starting Five would stand together;
and then the rest of the game would hurry along.
But no.
I started sometimes in scrimmages before
Not starting and starting again
B
E
T
H

K
E
R
N
E
R
Oregon Humanities 39
opening night, and sometimes not, simmering
behind another guy who could shoot but did
nothing else whatsoever that I noticed; he did
not rebound, he did not play defense, he did not
pass, he did not set picks, he did nothing but
drift around waving and whining for the ball
and pouting when he did not get it. He would
start one day and me the next, and we went all
the way through fall practice and scrimmages
against other schools this way; and then, in the
locker room as we dressed for opening night,
our coach sat down next to me on the worn
wooden bench and said bluntly he was going to
start the whiner, and he hoped I would take this
as a challenge, and work even harder to snatch
the job back, and meanwhile be a positive force
off the bench, a real leader of the second team,
and some other platitudes that I did not register,
for I was shocked and rattled, and when he left
nally I sat there stunned, one sneaker on and
one sneaker off, trying to apprehend the fact
that I was not starting.
Yes, I snatched the job back after the rst
two games, and yes, I kept the job the rest of the
season, and yes, it felt great to hear my name
boomed around the little gym, and to trot out
and stand self-consciously with the guards,
and all of that, but I think I will remember the
feeling of Not Starting all the rest of my life. I
dont think we have come up with a good word
yet for the way everything drains out of you and
you feel savagely empty and hollow and useless
and foolish and mortied and humiliated when
moments like that happen.
When you are you are young, you sit there
stunned, and then you lose your temper and
look for someone to blame, before finding a
secret place to weep and kick yourself for ever
thinking things would go well; and you swear
and vow with grim ferocity that you will never
be sideswiped like that again, never, but will
be cynical and skeptical henceforth, and so be
defended and protected against such blows.
But when you are older you just sit there
stunned, unable for an instant to process the
news, unable to remember to be equable in the
face of awkward or awful news. You dont have
the urge to blame anyone anymore, because
you know its not someone elses fault. You
dont swear and vow to never hope for anything
ever again, because you know thats stupid. You
know full well you will be startled and stunned
again and again by awkward or awful news, and
theres no protecting against this, and you cant
really prepare for it, and each time it comes
you will sit there rattled and silent and groping
for a handle on the next moment. The news is
coming, the news will always come, with a tele-
phone call or a terse text message or a blunt bit
of electric or paper mail, or with someone turn-
ing toward you in the kitchen, looking wan and
harried, and saying something slowly, as if each
word weighed more than a galaxy.
I used to tell this story of not starting as a
basketball story, and then it grew to be a story
about all sports, and then it grew even bigger,
to be a story about dreams and shatters, about
the way we construct ourselves slowly of stories
both sweet and sad; but now, deep into my f-
ties, I am absorbed by what happens after the
blow falls. I am riveted not so much by how we
sit there stunned but by how we stand up and
walk back into the game. You know you are
going to get hit, you know the blow is coming,
it comes for us all in one way or another; yet
we stand up and walk right back into it. This
doesnt make sense. But we do it grim and smil-
ing and we dont have good words for this. You
could say things like courage or endurance or
maturity or grace, and they come close, but they
are not quite what you know I mean. You and
I have been on that worn wooden bench many
times, and we will be there again, stunned and
rattled, but somehow after a while we stand up
again and walk right back into it. There are a lot
of days when I think this grim smiling deant
inexplicable something is us at our best.
You know full well you will be
startled and stunned again and again
by awkward or awful news, and
theres no protecting against this.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine and
the author of several books of ction and nonction,
including the recent novel The Plover.
Oregon Humanities 40
Snow Peas
T
HE ALARM CLOCK RINGS. IT S 4: 30
a.m. As a newly minted farmer, my body
still hasnt adjusted to early morning wake-up
calls. I wander into the bathroom, clean up, don
my overalls (at least I can look the part), and
head north to the farmers market.
