I’m East of Acadia, if not quite Eden

I like to think that natural beauty can be found anywhere, but I have to admit that too often, what’s happened is that brute ugliness has prevailed in far too many places, typically as a result of greed. There’s no excuse for much of that, either. A little extra expenditure could have added grace to any development, created visual intrigue, lessened the harshness. Urban or rural or what’s in-between, alas.

Whenever possible, I chose career moves that opened me to natural or artistic settings and inspiration – along with opportunities to shine professionally. It’s meant avoiding suburbs, for one thing. Sometimes, though, it’s also meant invoking a sliding scale of value – you know, finding pockets of serenity within otherwise harsh localities. And then there were some other postings that principally industrial, even when it was mostly farmland. So it’s been a mix.

Still, as I’ve said, I came to realize that had I remained in my native corner of Ohio, I wouldn’t have been able to write poetry, the vibe was simply wrong. Or, if I had, it would have been much different from what I’ve done.

On the other hand, the four years I lived two hours east of Mount Rainier, back in the late ’70s, gave me repeated access to one of America’s greatest national treasures, often from lesser-known perspectives. What memories! And that’s before I turn to much of the back country and wilderness that was closer to our home. I even came to love the beauty of the desert where I was living, a landscape that initially struck us as hideous.

Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park, glimpsed from the east.

Now I’m finding myself dwelling two hours east of an even more popular natural park, Acadia. Already, I have glimmers of many backwoods and remote rocky shores to explore in-between.

Technically, all of Downeast Maine is also Acadia, the French name of the region. For most folks, though, Acadia means the park.

The biggest land mammal out west was the elk, while here in northern New England, it’s the moose. Just as the celebrated shellfish here is lobster, rather than Dungeness crab.

The fact is, for many people, either place is about as close to paradise as you’d find on earth.

And, yes, I’m feeling lucky – or especially blessed – that way.

Come explore the Olympic Peninsula

When Jaya and Joshua set of for the Pacific Northwest in my novel Nearly Canaan, what they expect to find is something very much like the Olympic Peninsula rather than the fertile desert where they land.

Here’s some of the alternative.

  1. Set on the far western end of Washington state, the Olympic Peninsula is an anvil of land comprising nearly 3,600 square miles – more than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. It has rare temperate rainforests, glacier-clad mountains, hot springs, timber-tangled shorelines, tall seastacks in the surf, hot springs, waterfalls, large lakes, and eight Native tribes and their reservations.
  2. Olympic National Park at the heart of the peninsula covers nearly a million acres and includes the state’s second-largest mountain range, crowned by 7,980-feet-tall Mount Olympus. Glacier-climbing skills are essential for ascent and descent. The park is the system’s sixth most popular, attracting more than 30 million visitors a year.
  3. The restoration of elk was so essential to the park’s mission that it was nearly named Elk National Park.
  4. The town of Forks gets 119.7 inches of precipitation a year – making it the wettest municipality in the continental U.S. And the nearby Hoh rainforest receives 140 to 170 inches a year.
  5. The peninsula abuts the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Strait of San Juan de Fuco on the north, and Puget Sound on the east. Its rugged interior shunts auto traffic toward the coastlines.
  6. The 300-mile, two-lane Route 101 loop around the peninsula is considered a three-day drive. More, for those who investigate scenic offshoots. There are no alternatives for traversing the peninsula.
  7. Hot springs access is available to the public at Sol Duc. Other sites are local secrets.
  8. Following the biggest dam removal in U.S. history, completed in 2014, the Elwah River once again runs wild for fish migration.
  9. There are more than 60 named glaciers.
  10. While the Olympics Range is seen prominently from Seattle on a clear day, its tallest point, Mount Olympus, is visible from no city.

~*~

Hope that serves as an introduction. We haven’t even touched on Port Townsend.

 

Hops, as in beer

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state, where some of the world’s best hops are grown.

Did you know …

  1. The flowers (also called cones) are full of perishable resins that are dried and processed for use as a bittering, stabilizing, and flavoring agent in beer.
  2. Hops have a complex chemical composition leading to two distinct types. Bittering hops have higher concentrations of alpha acids and counter the sweetness of the malt base of a beer. Aroma hops, added toward the end of brewing, prevent the evaporation of essential oils, thus retaining and enhancing the taste.
  3. The choice of hops and techniques of hopping can give a particular recipe its unique taste, as today’s microbrewers are emphasizing. Quite simply, some hop varieties are much better than others in creating a distinctive brew. Think of the way wine lovers describe a bottle, and then apply it here.
  4. The vines (or technically, bines – vines without tendrils) are typically grown on strings or cables to overhead wires, maybe 15 to 20 feet in the air, and cut down for harvest. They’re loaded onto wagons and taken to the hop house for processing and packing.
  5. They grow best in a soil type that is also highly suited for potatoes.
  6. The United States is the world’s leading grower, followed by Germany, together accounting for more than four-fifths of the global hop supply. Despite its fame in the field, the Czech Republic is a distant third.
  7. Three distinct districts in the Yakima Valley, each uniquely different in their output, together produce more than 77 percent of the nation’s hop crop. Most of the farms are third- and fourth-generation family operations.
  8. Pollinated seeds are deemed undesirable for beer. Only female plants are grown in commercial fields. So much for sex discrimination.
  9. Harvesting is a labor-intensive effort, dependent on migrant workers.
  10. They’re in the hemp family, though I don’t know of anyone smoking them.

~*~

Cheers!

Some Native names regarding the Cascades mountains

Many of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent features are known by the names of Europeans or their descendants, rather than their earlier Native designations. Since the tribes on one side of the Cascade mountains had a different language stock than those of the other side, the names could be quite different.

  1. Mount Washington: Tahoma or Tacoma
  2. Mount Adams: Patoh or Klickitat
  3. Mount Hood: Wy’east
  4. Mount St. Helens: Loowit or Louwala Clough
  5. Mount Baker: Kulshan
  6. Mount Jefferson: Seekseekqua or Kuassal Teminbi
  7. Mount Shasta: Ako-Yet or Yeh te che na or Et ti ja na
  8. The Cascade Range: Yamakiasham Yaina
  9. Columbia River: Wimhal or Wimal, Nch’I-Wana or Nichi-Wanna, Swah’netk’qhu
  10. Bridge of the Gods: Tanmanhawis

~*~

There’s some rich mythology involving these names and their personalized characteristics. For instance, the brothers Patoh/Klickitat and Wy’east, after traveling down the Columbia River from the far north to resettle, entered into some heated rivalry for the fair maiden Loowit/Louwala Clough. Their volcanic eruptions of jealousy and earth quaking even resulted in the collapse of the Bridge of the Gods across the river, producing a series of rapids.

There’s plenty more, if you chose to investigate. Any to share from where you live?  

 

What you should know about Dungeness crab

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state. But it’s also close to fresh Dungeness crab, a shellfish with a heavenly taste all its own.

What you should know.

  1. It draws its name from Dungeness, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula.
  2. It’s not King Crab, mind you, an Alaska specialty, but it is threatened by ocean acidification.
  3. It has five pairs of legs. (I haven’t counted the ones on a lobster.)
  4. It is found largely between Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and Santa Barbara, California. But don’t overlook that Washington state connection, right in the middle.
  5. About one-quarter of the crab’s weight is meat. One crab usually satisfies one person, though sometimes it will be shared by two.
  6. It has a delicate flavor and a slightly sweet taste. Don’t ask me to compare it to chicken or anything else. Not even lobster. It’s as different as cod is from salmon.
  7. It’s the State Crustacean of Oregon. What else do they have?
  8. If you go out at night trying to find one with a strong light focused in the water, you can likely rake up one right next to a decaying starfish.
  9. You really can’t get it here, wherever that is, outside of the Pacific Northwest.
  10. If you haven’t guessed, I really do miss them. They don’t travel well.

Ever eaten elk or Dungeness crab?

In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. It’s desert, for one thing, where nearly everything has to be irrigated, for another. Quite simply, it’s a lot like Yakima, in the middle of Washington state.

  1. Dungeness crab. I really miss this. It doesn’t travel well. You have to go to the source. Someplace like Ivar’s on the waterfront in Seattle. One crab per person is fine.
  2. Salmon. How many varieties do you know? Sport fishermen will tell you their favorite.
  3. Tillamook cheddar. An Oregon coop.
  4. Beer. Must be all those local hops and barley. My favorite was Rainier.
  5. Geoducks. (Pronounced gooey-ducks). A large razor clam species.
  6. Those chewy apple, peach, or ‘cot bars. A sweet and chewy candy. Used to get ’em up around Wenatchee. Wish I could remember the brand name.
  7. Rainier cherries. Definitely distinctive.
  8. Chanterelle mushrooms. Had ’em once, and it was a treat. You really have to trust your source when it comes to picking wild ‘shrooms.
  9. Elk. Helps if you know someone who wins a license in the annual hunting lottery. Seriously.
  10. Walla Walla onions. OK, I hate onions. Or they hate me. So I’m just passing this along, based on the praise by cooks I respect.

~*~

What food is special where you live?

Dungeness crab, a specialty in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Ten largest Native American reservations in Washington state

There are 21 Native American reservations in Washington state. As Joshua and Jaya discover in my novel Nearly Canaan, living adjacent to one, they are home to a unique culture.

Here are the ten largest by area.

~*~

  1. Colville, 1,300,000 acres or 2,031 square miles. A little larger than Delaware. It’s in the arid northeast corner of the state.
  2. Yakama, 837,753 acres or 1,309 square miles. Still larger than Rhode Island. It stretches from the Cascade crest into the arid Yakima Valley.
  3. Quinault, 208,150 acres or 325 square miles. About the size of Omaha or Greensboro. It’s along the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic peninsula.
  4. Spokane, 153,600 acres or 240 square miles. Compare its area to Milwaukee. It’s just east of Colville.
  5. Makah, 23,040 acres or 36 square miles. Still larger than Manhattan. Sits at the northwest tip of the Olympic peninsula.
  6. Snohomish or Tulalip, 8.930 acres or 14 square miles. Sits along Puget Sound north of Seattle.
  7. Port Madison, 1,375 acres or 2.145 square miles.
  8. Quileaute, 837 acres or 1.3 square miles.
  9. Hoh, 640 acres or one square mile.
  10. Lummi, 598 acres.

~*~

Have you ever attended a powwow?

 

Just what’s drawn us to Sunrise County?

Naturally, there have been moments when we find ourselves second-guessing our decision to relocate to a remote fishing village at the other end of Maine. Technically, it’s a city, reflecting its peak as the sardine-packing capital of the world, though today’s year-’round population is a mere 1,300 – about the same as the enrollment in my high school minus the 700 freshmen.

I could easily do a Tendrils on what the place doesn’t have – a Laundromat, Chinese or Mexican restaurant, even a pizza takeout, for starters. It’s in an economically challenged region, to put it politely, and the county has a population of only 32,000 stretched across an area about 2½ times the size of Long Island, New York. That comes to about 10 residents per square mile. What, three households? Around half of the townships have no residents at all or at least not enough to incorporate – they have to rely on the state for local governance.

The closest city of any size and resources is St. John, New Brunswick, population 68,000, an hour and three-quarters drive mostly east – once the U.S.-Canada border reopens.

Next, and more likely, is Bangor, 33,000 population, a two-hour-plus drive to the west. (Practically speaking, it’s also the nearest Toyota dealer, when we need serious work on the Prius, the closest medical specialists, the closest U.S. airport providing commercial service or even an Interstate highway.) Portland, seemingly cosmopolitan, takes four hours – with Boston an additional two or so beyond that. (More in the tourist season, when traffic backs up forever at the turnpike toll plazas.)

