Sunday, February 21, 2010

Forgotten Words...

“Forgotten Words” is what I've chosen to name this post of the FIREWATER blog. Forgotten words in reference to the near disappearance of written journals of little known but historically important characters to our Inland Northwest. “Near disappearance” I say as it is the literal work author Jack Nisbet who has reached back in time through the above mentioned journals of David Thompson and David Douglas, and a number of others to resurrecting those words. Nisbet has the talent to do so within a contemporary framework and offer it all to us in a digestible format.

“Like a lot of explorers and heroes, you go through ebbs and flows,” says Spokane historian/author Jack Nisbet in a December 2007 interview with the Spokesman Review newspaper. Considering Nisbet’s collection of published works including:
• The Sources of the River (1994)
• Purple Flat Top: In Pursuit of a Place (1996)
• Singing Grass, Burning Sage: Discovering Washington’s Shrub-Steppe (1999)
• Visible Bones: Journeys through Time in the Columbia River Country
• The Mapmaker’s Eye: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau (2005)
• The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest (2009)

I say the tide of Mr. Nisbet is on ‘flow’.

Catherine, Clementine and I had the opportunity, along with 30 or so other local folks, to see and listen to Jack tell the background story on his latest book – ‘The Collector’ at the Republic Library on the Friday evening of February 19th.

Nisbet’s ‘The Collector’ won the 2010 annual Pacific Northwest Book Awards, which have been presented to such luminary figures in Northwest literature as Ivan Doig, Ursula LeGuin, David James Duncan, David Guterson, Jon Krakauer, Chuck Palahniuk, and Sherman Alexie.

One of the engaging elements of attending Nisbet’s presentations is his combined passion & knowledge for the subjects he’s researched and documented. Whether it’s the topographic formations of the Pacific Northwest, specific landmarks and place names or a litany of historical characters Jack can espouse them right along side the local and Latin names of most native plants.

Chance found me reading ‘The Mapmaker’s Eye’ while sitting on my river deck in late May 2007. The Kettle River flowing by at flood stage was the backdrop. Through his research and writing of the challenges of David Thompson, Jack was able to guide me to see what a significant event it was to native peoples and early explorers in trying to cross our local rivers and larger streams at flood stage. I’ve lived along the shores of the Kettle River for nearly 30 years but that moment, in reading the words of this historic explorer, framed by this excellent author, a poignant realization settled over me. One that to this day, nearly three years later, is still within the fabric of understanding woven into me regarding my chosen home-ground.

It is within the stand of the ponderosa pines in the centerground of this photograph where riverhome is located and where the Kettle River is often viewed from deck with good book in hand and a hot cup of coffee nearby...
  If you get a chance to catch up with Jack at one of his presentations or book signing events don’t miss the opportunity. And needless to say, I encourage you to read Jack’s books. The following is a link to some Jack Nisbet sites:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Call of the Wild...

Curlew and the Kettle River Valley has been unseasonably warm this February. Upper 40’s today, the 17th of the month. Those of us who’ve been here for awhile have seen this time of year when the daylight hours barely reach zero degrees and the nights fall to near -20° below.

As fellow firefighter Rob Slagle told me today, he’s not sure if he really likes this mild weather. “What will fire season be like?” He asked. Good question.

How warm has it been? Here’s today’s weather and part of the forecast:
Current Temperature 43° (1733:hours). Conditions ‘fair’. Wind N 05 mph. Humidity: 46%
Forecast - Tonight Lo 29°. Thursday, sunny with  Hi 48° / Lo 29°. Friday, sunny with Hi 46° / Lo27°

Home from work I poured a glass of wine and sat comfortably on the river deck in a T-shirt and jeans. As the afternoon sun set the top of Drummer Mountain glowing, two bald eagles flew by, between them clucking an early mating song. But what caught my attention the most, here on this mid-February afternoon, was the ribitting (sp) of a frog. And it was this lone frog calling on a temperate winter afternoon which inspired this blog. The frog, like many of us, is an optimist in life.
The above image of the 'frog in ice' by Gary Nafis from this website:

The 1st image of this posting is from this afternoon looking eastward down the river valley to Drummer Mountain (NE of Curlew).
The above photograph of the Kettle River taken Monday evening 02.15.10 shows how little ice there is on the river. It is not unusual for the river to be frozen bank to bank this time of year.
And I'll close this post with a stock photo of mine of a bald eagle perched in a cottonwood watching the winter river flow by.
Take care, and enjoy the weather...

Friday, February 12, 2010

A 'lighter' shade of pale...

If I asked you what happened 20 years ago you might tell me;
  • Nelson Mandela was released from a South African jail.
  • The Sandinistas are defeated in Nicaraguan elections.
  • The Windows 3.0 operating system is released by Microsoft.
  • The pilot episode of Seinfeld premiers.
  • Re-unification of Germany. East Germany ceases to exist.
  • July 8th,1990 - At 12:34:56 the time and date by US reckoning was 12:34:56 7/8/9/0.
  • Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to lessen Cold War tensions and open up his nation.
    And if you told me any one of those events happened 20 years ago you’d be correct. But this week marks the 20th anniversary of one very special photograph. A very dramatic photograph. Though, at first glance, it's mostly dark and seems to show nothing at all. See the NASA photo below...

    From the NASA website referring to the “pale blue dot”…
    A recent photo from the Cassini spacecraft shows the mighty planet Saturn, and if you look very closely between its wing-like rings, a faint pinprick of light. That tiny dot is Earth bustling with life as we know it. The image is the second ever taken of our world from deep space. The first, captured by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990, stunned many people, including the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who called our seemingly miniscule planet a "pale blue dot" and "the only home we've ever known."
    • All images & illustrations courtesy of NASA. Be sure to check out the Clint Black 'Galaxy Song' video below...
      While not a scientist, I realize this plae blue dot we call Planet Earth is nothing short of fascinating. We know in the staggering vastness of our universe there very well may be another planet harboring life. Yet the sheer challenge of finding that ‘needle-in-a-hay-stack’ is an incredible task. On the other hand what science is showing us about our own planet is how absolutely unique it, and consequently, we are. Consider the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of our planet earth above. Now the words of the late astronomer Carl Sagan:

      “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
      Lets start to draw this to a close with the lyrics to the GALAXY SONG (there's a video link of Clint Black doing this song embedded at the end of this post). And - Yes, the math is real...

      Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
      And things seem hard, or tough,
      And people are stupid, obnoxious, or daft,
      And you feel that you've had quite enough,

      Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving
      And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour, it's orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it's reckoned,
      Around a sun that is the source of all our power.
      The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
      Are moving at a million miles a day
      In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
      Of the galaxy we call the 'Milky Way'.

      Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
      It's a hundred thousand light years side to side.
      It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
      But out by us, it's just three thousand light years wide.

      We're thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
      We go 'round every two hundred million years,
      And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
      In this amazing and expanding universe.

      The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
      In all of the directions it can whizz
      As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
      Twelve million miles a minute, and that's the fastest speed there is.

      So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
      How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
      And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, '
      Cause there isn't any down here on Earth...

      Here is a link to the NPR Pale Blue Dot story: