North Coast Farewell

It has come: the day the nature of this blog transforms. Don’t worry, it will still be the same rambling thoughts on cornfield-inspired color scheme you’ve all come to love. But I need to push some things around in the masthead, because as of two days ago I no longer work for the North Coast Land Conservancy.

Most things are bittersweet. Getting stabbed in the face is pretty much all bitter, and a few hours’ privacy in a hot spring with the love of your life is mostly sweet, unless her fiancee is looking for you. But in between those two point spans a range of bitter-and-sweet mixtures that encompasses all of human experience. I’ll try my best to locate this one.

The bitter is easy. Although I lacked a vehicle on the Oregon coast, forcing me to hike marathon distances every weekend, and although I shared a room with mice, spiders, a not-insignificant number of bees, and intelligent mildew, I felt a place opening up to me in a way one hasn’t since my golden-hued summer in Wallowa County, two years ago. Everyone who visited me was transfixed by the setting in one way or another (I discovered after the fact that one of my friends saw the sea for the first time that weekend). Everything from the elk to the spruce forests to the fading light over Haystack Rock was insistent, drawn from some greener reality. I was sorry to see the back of it, and I’ll be soon to return.

I’ll miss the work, as well. This Wednesday I cut down six English holly trees which, according to their rings, were each more than fifty years old. I had no qualms about doing this–they were engaged in a slow-motion sack of Cottongrass Lake–reveled in it, in fact, when I thought about the forest in the long term. The conservation we did was done for eternity. I can’t imagine any job which would hold the same resonance for me.

But I have more work to do. That’s where the sweet will come from, what will keep departing the surf from turning too bitter. I have the experience I wanted: the other side of land trusts, so that I can now assess a property, identify pollution, develop a treatment plan, document my activity using space-agey GPS accoutrements, and reach out to a like-minded community. I have a rolodex of references, six thousand dollars in my bank account, and a stone on a string inscribed with a rune meaning patience: everything I could need.

Tomorrow, I officially begin my tenure as a starving artist. For the first time in a long time, I have an uninterrupted string of eight-hour days for a focused effort toward building my writing portfolio. My goal is to have a second draft of The Valley of Steel by the time I return to Walla Walla in early October, and hopefully to finish a cut version of The Glass Thief by that time, plus put the finishing touches on a query letter that doesn’t involve the whole lobster angle. When I’m back in Washington, in addition to shopping the two extant novels around, I want to write at least five more short stories (“The Morning Rose,” current project, draws on my NCLC experiences) and begin another novel, one of three. The Clockwork Raven, Archevis, and a project tentatively titled Rafter’s Rats, which I envision as Firefly by way of The Edge Chronicles.

Here is the only rule: if I don’t get paid for some sort of writing by 31 December 2015, I look for another real job. Each taxable salary earns me one more month. Go.


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