Are we crazy?

Yes, I’d have to say.

We’re also enchanted.

Crucially, Eastport – on the Bold Coast in what’s aptly dubbed Sunrise County – does have an active arts community, making me think of the TV series “Northern Exposure” and its quirky characters.

And there’s all that North Atlantic water and maritime activity. What makes an ocean so mesmerizing, anyway? The appeal goes far beyond romance for those who rely on moody appearances. This new realm is also deadly and terrifying and constantly changing, unlike anything I knew growing up in landlocked Ohio, for sure. Not even the then far-off Lake Erie.

Somehow, Eastport quickly revives my memories of Port Townsend on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, back in the late ’70s. At the time, it was an eclectic blend of working-class, outdoors types, and marginal artists, many somehow connected to the Fort Worden state park for the arts. Its proximity to booming Seattle, a mere 2½ to 3½-hour trip, plus any down time waiting for ferry connections, does put it in a cosmopolitan orb, unlike Eastport’s seven- to nine-hour drive or bus ride from the Hub of the Universe, Boston.

When I lived in Washington state, I harbored dreams of moving from our home in the desert orchards east of the Cascades Range and resettling somewhere like Port Townsend, perhaps even up in the Alaska Panhandle or on coastal British Columbia. That was crushed after the eruption of Mount Saint-Helens and career upheavals that had me reeling back to the Midwest and then Baltimore and finally New Hampshire. I really missed opportunities to spend time in the wilderness during much of that. Even small pockets of forest could be rarities.

Eastport, though, has rekindled that awareness. It’s not just the deer all over town or the eagles or the seal and then whale I saw from the lantern room of a lighthouse across the channel. There’s also the First People’s presence, which was a part of my Northwest experience. Did I mention you have to drive through the Passamaquoddy reservation to get to town?

In ways, I’m sensing the move promises me a chance to get down to some serious unfinished business. Me, with my certificate in urban studies, my yoga training, time among Plain Quakers and the more liberal end of Mennonites, my labors as a poet and novelist, and all those years in the newsroom.

We’ll see.

Some things about NW grunge

Although I’ve concentrated a lot on the hippie end of the counterculture revolution, I’m not that conversant in many of its more recent manifestations.

Considering the events in my novel Nearly Canaan, when Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined, out in the desert on the other side of the mountains from Seattle, I see I need to pay attention, especially since grunge entered the scene just a little later.

Here are ten points.

  1. Sometimes called the Seattle Sound, grunge was a blend of punk and heavy metal revolving around the local independent record label Sub Pop and featuring a distorted electric guitar sound. (I’ll let others define both punk and metal.) And then it took off into the ’90s and mainstream.
  2. The lyrics are typically angst filled of a socially alienated sort. Apparently, we could do a Tendrils right there.
  3. Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 likely played into its demise.
  4. Its mundane, everyday style of clothing sharply contrasted to punk’s mohawks, leather, and chains. It also featured Doc Martens boots, wool flannel plaid shirts, and thermal underwear befitting the Pacific Northwest.
  5. It was seen as anti-consumerist. The less you spent, the cooler you were. Cobain’s widow Courtney Love was the embodiment of the thrift-shop philosophy.
  6. Males, especially, had unkempt hair.
  7. Espresso, beer, and heroin have been cited as its three main drugs.
  8. It led to a distinctive graphic design based on “lo fi” or low fidelity imagery, with intentionally murky lettering, photography, and collage enhanced by desktop publishing and digital image processing on Macintosh computers.
  9. The appearance of ‘zines, often of a literary sort, blossomed as an off-shoot of this. I’ve appeared as a poet in many of them, mostly photocopied and stapled.
  10. Some see the movement as introducing non-binary sexual awareness to the wider culture.

~*~

Can’t help thinking this sounds like hippie on a downer trip to me.

What’s your take on grunge?