Up Straightstone Road, its still dark. At the
low bridge ahead, where the road crosses the
Staunton River, I see a small, wavering light
through the ground fog. As I cross I spot two
fishermen, father and son, leaning over the
rail, their shing lines dangling into the dark-
ness below, illuminated by an old-fashioned
Coleman lantern. Im struck by this magical
tableauthe duo, the wavering circle of golden,
wet glow, the darkness around and below, the
sky lightening in the east. It is a ne way for this
day to start.
Today my big crop is Oregon Sugar Sugar
Pod II snow peas. Ive got mesclun, baby let-
tuces, greens of all types. But these rst snow
peas are my pride and joy. They look so healthy
and delectable in my big blue bowl, pounds and
pounds of them, laboriously picked the day
before. Picking peas is an infernal task; I go at
it for an hour, kneeling stiff on my heels, and
end up with maybe a pint. But customers are
impressed; Im the only one at the market with
these snow peas, and theyre organic to boot. By
midmorning theyre gone. Its satisfying for a
novice farmer, knowing I can vouch for how my
food was grown. Its like a small miracle.
Fifteen years later and our daughter Dan is
helping clean up our rst plot in Port Orfords
organic community garden. Shes beautiful
and wonderfully strong, and with confident
movements she bends, yanks out the tangled
yellowing vines, and turns them into a huge
roll, deposited beside the bed for future use as
green mulch. The plants have yielded bounti-
fully. We had such a crop, we gave much away.
Still, there are many Ziplocs of blanched, at
green bundles in the freezer and, truth be told,
Im getting a little weary of creatively using
them up.
Still, those last, freshly harvested Port
Orfordgrown snow peas beckon from my big
blue bowl on the kitchen counter. We each take
one. And eat it raw.
ANN EUSTON, Port Orford
Nonnegotiable
F
ANTASI ES OF TRANSFORMATION
ock to the New Year like overwintering
birds. We may be thirteen or seventy, and still
we home in the dead cold to a bright dream. We
may no longer believe in Santa Claus, but our
search for fairy godmothers intensies as the
old year wanes. We scour the self-help shelves
and page through catalogs fat with promises:
New Year. New Look. New You. This time, we
think. At midnight the exhausted husk of
outworn artice will nally split, and we will
emerge in all the tenderness of truth: our des-
tined selves.
But we should be careful what we wish for.
Metamorphosis always exacts a price.
Never in my life have I had as much con-
dence as I did this year that I would be trans-
formed. On a day in late December when I
waited in line at Safeway to buy gauze bandages
and rubbing alcohol, I laughed to read the head-
lines on a Marie Claire: Lose Four Pounds and
Six Inches Overnight. It can be done, I thought.
Ask me how.
I didnt have a fairy godmother, but I did
have a diagnosis, insurance, and a handsome
young surgeon. Hed drawn my breasts in a
rough diagram on the paper carapace of the
examining table and shown me the angle of the
cuts hed make. Though Id given up dreaming
of radiant reemergence when I discovered the
depth of my desire simply to stay alive, my sud-
den passion for the status quo would radically
alter me.
The catalogs try to sell you a sun-kissed life
Posts
Readers write about start
Oregon Humanities 41
hinged ip-lid. The resulting brine was barely
warmDads elaborate coffee-readiness ritual
involved enough sugar and cream to ll a suit-
case. He lived almost ninety years in pretty
good health, though what he did to his coffee
should have buried him at thirty-seven.
As Dad slurp-sipped his coffee at the counter
in Redmond I took mine by osmosis. The walls
in that restaurant, paneled in six-inch wood
squares with burned-in cattle brands, spoke
of sage and rimrock, canyons and desert wind.
And thats how I started drinking coffee before
I ever took a sip.
DAVE KENAGY, Salem
Years of Leaving
T
HE BA BI E S CA ME ONE BY ONE;
some died in between.
Not quite nineteen, I married a man I did
not know well, who would move us from place
to place to place. Always a reason from his lips:
The jobs not right. The jobs no good. Ive
been red. So we would move, starting over
and over again. We lived in apartments, some-
times a house, and once a converted chicken
coop. I would sew curtains for the windows,
hang prints on the walls, arrange the shelves
with books and my record collection, and hope
that we could stay a while. We didnt.
So Id pack up the boxes, cry, pack up again,
wondering what to leave behind this time.
Always leaving something. Years of leaving.
When the leaving behind meant leaving my
two oldest children, my heart brokethe nal
piece of what had long been broken. The mar-
riage, the moving, the lost years, like match-
sticks falling, burnt out.
I left the rusted teapot and I left him, broken
for the price of a ne slipper or sandal, but Hans
Christian Andersen had a better grasp on the
true costs of transformation. The witch who
offers legs to the little mermaid tells her: The
best you possess is my price for the precious
drink. I shall have to put my own blood into
it, to make the drink as sharp as a two-edged
sword. Put out your little tongue, Ill cut it
off in payment, and you shall have your magic
drink!
Midway through this newest year, Im much
changed by my encounters with knives and
double-edged drinks. My breasts and hair are
gone, but they werent the best I possess. As long
as I keep a tongue in my mouth, Ill count my
bargain a good one.
GRETCHEN ICENOGLE, Portland
Starting by Osmosis
I
DRI NK COFFEE BECAUSE I LOVE I T,
but my fondness for coffee cant be explained
by taste alone. Its good, but not that good. So
how did I start drinking it?
Redmond, Oregon, 1956: the perfect town
for a four-year-old on the loose. Mom and Dad
ran the Dairy Queen. If ve-cent curl-top cones
sold well, Dad might decide wed walk down-
town for lunch at the Brand Cafe. This was the
kingdom of the burger before it had a king.
Dad always ordered coffee. It came from
a balloon-shaped glass pot, a happy orb with
a black handle and matching spout of indus-
trial plastic. The black liquid inside swayed as
it approached us at the counter. Dad liked the
ready service. I liked the swivel stools.
The mug, our waitresss target, stood on the
counter between Dad and me. She poured the
swirling brew from ionospheric heights. It all
went in the mug, to my disappointment and
relief. The chunky earthen mugs thick walls
safely conned the coffee in a porcelain fortress,
but as that scalding liquid plunged through the
atmosphere toward Dads mug it passed my nos-
trils, causing a coffee aerosol to ush inside me
and stick.
Preparing his coffee for the journey from
mug to mouth was like a space launch, only less
expensive. Coffee cost one dime with refills.
When the price jumped to fteen cents, Dad
threatened, Were moving to Bolivia.
Dad xed his coffee with the tools at hand,
a heavy glass sugar dispenser with metal
top and the shiny tin creamer with its cool,
So Id pack up the boxes, cry, pack
up again, wondering what to leave
behind this time. Always leaving
something. Years of leaving.
Oregon Humanities 42
pieces and all. Took my youngest child with me.
Through the open door to start a new life, in the
city, on my own, where my heart could sing.
LORNA MILLER, Portland
Starts Are as Starts Are
W
E WERE NINETEENME PREGNANT,
Chuck entering his second year of col-
lege on a football scholarship. Each with a erce
attraction for the other, but both, as eldest chil-
dren, little-acquainted with being less than
boss in any relationship. An elemental chal-
lenge for any marriage. Two teenagersscary.
As a starter on the football team, Chuck
received a few special perks: one of the four
married-couples apartments available and a
part-time job at the student union for which
I could substitute when he was traveling with
the team. Our income, with tuition covered,
derived from minimum-wage hours at the stu-
dent union. Not much.
But the apartment had a double mattress
on the bedroom oor for sleeping, a two-seater
table that permitted movement in the kitchen
when both chairs were pushed beneath its
peeling tabletop, a stained two-cushion couch,
and a rocking chair in the living room. Maybe
previous occupants had expected a baby as well.
Food we had covered. Lamb from Chucks
folks, a wedding gift, venison from mine, all of
which we kept in the public cold storage thirty
miles away. A case or two of green beans and
fruit cocktail and evaporated milk. Lots of
our, plenty of oatmeal, powdered milk, home-
canned strawberry jam. Stretchable food. Our
folks knew poor.
Two teenagers can manage on homemade
biscuits, venison, and pan-fried gravy. Green
beans and Jell-O with fruit cocktail for special.
The whos-the-boss issue took work.
Decades of work.
Decades that included three sons born
within five years. Decades that included fif-
teen changes of residence over ve states and
occupational engagement as construction
labor (Chuck), union secretary (me), secondary
teacher (both of us), college prof (Chuck), insur-
ance businessman (Chuck), registered nurse
(me), sheep farmers (both of us). A variety.
Decades over which we learned to say,
Im sorry.
Now were beginning our nal decades. One,
maybe two. For this start were better prepared.
Nobody gets to be boss all the time. New
adventures keep life fresh. A grandchilds smile,
fresh garden lettuce, morning sunshine, sage-
brush after rain, fresh-caught salmon on the
grill, waking in the warmth of your best and
favorite personsimple things keep life good.
Starts are as starts are: to be appreciated or
overcome. Finishing, conquering the stresses of
the journey, rest on what we learn as we travel.
Im sorry. I love you.
CLAUDI A CHARLTON, Port Orford
Quitclaim
M
Y HUSBAND AND I LOST OUR SOUTH
Dakota ranch. Not the kind of lost where
you set the car keys on top of the refrigerator
and nd them two months later during a house-
cleaning binge. More like lost as in lost youth.
You had it once. Used it. Enjoyed it. And then
you were stripped of youthful exuberance and
creamy, soft skin. In the early 1980s, the cattle
prices dropped to pre-1950s levels and federal
land bank interest rates soared to 18 percent. In
two years a quarter of a million dollars in assets
eroded to negative numbers.
When we moved from Pennsylvania to
South Dakota in 1973, we sold bulls for $1,200
posts
continued from previous page
My eyes gravitate toward the infant the
way my eyes gravitate to all the wrinkly
heads and unsteady necks of infants, the
shattering beauty of their animalness
and vulnerability.
Oregon Humanities 43
to $1,500. Life was good. But now, waiting for
future improved cattle prices wasnt an option.
We made the decision to hold a dispersal sale of
our entire cow herd.
Times were tough for everyone, and enthusi-
asm for even good breeding stock had dried up.
The sale was a nancial disaster. We were in a
pit so deep we couldnt claw our way out.
The following spring I successfully applied
for a job at Tasty Tacos at $3.75 an hour. Work-
ing off the ranch eased my mind; I was helping
in some small way to pay our bills and sock away
a few bucks into a savings account we could use
for running away.
At the end of my taco day, my husband and
I sat at the kitchen table, drinking iced tea,
while he recounted whom he had contacted
that day about buying the ranch, or which
breeders hed telephoned to interest them in
a good cow herd, available for not much more
than slaughter price. There were no takers.
Not even much interest. Everyone, from Ohio
to South Dakota had their own overwhelming
nancial problems.
As my husband talked with more and more
people, trying desperately to sell our invest-
ment of land and cattle, the crack in my soul
grew larger. Fear and uncertainty governed our
lives, crushing the spirit and wounding with
relentlessness, month after month. Until, at last,
my husband admitted he couldnt resolve the
reality of high interest rates and falling cattle
prices. Not by breeding better cattle or by work-
ing harder.
We hauled trailer load after trailer load of
our purebred polled Herefords to the auction
in Chadron, Nebraska. We signed a quitclaim
deed that neatly returned our ranch back to the
holders of the contract for deed.
