Artist’s conception of the interpretive center in the atrium of the planned alumni center adjacent to the new Matthew Knight Arena. Motion- and touch-sensitive screens will provide an “intuitive and easy to use” way for visitors to explore the UO story.
At the industrial-chic work-shop of Portland’s Second Story, Inc., commuter bikes hang from the ceiling and old-world-museum diagrams of wild birds and mollusks decorate the walls. The two office dogs (Dola and Uni) pad softy between workspaces. Seated in front of giant Apple computer monitors, a crack team of twenty or so digital, design, and information technology pioneers (many of them Ducks) is hard at work, creating ever-more-innovative ways of sharing and exploring knowledge.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, a visitor to the Library of Congress enjoys a bit of Second Story handiwork as she walks in front of a wall of shiny dark panels, which respond to and follow her movement with a gentle electronic burst of light, color, text, and drawings, as if she were interacting with an overgrown iPhone. She stretches a hand toward the wall and the colors intensify, touches a particular image or word and more information about that subject appears. It’s elegant and beautiful, and one heck of a way to learn about the Declaration of Independence.
Second Story has been designing such award-winning displays and interactive media stations for fifteen years for such high-profile clients as the recording industry’s Grammy Museum and the Walt Disney Company. Now they’re dreaming up a totally new way to tell and retell the University of Oregon’s story.
When the UO’s Ford Alumni Center opens its doors (tentatively scheduled for May 2011), a remarkable sort of museum will be unveiled inside, the brains and guts of which are currently being developed at Second Story. To be located next to the new Matthew Knight Arena near Franklin Boulevard, the four-story alumni center will feature in its lobby an interpretive center that, as currently envisioned, will offer campus visitors much more than merely a listing of upcoming lectures, some archival photos, and a comfortable place to sit while waiting for the 12:30 p.m. campus tour. It will provide a beautiful, interactive window into the heart and soul of the University, helping each visitor, whether setting foot on campus for the first time or the thousandth, to experience the University’s story anew.
“This isn’t going to be a nostalgia center,” Second Story creative director Brad Johnson says of the interpretive center-to-be. What it will be, though, is a bit hard to describe, in no small part because the project still sits firmly in the conceptual phase, being designed for a building that doesn’t yet exist. Fundraisers are currently working to raise an additional $4 million for completion of the $32.5 million alumni center named in honor of Cheryl Ramberg Ford ’66 and Allyn Ford, who gave an initial $5 million lead gift in 2006. Plans change rapidly, and often.
Finding a balance between the artistic, technological, and logistical demands of an extensive interpretive center is no small task, and the challenge is only intensified by the need to design a space that will meet the rigorous LEED standards of the Alumni Center’s eco-conscious construction. Assistant professor of architecture Lars Biehler (profiled in the Winter ’07 issue of OQ) worked with Second Story to develop the architectural design elements of their plans, and the firm has called in engineers and other experts to help figure out the nuts, bolts, and coaxial cables of the project.
On the other, more poetic end of the design process spectrum, the Second Story team is using the idea of water—specifically waterfalls, streams, and rivers—to metaphorically unite the elements that make up the center. Johnson compares the UO to a bedrock channel through which each student progresses and then departs; just as the riverbed of the University changes the course of each student’s life, so too does each student subtly leave his or her mark on the University itself, collectively carving out a canyon of shared experience and memory.
Johnson describes the work his company has done thus far as an “inside-out” design process, one based on figuring out the best way to tell the story of the UO, and letting that knowledge inform the way that the physical aspects of the interpretive center take shape. Current artist’s renderings of the center feature a flowing wall-mounted sculpture, plenty of seating, and lots of those giant iPhone-like screens, some mounted on the walls, some as free-standing, movable panels, others set into the floor, and one as a high-tech table top, where visitors can view and interact with campus maps and information. “The goal,” says Second Story managing director Julie Beeler, “is to create something visually beautiful and enriching, but also intuitive and easy to use.”
What will be displayed on those giant screens is also a work in progress. Second Story is working with University personnel from all academic disciplines, University Archives, campus technology experts, and current students to select and create all that’s to be accessed in the interpretive center. “We want the University to create the content,” Beeler says. “Everyone’s contributing.”
