Matt Witt: Blog https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Matt Witt (Matt Witt) Sat, 14 Jan 2023 16:48:00 GMT Sat, 14 Jan 2023 16:48:00 GMT https://www.mattwittphotography.com/img/s/v-12/u33333408-o724107167-50.jpg Matt Witt: Blog https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog 88 120 World Wide Work: Films, Books, and Music You May Have Missed https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2023/1/world-wide-work-films-books-and-music-you-may-have-missed Shadow ShapeShadow ShapeThree Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update.

FILMS

The Swimmers. This feature film is based on the true story of two Syrian sisters, both competitive swimmers, who fled their war-torn country by sea and courageously helped save other refugees in the process. One of the sisters, along with dozens of others, is facing trial in Greece for refugee assistance work they undertook in recent years.

Extraordinary Attorney Woo. In this 16-part series from South Korea, a woman with autism is in her first year as an attorney at a big law firm. Each episode introduces a new case, while following interpersonal dynamics involving the attorney, her coworkers, and her family.

Causeway. Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry star in this skillful feature film. She is recovering from brain injuries suffered while deployed in Afghanistan. He is still dealing with the trauma of a car accident. They get to know each other in a way that avoids a predictable romance storyline or Hollywood ending.

Glass Onion. The makers of the film “Knives Out” this time skewer the tech billionaire class who think that because they are rich they are smarter than everyone else and have no obligation to respect or protect the public interest. It becomes the job of detective Benoit Blanc to disrupt the disrupters.

Carmen. Inspired by true events, this feel-good feature film is about a woman who was essentially a servant for 16 years for her brother, the local priest in a small community in Malta. When he dies, will the village overlook her gender and take advantage of the skills and knowledge she gained during her long years at her brother’s side?

The Sign Painter. A young Catholic man in Latvia in the 1930s makes his living as a sign painter while violating local taboos by wooing a young woman who is Jewish. As a series of authoritarian regimes take over the area, from a homegrown dictator to the Soviets to the German Nazis, the situation for local residents like him goes from absurd to tragic.

Fixing Food. Five documentary segments, each 8 to 12 minutes, profile small-scale, innovative projects to make quality, affordable food more accessible and sustainable. One shows a couple who are producing high-protein crickets. Another features a Native American restaurant that grows and uses foods in traditional ways, without dairy, wheat, or sugar. A third focuses on a multi-story vertical greenhouse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Another describes a community in Maine that is farming kelp as lobstering and other fishing work declines due to climate change. The final segment shows a project in Pittsburgh that is turning food waste into quality meals.

Moroni for President. A gay man who runs for president of the Navajo Nation is the subject of this documentary that sheds a light on the nation’s internal politics and its cultural attitudes.

BOOKS

Diary of a Misfit by Casey Parks (Knopf). A Washington Post reporter bares her soul in this autobiography that focuses on growing up gay in a poor, church-loving family in small-town Louisiana; her complex relationship with her mother; and her life since she moved to Portland, Oregon.

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter (Harper). These creative and entertaining short stories have a broad range. Climate scientists’ personal lives take a wacky turn as they wonder how to cope with how much they know about humans’ impending doom. An old couple discovers an aspiring writing student taking notes on their conversation in a restaurant. A gay man repeatedly has to come out to his father who suffers from dementia. And more.

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner (Flatiron). A Jewish woman in German-occupied Poland during World War II hides with her daughter for months in a sympathizer’s barn. They eventually separate for security’s sake and then face a series of obstacles trying to reunite.

A Cowardly Woman No More by Ellen Cooney (Coffee House). Trisha has done her best to fit into her roles as an employee in a bureaucratic corporation, a wife, and a mother. But when she is denied a promotion she has earned, it’s time to rebel.

Fighting in a World on Fire by Andrea Malm (Verso). A thoughtful activist argues that the global climate movement must adopt more militant strategies. Current tactics have proven to be inadequate to force corporations and governments to change course significantly enough and fast enough to prevent rapidly escalating disasters. He discusses what those new strategies might be and responds to likely objections.

Feels Like Home by Linda Ronstadt and Lawrence Downes (Heyday). The famous singer shares stories about her family heritage and growing up in the U.S.-Mexico border region. She also includes recipes and beautiful photos by photographer Bill Steen.

Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful by J. Malcolm Garcia (Seven Stories). A reporter who spent time in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015 shares unadorned nonfiction stories about the people he knew there, from U.S. soldiers eager to kill to a woman who set up a detox center for destitute drug addicts to a nine-year-old who hustled on the street to help support his siblings.

Not for Sale edited by Romero, Zuniga, Hernandez, and Torres (Routledge). Many cities provide subsidies and tax breaks for wealthy developers to “redevelop” or “revitalize” areas of “blight,” often with disastrous consequences for low- and middle-income residents and communities of color. In this collection of case studies, analysts look at examples both of harmful projects and community resistance.

The Future We Need by Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta (ILR Press). Two organizers provide a brief overview of recent efforts in the labor movement to become more inclusive and to challenge the real powers in the economy on issues that affect not only the workplace but also family and community life.

Pandemic, Inc. by J. David McSwane (One Signal). While vaccines and masks saved many lives and kept many cases of illness from becoming more serious, the impact of the Covid pandemic could have been greatly reduced if it weren’t for the greed of corporate profiteers and their political allies.

How to Become an American by Daniel Wolff (University of South Carolina). An historian follows several generations of a Jewish family from the time of the Civil War to World War II as they migrate from Bohemia to the American South and then to Minneapolis. A diary and family letters are supplemented with anecdotes and context about economic, social, and political developments around them. All in all, it becomes a story about a family and a society pursuing an ultimately empty American dream.

Insectpedia by Eric R. Eaton (Princeton). A collection of fascinating stories describes insects all over the world, including their habits and their role in human culture.

The Unforgettables edited by Charles C. Eldredge (University of California). An anthology shines a light on the work of 70 American artists from the past three centuries who deserve greater attention in the opinion of the academics and curators who wrote short essays to go along with samples of the artists’ work.

MUSIC

Dancing on the Moon. Eight peaceful lullabies sung by Sage Meadows.

Old Californio Country Tuneful, easy listening covers of songs by John Prine, Neil Young, Guy Clark, Jason Isbell, Merle Haggard, and more.

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(Matt Witt) Diary of a Misfit Glass Onion Matt Witt matt witt photography The Swimmers World Wide Work https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2023/1/world-wide-work-films-books-and-music-you-may-have-missed Sat, 14 Jan 2023 16:48:00 GMT
Building Strong Communities Should Be a Team Sport https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/9/building-strong-communities-should-be-a-team-sport My syndicated newspaper column talks about the human impact in my town and others as working people and farmers essentially have given heirs to the Walmart fortune and the chair of Starbucks a $4.6 billion "grant" to buy the Denver Broncos football team. What can we do about the fact that a few people have more wealth than they could ever use at the expense of so many people who are struggling without affordable housing, health care, education, child care or other basics?

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(Matt Witt) Condoleezza Rice Denver Broncos Matt Witt Starbucks Walmart Waltons Writers on the Range https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/9/building-strong-communities-should-be-a-team-sport Thu, 15 Sep 2022 20:10:14 GMT
They Say the War Is Over https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/7/they-say-the-war-is-over "They Say the War Is Over" by Matt Witt is a nonfiction short story published in the literary and arts journal Cirque, Edition #24, Summer 2022. This "timely and dramatic personal account about race, class, and war" can be read free in PDF form at this link, or on pages 46-50 free in Cirque online.

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(Matt Witt) Cirque draft Matt Witt Oakland Induction Center They Say the War Is Over Vietnam War https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/7/they-say-the-war-is-over Fri, 15 Jul 2022 18:41:00 GMT
Going on a Lion Hunt https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/2/going-on-a-lion-hunt  

Pinyon, Late AfternoonPinyon, Late AfternoonRed Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, Arizona

This article appeared in the third edition of Trouble magazine:

Going On a Lion Hunt

By Matt Witt

“Going on a lion hunt! But I’m not afraid! Cause I got my guns! And my bullets at my side!” – Scoutorama.com

“Going on a Lion Hunt” is a children’s activity used by Scout troops, summer camps, and others. I remember it from when I was a kid. Children get in a circle. The adult leader starts a call-and-response chant about going to hunt a lion. The kids call out that they are not afraid since they are bringing their guns on the hunt, and then they act out overcoming obstacles like muddy terrain, a river, a cave, and more.

