The notion that freedom is on the wane in America seems to have gained
widespread currency these past several years. This is an alarming
prospect at any time, but it seems to me particularly so as I ponder
the matter on this eve of America’s birthday.
On July 4, more than on any other day, we celebrate our shared belief
that freedom is not merely desirable but necessary, the granitic
foundation which underlies and supports the grand and noble
construction that is the United States.
The possibility that the bedrock beneath us might in fact be riddled
with cracks after 233 years, which is no great span in the life of a
nation, troubles me greatly.
A report bearing the intriguing title “Economic Impacts of
Non-motorized (Quiet) Recreation on the Wallowa-Whitman National
Forest” reached my desk recently.
It was that little word — “quiet” —which caught my attention. The word
itself didn’t interest me especially, as I learned some time back what
What piqued my curiosity, rather, were the author’s use of quiet to
describe recreation, and his decision to confine quiet to the
grammatical quarantine that is the parentheses. This suggests to me
that the author, Dr. Kreg Lindberg of Oregon State University’s
Cascades Campus in Bend, isn’t confident that either quiet or
non-motorized precisely conveys the sort of recreation he studied, so
he put them both in the title.
I blundered into a patch of stinging nettles while hiking cross-country
in the Elkhorns a few weeks back. This unplanned encounter, which
happened in the sort of squelchy spot where nettles often lurk, annoyed
me slightly. My bare calves, which bore the brunt of the prickling,
were somewhat more put out by my lack of attentiveness.
At the time — despite the short interval, the event has already
acquired the nostalgic patina of a bygone and more innocent era — I
presumed that nettles were about the most dangerous plant I’d be apt to
step on in the mountains.
(And I felt fortunate at that — I’m clumsy, and so prone to stepping
on, and in, most anything, including thunderstorms that pelt me with
hailstones the size of marbles, except the hail, lacking the smoothness
of a marble, leaves welts. )
As many of you may know, over the past several years the Forest Service
has been engaged in a public process to designate roads, trails, and
areas for motorized use on all national forests throughout the country.
The use of motor vehicles, particularly off-highway vehicles, is one of
the fastest growing forms of outdoor recreation on national forest
lands. The efforts are focused on looking at a system of routes that
provides recreational opportunities and access for public motorized
use, while providing protection to national forest resources.
I wish sometimes that I kept a journal.
I don’t mean a diary. I have no need for a cute little volume with
flowers on the cover and whose pages I would, I fear, clog with cloying
poetry inspired by a pretty vista I had seen in the mountains.
Nor am I conceiving of a Twitter-like (Twittery? Twitterish?) document
which records every banal aspect of my daily routine. The Internet is
quite full enough without adding to it my tally of jelly beans consumed
or phone calls made and received.
What I’m thinking of, rather, is a simple chronicle that preserves for
each day one or two events, the details of which I might want handy so
as to revive my failing memory years later.
Please forgive our indulging in an overused nautical analogy, but as
Oregon’s economy has been foundering these past several months, it
seems to us that state workers have more than their share of reserved
seats on the lifeboats.
For instance, according the Oregon Employment Department, private
sector wages in the state rose an average of 2 percent in 2008.
I’m in my office waiting for a text to my cell phone.
As I write this column, Baker High School’s baseball team is playing
Henley near Klamath Falls for a berth in the state championship game.
Kial Richardson, sister to Baker player Trace Richardson, is texting
game updates to a whole bevy of Bulldog faithful, including me. I’m
updating the score to the breaking news section of our Web site,
www.bakercityherald.com, as soon as I get them.
Two Americans were murdered this week because they chose careers that some people don’t approve of.
On the list of ridiculous reasons to kill somebody, this ranks right beside “hey, he looked at me funny.”
On the day my older daughter was born I broke at least one Oregon law and possibly a few federal statutes.
The former could have cost me a couple hundred bucks, a bail I would
have gladly paid. The federal rap, though, might have had serious
repercussions — my own FBI file, for instance.
This is how I rate myself, exercise-wise: first a walker, second a hiker, third a runner.
But now I have a dilemma: I ran a half-marathon on May 16, so does that elevate running to first?
I have a love/hate relationship with running. It’s usually somewhere
in the middle of a run — especially if we’re doing hills or intervals —
that I think, “Is this really my idea of fun?”
The answer, I must admit, is yes.