Returning To America : Place As Cultural Experience

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Each time I return from abroad, I am struck by just how different things are here in ‘Murica.  Spaces are large, cars move fast, and people are pointy.  Life in the U.S. is like an oil painting, with layered color, defined texture, and not-so-subtle edges.  Contrast this with the watercolor world that is Ireland, where I have lived for the past three years, and suddenly the two cultures, though shaped and influenced by shared or similar values and forces, appear at polar ends of a cultural spec … [Read more...]

Japan’s Fukushima Disaster and Its Impact on Fish in the Pacific Northwest

A fishing boat in my home port of Auke Bay, Alaska. By Gillfoto, via Wikimedia Commons.

If you have environmentalists as Facebook friends, you may have seen an image and headline making the rounds suggesting that leaking waters from the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan is poisoning the waters of the Pacific Ocean. As a passionate lover of wild Alaskan salmon, that had me worried. I've had moments of mild panic thinking that the bounty of the seas may be gone forever.Salmon are the major fruit of harvest season for me. I was raised subsistence fishing in the waters of … [Read more...]

The Weight Of A University

Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum from University of Glasgow

Last week I found myself on the Glasgow University campus and was struck by the feel of it. The area taken up by University buildings, old and new, is quite large, and the whole of it has a certain weight to it. There's a sense of something deep there.Some of the University buildings are very old. The architecture looms large. Certainly that's part of the weight, but not all of it.There is something else. I want to say that it's a scent, but that's not quite right. A presence is more … [Read more...]

People and Place

This way to the Iron Age earth works

Today I have no answers or great stories to tell, just a rambling discursive meditation on the relationship between people and place. Do people make a place the way it is or does a place shape the people who live there?Chicken. Egg. There's really no answer to this question. But when you think of the personality of a place, it has a lot to do with the culture and personality of the people who live there.But the personality of a place shifts over time, in part because of migrations of … [Read more...]

Celebrating Dissent

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Back home in the States today, fireworks explode, symphonies play the battle hymns of our Republic, picnics and apple pie bring family and friends together; all in celebration of the nation's birth--the birth of the American Myth.  The American mythos and story of Place center around freedom, democracy and the ideal of patriotism.  These are bold, and modern, mythologies that stir the blood and sense of national pride.  But just what is it that Americans are proud of?  Giving the two finger sal … [Read more...]

Distracting you with flowers

Purple rhodedendrons.

I don't have anything of meaning to write about this week. I've been completely distracted by children's birthday parties, meeting new people, my parents visiting, the dark moon, and the explosion of sunshine and flowers here in Olympia.Let me share some of my distraction with you. Here, have some flowers:All of these are taken at the house I rent. Rhododendrons are the Washington state flower. I adore them. In fact, I am pretty sure that if the fey get dressed up … [Read more...]

Procession of the Species

By Davidakoontz at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons, from 2005.

I love parades. Most parades are really boring, though. I find them mostly to be advertising: business sponsor floats but seem to be the highlight, politicians hand out fliers. Bah humbug.But when a parade is done well, oh it is a joyful thing! The kid in me gets all worked up. I never know what is coming next. Costumes? Bands? Possibly a marching band?This time last year my family was new to Olympia. Had we heard about the Procession of the Species? And Spring Arts Walk? No, we had not. … [Read more...]


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