This is the first week in awhile I haven’t been able to distract myself from all that is going on to continue to focus on my Work in Progress. Most days, even with COVID-19, I get to my day job stuff early in the morning so to try to leave some brain space for late afternoon writing. Today, although I have been immersed in my new short story collection, all I can think about is fires, smoke and the loss of so much beauty. And while fire has touched so much of the west, my heart in this moment belongs to Clackamas County. Tomorrow, perhaps, I can try to also reckon with the losses experienced by our neighboring counties of Marion, Lane, Linn and Jackson, including the predicted loss of life.
I have lived a lot of my life in Clackamas County including my childhood and my last 30 years. I hiked and swam and went to Camp Onahlee in Molalla and Outdoor School at Silver Creek Falls in neighboring Marion County. My kids were raised in this county, and I dashed one of them every evening one summer to musical productions of Annie out in Molalla. My dad died in this county and I suspect my mom will as well. But this county is about so much more than all that.
It’s not that I haven’t written about Clackamas County before in this blog:
Our Clackamas County which today comprises 1,879 square miles including more than 15 towns, cities, and designated places from Wilsonville to the Stafford Hamlet to Estacada, was named after the Clackamas Indians. It was one of the four original districts created by the Provisional legislature on July 5, 1843. Back then, Clackamas County covered four present-day states, even reaching into one Canadian province. By 1844, the Columbia River was made the northern boundary, and finally, the 1853 U.S. Congressional Act that created the Washington Territory enclosed Clackamas County within the present-day boundaries of Oregon. One year later in 1854, we were granted the boundaries that exist today. I wonder how many current Clackamas County residents know this?Rights and responsibilities: Jury duty anyone? January 20, 2017
My great-great-great-grandfather was one of those who voted to form the provisional government referenced above. He and my great-great-great grandmother lived for a short time period in the early 1840s at The Falls, or today’s Oregon City, the end of the trail. A city now in Evacuation Stage 2 from the Riverside Fire. Oregon City was the site of the only federal court west of the Rockies in 1849, and many have heard how the plat for San Francisco was filed here in 1850. The county includes towns like West Linn and Happy Valley and Rivergrove, and “census-designated places” like Government Camp and Mulino and Beavercreek. It has hamlets like Stafford, and unincorporated communities like Bull Run and Carver and Boring. Don’t get me wrong, this county also has a terrible past by some accounts: racism, treatment of Oregon’s indigenous people, and probably a whole lot more that I don’t even know about.
What our County does have – or must I say had? It frightens me to put it in that context. Clackamas County in its just under 2,000 square miles has beauty! This county includes parts of both Mt. Hood National Forest and Willamette National Forest. Perhaps my memories, for the moment, are best shared through images.
I thank our responders for all that they are doing, and I know that we will continue to mourn the losses. I hope as we come out of this that we will work toward improved forest fire protection and (I pray) that somehow, somewhere, we will address climate change however we still can. And that relates to the importance of our November vote, but I’ll save that for another day! Stay safe, keep yourself and others out of the smoke, help others as you can and be kind.