We all have been given names.  We feature name tags at conferences and it is still our primary way of introduction.  Names of influential people in our lives always carry a special resonance: John Muir, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Dali Lama… The Vietnam Memorial is simply a list of names.  When we vote, we are required to sign our names.  In our phone book (for we elders) or in your Ipad Contact list, we carry names with us…and I carry the following (partial) list of names with me always.  You are family, friends, work colleagues, part of the community where I live.  I lean on you, talk with you, cry, laugh, and share my life’s journey with you.  I want to deeply thank you all of you for your friendship, inspiration, simply the positive ways you contribute to the well being of the Columbia Gorge or other places where you live.

My hope is to be able to add to this list, to include new names of people I do not yet know, people different than me, maybe people who didn’t vote in the last election, maybe folks who have little in common with me except that we are here in the Gorge together…and that should be enough.

If you’d like, please add to this list, perhaps with 5 people that come directly to mind who help you along your way.

Dorothy Weiss, Allen Weiss,  Rene Weiler, Violet Knight, Mary Knight, Lawson Knight, Lisa Tomeo, Jim Tomeo, Hawk Tomeo, Teddy Tomeo, Micaline Pierce, Stephanie Knight, Denali Miedema, Luke Miedema, Lucia Pisapia, Antonio Cotnugno, Hayden Weiler, Elena Cotugno, Irene Cotugno, John Harkin, Janet Harkin, Chelan Harkin, Noah Harkin, Kathy Weiler, Orlando Herrera, Isabel Herrera, John Herrera, Terry Weiler, Cynthia Weiler, Elizabeth Weiler, Kevin Weiler, Esther Weiler, Enzo and Bella, Maura Muhl, Lee Muhl, Connor Muhl, Antonio Cotugno, Bonnie Ziegler Weber, Randy Weber, Jimmy Weber, Kurt Weiler, Karr Weiler, Ellen Poriles, Marc Harvey, Brook Mauer, Prescott Harvey, Meghan Harvey, Winston Harvey, Reed Harvey, Devon Fredrickson, Bob Hart, Jeanne Hart, Peter Maule, Jane Maule, Soroush Kermani, Ursula Kermani, Nika Kermani, Joleh Kermani, David Berger, Julie Larson, John Richter, Jani Richter, judy Shuman, David Cohen, Terri Cohen, Ginger Wallis, Ken Bevis, Teri Pieper, Joanne Jacobs, Eileen Rock, Carol Thayer, Rob Kavanaugh, Courtney Yilk, Camilla Blossom, Heather Kowalski, Laurie Van Cott, Molly Kissnger, Jeffrey Post-Holmberg, Sara Post-Holmberg, Jenni Post, Walter Ward, Candace Ward, John Boonstra, Dee Campos, Karen Murphy, Mike Gundlach, John Boonstra, Vicky Stifter, Charlie Boonstra, Pamela Larsen, and Sofie Larsen Tesky Scott McDonald, Bonnie New, Michael Friend, John Hardam, Grace Sisson, Krista Thie-Hoyt, Darryl Hoyt, Avery Hoyt, Gail Gensler, Karen Murray, Steve Murray, Betsy Miller, Drew Eastman, Clay Pierce, Ross Pierce, Trevor Yasbek, Kris Joy, Alex Yasbek, Ollie Yasbek, Josh Yasbek, Katherine Corey, Dan Richardson, Matt Rankin, Amira Malek, Paul Blackburn, Julia McGraw, Kate McBride, Peter Cornelison, Meghan Jossey &Doug, Kate Lindberg, Nicole Carlock, Melissa Rowe-Soll, John Soll, Jim Wells, Sally Wells, Julie Wieters, Cyndi Cashman, Katherine Von Mosch, Jim Von Mosch, Ginny Staubach Jess Waggoner, Gerald Waggoner, Conrad Waggoner, Jana Arthur, Stephanie Delgado, Doug Miller, Patty Miller, Chuck Dorsey, Martha Dorsey, Peter Dorsey, Marian Udelhofen, John Luthe, Annette Luthe, Rosemary Hop, Mary Lively, John Navidad, John Eudave, Pat Jacobsen, Erling Jacobsen, Jana Hannigan, Mike Hannigan, Sam Hannigan, Maggie Hannigan, Elisabeth Curry, Dyann Andresen, Lucy Andresen, Steve Ellis, Sue Ellis, Bobbi Puffin, Beth Puffin, Scott Stephenson, Valerie Stephenson, Lori Hull, Glenda Lovejoy, Jen FitzSimmons, Margaret Newcomb, Sally Newell, Pam Essley, Steve Essley, Pat Arnold, Georgia Opheim, Bill Seymour, Lucia Gonzalez, David Hunt, Prema Hunt, Ian Hunt, Avila Hunt, Ronnie Smith, Kevin Summa, Rebecca Wellman, Michael Wellman, Jeanie Wellman, Nancy Skakel, John Wehrman and Debbie Wehrman, Erica Toussaint, Susie Griffin, Tara Peyralans, Bob Wheeble, Ted Rose, Kalama Reuter, Ann Stephenson, Jill Nishball, Larry Gohl, Joh Gohl, Susan Gabay, Van Hicks, Glenda, Ruth Krause, Jesse Hickman, Kyle Hadley, Theresa Jensen, Jody Behr, Blue Ackerman, Eric Strid, Cyndi Strid, Katie Layne, Alan Lewis, Jeff Kiely, Dana Ustroke, Shoni Schlotzhauer, Bob Hanson, Gregory Hankins, Desiree Amyx-mackintosh, Sullivan Mackcintosh, Kim Robichaud, Kathleen Morrow, Lisa Roth, Erik Lundy, Tom Burns, Penny Burns, Kirby Neumann-Rea, Gary Young, Barbara Young, Ray Abanto, Desirae Bellairs, Olivia Pettit, Maza Brady, Charlie Buss, Emile Pennington-Davis, Deb Davis, Gale Arnold, Heather Whidden, Bill Whidden, Courtney Whidden, Caitlyn Cray, Sarah Cook, Wes Lapp, Margaret Nesbit, Heather Clemons, Jennifer Hull, Brent Foster, Mark Kahler, Mark Fitsimmons, Jake Camp, Ann Bourinskie, Julie Raefield, Rick George, Judy Walrod Maule, Martha Stevenson, Joe Garoutte, Lynda Dallman, Peter Dallman, Michael Ballinger, Ken McCarty.