“For those who long for rugged beauty unspoiled and untamed by man, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is one of the few places in the Southwest that can lay claim to such a lack of man's accomplishments. This area is home to black bear and mountain lion as well as a number of less celebrated but just as notable creatures.” – U.S. Forest Service

One morning in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness south of Flagstaff, Arizona, my brother, his son, and I encountered an older man in hunting clothes talking to someone by two-way radio.

Soon, we realized that the side of the hill ahead of us was crawling with hound dogs – running, sniffing, and baying.

At first, I was hesitant to approach the man. I live in Oregon, where armed men not long ago took over a national wildlife refuge for more than a month, trashed it, and threatened its employees, yet the leaders walked away scot free. The rural part of the state where I reside is increasingly plagued by armed groups that espouse a mixture of white male supremacy and hostility to public lands. Asking even innocent questions of strangers with guns could be a mistake.

But then again, the old man could be like a former neighbor of mine in rural Virginia. That neighbor hunted because he didn’t have a lot of extra money and counted on five deer per year as part of his household’s food supply. Although we didn’t hunt ourselves, we were willing to let that neighbor cross onto our land when he needed to fill his freezer.

So after a few minutes my brother and I asked this man what he was doing.  

“Nothing gets the blood pumping more than coming up on hounds that have bayed or treed a mountain lion!” Arizona Guided Hunts Outfitters

He said he was serving as the base for a group of men who were following ten hounds he had provided to them.

When he didn’t reveal more, I asked, “Are they tracking a mountain lion?”

“Correct,” he said.

When I asked how he knew the cougar was in the area, he said he had found a deer it had killed and eaten, and the dogs had followed the big cat’s scent from there.

We saw that he was closely monitoring a GPS device that received signals from transmitters attached to each dog so he could tell the men the hounds’ locations.

“Is the idea that the hounds will tree the cougar?” I asked.

“Correct,” he said.

If the hounds got close enough to the lion, ancient instinct would kick in from the time, long ago, when cougars had to fear packs of wolves. The terrified lion would climb a tree, knowing the hounds couldn’t do the same. Eventually, the men would arrive where the baying hounds were gathered and shoot the motionless cat at close range.

“I don’t know if we’ll get this one,” he said. “It’s a runner.”

“5 day Guided Mountain Lion Hunts are $5,000.00 per person. Weapon types can be archery, muzzleloader, centerfire rifle or centerfire handguns. Weapon choice is not as critical as other big game hunts.” – Arizona Guided Hunts Outfitters

“5 Days Any Legal Lion $5000. These hunts are conducted on side-by-side's or 4wheelers.” – Killer Lion Hunts Guides

It seemed the man wasn’t eager to share much more information, so we didn’t ask about the financial arrangement between him and the men who were following his dogs. But when I got home I searched online for the going rate. At $5,000 per person, this apparently is not a hobby for the Walmart worker who makes $11 an hour, or for teachers or health care workers or Uber drivers or anyone else who lives on a budget.

“Mountain lion hunting is meeting the Department’s management objective of… providing recreational opportunities for 6,000 hunters per year.” – Arizona Game and Fish Department

“As long as the mountain lion hunters are walking into the wilderness and are not using any mechanized form of transportation and no motorized equipment, they are legal under the Wilderness Act.” – U.S. Forest Service

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, “About 850 livestock operators presently graze 56,000 cattle on public lands in Arizona.” But protecting ranchers’ profits isn’t a significant reason for killing mountain lions. Only an average of 27 of the big cats are killed in Arizona each year because a rancher claimed a case of “cattle depredation” – less than one-thirteenth of the average annual “harvest” of lions in that state by “hunters” seeking “recreational opportunities.”

“Trophy hunters have killed approximately 29,000 lions in the U.S. in the last decade.” Humane Society Report, “Cecil 2,” 2016

“Since 1890, there have been 29 fatal attacks by mountain lions on humans in North America.” – Arizona Game and Fish Department

My brother, his son, and I left the old man and continued hiking. We could still hear the hounds’ baying and see their movements. I wondered if this might be my long-awaited chance to see a mountain lion. A few years ago, I came across fresh prints in newly fallen snow not far from my Oregon home. And my son and daughter-in-law saw one calmly walking through the woods only a couple hundred yards from our house. But I never have had that good fortune.

I found myself imagining the big cat racing across this Arizona trail in front of us, and wondered if we would try to use our hiking poles to fend off the dogs long enough for the cougar to escape, and what sort of confrontation that might create with the gunmen. That didn’t happen, of course, as the lion seemed to be getting away without our help.

