Monday, May 31, 2010

The Fate Of Books Is In Our Hands

'What is the use of a book...without pictures or conversations?' asked Alice.

(Illustration by Max Ernst).

Lately I’ve been considering the future fate of books.  What will become of the book form?  Will current and future generations feel less and less connection to that method of information gathering and entertainment, and discard it altogether?

For April Fools Day, the local Newport Public Library did a spoof on their website, saying that they were planning to phase out the books in their collections (Books are so 20th century”), replacing them with a long row of downloading stations where you could borrow books electronically for your Kindle and similar devices (as you can now).  The clincher was that they were planning to rent a large shredder truck to dispose of all the hard copy books they no longer would need.  At first I panicked and didn’t realize that it was an April Fool’s joke.  That scenario could happen sooner than we think.  Yet in my heart I know that I will not be able to give up books made of paper. 
Books, for me, have always held the expectant mystery of worlds unexplored, or have made cozy nooks of virtual experience that wrap their comforting warmth around me, exciting realms of adventure and possiblity--all I have to do is turn the page.
(Photo found here).
I have a dim memory of my first library, an old weathered log structure that sat on the corner of 1st and Cowles Streets in Fairbanks, Alaska.  I liked roaming through the stacks, what seemed a maze of passageways at the time, when really the whole library wasn’t very big.  I think I was about four or five years old at the time.   There was a small children’s room, with low shelves and little chairs.  My love of books began there and at home, in the stories that were read to me before I could read myself.  I feel forturnate that my parents are avid readers, and encouraged reading in us kids, too.
I read as a youngster, but for some reason I don’t clearly remember what I read throughout my school years.  It was after I moved to Portland when I was twenty that I discovered “Literature,” through the help of a older woman friend.  The world was my oyster during that time.  It was a time of freedom and adventure and discovery.  My friend enjoyed creating “atmospheres,” like when we read Virginia Woolf’s The Waves to each other on a summer picnic wearing straw hats and flowing skirts.  She introduced me to many other English and American authors. History. Classics. The Arts.  I also learned about classical, jazz and world music then, and so many other bits of “Culture” with a capital “C.”  Cafes and coffee houses provided another atmosphere for reading and discussing what we read.  I soaked it all up like a sponge.
One of my greatest pleasures still is to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and a book. To open the cover filled with anticipation and let the book tell its story, in words and/or pictures.  The tactile pleasure of the feel of the paper in my fingers, its dry dusty smell (or faint whiff of mold here in the Northwest), the crinkly sound of the pages turning, the pleasing shape of even the most basic book structure--whether it is new and creaks as the spine is opened for the first time, or torn, stained and dog-earred from many years of use--the weight and size of the book in one’s hand.  The joy of making new discoveries with each page turned. 

("Evolution" © by Jackie Niemi, 2004).

Late in my twenties, I learned how to make books, and how to make paper out of many different plant fibers (papyrus, tule, amate, abaca, daphne, mulberry).  This deepened my bond with books, and opened up endless variations of shape, color, texture, form, content, meaning.  Now I consider myself to be a “book artist,” in addition to the other kinds of artwork I create.  Book artists take the book form and alter it somehow, exaggerating or enhancing one or more of its elements, often turning the book into a piece of sculpture, more than just a container for words. 
So what will be the fate of books?  Will books disappear completely?  Perhaps a future function of libraries will be to serve as a museum to show how people read in times gone by.  A relic of ancient society, like cuneiform clay cylinders or the Dead Sea Scrolls?  Will books be taken apart and used to create some other form, just another art supply?  Will they be “melted down,” compressed, recycled for the use of their basic elements (for instance, finely shredded and made into house insulation, or paper bricks for construction)?  Huge book junkyards will sell scrap books by the ton, as there used to be scrap metal yards back when cars were made of steel.  
Time will tell how the act of reading will evolve.  Still, no matter what their future fate will be, I will always love books. 
Posted by jackie.

Prayer Flags In The Wind

Aspirations are made and carried on the wind for peace, compassion, love, prosperity, and longevity to all creatures.  This life is precious in the bright light of awareness.  The colors reflect elemental understanding in the mirror of the mind.  Meaning is in experience, beyond interpretation.  

Posted by michael

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Late May Flowers

The delicacy of late Spring is beginning to show.

Posted by michael

Beaver Creek Marsh In Late May

Took a walk around the marsh to celebrate the sun appearing after several rainy days.  The first picture is of the lower marsh looking east from the first bend in Beaver Creek Road.  The other pictures are of the upper marsh that can be seen from near where the new Beaver Creek Natural Area Interpretive Center will be located.  State Parks is working on the center site and the access to the marsh that is east of the center.

