Monday, May 28, 2012

Chapter XXIV (from "When Women Were Birds") - Moderator Terry Tempest Williams

Changing Woman was impregnated by The Sun and gave birth to The Twins, Monster Slayer and Child of the Water.  In the Navajo pantheon, this is the holy family I met when I traveled to the Four Corners in the American Southwest.

Geology became genealogy. Lava field became the congealed blood of demons who died on these battlefields, brought down by Monster Slayer to save the People. Shiprock became Winger Rock, much more than a remnant plug of a volcano. The morphology of plants, animals, rocks, and rivers is not answered simply by science but constitutes and contributes to the cosmology of the people who inhabit a place. And it is spiritual.

Earth. Mother. Goddess. In every culture the voice of the Feminine emerges from the land itself. We clothe her as Eve or Isis or Demeter. In the desert, she appears as Changing Woman. She can shift shapes like the wind and cut through stone with her voice like water. And when she approaches us with her open hands carrying offerings of white shells in arid country, she reminds us that there was a time before drought when ancient seas covered the desert. She is not to be classified. She is not to be controlled. She is the one who gathers seeds and plants them in the sand as dreams and calls forth rain. She is the one who embodies the Moon, honoring the cyclic nature of life. And it is Changing Woman who is honored in the ceremony of first blood. Kinaalda is her ritual, initiating each Navajo girl into womanhood. I wish someone had told me when I was young that it was not happiness I could count on, but change.

The Dine mentored me in story. When I saw a coiled basket in the desert, it uncoiled like a snake. When I found a flicker feather caught between the fingers of sage, its burned red shaft spoke to the bravery of this bird who flew directly toward the Sun to retrieve fire for the People. And when I saw Mountain Lion move across the redrock cliffs like melted butter, it was not a catamount, but powerful medicine that asked for the sprinkling of corn pollen on the place where one is graced by presence.

The question What stories do we tell that evoke a sense of place? became my obsession. Through the generosity of the Dine, I heard how voice finds its greatest amplification through story.

For many years, I wandered through the desert in search of a narrative that was not mine. I did not feel I belonged here. I was borrowing a landscape until I found my own. But when I stopped searching and settled into the erosional peace of the redrock desert, I found myself quietly held by an immensity I could not name. I took off my cloths and lay on my back in a dry arroyo and allowed the heat absorbed into the pink sand to enter every cell in my body. I closed my eyes and became simply another breathing presence on the planet.

Reprinted by permission of the author



What are the patterns that connect throughout the book regarding our relationship toward place? 

What different meanings do the desert and the sea have as described in the book?

How does home contribute to voice?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To the Community of WILD READ, Happy Mother’s Day from Moderator Terry Tempest Williams

Photo credit: Louis Gakumba 
May we honor our mothers who brought us into this world through the labor of their
love.  May we honor our grandmothers, our aunts, and sisters and our daughters with whom we cherish and challenge.  And may we honor all the women who have nurtured us and mentored us to a greater place of understanding and love for they are our beloved teachers.

Yesterday, I wrote to my friend, Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink,
(if ever there was an organization that honors the heart-felt ferocity of mothers
caretaking peace, it is this one) about being at a spring pow wow:

Today, I sat on the green at Dartmouth College during their 40th Annual Pow Wow and watched the dancers -- the Fancy Dancers, the Shawl and Butterfly Dancers, all of them, in their beauty and power.  But it was the Grandmothers who moved me most.  The women who have given birth to children and lost children and raised another generation of children, alongside their daughters, the women who have never stopped dancing in their attempt to hold their families, their communities and the world together through the strength of their hearts.  When they danced, they simply stayed in place and kept their eyes focused ahead.  With an Eagle Fan in one hand and their other hand on their hip, they kept their backs straight as they marked  each beat of the drum in the buoyancy and bending of their knees, up and down, up and down, all the while, with their feet firmly placed on the ground beneath them. In their physical restraint, their power became the pulse of bloodlines -- all of life flowed through their dignified stance.

Mothers.  Mother Earth.  At the Pow Wow, both were not only acknowledged, but celebrated.

Today, I offer you a story that celebrates my own mother, Diane Dixon Tempest.  It is an excerpt from “When Women Were Birds” just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In the next three weeks as we engage in conversation, I thought we could begin with my mother’s journals and discuss the power of voice.  What is it?  How do we find it, use it, and honor it? 