During our time in the area, we climbed to the top of massive red rock formations caused by powerful natural forces over millions of years.

We walked on an iced-over stream that reflected reds and yellows coming from steep and narrow canyon walls.

We trekked for miles through clumps of giant old trees – pinyon, alligator bark juniper, oak, sycamore, and more – and wondered what will happen to them and other living things there as the climate continues to get hotter and drier.

“The southwestern United States is expected to become more prone to droughts with climate change. The resulting loss of vegetation will not only impact herbivores like mule deer; their main predator, mountain lions, might take an even larger hit.” – NASA

In our visit to red-rock wilderness we had gone on our own kind of hunt. But contrary to the old kids’ game, we were afraid – not of the lion, but for our common future.

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(Matt Witt) lion hunt Matt Witt matt witt photography Trouble magazine https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/2/going-on-a-lion-hunt Mon, 07 Feb 2022 22:45:00 GMT
New Start https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/1/new-start New Start Along Bear Creek After FireNew Start Along Bear Creek After FireTalent, Oregon

This photo and text were published by New Verse News on Dec. 16, 2020:

NEW START

By Matt Witt

It used to be

that if you walked along Bear Creek

that runs next to town

you could see the stream

only in a few moments

because the view was blocked

by brambles of highly flammable blackberries

and tangles of branches.

 

Then this summer’s inferno

burned everything to ash,

clearing out the old understory

and leaving only a sprinkling of

charred tree trunks,

like ghosts from the past.

 

Now you can walk freely

across cleared black ground

and see how the stream community works,

the side creeks feeding it,

the ducks and coots and geese

finding food and

shelter from predators.

 

It used to be

that if you walked through town

you could see the money stream

only in a few moments

because the view was blocked

by fairy tales about

rugged individuals and

the generosity of the rich

without ever asking

who all that wealth was

taken from.

 

Then the fire burned everything to ash,

leaving those who could least afford it

to scramble for survival

while developers and bankers met

to discuss how they might profit

by grabbing up the close-in valuable land

and moving “their” workers,

many with brown skin,

to the valley’s outskirts,

all in the name of charity.

 

Now you can see

how money and power flow

from bottom to top

filling giant pools for a few

with not much left to trickle down.

 

Along Bear Creek,

just weeks after the fire,

small sprouts of green

bring the possibility of

a new community

better than the old

with each plant and bird and animal

doing its part.

 

In town,

new sprouts of community

are taking root too

as people work together

to make sure everyone has

food and shelter and hope

and to ask what we can do

so what grows back

will be better for all of us,

now that we can see.

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(Matt Witt) Bear Creek fire Matt Witt New Start New Verse News Oregon https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/1/new-start Wed, 26 Jan 2022 00:23:00 GMT
The Executioner's Face https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/1/the-executioners-face WelcomeWelcomeTalent, Oregon

The following was published Sept. 16, 2020 by New Verse News.

The Executioner's Face

By Matt Witt

We load the car --

two sets of clothes and

a lifetime of memories --

as skyscraper flames are destroying

hundreds of homes of

friends and neighbors

a mile away.

Did they get out in time?

And then what?

 

We hit the back roads,

searching for safety,

with Bob Dylan howling through car speakers:

"The soles of my feet,

I swear they're burning."

 

Decades of reports said

this was coming

without climate action.

"Hotter temperatures."

"Disappearing snowpack."

"More frequent and more intense fires."

"Urgent transition needed to solar."

"Rapid investment in energy efficiency."

 

We can already picture

the photos the media will feed us

of some scraggly guy with stringy hair

who may have dropped a match --

with headlines: “What caused the fire?”

 

There will be no photos of

corporate lobbyists

whose puppets for years said

let's double down on what got us here

or who gave us half measures

and asked for applause.

 

We drive through the smoke,

community destroyed,

and now Dylan’s voice is sounding more desperate:

"The executioner's face,” he wails,

“is always well hidden."

