The Edge Is What We Have
The Edge Is What We Have is a collection of fifteen essays about the influence of places on our relationships. “The edge is what we have” is a line from the poem “In a Dark Time” by the great writer of the Pacific Northwest, Theodore Roethke. The poem is a moody rumination about how emotional darkness can turn into the brightest, clearest vision—that turn is the “edge.” But the “edge” in my collection extends beyond emotional edges to artistic, and physical edges. It is also ecological. “Edge effect” is the term used to describe the fragmented ecosystems of semi-natural environments. Indeed, the vulnerable Earth is always on display in the collection. The essays acknowledge that the places where we become intimate with our environments and with one another are contracting. We feel the edge in that way, too. We feel the intensity of living at this time of diminishment of the Earth’s biodiversity. Therefore, the essays in my collection will ultimately inspire awareness of the land and the people who travel it.
Remote: A Love Story
Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots, forthcoming from Oregon State University Press in 2020, is a book about my seven-year attempt to reconcile with my family in one of the largest and most remote places left in North America, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana. For most of my childhood, my relationships with my family were remote – cold, distant, and full of conflict. I made my life without them until my mother’s confession to me in a Safeway parking lot changed everything. At the age of fourteen, her parents had abandoned her at the edge of the Selway-Bitterroot, refusing to let her go into the country they loved and had worked to conserve. This brief conversation marked the start of a long and unexpected journey to learn what happened to my mother and grandparents in the wilderness. A scholar who grew up in Seattle, I was profoundly changed by learning to wrangle mules and live off the land in experiences that were difficult and often humorous. I traveled by bush plane for two years and learned the ways of salmon and wolverine as I uncovered my family story. Along the way, my mother joined me on the quest that finally brought us close. In the end, I realized that although my grandparents had created a family that made my mother emotionally remote, they had also introduced us to a remote place that gave us true intimacy.
The Selway-Bitterroot History Project
In collaboration with Dennis Baird of the University of Idaho, and many other individuals along the way, we completed the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Archive, housed at the University of Idaho. Completed in 2014, the project preserves the human history of the 1.3 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, located on the Montana-Idaho border in the northern Rockies. The Selway-Bitterroot, one of the largest in the lower 48, was among the first areas designated as Wilderness under the 1964 Act. Thus, we were pleased our project’s completion coincides with the 50th anniversary in 2014. The project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It represents the first major effort to collect the history of a Wilderness in one location. We traveled throughout the US, locating sources in remote cabins, huge document collections, and private homes. We transcribed oral histories, completed podcasts, archived documents and photographs, and established our website. The public has access to the human history of this Wilderness in detail, both now and in the future. For more information on this resource, visit our website.