And of course, if we talk about voice, we must also talk about silence:  the silence that sustains us like the stillness of the desert and the shadow side of silence, what it means to be silenced.

I look forward to this spirited discussion, particularly because at the heart of all things wild, there are voices beyond our own to be heard and silences to be considered.  As my grandmother Mimi used to say, “Understanding is love.”

And through love, we act.

With anticipation,

Terry Tempest Williams

Excerpt fromExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

 "When Women Were Birds:"     Listen     

          I am fifty-four years old, the age my Mother was when she died.   This is what I remember:  We were laying on her bed with a mohair blanket covering us.  I was rubbing her back, feeling each vertebra with my fingers as a rung on a ladder.  It was January, and the ruthless clamp of cold bore down on us outside.  Yet inside, Mother’s tenderness and clarity of mind carried its own warmth.  She was dying in the same way she was living, consciously.
     “I am leaving you all my journals,” she said facing the shuttered window as I continued rubbing her back. “But you must promise me that you will not look at them until after I am gone.”
     I gave her my word.  And then she told me where they were.  I didn’t know my Mother kept journals. 
     A week later, she died.  That night there was a full moon encircled by ice crystals.  
     On the next full moon, I found myself in the family home alone.  I kept expecting Mother to appear.  The silence that followed her passing was disorienting.  Her absence became her presence. It was the right time to read her journals.  They were exactly where she said they would be:  three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books;  some floral, some paisley, others in solid colors.  The spines of each were perfectly aligned against the lip of the shelves.  I opened the first journal.  It was empty.  I opened the second journal.  It was empty.  I opened the third.  It too, was empty, and so was the fourth, the fifth, the sixth – shelf after shelf after shelf, all of my Mother’s journals were blank.  


     I do not know why my mother bought journal after journal, year after year, and never wrote in one of them and passed them on to me . 
     I will never know.
     The blow of her blank journals became a second death. 
     My Mother’s Journals are paper tombstones.
      I am fifty-four years old, the age my mother was when she died.  I didn’t realize how young she was, but isn’t that the conceit of mothers -- that we conceal our youth and exist only for our children? Placed in a circle of immunity, it is the providence of mothers to preserve the myth that we are unburdened with our own problems, and carry only the crisis of those we love.  We mask our needs as the needs of others.  If ever there was a story without a shadow, it would be this, that we as women exist in direct sunlight only.
     When women were birds, we knew otherwise.  We knew that our greatest freedom was taking flight at night when we could steal the heavenly darkness for ourselves, navigating through the intelligence of stars and the constellations of our own making in the delight and terror of our uncertainty.
     What my mother wanted to do and what she was able to do remains her secret.
We all have our secrets.  I hold mine.  To withhold words is power.  But to share our words with others, openly and honestly, is also power.
     I was aware of the silences within my mother.  They were her places of strength, inviolable.  Tillie Olsen studied them.  She writes, “Literary history and the present are dark with silences…I have had special need to learn all I could of this over the years, myself so nearly remaining mute and having to let writing die over and over again in me.  These are not natural silences – what Keats called agonie ennuyeuse (the tedious agony) – that necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation.  The silences I speak of here are unnatural:  the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot.”

We hold these silences as a personal crucifix.

What is voice?
I believe my mother wanted her journals read, how do I read them now?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Terry Tempest Williams as WILD READ moderator May 13-June 3, 2012

We now usher in a new theme - "Women's Voices" - with Terry Tempest Williams and her new book, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.

Photo credit: Louis Gakumba
Terry Tempest Williams has been called "a citizen writer," a writer who speaks and speaks out eloquently on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, she has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. "So here is my question," she asks, "what might a different kind of power look like, feel like, and can power be redistributed equitably even beyond our own species?"

Williams, like her writing, cannot be categorized. She has testified before Congress on women’s health issues, been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of Utah and Alaska wildernesses and worked as "a barefoot artist" in Rwanda.

Known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, Terry Tempest Williams is the author of the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and PlaceAn Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the FieldDesert QuartetLeapRed: Patience and Passion in the Desert; and The Open Space of Democracy. Her book Finding Beauty in a Broken World, was published in 2008 by Pantheon Books. She is a columnist for the magazine The Progressive.