There’s No Place Like (Chernobyl) Home

“They would rather risk exposure to radiation than the soul-crushing prospect of being separated from their homes.”

Holly Morris, The Telegraph

Thinking  about home today…this home and land where we’ve been since 1988, our roots running deep and wide, encompassing a familiarity and comfort that would be impossible to repeat if we decided (or were forced) to leave.

Would we rebuild after our home burned to the ground or was taken out by flood…or in an absolutely remarkable story of the “Busbuskas of Chernobyl,”  if our home and neighbor’s home and 18 miles of country became toxic and “uninhabitable.”

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor explosion, the deadliest nuclear accident in history, spewed 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima bomb.

Hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl residents were re-settled in city apartments and the contaminated land should have remained lifeless for centuries.

Not so.

It may seem strange that Chernobyl could become a refuge for all kinds of animals—from moose, deer, beaver, and owls to more exotic species like brown bear, lynx, and wolves—but that is exactly has happened. Without people hunting them or ruining their habitat, the thinking goes, wildlife is thriving despite high radiation levels.

Why have former residents have returned to the “Chernobyl Exclusion Zone” as well, defying their government and the risk of being exposed to still high levels of radiation? One universal refrain is ‘Those who left are worse off now. They are all dying of sadness.’ What sounds like faith may actually be fact. According to reports by the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund, many of those who were relocated after the accident now suffer from anxiety, depression and disrupted social networks, the traumas of displaced people everywhere.

And the most mystical part of all…the ones who have returned are miraculously staying healthy and alive!  Is the deeply spiritual tug of being happy at home effectively warding off disease and death? No health studies have been done, but anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the babushkas die of strokes rather than any obvious radiation-related illnesses, and they have dealt better with the psychological trauma. Toxic levels of strontium and cesium in the soil are real, but is the invisible pull of the ancestral home and the health benefits of determining one’s own destiny.

Seventy-one year old Galina smiles, ‘I only think of the good things in life,’ rolling on to the balls of her feet. ‘Come back tomorrow,’ she says, holding up a chunk of thick pig fat. ‘We’re going to party.’ ~


When asked how one might avoid crowds when climbing South Sister or backpacking the Green Lakes Basin in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness, Jonathan Erickson came straight to the point.

“You don’t avoid them, at least not really,” the lead wilderness ranger said. “The crowds taper off once the weather gets worse and you’ll find less people out there on a Wednesday. But to be frank, there really isn’t a way to avoid a busy setting.”  ~

Mostly we like to be part of larges crowds, whether it be a packed sports stadium of fellow fans, swaying with concert goers, or being part of a sea of parents at our child’s high school or college graduation.  We feel good when we’re part of a popular event.  Even when spending time in nature, we expect large crowds at national parks and summer swimming holes and other recreation areas.  Opening day of fishing season always draws large number of anglers.