A new start in Oregon managing someone
elses herd healed our brokenness. We are both
now retired and taking care of our own small
herd in southwestern Oregon.
RACHEL C. KLIPPENSTEIN, Lakeview
All Done with This
I
NTERESTING WHAT SENDS THE PAST
bubbling up and burning. Were at a soaking
pool one evening, my husband and I, steeping
like leaves of jasmine. A woman enters with
a baby, less than two months under his little
elastic waistband. My eyes gravitate toward
the infant the way my eyes gravitate to all the
wrinkly heads and unsteady necks of infants,
the shattering beauty of their animalness and
vulnerability. But I cannot stop staring at this
baby. He looks exactly like my own baby at that
age. Almond-shaped dark eyes and a thin pelt
of brown hair. Olive skin. Heavily creased fore-
head and red lips.
My daughter is now a hilarious, warm-
hearted t went y-somethi ng, tal l and
Romanesque as a statue, whothank the
Gracesturned out well. Yet given the chance,
I would change almost everything about her
infancy. Seeing the baby at the pool, I feel the
crush of hunger to go back and x things I cant.
I was twenty-one when my daughter was
born. At the time, I was three years into an
abusive marriage I would not leave until she
turned two. Id been sickly in the years before
her birth (my teen years, really), an overuser
of antibiotics, and I suspect this precipitated
her copious allergies and tendency toward ill-
nessher woefully inadequate intestinal ora.
In our daughters second year, her father built a
berglass car body in the small garage attached
to our house, and I suspect the cloud of toxic
fumes sparked her learning disability. At the
time, I thought myself powerless to stop it. But
I wasnt. These are the glaring failures. The
failures that shine under her skin, their shelf
life longer than her own.
As I exit the locker room after swimming, I
see the mother standing outside with her baby.
She fumbles with the waist buckle of her baby
backpack and looks straight at me. Can I get
your help with this? she asks.
I look in her eyes as I latch the buckle. Your
baby looks exactly like my daughter did, I tell
her. And just as the words cross my lips, I am
buried in emotion.
Really? the mother asks. How old is she?
Twenty-one. I ght an onrush of tears.
Wow, and where does she live?
Nearby, a couple hours from me. I turn my
head so she doesnt see my eyes grow red and
wet. I put my hand on the babys back.
So youre all done with this? she asks,
meaning childrearing, and I nod. Well, Im a
little jealous, she adds lightheartedly as I step
away. This mother is my age, forty-something,
and has decades until her nest empties.
Im jealous too, I tell her, turning and smil-
ing through the tears.
TRICI A GATES BROWN, Nehalem
Next theme: Quandary
For the fall/winter 2014 issue,
tell us about a pickle youve
been in. Report on the surpris-
ing aftermath of a historical
impasse or the wide-reaching
implications of a current
quagmire. Share your insights
on how being in a bind can be
liberating, debilitating, or both.
Send your submission (400
words maximum), by Sep-
tember 29, 2014, to posts@
oregonhumanities.org. Submis-
sions may be edited for space
or clarity.
Oregon Humanities 44
Read. Talk. Think.
things that make you say o. hm.
The Night Guard
at the Wilberforce
Hotel
Daniel Anderson
Johns Hopkins, 2014
Like the night guard in the title
poem of his new collection,
Daniel Anderson takes us on
memorial rounds with him,
checking latches and looking
into dark corners, sometimes
surprisedoften notat
whats to be found there. In
precise but unobtrusive formal-
ism, these poems vacillate
between awe of the living
worldsharp, bright, alive
and a late summer haze of ennui
and end. Best read with a cold
beverage close at hand.