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(Matt Witt) fires matt witt New Verse News Oregon Talent https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2022/1/the-executioners-face Wed, 26 Jan 2022 00:23:00 GMT
Legacy https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2021/12/legacy Whitebark PineWhitebark PineCrater Lake National Park, Oregon

This poem and photo appeared in the third edition of Trouble magazine:

 

Legacy

By Matt Witt

 

Alone

trying to find my way up

with no trail

no footprints to follow

just snow

 

Through woods of firs and hemlocks

climbing steep open spaces

that would be meadows in summer

but now are huge white expanses

too cold to melt

 

Higher

a whitebark pine

alone

sticking out of the snow

 

After three miles

the Crater Lake rim

formed by a volcano

thousands of years ago

 

The lake

a caldera

twenty square miles

winter blue

 

Frigid wind

cornices of unsupported snow

one wrong step

into the water

two thousand feet below

and almost two thousand feet deep

 

To the left

a massive peak

named by white men

for a president’s son

 

To the right

another

named for a federal agent

who annihilated native people

 

Peaks named as if this place

is a monument

to their legacy

 

This place

that was here

long before us

and will be here

long after we

melt away

like the snow

I am standing on

 

Back then

average snowfall

was nearly twice

what it is now

and the lake and air

were many degrees cooler

 

Habitat for

furry pikas

whitebark pines

and gray-crowned rosy finches

already in danger

and that’s just the beginning

 

Our legacy

what to name it?

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(Matt Witt) climate change Crater Lake Legacy Matt Witt Trouble Trouble magazine https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2021/12/legacy Fri, 31 Dec 2021 22:37:16 GMT
Migrant https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2021/12/migrant

This poem and photo were published by New Verse News on May 27, 2021.

MIGRANT

By Matt Witt

This green-tailed towhee
that weighs about an ounce
migrated more than 1,000 miles
from its wintering home in Mexico
to its annual nesting ground
in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,
where I watched it taking a bath at a tiny spring.
 
It migrates every year,
eluding hawks and falcons,
braving snowstorms and lightning,
never losing its way.
 
This bird is a lot stronger
than I’ll ever be.
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(Matt Witt) cascade-siskiyou national monument green-tailed towhee matt witt migrant new verse news poem https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2021/12/migrant Sat, 11 Dec 2021 18:47:00 GMT
Beartooth Beauty https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/9/beartooth-beauty The following article appeared in the Billings (MT) Gazette on Sept. 28, 2019.

Sandhill Crane at SunsetSandhill Crane at SunsetAbsaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Wyoming

By Matt Witt

It was 8:30 p.m. on a late July evening in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness when an hour-long barrage of one-inch hailstones finally stopped pounding my tent above Native Lake.

The lightning, which had been so close I couldn’t finish saying “one, one thousand” before thunder boomed, had finally moved about five miles away.

Hearing only a slight drizzle, I grabbed my camera and crawled out of the tent. The light was low, but pink sunset clouds were still reflecting in nearby tarns that were surrounded by the newly fallen hail.

In the other direction, dense clouds and the lake itself were glowing with the most vibrant purple I’d ever seen.

This scene was just one of the highlights of nine days I spent as an Artist in Residence for the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation (ABWF) this past summer.

In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, ABWF sponsors several Artists in Residence each summer to spend seven to ten days in the wilderness, drawing inspiration from the beauty and solitude for their painting, writing, musical compositions, or other work.

For me, the artist residency in an ecosystem very different than where I live in rural Oregon gave me unusual opportunities to apply my “Closer to Nature” approach to photography, focusing in on simple details and uncluttered images in an attempt to see nature’s beauty with fresh eyes.

I photographed a sandhill crane silhouetted against a dramatic yellow sunset.

An intensely yellow-orange lily flower was reflected in a lake.

A rainbow appeared above trees colored with red sunset light.

Textures caught my eye on big boulders that I later learned were fossilized coral.

I had a relatively rare encounter with a pika and photographed a lone whitebark pine – both species in jeopardy as climate change threatens the cold environments they require.

As a follow-up to this artist residency, I’m now sharing these and many other images with ABWF to use in its educational work promoting and maintaining wilderness, as well as posting them for the public at MattWittPhotography.com.

With the high-altitude weather sometimes turning harsh, and no one else around for much of the time, I had plenty of time to think about the people who survived in this wilderness for thousands of years without having a car at a trailhead or housing to go back to with electricity and heat. Given how much time most of us spend sheltered by those comforts, it seems more important than ever to protect wilderness and all the living things that depend on it.

This summer, two other artists took part in ABWF’s program. One was Stephanie Rose (StephanieRoseArtist.com), a painter who used a Forest Service cabin as a her base of operations.

“I painted a collection of field studies, each of which seared into my memory my impressions of a particular place,” Rose said. “I will use these field studies to grow paintings in the studio, where I am able to further distill the motif I want to communicate to other people.”

The other was Marc Beaudin (CrowVoice.com), a poet and theater artist who worked from a remote Forest Service cabin up the Boulder River south of Big Timber.

“I finished a manuscript of poetry called Life List, where each poem honors a different bird species that has made an impact on my life and writing,” Beaudin said. “Having several days and nights without electricity, and all the disruptive technologies that come with it, meant there was nothing to take me away from my work, and having the power and beauty of the mountains, forest and river around me meant constant inspiration to keep at it.”

This was the sixth year the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation has operated its Artist in Residence Program, according to David Kallenbach, ABWF’s executive director. 

“I’ve been astounded by how many people have found out about the opportunity and by the diverse qualities of the artists who have participated in the program – from a videographer to a paper-making artist to a composer, as well as painters, writers, and poets,” Kallenbach said.

To learn more about the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation and how to get involved in its many volunteer opportunities, see ABWilderness.org.

 

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(Matt Witt) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation artist in residence Matt Witt matt witt photography https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/9/beartooth-beauty Sat, 28 Sep 2019 23:52:35 GMT
Madrone on the Hill https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/7/madrone-on-the-hill Madrone on the HillMadrone on the HillTalent, Oregon This poem, together with this photo, was published in the July/August 2019 edition of Jefferson Journal, the magazine of Jefferson Public Radio serving Northern California and Southern Oregon from Mendocino and Redding to Eugene and all communities in between.

Madrone on the Hill

By Matt Witt

The old madrone tree

stands by itself

at the very top of the hill

above our house

in southern Oregon.

 

In spring, small bell-shaped flowers.

In summer, peeling red bark

on a smooth yellow-green core.

In autumn, berries that feed quail,

raccoons, and bears.

 

When winter snow and fog

make it hard to see,

the old madrone stands tall

and waits for spring.

 

Near the bottom of the hill,

the grave of John Beeson

who came here to farm

with his wife and son

just before the Civil War.

 

He could climb this hill

for a longer view

and see the Table Rocks,

Grizzly Peak,

and Bear Creek flowing

to the Rogue River,

all millions of years

in the making.

 

Down below

he also saw

native people killed

like deer

by men who proclaimed

their Christian faith.

 

He protested,

sent articles,

spoke at meetings,

until a mob told him to

pack his things

and leave.

 

Back east, he published

“A Plea for the Indians,”

made his case to President Lincoln,

gave speeches in

New York and Boston.

 

If John Beeson could stand

with this giant madrone today

he would see a town

where anti-immigrant posters

appear in the night.

 

But also where

three hundred residents

defended a local mosque.

 

Season after season

John Beeson is still here,

like our old madrone

at the very top of our hill.

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(Matt Witt) Jefferson Journal John Beeson Madrone on the Hill Matt Witt poem https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/7/madrone-on-the-hill Fri, 12 Jul 2019 23:44:00 GMT
Tic Tac Toe https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/2/tic-tac-toe This poem was published Feb. 8, 2019 by New Verse News.

I Am a Renter and I VoteI Am a Renter and I VoteRogue Action Center, Oregon TIC TAC TOE

By Matt Witt

As a child
I played tic tac toe.
Should I go here,
or should I go there?

Then I learned:
you never win
if the other person goes first
with an X in
the middle square.

Olivia tells the city council
she and her son
had to move three times
after rent increases
left nothing to spare.

She works at Walmart
but after the rent
the paycheck covers only
food and bus fare.

Frank, who builds expensive homes
and has fifty rental units,
tells the council he would love to
help people like her,
he really would,
but prices are
whatever the market will bear.

Profit first.

The X in the middle square.

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(Matt Witt) matt witt new news the x in the middle square tic tac toe verse https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2019/2/tic-tac-toe Sun, 17 Feb 2019 01:39:52 GMT
Stronger Together https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2018/9/stronger-together This article was published in the Medford Mail Tribune.

Bull Elk Between Two RedwoodsBull Elk Between Two RedwoodsPrairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California Face to Face with a Bull Elk in the Redwoods

By Matt Witt

There I was, with no sign of an impending encounter with a bull elk, as I hiked the remote and deserted Friendship Ridge Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park south of Crescent City before Labor Day.

