Thursday, April 18, 2024

Walking 800 miles

     During the year before my 75th birthday, I did 75 things of 75 repetitions each. (See post on July 26, 2018, and following.) That was five years ago. What significant thing, I wondered after my 79th birthday last July, could I do to mark turning 80?
    Well, I thought. I could hike 800 miles before July 20, 2024. And I could hike on 80 different trails, to boot. Skiing would count.
    Goal set
    At first I didn't pay much attention to the mileage. By the end of July I had hiked 35.5 miles. September's backpacking trip in the Wallowa Mountains doubled that number. By November I had hiked 250 miles. Then I had foot surgery. Then I went to Georgia for a siblings reunion. Then I caught bronchitis. I lost two months of hiking.
    By the time I started hiking again, on December 25, I had hiked 263.5 miles. I was halfway through the year but hadn't hiked nearly half the required distance. I started calculating. To make my goal, I would have to hike approximately 20 miles a week in the next seven months. That might be easily doable if all I was doing was hiking, but things interfere: board meetings, articles to write, a journalism workshop to teach, garden work, and the myriad other things of daily life. But I was doggedly persistent.
    Mileage accumulates slowly. Five miles up one mountain, seven up another, only time for frour miles another day. In the face of 800 miles, a jump from 364 to 368 doesn't seem like much. 10-miles hikes are better.
    I have become fanatical. I no longer take walks; I only take hikes. Every empty day I fill with a hike. I love the strenuous exercise, the fresh air, the glories of nature. I have hiked through gorgeous autumn colors and in bracing winter cold. I have skied in deep white snow. Now I walk through spreads of wildflowers carpeting the woods. I am in seventh heaven day after day.
        I indulge in a massage after every 80 miles.
    Thirty-six friends have joined me on hikes. Nine others have scheduled hikes with me. A friend from California came up to hike with me, adding 23.5 miles in three days. My sister Laura is coming from Georgia to do some wildflower hikes with me. In May I'll do an 80-mile backpacking trip with three friends, staying in a lodge at the mid-point. In June I'll be hiking in the Swiss Alps with my sister Sharon. 
    My son will come down from Washington to hike the last of the 800 miles with me (or whatever the number is; I won't stop hiking if I reach 800 before July 20). We'll do that hike on my birthday, walking right from the Jacksonville Woodlands into the Jacksonville Inn, where my birthday guests—anyone who has hiked any of the 800 miles with me—will be waiting to greet me with a glass of champagne. 
    And that, I think, should be a fitting way to celebrate my 80th birthday.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Hiking in Jacksonville's Forest Park

Reminder to readers in the Rogue Valley: Poetry recitation Saturday, April 6, 3:00, at the Applegate Library.

    A few weeks ago I was hiking in Jacksonville's Forest Park on trails that would take me to the top of the mountain. 
    Pretty soon I started hearing chain saws. The woods suddenly gave out, and I was hiking through bare hills with lots of stumps.
    The view and the noise told the story. To my left were two hills sloping down to the valley, rounded and green with manzanita. 
Manzanita hillside in the Applegate, not in
Forest Park—just to give you an idea
The hill I was standing on and the ones I had hiked through were denuded. Slash piles of manzanita were waiting to be burned. Chainsaws buzzed in the distance. Soon the green hillsides would be as bare as these. 
    Ninety-nine percent of the manzanitas, which were ninety-nine percent of the vegetation on these hills, had been cut.
   I understood, of course. The danger of fire—and manzanitas, they say, are particularly oily—caused panic in the park managers. They said, "Cut 'em all down!"
    ("My teeth hurt." "Pull 'em out.")
    ("I have a pain in my belly." "Give her a hysterectomy.")
    Looking at those scraped-bare hills. I couldn't imagine that that destruction made good ecological sense. Surely there was a better solution.
    I turned my back on the sight and headed back towards the trailhead, hiking on a trail called Manzanita Tunnel. It will have to be renamed. The large, old manzanitas with their smooth, mahogany-red trunks no longer arch over the trail, making a delightful, magical tunnel. Now the trail goes over barren hills. We could call it Dead Souls Trail.
    When I expressed my dismay at this destruction to another hiker, she pointed out that manzanitas reseed quickly, and, yes, that's true. But earlier this month I was in another area where the manzanitas had been cut at least ten years ago. Baby manzanitas were all over the place. But they were still babies. How old were the ten-foot-high, eight-inch-thick, dense trunks of the old manzanitas that had been cut? 
I love those old manzanitas!
Here I'm hugging one on the Stein Butte trail.
Manzanitas may reseed readily, but they grow slowly. It will take untold decades for the beautiful manzanita forests to return to Forest Park's hills. If they are allowed to return.
    I haven't, myself, returned to Forest Park since that hike through scraped-bare hills. It's too painful to hike there now.
                Beautiful manzanita blossoms.      Photo by Larry Francis.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Poetry Recitations