In 2006, Williams received the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society, their highest honor given to an American citizen. She also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western American Literature Association and the Wallace Stegner Award given by The Center for the American West. She is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in creative nonfiction. In 2009, Terry Tempest Williams was featured in Ken Burns' PBS series on the national parks. She is also the recipient of the 2010 David R. Brower Conservation Award for activism. The Community of Christ International Peace Award was presented in 2011 to Terry Tempest Williams in recognition of significant peacemaking vision, advocacy and action.

Terry Tempest Williams is currently the Annie Clark Tanner Scholar in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. Her writing has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York TimesOrion Magazine, and numerous anthologies worldwide as a crucial voice for ecological consciousness and social change. She and her husband, Brooke Williams, divide their time between Castle Valley, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

Thanks to the Wild in the City moderators!!!

We say goodbye to our Wild in the City moderators Mike, M.J. and Bob and our "urban conservation" theme.  Our moderators enlightened us about ways to integrate the built and natural environments through innovative green infrastructure and of course building coalitions to get this done.  Thank you for leading the pack!   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Building Green Cities

      View selections from the book at the end of this post.

Mike Houck  

[Discussion topic: Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine]

This past weekend I took a seven-mile stroll from my northwest Portland apartment to nearby Forest Park.  Half-way back I heard that shrill-high pitched call of a bald eagle.  Then, there were two, four and finally six bald eagles kettled high  above the forest canopy---the hot white light of the sun's glare making it impossible to tell young from adult.  Six bald eagles in a 5,000-acre forest, a ten minute walk from my home in the densest neighborhood in the Portland metropolitan region.  I'm tempted to use my last blog to recount similar encounters with the urban wild over the past forty-two years. 

Instead, I'm go to go all wonky on what some might consider the esoterica of green infrastructure and ecosystem services, without which I am convinced, ultimately, there would be no urban wildlife.  But to some, such as Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, green infrastructure has gone mainstream.  Just in town for a national rivers conference, Jackson spent her time visiting rain gardens, bioswales, and green roofs and proclaimed Portland a world class city when it comes to green infrastructure. 
If you have a copy of Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas, which we published in 2000, you'll note the all new edition added a chapter devoted to exclusively to green infrastructure and stormwater management, a nod to the fact that in the intervening eleven years there have been exciting advances in integrating the built and natural environments through innovative green infrastructure programs. 

Twenty-odd years ago I took a phone call from a public policy professor at Portland State University.  Always the curmudgeon, he berated me over the phone for "wasting my time working with park and wildlife agencies."  He growled, "I've got three words for you-----Clean Water Act!"   If we were to create a truly green city and region, he insisted, we needed people and agencies with  some real "juice"----sewerage agencies!  Taking professor Churchill's advice, our 1990 Country In The City symposium was co-sponsored by the Tualatin River's Unified Sewerage Agency, Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services, and U S EPA's watershed program.  The theme for the symposium was "Restoration of Urban Stream and River Corridors and Wetlands."

Most cities have high rates of hard, 
impervious surfaces that collect 
stormwater and convey it to the 
nearest storm drain, short-
cutting natural hydrologic cycles.  
 Photo Mike Houck
Today, standing on an impervious sea of concrete on Sandy Boulevard in northeast Portland it's unimaginable how the urban landscape could possibly be connected to or influence the Willamette River, flowing two miles to the west.  From where I stand the urban water cycle is out of sight, out of mind.  It's been engineered out of our daily lives. Every street's lined with a mind-numbing number of mini-dams---curbs---that channel rainwater into the nearest storm drain.  From there it's a long circuitous, piped journey to the nearest stream, river, or wetland.

In winter this tsumani of urban stormwater, which would otherwise have replenished the groundwater, is instead discharged via underground conduits to nearby streams and wetlands----wreaking havoc on native plant communities and eroding stream channels.  Conversely, during hot summer months cool groundwater that would otherwise have supported salmon and other temperature sensitive aquatic life has long since made its way to the Pacific Ocean, leaving local aquatic systems high and dry.  And, the really bad news is these winter and summer extremes are likely to increase with climate change.