Eventually, personal stories, historical data, archival footage, and current pieces of art and reportage will be housed in a central databank that visitors will navigate through interconnected “story streams” on the interactive media panels. Visitors will use simple touch-screen navigation tools to explore those subjects and time periods that especially pique their curiosity.
Interactive media’s particular delight is the ability it gives each individual to choose, to have the information he or she finds most fascinating mere fingertip-swoops away: a personalized, immediate, interconnected web of facts, images, and stories. Johnson calls the data management system being designed for the project “a kind of magical glue” that holds thematically linked material together, making it simpler and more intuitive to navigate than a traditional database, yet infinitely more dynamic and free-flowing than a documentary film.
Those features likely to appeal to the widest audience will be most prominent and easy to access. But the rest of the information will be in there, too. So if your particular obsession concerns the original tiles in the Deady Hall bathrooms or the varieties of trees growing on campus, you’ll have to dig a little deeper. The system is designed to reward passions and encourage curiosity.
The screens will also feature videos that will play automatically for the technologically disinclined or interaction-hesitant. But don’t think for an instant that the content will be one endless, static loop, repeating ad nauseam: after the alumni center opens, the stories available to visitors will continue to grow and change. Thanks to the content management system built into Second Story’s design, University staff members will be able to continually update, add to, feature, shuffle, and change the information, ensuring that this multifaceted portrait of Old Oregon never gets dusty or faded around the edges.
Second Story hopes that the interpretive center they ultimately create will not only provide a warm “welcome home” to visiting alumni, but will also help to introduce future Ducks to a University that will shape and be shaped by them. “To think that this will become a more effective way to recruit for new students,” Johnson says, “that’s really exciting.”
—Mindy Moreland, M.S. ’08
English department graduate students who attended the University of Oregon in the turbulent years between 1965 and 1975 gathered on campus in August for a reunion. John “Jack” Wilson Foster, Ph.D. ’70, says he and event coorganizer Rob Garratt, Ph.D. ’72, “were motivated not by simple nostalgia or by the mere wish to see old friends again but by a desire to celebrate and commemorate some extraordinary years in the life of the department, the University, the state, and country, and of course in the lives of the grad students.” Attendees came from as far as New York, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Pennsylvania, and Ireland. Faculty members who had taught in those years also attended, including William (Bill) Cadbury, Thelma Greenfield, Joseph (Joe) Hynes, Glen Love, William (Bill) Rockett, Ralph Salisbury, Barre Toelken, Kingsley Weatherhead, and George Wickes.
OQ solicited attendees for memories of or reflections on the era. Below is a selection of their responses.
Invasion of Cambodia—Spring 1970
I was teaching a lit class in Chapman Hall, W. B. Yeats’s lines, “things fall apart, the center cannot hold . . .” Outside the open window, we heard the sound of boots, marching. I sidled to the window, peered out, saw squads of National Guardsmen, rifles at port-arms, marching toward Johnson Hall. I turned to the class, said, “The poem is in the streets. Let’s take a closer look,” dismissed the students. Some fled, some went to coffee, some preceded me to Johnson Hall, only a few yards away.
I stopped in front of a tall young man, his eyes staring over my head, his knuckles white on his rifle. A phalanx surrounded the building, shoulder to shoulder. I leaned toward the young soldier, whispered, “You don’t have to do this.” He kept silent. Just then, other soldiers and police began dragging handcuffed students down the steps toward waiting military trucks. One was a young woman, one of my students. She saw me, I can’t guess how, called out, “Doctor Sparks, help us!” I went with some others, took the only action we could, lying down on the tarmac behind the trucks. I watched as another soldier fired up a pepper fog sprayer and began walking down the row, spraying directly into the faces of the people on the road. Some vomited, some cried, trying to run. . . . It was hellish.
—Lance Sparks, D.Arts. ’76
Gold to Airy Thinness Beat
Kester [Svendsen] designed the [English] department at the time—both faculty and graduate students—in his vision of excellence and diversity. Short in physical stature, wiry, a former pugilist with an acerbic wit and Milton scholar (his Milton and Science was legendary), he was the source of many encounters in our socialization into the profession. . . . Svendsen’s formality extended to his renowned research and methods class. We were required to memorize the bibliographical data for 100 primary works of reference that were to be on his final exam. Jack Foster and I, two aliens left behind on campus during our first Thanksgiving holiday in Eugene, pooled our resources and recited those data cards to each other nonstop for four days as we listened to a single Bob Dylan album over and over. While Kester personally was an approachable man, his access was guarded by a formidable, sphinx-like executive secretary, Mrs. Erb (spouse of a former UO president for whom the student union is named). Mrs. Erb maintained decorum in Prince Lucien Campbell Hall and, most importantly, jealously guarded access to Professor Svendsen’s office. Nonetheless, Kester was, as his beloved Donne once said, “gold to airy thinness beat.”
