Essays for thought

  • Paul Larmer


For the past 33 years, High Country News has lived up to its name, focusing on the news. Though we’ve concentrated on the environment, we’ve also covered Western culture, politics and economics, because you can’t separate the environmental issues from the arenas in which they play out. Besides, the context is part of what makes environmental stories so fascinating.

Every day, our editors and freelance writers dip into the stream of Western news and pull out the stories that say the most about the West and where it is going.

But that stream flows ceaselessly, and sometimes you can feel like you are drowning in it: More timber mills and mines closing, more subdivisions sprouting up in wildlife habitat, more motorized recreationists clashing with more nonmotorized recreationists, more harebrained schemes to come up with water, and, in Washington, D.C., more attempts by the new administration to reverse the conservation work of the old one.

To provide a bit of relief from the heavy current, we try to offer little eddies in the form of personal essays. And occasionally, as in this issue, we really splurge. After all, the news alone can’t reveal the nature of a place as big and messy as the West.

As this special summer essay issue of High Country News shows, there are as many ways to look at the West as there are lookers. These keen observers give us glimpses of things we never see in news stories: What it’s like to survive a devastating stroke in the middle of a remote Idaho lava field; how companies catering to wealthy tourists shrink the West into a lavish, whirlwind garden tour; how an ardent conservationist still longs for a childhood spent in a California timber town that cut itself out of existence.

Sometimes, by looking through the prism of someone else’s experience, our own experience is opened up. We hope that at least one of the essays in this issue will do that for you. Happy reading!

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