Under Oregon Skies

Mt Hood in firelight. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

I met a 90-year old man Saturday on my morning walk through the Mountain View Cemetery, here in Oregon City–one of the oldest settler graveyards in the West. He was sitting on a bench under the Giant Sequoia trees that were planted here about 130 years ago and have now grown very fat and tall. He waved me over.

“Is that smoke,” he asked?

The sky was a sickly orange-gray.

“Yes, from the Waldo Lake Fire.”

Waldo Lake is in the high Cascades about 180 miles to the southeast.

He shook his head.

“The most beautiful place, I’ve ever seen,” he said, emphatically. “The purest water around, they say.”

He pointed toward the mountains with a long thin finger, bent by arthritis.

“We used to think Oregon was the best place in the world to live. Now look at it. It’s like the stories of Hell they scared us with in Sunday School.”

He told me he had climbed Mt Hood the first year he arrived in Oregon from Michigan, back in 1964.

“I come here almost every day just to look at it, amazed that I made it to the top. You have to be young and stupid, I guess, and I was. Now I can’t even see it.”

I told him I was from the Midwest as well.

“Ah, the checkerboard country, flat and featureless,” he said. “That’s a place even lower than Hell.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3