Sometimes we do seek quiet places, wanting solitude, hoping for moments when we can be alone with the natural world..

University of Idaho research that also was confirmed by this week’s story in the Oregonian Newspaper, shows that Oregon’s most visited wilderness, the Three Sisters, is struggling with impacts from large numbers of hikers.  The intriguing part is that the vast majority of those interviewed in the Three Sisters stated that large crowds did not take away from their “wilderness experience.”    Wow.   The huge crowds do affect the wilderness managers.  “I don’t even consider it a wilderness experience,” said Chris Sabo, trail crew supervisor for Deschutes National Forest. “It’s almost more of an urban park. The use is high, really beyond what this area can accommodate.” This combination of beauty, easy access and Oregon’s third-tallest summit create an area both spectacular and overrun.

There were 14,600 people who visited the South Sister, Green Lakes and Moraine Lake area in 2012 based on wilderness permits filled out — though the number has been closer to 18,000 in past years. A sunny weekend in August and September can see upwards of 400 people attempting to climb South Sister.

So, regulations were inevitable.

Backpackers are required to tent at designated campsites.  Campfires are strictly prohibited, and the fine for breaking that rule can reach a whopping $5,000 (though most first-time offenders would be hit with a “modest” $250 ticket).

Beyond regulation, education is needed, in Portland and Bend, in schools and on the trail.  Wilderness etiquette, and focusing use on other areas of the high mountain country that don’t see as many crowds.  ~


In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, – no disgrace, no calamity which nature cannot repair.  Ralph Waldo Emerson


When we are dealing with difficulties, with physical or emotional pain, nature is there to provide us with peace, strength, and hope.  And as we slowly become an enlightened species, we continue to learn ways to helping nature heal…through habitat restoration, re-introduction of species (the giant panda was just removed from the endangered species list!) and living more lightly on the planet.

Nature also does a pretty incredible job of healing itself.  While plants soak up toxic metals and magically sprout after volcanic eruptions and hurricanes, growing scientific evidence indicates that animals carry knowledge of natural medicines. And they have access to the world’s largest pharmacy: nature itself. Zoopharmacognosy, (our new word for the day) or simply known as animal self-medication, has been used by many animals, including our faithful, domestic companions and their wild relatives, to treat a variety of ailments.

Scientists studying baboons at the Awash Falls in Ethiopia noted that although the tree desert date grew all around the falls, only the baboons living below the falls ate the tree’s fruit. These baboons were exposed to a parasitic worm found in water-snails. Date fruit is known to repel the snails. Baboons living above the falls were not in contact with the water-snails and therefore had no need of the medicinal fruit.

Many animals eat minerals like clay or charcoal for their curative properties. Colobus monkeys in Zanzibar have been observed stealing and eating charcoal from human bonfires. The charcoal counteracts toxic phenols produced by the mango and almond leaves which make up their diet.

Some species of South American parrot and macaw are known to eat soil with a high kaolin content. The parrots’ diet contains toxins because of the fruit seeds they eat and the kaolin clay absorbs the toxins.

Plants produce medicinal substances to protect themselves, attract pollinators, procreate, and perhaps perform more functions than scientists have yet discovered. Only recently scientists have learned that plant secondary metabolites provide benefits to animals as well as humans. ~

Happy Birthday

When I see or even think about a national park, it is like no other feeling I’ve ever had. A national park is like a special cabinet that contains memories that are filled with truly special natural treasures.  ~  Jason Roy Maki, winner National Park Foundation writing award


Stories.  Many life stories are formed by National Park experiences.  Vivid memories of my youth include spending my high school graduation hour deep in the Kings Canyon National Park Wilderness.  How can I forget when we camped at Yosemite, and my brother experienced a bear cub falling from a tree limb onto his tent!  While attending Oregon State University, I received the greatest letter: notice that I’d been hired as a Mount Rainier National Park Ranger.  As part of the park’s Search & Rescue team, we spent many a whiteout snowstorm looking for lost hikers and climbers. As a parent, exploring Denali National Park with my daughter….Denali!  And being deeply happy to have my two married daughters return home to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a land where rural communities and the natural world seek common ground.

With 312,000,0000 visitors in 2015, it would seem that all the National Park memories would have been snatched up.  Yet, Old Faithful still erupts faithfully, Crater Lake still shimmers with some of the purest Earth water, and my epicenter of inspiration, Grand Canyon, still can take every person’s breath away.  What is one of your favorite National Parks?

National Park natural wonders have aged well.  The giant sequoia forests are even larger and taller; wolves have returned to Yellowstone, thousands of acres of land were purchased and permanently preserved by the National Park Service to connect ocean views in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The National Park Service has waived entry fees today and I believe into this weekend.  And for anyone headed to New England…you might be the first to check out America’s newest Great Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine.  ~




31 Wonderful Flavors

“The eye is a two-way organ, a window of the soul that actually may serve its owner better by being looked into than out of.”  Guy Murchie


When we spend time in nature, we not only exercise our bodies, we also sharpen our five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touching, and sometime taste.  Might it be possible that we have been too limiting with regard to the number of principal senses?

Guy Murchie in his outstanding book on science and spirit, The Seven Mysteries of Life, makes a persuasive case for 31 senses.  Mr. Murchie breaks down his list of 31 into five categories: The Radiation Senses, The Feeling Senses, The Chemical Senses, and The Mental Senses.  We’ll briefly discuss the first 15 and save the rest for the next Blog.

Radiation Senses:

  1. Sight, which includes seeing polarize light and seeing without eyes, such as the helio-tropism or sun sense of plants.
  2. The sense of awareness of one’s own visibility or invisibility and the consequent competence to advertise or to camouflage via pigmentation control, luminescence, or transparency.
  3. Sensitivity to radiation other than visible light, including radio waves, x-rays, gamma rays.
  4. Temperature sense, including the ability to insulate, hibernate, or estivate.
  5. Electromagnetic sense, which includes the ability to generate current (as in the electric eel), awareness of magnetic polarity (possesses by many insects) and a general sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.

Feeling Sense

6. Hearing, including sonar and the detection of infra- and ultrasonic frequencies beyond ears.

7. Awareness of pressure, particularly underground and underwater, as through the lateral line organ of fish, the earth tremor sense of burrowers and barometric pressure.

8. Feel, particularly, touch on the skin and (definitely tickling!, vibration sense (such as the spider feels), cognition of heartbeat, blood circulation, and breathing.

9. The sense of weight and balance.

10. Space of proximity sense.

11. Coriolis sense, or awareness of effects of the rotation of the earth.

Chemical Senses

12. Smell, with and beyond the nose.

13. Taste, with and beyond the tongue or mouth.

14. Appetite, hunger and the urge to hunt, kill or otherwise obtain food.

15. Humidity sense, including thirst, evaporation control and the acumen to find water or evade a flood.

It is interesting that the sense of wonder does not appear on the expanded list, though I would have included it within the Feeling Sense, though wonder may come into play in Mr. Murchie’s mysterious 32 second sense…to be discussed next time.







We’re sorry for your inconvenience.”  Southern Pacific Railroad spokesperson response to oil train derailment, explosion in Mosier, Oregon

It has been one week since 14 oil cars derailed in the Columbia River Gorge, two weeks since high lead levels were discovered in Portland School drinking water, and at least one month since the US Forest Service somehow determined elevated amounts of chromium, arsenic, and cadmium through testing of moss in Portland neighborhoods.

Environmental and human safety regulations enforced by federal, state, and local  jurisdictions cover Pacific Northwest natural resources, and it is a natural assumption that we citizens in progressive Oregon and Washington are protected by strong laws.  We are no longer feeling so secure.

As a former regulator representing the interests of the least protected members of environment law, fish and wildlife, I wrote permits for projects with potential to impact salmon such as culvert placement, new roads and home building.  However, permit enforcement was spotty at best.  Regulations without enforcement invite environmental lawlessness.

The alternatives to lax environmental rules or enforcement lack are focusing on the court system, yet at the local level, District Attorneys typically do not prioritize environmental cases.  Citizen organizations can assist regulators; Project Light Hawk monitors the natural world from the air, and groups like Friends of Mount Adams send folks into the wilderness to ensure that livestock are staying on the right side of the fence. Columbia Riverkeeper volunteers constantly measure water quality.

While current laws or proper oversight did not prevent the first oil train derailment in the Columbia Gorge, we have this moment to collectively come together to strengthen laws, our communities along the rail lines, and our resolve.








The Taming of the Wild

Dear tourists: the bison calf is not cold and it is not lost. PUT IT BACK!

As usual, it has been a tough week for wildlife in the United States.  In addition to the tourists who kidnapped a baby bison at Yellowstone and put it into their van, to a couple on Cape Cod who rescued a wild baby turkey from the clutches of a red-tailed hawk  and then raised it like a pet, to the personal sadness resulting from someone approaching me on the Sandy River Delta complaining that our tree planting restoration will limit the amount of area where dogs can play, I believe we may have a difficult time not superimposing our intense feelings for tame pets onto wild creatures.