Patrick Condon, Univ. of British Columbia, 
urges us to  build "greener, lighter, smarter, 
cheaper" by reducing impervious 
surfaces and infiltration urban 
stormwater. Photo Mike Houck

Fortunately, the concepts of green infrastructure and ecosystem services have slowly begun to filter into urban planning and becoming embedded in local and regional watershed management policies.  Sewerage agencies have morphed into watershed health bureaus.    The Tualatin River basin's Unified Sewerage Agency is now Clean Water Services and Portland's having changed its mission, logo (Great Blue Heron) and name, is now the Bureau of Environmental Services.

The Portland Experience-------Grey to Green
Portland is using green roofs, green streets, disconnected downspouts, bioswales, rain gardens, and expanding the city's urban forest canopy to complement, and in some cases replace, highly engineered, expensive grey infrastructure (pipes, concrete, streets) with cheaper, greener, smarter methods of managing urban stormwater.  One long term goal is at least 33% city-wide canopy coverage.        

L. Stormwater as art. This water feature collects water from a
rooftop and brings stormwater to the attention of passersby.
R. Curb extensions with attractive native plants not 
only infiltrate stormwater, but are an amenity 
to the neighborhood and calm traffic.  
Photo Mike Houck
Formerly, stormwater was treated as a nuisance to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible, put a maze of underground conduits.  Now, stormwater is  recognized in Portland's Watershed Management Plan as a precious natural resource to be managed on site if possible, and reintegrated into the city's expanding green fabric.  

Former city commissioner and currently Portland's Mayor Sam Adams committed $55 million in 2008 to the city's new grey to green initiative which called for planting over 80,000 trees, constructing 43 acres of ecoroofs, removing culverts to provide more salmon habitat, replacing invasive plants with native vegetation, constructing 900 green street projects, and acquiring more than 400 acres of the city's most sensitive fish and wildlife habitats.

Ecoroofs attenuate stormwater by 
capturing and storing is during peak 
rain events, and can also be beautiful 
additions to the building
Bioswales like this one allow water 
to infiltrate into the groundwater.   
Photo Mike Houck

Green Infrastructure
Salmon Creek Greenway in Vancouver, Washington 
has been protected for multiple values, including 
flood reduction, water quality and fish and wildlife 
habitat as an element of Vancouver's green infrastructure.    
Photo Mike Houck
The Conservation Fund pioneered the concept of green infrastructure which they define both as "as a network of natural areas and open spaces—woodlands, wetlands, trails and parks—that conserves ecosystems, helps sustain clean air and water and provides many other benefits to people and wildlife."  But, they also view green infrastructure as a process, a way to identify the best lands  for development and for conservation and as a framework for local and regional planning.  

Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services' Tom Liptan, who is probably better known in London and Chicago than his hometown, has championed the use of ecoroofs to manage stormwater for a couple decades.  According to Liptan, ecoroofs started in Europe in the 1960s to mitigate economic and environmental problems caused by conventional roofing. The result was the creation of affordable, self-sustaining, living vegetative systems-----extensive greenroofs (ecoroofs).  While these early roofs are still simple sedum-dominated roofs, there are efforts afoot in Switzerland and England to focus more attention of potential wildlife benefits to increase biodiversity in the city. 
The next agenda for ecoroofs is 
to improve their habitat value for 
species like this male 
Anna's hummingbird.   
Photo Mike Houck

Tom Liptan, ecoroof expert, has had 
a huge impact on expansion 
of ecoroofs in Portland.   
Photo Mike Houck
Portland's ecoroof renaissance emerged in 1990 to manage rain to reduce stormwater runoff and reduce pollutant discharges. Research has demonstrated that ecoroofs  provide excellent stormwater management benefits. In fact, city zoning codes have been re-written to provide  incentives to developers to add more than six acres of ecoroof throughout the city.  Portland's Green Building Policy (‘GBP’) requires ecoroofs on all city-owned facilities.

Ecosystem Services
The Intertwine Alliance's Regional Conservation Strategy defines Ecosystem Services as the benefits that nature provides to people. Healthy ecosystems provide provisioning” services in the form of food, timber, and water, and regulating services such as carbon sequestration and water storage in forests, wetlands, and floodplains. Open spaces provide cultural services such as places to play and relax. And complete ecosystems support pollination, biodiversity, nutrient cycling, and the other fundamental building blocks of life---generally referred to as supporting services.

Valuing Green Infrastructure----------Ecosystem Services
It's possible to put a dollar value on these services to bolster support for the protection and use of nature's services in both the urban and rural landscape. 

