No frigate like a book

  • Jodi Peterson, associate editor

 

This issue of High Country News departs from our usual fare - it's still devoted to news and to truth, but of a different variety. News, not of mining and drilling and public policy, but of thought-provoking books and of authors well worth getting to know. Truth, not as found in facts and statistics, but the more layered reality revealed by personal experience and reflection. 

The essays and articles in this issue are signposts of a sort, markers to help us triangulate on the complex, chaotic place we call the West. Through these stories, we may learn a little more about ourselves as Westerners, about the places we build today and the sometimes harrowing past of this land - and perhaps we'll glimpse a future worth creating. 

Portland author David Oates takes us from a Sierra Nevada campsite to a plaza in France and a square in Venice, examining the essential qualities we look for in spaces public and private - the particular things that make a place feel like home. Further insights on being at home in the West come from historian Rebecca Solnit, interviewed by Laura Paskus. Peter Chilson, who teaches literature at Washington State, finds similarities in the histories of West Africa and the American West, both "large and sunlit lands" ravaged by conquest. 

Tales of hitchhiking across the region's empty spaces, relayed by contributing editor Michelle Nijhuis, expose our secret loneliness and offer a chance to redeem ourselves through human connection. They also show us the essential quirkiness of Westerners: Hitchhiker Dev Carey is picked up by a driver who says that as a child he was diagnosed as having only half a brain. The doctor told him it was a very dangerous condition and the thing to do was not to think. 

Oddly enough, I can relate to that. Last fall, I started having constant headaches. They worsened to the point that I could hardly eat, let alone think. A doctor finally figured out what was wrong: While I did still have a whole brain, it was a quart low; the fluid that normally cushions the brain was mysteriously leaking out. While I lay immobile in the hospital for a week, depressed and bored, a dear friend came to read to me. She brought her son's latest favorite, the fantasy Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. In the book, reading aloud literally brings characters to life - the villain escapes the pages of his own story and wreaks havoc in the heroine's world. In much the same way, my friend's voice wove a refuge for me, a distant land I could escape into. Perhaps the voices in this issue of HCN will do something similar for you, giving you a window into other parts of the world and the West.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SEASONAL SAN JUAN RANGERS
    Seeking experienced crew members to patrol Colorado's most iconic mountain wilderness.
  • ENDANGERED SPECIES STAFF SCIENTIST
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a staff scientist to advocate for the conservation of endangered species. General position overview: The position will involve working...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
    The Center for Biological Diversity - a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of imperiled plants, animals and wild places - seeks a dynamic...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Staff Attorney to join our team of attorneys, scientists, campaigners who are working to protect America's public lands...
  • SOUTHWEST CONSERVATION ADVOCATE
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a Southwest Conservation Advocate to join our team of attorneys, scientists and campaigners who are working to protect America's...
  • OCEANS PROGRAM CAMPAIGNER
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks an experienced campaigner for its oceans program. The aim of the position is to campaign for the protection of...
  • CLIMATE LAW INSTITUTE ATTORNEY
    The Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute is looking to add an attorney to its team and will consider applicants at both staff attorney...
  • FULL-TIME CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR
    The Center for Biological Diversity seeks a full-time Campaign Director in our Climate Law Institute to join our campaign for progressive, urgent government action to...
  • WESTERN WATER PROJECT MANAGER
    National Wildlife Federation is hiring NM-based position focused on riparian corridors, watershed health. Learn more and apply online: https://www.nwf.org/about-us/careers
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Associate Program Director Location: New Mexico; flexible in state Position reports to: Senior Program Director Position Closes: March 13, 2020 GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The...
  • DEAN, W. A. FRANKE COLLEGE OF FORESTRY AND CONSERVATION, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA
    Dean, W. A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, apply http://bit.ly/2548umjobs. AA/EEO/ADA/Veterans Preference Employer
  • GRAPHIC DESIGNER
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a creative and driven graphic design professional to design high quality print and digital collateral. The Graphic Designer will bring...
  • STEWARDSHIP SPECIALIST
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks experienced person to manage its 133 conservation easements in south-central Colorado.
  • CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE
    Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign is hiring an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry on the Gulf...
  • AG LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) seeks passionate relationship builder experienced in coordinating agricultural conservation easement transactions.
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • FINANCE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Coms/Engagmnt Mngr; Dev/Engagmnt Dir; Americorps vol
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND ENGAGEMENT MANAGER
    Mountain Studies Inst (MSI) is hiring 4+ positions: Finance Director; Dev/Engagement Dir; Coms/Engagement Mngr; & Americorps volunteer
  • SEASONAL TRAIL CREW LEADERS
    Lead the nation's premier volunteer-based trail crew programs on the spectacular Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. This is a great career-building opportunity for rising professionals....
  • ORGANIZING AND TRAINING COORDINATOR
    Is this your dream job? Are you looking to join a nationally recognized organizing network, live in a spectacular part of the West, and work...