    Hearing poems recited is to hearing them read aloud as hearing them read aloud is to reading them silently. Better.
    Maybe that's why memorizing poetry has been a life-long hobby of mine. I memorized my first poem in the third grade. I recited a poem for the high school variety show. As a child, I memorized poetry as I did chores, the poetry book propped on the ironing board or the handlebars of the lawn mower. During COVID I gave a half-hour poetry recitation on Facebook Live. 
    Now I'm taking poetry recitation to a live audience. A week from Saturday, on April 6, I will recite 15 poems at the Applegate library.
    I am a little nervous. I know the poems thoroughly, but saying them as I'm driving or hiking or even in front of a mirror is not the same as saying them in front of a live audience. I hope I can do this.
    My favorite kind of poem to recite is a dramatic monologue, such as Robert Browning's "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's Chruch" and T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," because with those poems I get to play a character. Against Prufrock's vexation at his midlife crisis, I will juxtapose Ulysses's defiance of old age in Tennyson's dramatic monologue "Ulysses." Then I'll take on the persona of a young woman telling a tale about hanging suspended in a birch tree with wild grapes when she was five years old in a Robert Frost poem. Frost's "The Death of the Hired Man" is a dialogue rather than a monologue, but it is just as dramatic as those others. I first memorized that poem when I was a teen-ager, just for fun. Now I will recite it "on stage," as it were.
    I'll recite some of Mary Oliver's plain-language, image-rich poems and contrast them with one of Gerard Manley Hopkins's syntactically complex poems. I'll recite well-known poems like Robert Frost's "Birches" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and esoteric, rhyme-rich poems like Wallace Stevens's "Bantams in Pine Woods." I'll end with Christopher Smart's delightful 18-century poem, "My Cat Jeoffrey," in which Smart absolutely nails the characteristics of a cat.
    The poems take 50 minutes to recite. At first I was just going hand out a program with the dates of each poet's life and the titles of the poems and let that be adequate for background, but now I'm thinking the audience will enjoy the poems better if they know something about them before I recite them. It might be better to have a more casual hour-and-a-half program that a squeezed-to-fit hour program. 
    But who knows? I've never done this exact thing before. I just hope to give my audience the pleasure of hearing some great poems. 
    But, just in case, I will also offer some great refreshments.

Recitations by Diana Coogle
Saturday, April 6, 3:00-4:30
Applegate library

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Swimming in My Own Pond

     Ten or so years ago, when my new house was being built, a friend walked with me to a spring downhill from the house. 

"You know, Diana," she said, "you could dig a hole below this spring and you'd have a pond."
    A swimming hole on my own property? A swim every day of the year? I was thrilled with the idea.
    The machinery came up. 

The hole was dug.  A diving and sunning platform was built, with a ladder into the pond. I arranged a small cascade of rocks and installed a pipe from the spring to bring water down in a little waterfall. I brought down an enamel bathtub with the idea of creating a black-plastic-pipe solar heating system for a dunk in hot water after a cold swim. The hole filled with water.
    The mud settled out. I swam in my own pond.
    For a day or two.
    Then the pondwater sank back into the ground. The hole would not hold water.
    I added bentonite, but it didn't work. The ground was just too porous.
    Year after year the pond sat empty. Some years, with a deep snowfall, it would fill, but even before the weather—or the water—cleared enough for a swim, the water sank back into the ground. 
    I have been very unhappy with my pond.
    A couple of weeks ago a ferocious storm dumped three feet of snow here on the mountain, felling countless trees. Once the snow melted and the weather cleared, I walked down to the pond, late one afternoon, to investigate the damage. 
    Firs, oaks, and madrones were strewn in the woods. Three lay across the pond. But look! The pond was full of clear, green water. 

The spring was gurgling through the pipe onto its waterfall of rocks. The fallen trees left a hole big enough for swimming. All I had to do was clear the blackberry brambles off the platform for access, and then I could swim!
    The next morning I took clippers, a broom, and a towel down to the pond. I freed the top platform of blackberries and cleared enough of the bottom platform to walk to its edge. Then I took off my clothes and walked into the pond.
    Oh, my God! It was icy cold. I walked deeper in, up to my knees, up to my thighs. Then I thought, "This is just too cold. I'm not as good as I used to be. I can't do this," and I turned around to climb out.
    But what happened? What made me turn back towards the deep water, sink in, and push off? It was a matter of body over mind. The mind said, "For Pete's sake, get out of this cold water," and the body just went on in, anyway. I swam a complete turn around the perimeter of the pond, then climbed out. I wrapped the towel around me, turned to look at the clear, cold water, and gave ecstatic thanks to the spring for filling the pond and to my body for taking me into it.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Presenting a Paper on Hippie Food at the Northwest Anthropological Confrence

     I felt like an interloper at the Northwest Anthropological Conference in Portland last week. My Ph.D. is in English literature, a far cry from anthropolog. I kept reminding myself that I had been invited to give a paper there, on the topic of "How Hippie Food Changed the Way America Eats." I had done thorough research, and, besides, I had "lived experience," to use the academic term, from my years on a hippie commune. I could do this.
Folks from Houkola, a commune I lived on south of Ashland,
at a pot-luck wedding.

    My paper was one of four on the session's topic, "Feeding the Masses in Oregon." 
    A week before the conference, I learned that the topic had changed. Now it was "Food as Weapon," which fit fine for the other three papers (Indian schools, school lunches, laws against feeding the homeless), but seemed irrelevant to hippie food. Calming my panic, the leader of the session suggested I use the phrase "food as a weapon of love," so I added it once or twice in the paper and let it be. 
    I was also dismayed to discover, when I got to the presentation room, that there was no podium and only a hand-held microphone. How could I hold my papers, turn pages, hold the microphone, and click through the Power Point slides at the same time? (All the presenters, of course, had the same problem.)
    It was a little awkward, but I managed well enough, especially with a friend on the front row clicking through the slides for me. 
    And it was all a great success. The audience laughed at appropriate times; they enjoyed the photos. Afterward people spoke nostalgically about the cookbooks I had cited (Moosewood, Ten Talents, The Tassajara Bread Book) and told me that their parents had fed them hippie food. They told me about their trips to the Oregon Country Fair or about being in Eugene during that era. Later, during the day, I would pass someone in a hallway who would turn to me and say, "I enjoyed your talk." 
    Months ago, when I told people I was writing an article about hippie food, they often asked, "What is hippie food?" so my talk started with a description, from my "lived experience" on a commune in the mid-seventies, of sitting cross-legged on the floor with a group of hippies at dinner time, the cloth spread with  brown rice, a stir-fry of fresh vegetables, salad from the garden, and the condiments: gomasio (ground sesame seeds), Dr. Bronner's, tamari, brewer's yeast. After dinner, I said, there might be carob brownies made with honey and whole wheat flour (and, sometimes, marijuana).

 If these "hippie foods" are no longer identifiable as such (well, carob brownies, I guess, are still hippie food), it is because hippies changed the way Americans eat. As I noted in the conclusion of my paper:
    "Today, even in supermarkets like Anderson's and Safeway you can find tofu, kale, soy sauce, and tahini, if not brewer's yeast and gomasio. Organic food is widely available, not only in co-ops (which hippies started) but also in supermarkets. 
Ashland's farmers' market
 Farmers markets, another hippie introduction to Oregon, are now in large cities and tiny hamlets all over the state. The vitamin shop with herbal remedies on the street corner? Thank the hippies.

illing a bag with only as much granola as you need from the bulk bin at Market of Choice? Thank the hippies. Farm-to-table? It was Alice Waters, inspired by hippy relationships with food, who pioneered that trend. Even if your mother wasn't a hippie it's probable that she—or, just as likely, your father—fed you better than the hippies' mothers fed them. For that you can thank the hippies. When you sit down at a restaurant that serves local produce—thank the hippies."
    I don't know how much the audience of anthropologists learned that was relevant to their studies, but I do know that I entertained them with tales of the past and opened their eyes, perhaps, to the ways hippies did, indeed, change the way America eats. Thank the hippies.
Folks at the China Grade commune, where I lived, 1969-71.
I am kneeling, with the goat.