Both Clean Water Services and Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services are working with Portland State University's Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) and The Intertwine Alliance, and other partners, with support from Seattle's Bullitt Foundation, to better document the economic value of protecting the region's natural landscapes and using green infrastructure-----their Ecosystem Services-------locally and regionally.

The Tualatin Basin's Clean Water Services (CWS) was faced with the possibility of spending as much as $80 million to build artificial chillers to cool effluent from their water treatment plants and as much as another $50 annually to run the chillers.  Instead, CWS persuaded regulatory agencies to allow them to plant trees and shrubs along the Tualatin River and its tributaries. 

Bottom line:  the total project will cost $6 million;  involve over 36 landowners;  and eventually cover 35 stream miles.  At project's end they will have planted more than 453,000 native plants.  Relying on refrigerators to chill the effluent------as high tech a solution as one can imagine and one that yields exactly one benefit---cooler water.   Clean Water Services green infrastructure approach yields multiple benefits including creating local native green industries and absorption of over 100,000 metric tons of carbon, and improved fish and wildlife habitat-----and a net ecosystem services benefit of $74 million in capital costs and $50,000 in annual operational costs.

 Half-mile Lane restoration in the 
Tualatin Basin.   
Courtesy Clean Water Services.
Restoration of 25 acres of wetlands and 
riparian areas along Roderick Creek and 
one-quarter mile of Gales Creek.   
Courtesy, Clean Water Services

Wapato Wetlands in the Tualatin Basin is the newest unit of the 
Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo Mike Houck

Portland's Tabor to the River
Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services has also analyzed the efficacy of blending grey and green infrastructure in their Tabor to the River program. In June, 2000 the bureau looked at constructing a new separated stormwater collection system to replace the existing undersize pipes in the southeast Portland basin.  The costs estimate using traditional grey infrastructure was  $144 million.  The city then re-designed the project with a combination of grey and green infrastructure (ecosystem services benefits), resulting in a saving of $63 million dollars.

The re-designed project integrates hundreds of sewer, green stormwater management, tree planting and other watershed projects to improve sewer system reliability, eliminate sewer backups in basements and street flooding, control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to the Willamette River, and restore watershed health.

In addition to the $63 million savings in the basin, reducing the inflow of stormwater into the piped system protects the $1.44 billion investment in the city's Big Pipe project which removed CSO's from the Willamette River. 

Portland projects a $63 million in savings over using piped solutions alone in constructing a new separated 
stormwater system in southeast Portland.  This was done by investing $11 million in green infrastructure solutions.   
The gray column represents grey infrastructure costs, green represents a mix of grey and green infrastructure.   
Courtesy, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. 
Documenting Nature's Services
In addition to these on-the-ground efforts Portland State University's Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) research will provide decision makers and the general public with both scientific and anecdotal information regarding nature’s benefits to people, urban ecosystems and the economy. 

One of their most ambitious programs is an Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Research Traineeship PhD program $3 million National Science Foundation grant.  This program will train 25 PhD candidates to study ecosystem services for urbanizing regions.ISS is also the home of the Bullitt Foundation funded Cascadia Ecosystem Services Partnership, which provides strategic assistance for integrating projects, facilitating communication regarding ecosystem services work in the Cascadia region (Vancouver, BC to Eugene, Oregon), especially in Oregon and Washington. For example, the Partnership is supporting a public engagement and awareness campaign to convey the value of the Portland-Vancouver region’s ecosystem services and green infrastructure, a project spearheaded by The Intertwine Alliance.

Bringing Nature into the City's Heart
Wild in the City, Exploring The Intertwine's Wild Read has described the struggle to bring nature to the fore in urban planning and M J Cody's recounting our effort to describe our region's rich diversity of parks, trails, and natural areas through Wild in the City, A Guide to Portland's Natural Areas.  Next we provided a brief history of urban greenspace planning and how we intend to co-exist with wildlife in the urban environment.  Finally, we focus on the next frontier in planning for nature in the city, an effort to bring nature into the city's heart, into the fine-grained interstices, by designing green into streets and onto rooftops, by making urban green infrastructure an integral part of the city's capital expenditures.  Documenting and valuing green infrastructure----building green cities---- is the next big challenge to integrating wild in the city at every scale, from the streetscape to large regional refuges.

View selections from the book: