I don’t normally post news items that aren’t related to food,
but this piece by Paul Gerald made me break that rule. If you’ve never read it, his blog is a great read.
So here is what I was going to write in the September Breakfast Bulletin.
I was going to tell you about some great hikes I’ve been doing up on Mount Hood, let you know about an upcoming soccer trip, maybe plug a book … and then some kid lobbed a smoke bomb off a cliff in the Columbia River Gorge, right around where I took that picture on the right, and within a few days 33,000 acres of that special place were engulfed in flame.
Unless you’ve been there, and maybe unless you have lived near it for years, you just can’t imagine the loss. We’re talking about a 60-mile stretch, on both sides of the Columbia River, that’s protected for scenery, conservation and recreation. It goes from riverside to alpine meadows, from rainforest to desert, and it has trails all over it.
I’ve lived here 21 years, and I can barely grasp the loss myself, perhaps because every time I get ahold of it, every time I think of a particular place, or trail, or grove that is probably reduced to cinders, I tear up and my mind reels.
The banner image above, for example, is the Angels Rest Trail; it came from a news chopper this morning. On the left is an image of roughly the same area from earlier this summer. This is 30 miles from the middle of Portland. Our backyard.
Of course, there’s anger — at the fire, at the fact that fireworks are still legal, at the horrible way we’ve treated this gift of nature, and at the kid. But how many dumb things did I do as a 15-year-old which, by blind luck, didn’t burn something down or kill somebody?
Of course, there’s sadness, because of what’s lost, but my rational brain knows that fires don’t burn everything. It’s a mosaic pattern, with many areas spared. I know that the great majority of the Gorge wasn’t burned at all. And I know that fire is part of the natural process that built this amazing forest in the first place. The forest will recover in its own time.
And finally, there’s hope and inspiration — from the support people give to the firefighters and the victims, to the countless acts of bravery, to the places spared (Multnomah Falls Lodge still stands among greenery), and then the people who want to help rebuild.
I’m on the Board of an organization called Trailkeepers of Oregon, and we put out a call saying, basically, “If you want to help us rebuild the trails, whenever that is, sign up.” And whenever they do, my email account shows an outgoing message saying thanks. A snapshot of my outbox this morning is on the right.
Every minute or so, somebody else says, “I want to help.” It’s been 21 hours since that post went up, and more than 600 people have responded. The love of trails, of hiking, of the woods, of the community we find out there … it’s literally pouring out from people. I tear up as I write this, even more than I tear up when I wonder if Nesika Lodge made it, if that grove just above Multnomah Falls made it, or if the bridge at Triple Falls made it.
We’re all going to make it. I guess that’s all I wanted to say for now. I’ll get back to marketing, or connecting, or brand-building, or whatever this newsletter is about, next time. Meanwhile, if you want to help deal with this tragedy, as well, here are three ways:
- The Red Cross is managing shelters for the hundreds of people who had to evacuate
- Friends of the Columbia Gorge is raising money for Hood River County Search and Rescue.
- Trailkeepers of Oregon is going to lead an army of volunteers with shovels, picks and saws to rebuild those trails.
And you might take a moment to deeply cherish your own special places. You have no idea when it might all burn down.