Graham Mur t augh
The Enchanted
Rene Denfeld
HarperCollins, 2014
Journalist Rene Denfelds aptly titled rst novel follows an investi-
gator, priest, warden, and inmates in a death row prison. Narrated
from the perspective of a prisoner who does not (or cannot) speak,
the book is heartbreaking and mesmerizing, blending stark realism
and captivating imagination as it weaves a story of violence, corrup-
tion, redemption, and transcendence.
Anni e Kaf f en
Behind the Curve
Joshua P. Howe
University of Washington Press, 2014
It has been more than fty
years since Charles Keeling
began measuring the grow-
ing levels of carbon dioxide
in our atmosphere, but the
international community has
yet nd real solutions to global
climate change. Why? Reed
College professor Joshua P.
Howe attempts to answer the
question in this history of global
warmingnot the phenomenon
itself, but the language we use
to talk about itand the many
ways the conversation has been
inuenced by scientic, politi-
cal, and economic interests.
Ben Waterhouse
Oregon Humanities 45
To have a new book by an Oregon writer considered for Read.
Talk. Think., please send review copies to Oregon Humanities
magazine, 813 SW Alder St., Suite 702, Portland, OR 97205.
Going Somewhere
Brian Benson
Plume, 2014
In this debut memoir, Portland writer Brian Benson recounts his
experience bicycling from northern Wisconsin to Oregon as an anx-
ious recent college grad searching for purposea trip undertaken at
the suggestion of his girlfriend and with minimal preparation, lled
with small disasters and leading to none of its expected revelations.
It is both a tale of an imperfect journey and a poignant portrait of a
relationship under strain.
Ben Waterhouse
Sorry About That
Edwin L. Battistella
Oxford University Press
In this accessible and entertain-
ing work, Southern Oregon
University professor (and
Oregon Humanities board
member) edwin L. Battistella
examines noteworthy public
apologies from corporations
(Exxon, BP, McDonalds) and
individuals (Bill Clinton, Jane
Fonda, Alexander Hamilton)
in search of what it means
to apologize and what distin-
guishes a good apology from a
bad one.
Ben Waterhouse
The Plover
Brian Doyle
Thomas Dunne Books, 2014
There is a moment in Brian Doyles new novel,
The Plover, when its lead character, Declan,
familiar to readers of Mink River, characterizes
his situation this way: A guy cuts out on his boat
for a little solo voyage and it turns into a fecking
adventure novel. The Plover is just as Declan
describes it, but the fecking adventure novel is
also a dream of a more imaginary way to be. The
dream starts with one man in a small boat on the
Pacic but comes to be shared by an eclectic
and prodigiously linguistic group of people and
animals that start to comprise a small, magical,
growing nation of Pacica.
Adam Davi s
The Invisible Girls
Sarah Thebarge
Jericho Books, 2014
Sarah Thebarges memoir about surviving breast
cancer and befriending a struggling Somali
refugee family in Portland is about being seen.
An unsparing chronicle of physical, emotional,
cultural, and spiritual suffering, The Invisible Girls
is also darkly funny and honest, a combination
that challenges us to keep looking even as it dares
us to look away.
Graham Mur t augh
Oregon Humanities 46 croppings
Inspired by Seattle photographer Chase Jarviss maxim that the best camera is
the one thats with you and the ubiquity of phones with highly capable cameras
and image manipulation software, the Arts Center put out an open call for photog-
raphy shot and edited entirely on mobile devices. The resulting exhibit, Expand-
ing Vision, features images of a broad variety of subjects from professional and
amateur photographers alike. The single unifying characteristic the works share
is that they were created with tools readily available to anyone who owns a smart
phonea number that includes 58 percent of American adults, according to Pew
Research Center.
Expanding Vision:
The Contribution of Mobile Photography
August 21 to September 28, 2014
The Arts Center
700 SW Madison Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97333
(541) 754-1551
theartscenter.net
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4
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and transform communities. Oregon
Humanities programs encourage
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The Conversation Project offers Oregon nonprots low-
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Think & Drink is a happy-hour conversation series that
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