I can see the glint of the needle
Coming through thin fabric
As I push it up and towards me
Mending a tear
From a piece of rebar
Sewing two sides together
So that they are like one piece again—
Something I wish we were better at
In more ways than this
I felt a general sadness as I sat writing in Arrowhead Chocolates on the main drag of Joseph early this morning.
I couldn’t quite place it, maybe it came from the rejection I had received from an internship, or the lackluster feeling I got from the chapbook I recently self published—but I found myself almost crying in public, something I have absolutely never been close to before.
Later, while working at a small natural history interpretive center called Wallowology (Wallowa - Ology), I received a text from my girlfriend Anna letting me know that the place I live, have been coming for years, one of the few places that has felt like home to me, was just written up on the front page of NYTimes travel. I checked the article and saw the normal fodder: places to sleep and eat (which Wallowa County has very few of, don’t kid yourself about some kind of dining scene here), and I felt a sinking feeling. Maybe this is the ripple I sensed this morning.
When rural places get put in travel magazines and newspapers, the result is rarely something the locals like. Lots of people come into town who don’t know the area, and begin buying up land, increasing property taxes, and filling up open space that they may occupy only seasonally. Developers come in with money in their eyes, hoping to capitalize on the next hot place to live. And the place gets turned from somewhere people lived and worked and hiked to a place where travelers come in droves, and the economy is tourist and hospitality based.
The promotion of places like this is a natural part of being in a world where capitalism is the dominant force. Capitalism is like a hungry ghost, insatiably consuming everything it touches, no matter the provenance or wholesomeness. All in the name of taking money and power from many and giving it to the few who are bullish and motivated and corrupted enough to think that’s where lasting happiness comes from.
These days, when so many things are going wrong, it seems like there should be islands somewhere that are outside of the flow of good and bad. Wallowa County has always felt like one of those places to me, and I have hope that people here will resist development and commercialization, that wholesomeness will flourish. I will work for it, and I know others who are working for it.
I’ve been wanting to write a story about finding someplace to care about. But the place and story are writing themselves, right in front of me. I care about this place, and I am working to keep it the way it is. I don’t need to step outside my own life, be oblique about what I’m trying to say. Nor do you. The things you care about and want to protect might actually be within arms reach.
As I’ve grown up I’ve realized that life for me is more about what I can give back than about what I take, because to take is to create debt that others must work to fill, and that is the root of unfairness. I strive to live morally and carefully, not indebting the landscape or people around me through my actions. And I’m confident that this is a strong and true path, if a humble one. And I hope through the years that this idea will slowly spread, and that through my actions and writing people will also understand it. That daily action, daily choice, and all the small things really add up to a larger picture. We can change at anytime, and I think the time is now overripe.