Posted by michael

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deer In The Garden

Deer came to eat in the garden and fields. It has been raining through the last week, 3 inches. This time of year rain is dependable and too wet stops us from weeding the gardens or cutting the fields. So the plants are growing into green beyond imagination. Deer can help by grazing salmonberry along the edges of the fields, and grass, flowers, and clover in the fields. Sometime in June the rain tapers off. Then we can weed and mow, getting the summer look. The last rain is on July 4th and the summer comes with little rain until late September.

Posted by michael

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Aftermath Of War

Last Sunday’s Oregonian (16 May 2010) had an obituary of C. Dean Johnson III (born 27 March 1924, died 24 April 2010 at age 86).  He was the oldest son of Ruth and C. Dean Johnson II, of the family that owned and operated the C. D. Johnson Lumber Co. in Toledo, Oregon in the 1920’s, ’30’s and ‘40’s.
In several previous posts, I told the story of the Spruce Production Division in Lincoln County during World War I.  Seeing Mr. Johnson’s obituary reminded me that I should tell the rest of the story, about what happened after the war abruptly ended and the 30,000 soldiers of the Spruce Division in camps around the Northwest were discharged home.  In the Yaquina Bay District alone, there were 3,298 soldiers and 72 officers.  

(Photo from here).

The Lincoln County Leader newspaper announced on 24 Jan 1919, “All soldiers have left,” just two months after World War I ended on 11 November 1918.  The swift dismantling of the Spruce Division logging camps left Northwest logging communities in the lurch, and many civilian loggers who worked alongside the soldiers were left unemployed.  Times were also tough for General Disque (he was promoted to Brigadier General by the end of the war), as waste and fraud charges were brought against him. A Congressional investigation found the allegations were mostly a sham based on personal vendettas, and he was cleared of charges.
Ironically, workers celebrated the completion of the Alsea Southern end of the railroad to one of the prime spruce stands (in the Blodgett Tract, between Waldport and Yachats) on 8 November 1918, three days before the war ended and spruce demand plumeted.  The large mill being built at Toledo was about two-thirds complete.
The Army now needed to dispose of properties acquired during the war, and hoped to recoup the $4.5 million spent on operations as well.  A pamphlet was prepared describing the properties for prospective private bidders in the U.S. and abroad.  The properties included three railroads, a partially completed mill, and a large tract of spruce timber.  The railroads included the service buildings, sidings & spurs, and water tanks.  A number of bids were rejected as too low to consider, and finally a deal was struck with C. D. Johnson of California.  Johnson had left his home in Kansas at the age of 19 and set out to make his fortune in New Orleans.  From there over the next 30 years, he worked his way up through the ranks, learning all aspects of the logging industry.  
The purchase of the Army’s Lincoln County properties was finalized on 17 Dec 1920, for a purchase price of $2 million, to be paid in installments over ten years.  Part of the deal was that Johnson’s company would invest $300,000 to complete the mill at Toledo and the railroads within one year.  Large tracts of timber were also acquired in the Siletz area.  Three subsidiary companies were combined under the umbrella of the Pacific Spruce Corporation:  C. D. Johnson Lumber Co. handled the mill operations and getting its products to market, Manary Logging Co. was in charge of the logging operations, and Pacific Spruce Northern Railway Co. extended and operated the railroad north from Toledo into the Siletz tracts.  
In 1922 Manary Logging worked to refurbish the railroad lines that already existed.  In just a couple of years, alders and shrubs had taken over the rail beds, and some areas had settled.  The following oral history excerpt describes how Beaver Creek logger, Frank Gatens, came to supervise some of that work on the Alsea Southern line.      
“...and he said that was about the finest piece of [logging] work he’d ever saw done in his life!  So he used to compliment me on it down there, and I come down here to Waldport, and who in the hell got charge of this railroad, to fix it up...but him!  He was a Burpee, you know.”
“And I run into him there in Newport, and he says, ‘What are you doing down here?’
And I told him I had been working there in some of them camps up there, up the river there, at Lawson’s, at the bridge up there.
‘Well,’ he says, ‘I got charge of this road here, and,’ he says, ‘I’ve been looking for a man to take charge of the job.’  And he says, ‘By God,’ he says, ‘you suit me good enough,’ he says.  ‘Will you take it?’
And I said, ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I don’t know too much about that kind of work.’
‘Well,’ he says, ‘you know when the trestles is rotten, and where a grade needs dirt to fill it up, and make it level?’
And I says, ‘Yeah.’
‘Well,’ he says, ‘I know you can do it, if you’ll just do it.’
So I said, ‘Alright.’ “  
Eventually, Pacific Spruce Corp. was taken over by C. D. Johnson Lumber Co., which was in turn bought out by Georgia-Pacific Corp. in December 1951.  C. D. Johnson passed away on 2 May 1940, and his son Dean (C.D. Johnson II) took over the family’s business.  By the end of the 1940’s, timber tracts were becoming depleted and access was more difficult, including right-of-way issues over private lands.  Johnson decided to sell out, but it took time to find a buyer.  On one of the trips to Chicago to work out the negotiations for the deal, a plane crash on 24 August 1951 tragically took the lives of four principles of the company, including Dean Johnson and his brother Ernest.