When we think of dogs and cats, we relate most closely with our own household animals as precious individuals.  When we see a wild animal, perhaps in our mind we separate that one from the rest of the herd, pack or family, not understanding that while all life is precious, it is the population that is vital to the welfare of the species.

British author Roger Scruton says it better:  “Love for animals is only exceptionally love for an individual animal. I love the wild animals on our farm but few of them are really individuals for me. It is the presence of bullfinches – not of any particular bullfinch – that delights me.

One neighbour’s dog is free to run in the hedgerows and out into the fields. This dog sniffs for quarry and, when it finds something, gives chase. In the winter, when birds are hidden under leaves, conserving their energy as best they can, they cannot easily survive being chased every day.

The difference is that the dog goes home to a warm house and a supper consisting largely of other animals which have been pressed into a tin, while its quarry goes hungry, trying to recover from the shock and weakened for its next encounter.”

Dogs are not coyotes or wolves; house tabbies are not bobcats or mountain lions.  When domestic animals encounter wild animals, many unfortunate consequences can result including injury or death, transfer of disease, injury to you or your pet from the wild creature, and the uprooting of the wild animal from its home.  And taking what mistakenly appears to be an orphaned, sick or in the case of the bison (“cold” animal) home is simply disasterous for everyone.  The folks who brought a fox kit home later turned it in to a wildlife rehab center did not have a clue that due to an inadequately nutritional diet, the fox became blind.  Touching a deer fawn insures that its mother will not take it back because of human scent. Raising a wolf/hybrid is difficult at best, and if released it into the wild it will most likely starve to death or because of its familiarity with people may be involved in depredation incidents resulting in a wolf being unfairly blamed.

Let’s keep the wild things alive by leaving them alone, giving them space, and keeping them out of our cars.  ~





1 Bee, 1 month, & 90,000 Flowers

On this Earth Day number 46, I thought it fitting to honor the one species that may provide the most benefit to human and natural systems alike.  You won’t see this creature on t-shirts, posters, nor as the mascot for sports teams (though I do believe there is a Yellow Jackets college team), yet honeybees are simply critical to the world’s food supply as well as this year’s most phenomenal flower show in the Columbia River Gorge. Almost everything we eat comes about through cross-pollination, and honeybees provide 15 billion dollars in free ecological services pollinating 1,000 familiar foods including peaches, melons, blueberries, apples, almonds, and vanilla,.

Ninety percent of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination. And to make sure we are not excluding other Friends of Flowers, we are told 200,000 animal pollinators exist from ants, beetles, wasps, opposums, bats, butterflies, moths, and birds such as hummingbirds.

During the honey production season, worker bees only have 1 extremely active month foraging for food, storing nectar, feeding larvae and producing honey. During that time, 1 bee can visit 90,000 flowers.  Bees can fly at about 7 miles per hour and have to beat their wings 190 times per second to accomplish flight! Some kinds of bees, but not honey bees, pollinate flowers by their buzzing (vibrations), knocking the pollen loose from the anthers and onto the stigma. This is called “buzz pollination.”
Helping Our Bees

Thirty-one percent of all honebee colonies declined in 2012-2013, while many species of pollinators have decreased in numbers because of loss of habitat, misuse of pesticides,introduced and invasive plants and animals, diseases and parasites. The U.S.has lost more than 50% of its managed honey colonies in the past decade.

Think about creating a self-sustaining bee-centered ecosystem that can benefit pollinators by planting a variety of native-flowering trees, shrubs and wildflowers throughout your site.  Use plants that are indigenous to the area and strive for a diversity of plants with a focus on consecutive bloom times to provide forage for pollinators throught the growing season.  Plant clumps of the same species together rather than spreading them evenly throughout your property as clumped plantings allow for more efficient foragine by pollinators.  Diversity is key, aim for 2 or 3 different species that bloom at the same time, and aim to have nectar and pollen available from spring through the autumn season.

It’s Not a Long Way

For Chelan, For Our Neighbors ~

It’s not a long way to Okoree’s

It’s not a long way at all

It’s not a long way to the top of our hill

From there you can find your way home.


So much life has been lived in 18 years

Memories as deep as the sea

Wherever you go

I just want you to know

Friends and family have no boundaries.


It’s not a long way to Mark and Brook’s

It’s not a long way at all

It’s not a long way just down the road

From there you can find your way home


It’s not a long way to our house

It’s not a long way at all

It’s not a long way to the place where you’ve lived11165173_10153492341953432_4999700069365146471_o

From there you can find your way home ~