As I walked through the giant trees, I was thinking about the fact that while redwoods can be more than 300 feet tall, they have very shallow root systems. The reason they can withstand strong winds or floods is that the roots of many trees in a grove are intertwined.  They are like many communities in nature, I thought – they are stronger together.

My thoughts were interrupted, though, by seeing fresh elk scat along the trail. This put me on alert because it was rutting season, when Roosevelt bull elk can be particularly aggressive.  

I came around a corner, and there stood a young bull elk, twice the size of local deer, its impressive antlers towering above me, eating foliage from the side of the trail.

He looked at me with interest, but when I stopped, he went back to grazing, showing neither aggression nor fear.

The slope the trail cut through was too steep and dense for me to be able to go around, so I decided to wait, and to take photographs in the meantime. Surely, he would leave the trail to go up or down the slope, opening the way for me to pass.

No such luck. He liked having his feet on a flat trail. He ate. And ate. And ate.

Growing impatient, I decided to see what would happen if I cautiously took some steps toward him, but anytime I did, he turned his 850-pound body to face me. Not wanting to be one of those fools you see in the news who provoked a wild animal by encroaching on its space, I backed up again.

Soon after, he decided to stop eating and chew his cud – to regurgitate some of what he had eaten back into his mouth for a second chew.

So he lay down – right in the trail -- to do so. And chewed. And chewed. And chewed.

By now, an hour had passed. I had planned to complete a 7.5-mile loop through the redwoods to the coast and past several big waterfalls. I had no intention of going back and no way to go forward.

Just then, two people appeared.  We eventually discovered that if the three of us stood side by side and walked slowly toward the elk, he would turn away and slowly walk along the trail in the direction we were trying to go. For the next mile and a half, the three of us walked together, with the elk leading the way.  The three of us, apparently, were a little like the redwoods – we were stronger and stood taller as a group than as one alone.

Once the elk finally left us and the two other hikers went on their way, I went back to marveling at this species of tree that has been on earth for at least 240 million years. Ninety-six percent of the original old growth has been logged, and climate change now threatens what’s left. I could only hope that the cathedral-like feeling I was experiencing – and perhaps quirky encounters with Roosevelt elk – will be there for future generations.

 

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(Matt Witt) elk matt witt redwoods https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2018/9/stronger-together Fri, 28 Sep 2018 19:01:49 GMT
Mileage https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2018/9/mileage (Originally published in the literary and arts journal, Cirque, Summer 2016 edition.)

MILEAGE

By Matt Witt

Low Water, No BirdsLow Water, No BirdsLake Abert, Oregon

A long-haul trucker’s got his shiny red rig parked

on an early Wednesday morning

off Highway 395 in remote eastern Oregon

at a wildlife area at the edge of Lake Abert

where the few tourists that pass by

might stop to snap a scenic picture with their phones

and move on.

 

Ever since GPS technology came in,

the company knows where he is

every minute of every trip –

exactly where he stopped

and for how long

(after all, how long does a person need

to eat breakfast or make a bathroom stop?)

 

But GPS doesn’t know everything,

and neither does the company.

 

They know that he stopped

a regulation amount of time to sleep

in that cramped compartment behind the cab.

 

They don’t know that he walked

along the curving shore

in his t-shirt that used to be white

and watched the young sun light up

the ridges in the salt-covered mud.

 

They don’t know that he saw

silver bands of seepage

trying to snake their way

from the bottom of the hill

out to the little bit of actual water

way out in the middle

of the mostly dried-up lakebed.

 

They don’t know that he thought,

despite himself,

about all the climate change

he wishes he did not see

everywhere he drives.

 

They don’t know that he climbed

a little ways up the hill behind

so he could see how the water appeared

out of focus and dreamy

with reds, oranges, and yellows

as the fast-moving clouds

kept changing the light.

 

They don’t know that he sat

for a few minutes

in the silence

doing absolutely nothing

except watching the geese

waddle away from him

like they used to do

at the marsh outside of town

when he was a boy.

 

In a few days

he will pull that shiny red rig

into the company terminal

and the records will show

that he got as much mileage

out of this trip

as he could,

and that he never wasted

even a single moment.

 

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(Matt Witt) Abert Lake Cirque climate change Eastern Oregon Lake Abert long-haul trucker Matt Witt truck driver https://www.mattwittphotography.com/blog/2018/9/mileage Mon, 03 Sep 2018 07:15:00 GMT