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When Every Leaf Is A Flower

My two favorite times of the year are Spring and Fall – the temperature is perfect, Nature is entering a period of growth and change, and there is an abundance of color everywhere. An almost psychedelic amount of color in fact!

Spring, a period of renewal and excess, when flowers burst forth from every little nook and cranny, is probably the perfect opposite of Fall, when everything is cast off and life enters conservation mode. However this annual dying off of the leaves brings much beauty and vibrance to the environs, with the reds, the ochres, umbers, and siennas- all swirling and dancing in the electric, autumnal wind.

In the words of Albert Camus, “Autumn is a second Spring, when every leaf is a flower.” How true! I have been having such a lovely time this Fall, combing the ground for interesting leaves – no two ever the same. Where I live, there are many beautiful Maple trees and so there are brilliant bursts of red all over the place.

Can any artist ask for more? These leaves that I’ve been collecting are making their way into my paintings and I even taught a watercolor Fall Leaves workshop over the past weekend (more in a later post.)

Here are a couple of my most recent pieces, next to the leaves that inspired them. Almost a wordless eulogy for their last days in this world – I feel honored to have witnessed their beauty before they left.

 

Five Questions With Grace: David Berger

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I didn’t know anything about razor clams, much less razor clamming, before I met David Berger.  I was the event person in charge of one of his book readings and his enthusiasm for the subject, as well as great presentation skills – he came prepared with some awesome visual aids!- soon had us all enthralled with this fascinating bivalve!

David has been a contributor to the food feature, “Northwest Taste,” in the Pacific Magazine, and is a former art critic for the Seattle Times. He is also a recipient of a Metcalf Fellowship for Marine and Environmental Reporting.

His new book, RAZOR CLAMS: BURIED TREASURE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, is published by University Of Washington Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let’s here what David has to say!

1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?

 

I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island every couple of years, so I guess it’s reasonable to wish I’d written it and had the chops for it.

It’s a great yarn and one of the world’s most popular books. I like stories and insights that have to do with the sea, and young Jim crossing the ocean with pirates and comrades, and having a tide-tossed boat ride in a tiny vessel called a coracle, are quite the watery adventures.

Sometimes people like to be read to as they’re failing in health and preparing to shuck this mortal coil. I wouldn’t mind hearing this tome in that circumstance. We’re all crossing something, one way or another.

 

 

 

 

2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I need the stars to line up correctly, some space in my life and head, research and papers at hand, and a good amount in my bank account

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would you want to always have in your home?

 

Well now, that’s a tough one. A dictionary, say the Random House Dictionary of the English Language. I like words and language.

Treasure Island, I’ve already said.

Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez.

Collected Essays by George Orwell.

My portable field guide to Western mushrooms, All that the Rain Promises and More… .

I like art, too, so The Hokusai Sketch-Books: selections from the Manga.

But OMG that’s leaves out Dostoyevsky, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moby Dick, all the poets and so much more!

 

 

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?

 

I dunno, not feeling very advisor-ly at the moment.

Eat more chocolate. Buy more real estate.

 

 

 

 

 

5. During the course of your research for the new book, what was the most surprising thing you discovered about the razor clam or about clamming?

 

One thing that was surprising was how much fun it was to do the research. The number of people who went razor clamming in the 1970s, maybe as much as seven percent of Washington State’s population, was surprising.

And It’s quite astonishing to picture the razor clams on the West Coast all dwelling in their sandy intertidal burrows with hinges facing the surf. Their backs to the pounding waves. “Lined up as orderly as soldiers on parade.” That haunts my imagination every time I think of it.

 

 

 

 

Be sure to pick up a copy of David’s book from your local bookstore and check out the UW Press website to see if he has an event near you! And stay tuned for next week’s Five Questions With Grace with Eric Andrews-Katz!

Five Questions With Grace: Steve Olson

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Steve Olson is a Washington-based nonfiction writer who has published articles and books on an array of fascinating topics. Subjects such as genetics, race, human origins, climate change, and even punk rock! His most recent book, ERUPTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MOUNT ST. HELENS, was named one of the best books of 2016 by Amazon, was nominated for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, and, most recently, has been named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.  His next book, to be released in 2020, is about the production of plutonium at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War II and the Cold War.

You can check out more of Steve’s work at www.steveolson.com

 

 

 

 

 

1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a physics major in college, and I’ve always been enamored of the idea of mastering an idea at the forefronts of physics. For a while, my attention was focused on the book Gravitation by Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and John Wheeler. I can’t say that I ever read the entire book or understood even a portion of it, but the general concept of mastering a particular area of knowledge is still the approach I take toward writing.
Oddly, I’ve been running across Wheeler again in my research on the history of the Hanford nuclear reservation. (I happen to be answering these questions from a hotel room in Richland after a day spent doing research.) He helped design the reactors at Hanford and solved a problem that threatened to shut them down when they first started up.

2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?

 

I can write almost anywhere. But to work on a book, I need libraries, archives, and knowledgeable people. The problem with the way I write is that every single sentence is based on something I had to learn somewhere. Though I wish I could, I’ve never been able to write sentences that sound nice but don’t have much content.

 

3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would make the cut?

I’m going to interpret this as a “desert island” type of question, so six books that I’d choose if I could never again have any other books. They’re:

Don Quixote, since I’ve heard that it’s three different books if you read it once as a young person, once in middle age, and once in old age
A History of the World, the longest and most comprehensive volume I could find (though I guess multiple volumes would violate the rules)
The Bible, so I can reflect on the profound history the Bible has had on world history.
Ulysses, since I’ve been wanting to reread that book ever since college (preferably, right before a trip to Dublin)
Gravity’s Rainbow, both for its humor and complexity
The Collected Stories of Chekhov, to dwell on the reasons why people think and act the ways they do

Hmm, I guess all six of those books are kind of like Gravitation, now that I look at them.

4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?

I always tell aspiring writers the same thing: If you want to write full time, keep your financial needs as low as possible. Yet I’ve never followed that advice myself. And, sure enough, I spend most of my time on high-paying but routine writing projects that subsidize my lifestyle and occasional books.

 

5. I actually have a second ‘go-back-in-time’ question for you! As a science writer, if you had the chance to cover any scientific discovery or major natural event, and gather firsthand information, what would it be and why?

It would be the event I’m writing about now: the discovery of nuclear fission and the application of fission to produce nuclear weapons. Many journalists and scholars have listed the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the top news story of the 20th century. It’s a great privilege for me to be writing about those events.

 

Thanks for the great answers, Steve! Next week, I’ll be chatting with David Berger, author of the recently released, RAZOR CLAMS: Buried Treasure of The Pacific Northwest