I was exceedingly fortunate to have been present for the Blue River Writers Gathering at the Andrews Experimental Forest in the mountains east of Eugene, Oregon. Sponsored by Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project, writers came from around the Northwest, as far north as Sitka, Alaska, and as far east as Ithaca, New York. We spent a three-day weekend (Friday, September 24th to Sunday, September 26th) talking to each other, hiking in the old growth, learning about the on-going environmental study of the forest (which I believe is in its sixth decade), and writing. Our group of 24 writers included scientists, non-fiction and fiction writers, as well as poets—each of them established in their genre. Our group discussions were characterized by brilliant, passionate discourse about the role of writers in an era of planetary trauma. All of us had opportunities to share our work. We ate wonderfully catered meals together, and enjoyed daily happy hours with wine, beer and hors d’oeuvres.
Some of the ideas and information we discussed included the importance of writers portraying the world around us in language that readers will find seductive, beautiful or arresting, and the fact that old growth in the Andrews Experimental Forest has been largely spared the ravages of invasive insects due to the rich and diverse population of spiders! I characterize that phenomenon as The Golden Age of Arachnid Culture.Charles Goodrich did a terrific job of organizing the Blue River Writers Gathering. Key thinkers at the gathering were philosopher/author Kathleen Dean Moore, David Oates, Ellen Waterston, Sarah van Gelder, who was the keynote speaker, and the always eloquent Tim McNulty. Since returning to Bellingham, I have received a marvelous volume of poems by Ellen Waterston, called Between Desert Seasons, whose poems are set in the high desert region of Bend, Oregon. Ellen is Director of The Nature of Words: Central Oregon’s Premier Literary Event, which will run this year from November 3rd through 7th in Bend.
Here is a list of the books I came home with:
• Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden, a volume of poetry by Charles Goodrich
• Sitka: A Home in the Wild, with text by Carolyn Servid and photographs by Dan Evans
• Unfurl, Kite, and Veer, Bill Yake’s gorgeous new volume of poetry
• What We Love Will Save Us, a volume of pungent essays by David Oates
• Looking for Parts, a CD of poems by Clem Starck
• The Crooked River Rises, essays by Ellen Waterston
• Temporary Bunk, poems by Lori Anderson Moseman
• The Summer, 2010 water issue of Yes! magazine, Executive Editor Sarah van Gelder
• and a U.S. Department of Agriculture publication titled Invertebrates of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Western Cascade Range, Oregon, given to me by Andrews Forest scientist Fred Swanson.
The Blue River Writers Gathering is convened every other year, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity to participate in the next one.