(Photo from here).

So, back to the Spruce Division and its aftermath.  This summary is from the 1999 article by Gerald W. Williams, “The Spruce Production Division” (click here for a copy).  
“Though its life span was brief, there were many positive contributions made by the Spruce Production Division...The operation took place at a time of great national duress, when the labor force was stretched thin due to heightened war activity at home and abroad, and the lumber industry was struggling to recover from one of the most unsettling labor-management conflicts in U.S. history.  Confronted with some of the most rugged country in the Pacific Northwest, trees of immense proportions, choking vegetation, relentless rains, and a time schedule that few believed could be met, the Spruce Production Division succeeded in providing millions of board feet of needed wood for the war effort.”
The western states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California provided a total of 143,008,961 board feet of spruce lumber, 53,718,591 board feet from Oregon.  This short period of history changed the way logging was done in the Pacific Northwest.  Railroads, roads and bridges were established, new methods, machinery and equipment were introduced, and improved labor practices and conditions were continued.
“It is a war story without the horror of devastated cities and of torn and bloodied men, and without the glamour that goes with victorious achievement upon the field of honor...They fought, these lumberjacks in khaki.”  [Williams article cited above].   
[Oral History excerpt from the Lincoln County Historical Society Collections].

Posted by jackie.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Standing By Beaver Creek Marsh

Take a few minutes and relax beside Beaver Creek marsh as the wind moves through the tules after a storm.

Posted by michael

Mid May Blossoms

As we move into later Spring, colors are changing from whites to blues and yellows.

Posted by michael

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Cool Calm Of May Morning

May early morning above Beaver Creek marsh is a delightful time.  The air is still and the birds are filling space with the first songs of the day.  They echo back and forth through the trees and across the field.  There is a chill on the leaves and dew slowly steams off as the sun warms.  The angle of light is low and dramatic, picking up highlights as it spills into the marsh.

Posted by michael

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Update On Opening of Beaver Creek Natural Area

Got word 5/12/2010 from Dennis Comfort, State Park Ranger for Beaver Creek Natural Area, that the Governor's office has adjusted the date for the grand opening of the Beaver Creek Natural Area.  It will be sometime in October and we will give you a date when we get it.

Posted by michael 

Bobcat In The Garden

A bobcat wandered through the garden the other morning. Have not seen the bunnies lately. I think they are laying low.

Posted by jackie.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ferns Are Unfurling

Ferns are in the later stages of unfurling on the land.  Their fronds first emerge as fiddleheads which then unroll to become full-sized fronds.  These prehistoric vascular plants, which reproduce by spores,  developed great diversity in the Cretaceous period (146 to 65 million years ago).  That was a time when dinosaurs roamed the land and ferns grew to the size of trees.

Posted by michael

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tree Swallow Routine

We have had a nesting box near the house for many years.  It is attached to the top of the pole that brings the telephone and internet line to the house. The sun shines on it from the time of rising to mid-afternoon.  In early Spring, tree swallows return to Beaver Creek marsh.  They fly around in groups, feeding and checking out nesting sites.  Two popular ones are the nest box near the house and a nest box above the fenced lower garden.  Other sites are in large snags in the swamp surrounding the marsh. Within a month, a pair of swallows has selected the nest box.  Shortly after selecting the nest site, the birds mate, flying with each other in front of and above the nest box.  Then they begin bringing nesting materials to the nest box.

Now the routine has started.  The birds begin flying around dawn, returning to the box with bits of grass, straw, twigs, feathers, and cloth from prayer flags.  As the sun warms, one of the birds will sit on top of the box (we call it the porch) and preen, calling insistently.  Occasionally, they will trade-off flying for nesting materials, or both go off and return.  By 11 am, they are finished with gathering nesting materials and they leave the nest box.  For the remaining part of the day they are perched in nearby trees or flying over the marsh and through the forest, catching insects and enjoying the company of many other swallows.

This routine will change soon.  The nest will be complete and eggs laid.  The next routine will be for the pair to take turns alternating between sitting on the eggs and flying off to feed.  The weather is warming, with less rain and wind.  Insects are becoming more abundant for swallows to feed on. 

Posted by michael

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Flowers Of Early May

The flower clock continues to turn.  New faces have emerged as welcome friends. Here May is an encouraging month when the soil begins to warm and garden thoughts naturally unfold.

I have been moving weeds from flower beds to compost piles.  Mowed the field grass for the first time and birds have found the cuttings suitable for their nests.  They land on the piles and then take off with mouths full of straw, slipping away to nests tucked in trees, bushes, and boxes.  Left some cloth scraps from prayer flags on a fence and a blue jay came and took them away for nest building.

Posted by michael