Monday, March 4, 2024

And Snow It Did

    At the first snowflakes on Thursday afternoon, I drove my car the half-mile to the paved road and left it there. If there were heavy snow, that road would be plowed.
    By the next morning a three-foot-deep snow had me thoroughly snowed in. The white sublimity dominated. I had no electricity, phone service, or internet. I still had water, on gravity feed from a holding tank, and I had plenty of firewood to keep the house warm. I settled in to enjoy the snow.
    Fortunately for me, the people who own the only other house on the road—John; Ausra; and Ausra's thirty-year-old son, Ugnius, and twenty-year-old daughter, Jurga—are here now. They spend most of the year in Panama.
    Jurga (who has become such a good friend!) has been sick, but Ugnius, Ausra, and I made a reconnaissance walk through the deep snow to the paved road. Time after time, we crawled through downed trees blocking the road. My car was up to its neck in snow, but the paved road had been plowed. Already worn out (I was, anyway), we decided to dig my car out the next day so Ausra and I could go to town and get oil for John's chain saw. Ausra said she could cut up the downed trees, and Ugnius said he could try to create a passage in the road with John's Kubota.
It got worse—bigger trees—farther down the road
    Later, Ausra and Ugnius helped me shovel a path to the woodshed.
     That evening, when I had changed out of my snow clothes, lit candles around the house, and put a skillet of eggs on the wood-burning stove for dinner, I was surprised to hear a knock on the door. Ausra was on the doorstep, her fur-lined parka sparkling with snow and a bottle of wine in her hand.
    Shaking the snow off her hat and pulling off her boots, she told me that Ugnius had told her she ought to go visit that "lonely old lady."
    He meant me, of course, but the description was so far from how I think of myself that it sounded bizarre. Ausra poured the wine, and we had a pleasant candle-lit visit on a snowbound winter's night, as Ausra entertained me with tales of growing up in an orphanage in Communist-era Lithuania and her years working on cruise ships with international crews.
    The next morning I carried my snow shovel down the road to dig the car out. I had just started when a neighbor, Sebastian, drove by, stopped his truck, and got out. I thought he would offer to help me, but he had a better idea. He would bring his monster equipment up in a couple of hours, he said, and clear and plow the road.
    I climbed back up the hill through the deep snow and stopped at Ausra's house to tell her the new plan and to use Ugnius's set-up in his car to make phone calls. Just as I was headed home again, I heard heavy machinery coming up the road. Soon a monstrous machine came around the corner, plowing mounds of snow off the road and pushing downed trees out of the way. Sebastian brought the big old machine right up my driveway, plowing it down to the dirt and pulling the madrone that had fallen over my pump house out of the way.
    He had freed my car from the snow, too.
    Of course, I'm enormously grateful.
    But all that beautiful pristine snow with its deep walking trenches we had made by trampling down the hill and back up again and again. The delightful two-foot-deep tunnels we had been walking through. The deep, soft, angel-white, lovely snow. All ruined! All turned to mud-splattered clumps of ugliness. Oh, I am so sorry! I hate to see a beautiful thing ruined. And all that snow was so beautiful!
    But I am not an idiot. It's good that we can drive the road again. It's good that, after three days, the electricity has been restored. I mourn the loss of the beauty—the snow, the candle-lit table—but I am not so foolish as not to be grateful.
    And, anyway, it is still beautiful out my front windows. And still, every once in a while, it starts snowing again.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Where are the men?

    I appreciate everyone who works in some volunteer capacity in the Applegate—or in any community. But I find it curious how few of those community leaders are men.
    I have served on the board of the Applegater, a quarterly newsmagazine of the Applegate, for many years. Currently it has six members. Five of them are women. This or a similar ratio has been usual for as long as I have been on the board.
    A Greater Applegate is the only nonprofit I know of in the Applegate that has more men than women on its board (5 men, 3 women). However, the balance shifts when you add the staff, all eight of whom are women.
    Other boards: Williams Community Forest Project: 4 women, 2 men. Applegate Siskiyou Alliance: 4 women, 2 men. Friends of Ruch Library: one man among five or six women. Voices of the Applegate, a local choir: at least one man, sometimes maybe two; women sing tenor.
    Similar ratios hold among nonprofit boards in the Rogue Valley in general.
    Reading the names for the board of the Jackson County Library District, I deduce 3 women, 1 man, plus one name that could refer to either a man or a woman.
    Carpenter Foundation: 5 women, 3 men.
    The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is an exception (9 women, 13 men), but it's worth noting that only two of those men live in the area.
     It's true that there are more women than men in the Rogue Valley (95 men to 100 women), which is a larger gap than in either the state (98 men to 100 women) or the nation (97 men to 100 women). Still, the proportions don't work. Proportionately, there should be more men willing to serve on boards in the Applegate.
    Women far outnumber men in yoga classes. My first yoga teacher was male; all but one of the students in the class were female. My current yoga instructor is female; there might be one man among the students each class period—or not. Nationwide, 87% of yoga instructors are women. 75% of practitioners are women. 
    Sixty percent of the students at colleges and universities in the United States are women.
    What happened to the men? 
    My theory is that when women start encroaching on what used to be a man's domain—college, yoga, board positions, whatever—the men disappear from that thing. It's like what happened with names. Shirley and Carol used to be common names for men. Now men think, "I can't name my son Shirley. That's a girl's name." They think, "Yoga is for women." They think, I guess, that boards for nonprofits are women's clubs.
    What a pity.