On This Land 2024

Our Winter Writers Series weaves stories of connection between people and place. From logging camps to Wild and Scenic Rivers, the frontlines of climate activism, and off-grid retreats into the wilderness, we are met with grief, connection, hope, and humor. 

Each of the below pieces was generously contributed to be shared as a part of the project by supporters of McKenzie River Trust. We hope you will join us in celebrating the deep and nourishing connections that are formed on this land we call home.


by Meredith Goehring

We knew it was coming but the ash still surprised us, a startling passage from vivid green into bone grey. No warning, just a sudden muting of the world several miles into the trail. Tragedy.

I am shocked, suddenly winded, reminded of the sensation of lost love; the same breathless abandonment at finding there is no color on the ridges receding out to the horizon, no matter how high you go or how far you strain to see.

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by Tom Titus

I felt the storm in my body. The spinning energy generated by that colossal pinwheel of wind and moisture coming onshore moved through my being the way a willow rod bends in the hands of a water dowser. My battered left knee began to ache. This was a warm storm, a gusting exhalation that began sometime in the late-December night. I opened my bedroom window a few inches to give the wind-driven rain room to slip its animal fingers inside and massage my sleepless ears.

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Like Fish in a Barrel

by Richard Chasm

Pete Small’s father was a hard working logger. They lived in Olalla, but one summer Mr. Small got a logging job up on Twelve Mile Creek the other side of Camas Valley. The loggers camped all week coming home Saturday and going back to work at dawn on Monday.

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A Soft Light on the McKenzie for 2024

by Edward J. Kame’enui

The Lahaina fire is now underground
where Pele will gather it without voice
and when the wind is right and
ancient warriors have their backs to her,
she will release it again and follow its path
in her long, alabaster white mu’umu’u.

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The raven and the coal mine

by Helen Baczkowska

A solitary raven has flown over my tent every morning this week. Most days I have heard the prrr-ruk call before seeing the bird’s silhouette, with its fingered wings and wedge-shaped tail. Below the raven, my green tent nestles on waste ground between a housing estate and red-brown rocks that tumble down the sea. This week I am one of maybe two hundred environmental activists squatting land where England’s newest coal mine for decades is planned.

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The Land We Live On

by Duane Noriyuki

I can picture my father as a young man in northern Colorado walking into a field at day’s end, pushing his shovel into the ground and kneeling to study roots of pinto beans or corn. He would hold a fistful of soil to his nose, checking for who knows what, then crumble it between his fingers. He saw something, smelled something in the land that I never did.

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Assembled Poems

by Jenny Root

A Road Called Wilderness
Another Wildland Urban Interface
Lichen and Winter Light and
Crawfish on the Bike Path

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by Cynthia Pappas

I planted myself on this 66-acre farm in the McKenzie River watershed in western Oregon more than 36 years ago when I married my farmer husband. After living for 26 years in a city, the deep quiet was initially disorienting. As I learned the stories of the animals and plants that live here, and their songs and sounds, I began to rewild my soul.

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A Clear and Present Grieving

by Mary Sharon Moore

From the expansive east-facing windows in my fourth-floor living room I behold the tender light of dawn. Coupled with the quiet of this early hour, the view is stunning.

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Woods Wealthy

by Michael S. Smith

I began to hear a gentle tapping on the tent fly. Then it stopped for a bit, began again, and increased. It was raining, and judging by how the clouds had looked all day and earlier this evening, the rain was likely to continue for some time.

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Wild and Scenic Women

by Brenda Johnson Kame’enui

At the hub of five valleys, Missoula glistens in late June. None of the hills and hummocks that surround the valley have turned brown after a wet spring. I love Montana. I left here at 17 and return each year, at least once. I’m here with my daughter Ani for a float trip on the Selway River of Idaho.

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Malheur at Fourteen

by Alan Contreras

He brought me here
when I was fourteen,
my hair long and dark much as yours is,
and I brought your mother
before she was ten
to see the great marsh and the mountain.

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