—Dan J. Tannacito, D.Arts. ’70, Ph.D. ’72
Blue Jean Blues
As an amateur campus impresario, [I brought] the real thing to the UO, including Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Bluegrass as a species of country music had little following on campuses then, but local Eugene people came to the student union to listen to Monroe, and this meeting of town and gown delighted me. I also brought to campus the famous bluesmen Bukka White and Furry Lewis. These legends actually sat in my living room after their concert and sang and played for a few of my friends. Could this have happened anywhere else? It was more heady stuff for a lad from Belfast, a city that back then was a cultural backwater, when Van Morrison was still with Them, before he went solo into musical history.
—John Wilson Foster, Ph.D. ’70
The Times They Were A-Changin’
Everything changed at almost the exact moment [the period covered by this reunion, 1965–75,] was over. . . . From that time on it was all Culture Wars all the time, all struggle around poststructuralism and ideology and the like. . . . What was said, especially at the [reunion banquet], gave vivid reminder of how different it was before those culture wars, for both good and ill. It’s as if for this weekend we were all frozen in aspic (no, wait, maybe one is just “refrigerated” in aspic, not frozen), speaking in our universe of literary history, individual authors, courses in American lit and the like. . . . Who now would talk like that, or who would have for the last thirty years? No mention here of queer studies, Lacan, postcolonialism, cultural studies, etc., etc. There was a good side to the social-intellectual world we inhabited—there’s no reason not to remember fondly the things we all said that turned out to go out of fashion . . . (after all, even deconstruction, and structuralism itself, seem dead as dodos, too—just slightly younger dodos).
—Professor Emeritus William “Bill” Cadbury
Learn, Baby, Learn
I [taught] English comp, and one term (1967?) they put all the Black Panthers in my class. About a dozen of them. Most of the other students were coeds, looking like future airline stewardesses of America. It was a strange mix. The immediate problem concerned language in class. The Panthers swore a lot, m*f*er being a favorite. This visibly upset some of the ladies. So, we had a class discussion and decided, democratically (the Panthers had a powerful voting bloc), swearing would be allowed in class and if anyone didn’t approve, they could transfer to a different class. Only several did. The rest of the ladies went nuts swearing in class! It seemed like a kind of liberation. But how to get the Panthers to write? They thought my assignments were capitalist propaganda. I finally assigned them to write articles for the Panther newspaper and ended up teaching them how to write better propaganda.
This story has a P.S. Three years later I was called into the chair’s office. A parent had a complaint against me. Did I frequently say m*f*er in class? The family’s daughter used the term and when asked where she learned it said, “We said it all the time in Mr. Deemer’s class!” So I related the story of my Panther class, which actually was the only time I swore in class.
—Charles Deemer, M.F.A. ’71
While strolling through the newly dedicated HEDCO Education Building, a visitor might come across a rather unexpected sight: statues of the Virgin Mary, the Hindu deities Shiva and Ganesha, Buddhist bodhisattvas, and the pagan Green Man. The artworks are on display at the Robin Jaqua Library of Archetypal Psychology, located on the building’s second floor near the Department of Counseling Psychology and Human Services. This gift to the College of Education is only the second university library in the United States dedicated to the study of archetypal psychology.
The library focuses primarily on works related to the theories of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875–1961), founder of analytical and archetypal psychology. Archetypal psychology explores individual psyches in light of collectively inherited unconscious ideas, images, and stories that appear in the art and cultures of people around the globe. Books in the library cover subjects ranging from aboriginal mythology to fairy tales, and authors from Dante to Stephen Hawking. The collection includes more than 3,000 books and six active journal subscriptions, as well as twenty-two instructional films written, directed, or facilitated by Robin Jaqua, M.A. ’71, Ph.D. ’75. Commenting on the vast scope of Jung’s work, Jaqua says he “presented the idea of the archetypal collective unconscious that all human beings have shared since the beginning of time.”
Jaqua is a fourth-generation member of a pioneer California farming and ranching family. Her mother, Anna Hope Robinson, nurtured in her a strong intellectual curiosity. Robinson herself was a serious student of religion, philosophy, and psychology. She was the first analysand (the Jungian term for a person undergoing psychoanalysis) of Robert Johnson, who had studied with Jung and later became a renowned Jungian scholar in his own right. “My mother’s in-depth personal work made a lasting and positive impression on me,” says Jaqua. “It inspired me to read and study.”
Two significant gifts of books from Robinson played especially important roles in shaping Jaqua’s life. “On my graduation from high school in 1938, my mother gave me Esther Harding’s The Way of All Women.” The best-selling book on feminine psychology by the first prominent Jungian psychoanalyst in the United States introduced Jaqua—and thousands of others—to Jung’s ideas.
When her mother died in 1965, she left Jaqua “her precious collection of books written by Jung and other depth psychologists.”
Jaqua went to the UO for a master’s degree program in counseling and followed it up by entering a doctoral program in counseling psychology. Her dissertation examined a therapeutic system used to treat emotionally disturbed children.
She then enrolled at the Jung Institute in Zurich, where she extended her previous studies into treatment for emotionally disturbed children to adults and expanded the research to include Jung’s theory as well as those of other psychologists.
Studying at the institute also afforded Jaqua the opportunity to learn from some of those who had been members of Jung’s inner circle. One of her teachers, psychiatrist Deiter Bauman, was Jung’s oldest grandson; during his high school years he’d lived with his famed grandfather. Another teacher, Aniela Jaffé, recorded and edited Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. The most famous of her teachers, Marie-Louise von Franz, worked closely with Jung for more than three decades and founded the Jung Institute. An author of more than twenty books, von Franz is known particularly for her exploration of the archetypal nature of fairy tales, and the subjects of alchemy and active imagination. Jaqua felt privileged to attend von Franz lectures on fairy tales. “Von Franz, known for her strong opinions, was highly intellectual and steeped in rationality,” she recalls.
While conducting research at the institute library, Jaqua discovered a vital part of Jung’s legacy had been left in disarray. One of the tools he used for decades in working with analysands was to have them reproduce images from within their psyches or from their dreams. He believed this “spontaneous art,” as he called it, reflected the patient’s inner state and the symbolism provided clues to help make positive personal transformations. “I was shocked to see this work thrown helter-skelter and stacked in piles several feet high with no thought given to its preservation,” Jaqua says. She worked with the institute’s librarian, Farina Maag, to organize and catalog the art—and in doing so created a library archive that continues to be a valued and well-used resource for teaching and research at the institute.
Returning to Eugene, Jaqua began using her training as a Jungian analyst—working with children, graduate students at the University, as well as with individuals “in the second half of life,” a period Jung found particularly promising for personal growth. Her work extended far beyond counseling. She became the director of training for the Pacific Northwest Jung Society and joined the board of directors of the New York City–based Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism (ARAS), an extensive pictorial and written archive of mythological, ritualistic, and symbolic images from all over the world and from all epochs of human history. She continued her studies. She wrote and directed films. She collected more books—and made her personal library accessible to interested students, academics, and independent researchers for decades before establishing the library on campus.
Though she stopped her practice as a therapist seeing individual clients at age eighty-eight, she continues to work with both women’s and men’s groups, and she finds time for research and writing for publication. She contributed to the publication of An Encyclopedia of Archetypal Symbolism, published by ARAS. After more than three years of research, she is currently contributing two essays, one on the star and the other on the lotus, to the most recent ARAS publication, The Dictionary of Archetypal Symbols.
As for the future? “I plan to lead several study groups,” she says. “I am committed to keeping the library open to students and the public on Friday afternoons and will have a knowledgeable volunteer available to answer questions. I want current students to become familiar with the contents of the library so they will know what is available to them.”
A decade ago, Molly Cliff-Hilts toted a few of her paintings to an auction for her sons’ preschool in Portland. Although she’d studied art at the University of Oregon two decades earlier, run an interior design firm, and never stopped drawing and painting in her spare time, she hadn’t seriously tried to market her work. By the night’s end, her pastel still lifes had become the object of a minor bidding war, and the forty-year-old painter realized that others might be interested in her art. Five years later, one of her paintings was in Bill Gates’s collection, and today, her paintings command five- and six-figure prices at galleries and exhibitions from New York City to Los Angeles.
She came to the University from the San Francisco Bay Area in 1976 to study art, architecture, and linguistics. “One of my first classes was with LaVerne Krauss, and she was bigger than life,” Cliff-Hilts recalls. “She brought exhilaration into the studio and it was thrilling. The academic art community was really vibrant at the University of Oregon in the 1970s, with LaVerne Krauss, Marion Ross, George Johanson, and the interdisciplinary relationship between the arts and allied arts departments.” That environment of fruitful cross-pollination informs her latest work, which incorporates photography, printmaking, and painting.
Cliff-Hilts worked at the Excelsior Café, where she met and dated fellow student and coworker Dave Hilts, M.Arch. ’78. She transferred to the University of California at Santa Cruz for her senior year, after her family moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains. A brief marriage and a move to Las Vegas followed, but she never forgot Dave, and when she was visiting Eugene years later, she called him on a whim and the two were reunited. She moved to Portland, where he was practicing architecture; they married in 1991.
In many of her early works, Cliff-Hilts painted oversized oil pastels of fruit and vegetable images she’d loved since childhood—pears, tomatoes, cherries—radiant with vibrant colors often applied with a palette knife. Those proved to be quick sellers at small shows and gatherings in her leafy home at the foot of southeast Portland’s Mount Tabor. She also became known for hosting periodic salons attracting artists, politicians, architects, and friends from her community work, gatherings which grew to include a couple of hundred guests.
Her work quickly attracted attention and commissions from local restaurants and other venues. Then came an invitation from a New York gallery in Chelsea and solo and collaborative shows with New York artists, culminating in a major exhibition at Portland State University’s Autzen Gallery in 2006. Pendleton Woolen Mills commissioned her to design throws. Her 2008 collaboration with singer-songwriter Kristin Hersch from the band Throwing Muses, Paradoxical Undressing, has so far appeared in London, Glasgow, the Hague, Sydney, and Detroit.
Over the years her themes and subject matter have become progressively more introspective, sophisticated, and “otherworldly.”
“I’m interested in the things you tune out,” she explains, “and then when you stop and look at them, you see the beauty.”
Her techniques also evolved. She began experimenting with encaustic, a method involving the use of hot wax and colored pigments to achieve deeper layering. Then, seeking a more potent way to highlight the contrast between foregrounded crisp, reality-based images and dreamy, lush backgrounds, she tried various processes. Finally, around 2005, she devised a method that involves using a computer to transfer photographic images onto waxed lithographic plates and then superimposing them onto oil-based painted backgrounds. The luminous effect can be magical, almost hallucinatory, with obvious roots in the great English Romantic painter J. M. W. Turner (one of her major influences, along with German artist Caspar David Friedrich and American painter Wayne Thiebaud) but glowing with a distinctly twenty-first century electricity.
The method works beautifully in Slipstream, commissioned for the lobby of Gerding Edlen Development’s new Cyan building (333 Southwest Harrison Street, near Pettygrove Park in downtown Portland), with its ethereal, nature-inspired background fronted by the grit of urban life. That juxtaposition reflects the green-oriented philosophy of the company [featured in OQ’s Winter 2008 issue] and the city’s attempt to find a sustainable balance between the natural and human-made worlds.
“Slipstream portrays a familiar landscape that exists just outside the building’s many windows, as a glowing, atmospheric environment that is both tough and fragile,” says Kate Wagle, art professor and administrative director for the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts in Portland, “Her triptych . . . complements its sustainable, urban site perfectly.”
Even as she spends ample time in her studio, Cliff-Hilts continues her social and community networking. Her latest project involves forging a sister city connection between Portland and Brooklyn. Her recent artistic success, though, has been clouded as her extended family and friends have been beset by illness, deaths, and other difficulties—what she calls “a trifecta of tragedies”—and darker themes as well as spiritual concerns have found their way into her current projects. Yet Cliff-Hilts insists, “My work is always hopeful.” She’s still trying to sort out the new directions her creativity is taking her. At the same time, she says, “I’m really to that point where I feel satisfied, like this is what I set out to do and I’m finally there. That’s an incredibly satisfying feeling. I’m glad I kept pushing it.”
—Brett Campbell, M.S. ’96
UO Alumni Calendar
Go to uoalumni.com/events for detailed information
The Oregon Tailgate pregame party
Oregon vs. Arizona
Thirteenth Annual Tailgate Auction
UOAA Travel Program*
Enchanting Christmas Markets
Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague
January 20, 2010
Puget Sound Duck Business Lunch
(*For detailed itineraries, see uoalumni.com/join/travel)
The view from a four-year-old Redmond subdivision
On the day we moved into our new house, my daughter took a ride in the neighbor girl’s pink Barbie Jeep, laughing with her new friend as they cruised around the cul-de-sac. A father and his son threw a football across the street, the ball soaring toward our impressive view of the snowy Three Sisters. Older kids ran past the moving van to play in a tree fort in the nearby canyon.
I looked at our spacious new home and thought, “Finally, it’s our turn to enjoy a new house in a shiny neighborhood.”
Three months later, the first “For Sale” sign appeared in a neighbor’s front lawn. Two years later, we would look at empty houses on both sides of us—the yard bordering ours dead brown with weeds overtaking the landscaping. We paid $315,000 for our average four-bedroom home—right where it was appraised. Now the similar-sized empty house behind us is listed at $182,000.
Central Oregon’s wild real estate party came to a crashing end, and we’re left feeling like contestants in some kind of real estate edition of Survivor. Our region once topped the lists as one of the best places to live, visit, and dine, with one of the hottest housing markets in the country. Now we struggle with severe homelessness, the sixth highest rate in the nation, according to a September 2008 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Named Echo Rim Estates by its California developers, our subdivision is the last development on the northern edge of Redmond. Homes on the eastern side of the subdivision border the Dry Canyon, a natural city park where a bicycle trail winds past native grasses, juniper trees, and rim rock. We used to walk our dog down the dirt road that led past the old farmhouses and pastures that were replaced with rows of similar-looking houses, with motor boats and camp trailers in the driveways.
Back in 2005, when our home was built, it seemed like everyone was upgrading to a new house and every construction worker worked overtime to keep up with the frenzy. A friend put an offer on a house before she even looked at it because houses sold so fast. I remember driving around the construction zone and asking my husband, “Where are all these people coming from?”
“Where are they working to afford these homes?”
Through the better part of the housing boom, we were content to stay in the small, 1970s-era home we purchased in 1998. Our mortgage was affordable enough that I could feel good about staying at home with our children. But the birth of our third child in 2006 left us overwhelmed and cramped for space, and, I admit, I longed for something new and clean.
And here’s where we made our biggest mistake: We purchased our new home before we sold the old one.
Encouraged by the head-spinning market, we figured it would only take a couple months to sell a 16,000-square-foot lot along the canyon. But then, the market froze. Just a handful of people would even look at our property. The two offers we received disappeared as soon as we tried to counteroffer. After it sat for six months on the market, we rented our old home, our stress aggravated by the insurance company demanding that we put a new roof on it.
Over the next two years, signs of trouble surrounded us. The screaming “Price Reduced” signs in front of houses looked like they belonged on used car lots. Some would be changed to say “Price Slashed” or “Drastically Reduced.” Dozens of yard sale signs lined residential streets as people prepared to move or tried to make a little extra money.
It’s become a depressing hobby to read the dozen or more pages of foreclosure notices published every week in the Redmond newspaper. It stings more when I recognize names of families from my children’s school.
When it opened in 2006 to serve our unprecedented growth, our modern elementary school was an emblem of our region’s success. Last year, I noticed the increasing number of unemployed fathers sitting at the curb waiting to pick up their children. My daughter came home sad several times, telling me of another friend moving. A first-grader down the road came by to tell us her dad was giving the house back to the bank.
I can point to several families where the father has left town for work, to South Dakota, Portland, Hermiston, Walla Walla. My kids no longer have PE and music teachers, and they only attend school four days a week. It’s a bit ironic that the school was named for the late governor Tom McCall, the father of Oregon’s land-use planning system.
In this aftermath, I’ve felt a lot of anger at the greed that propelled us to pave over so much land when we did not have the jobs to support the growth. One former neighbor, an appliance salesman, stopped paying his mortgage when his commissions dropped but then spent every weekend playing at the lake with his boat. He lived mortgage-free for about six months. Before he left, he ripped out the new appliances from the house and hauled away the shed from the backyard.
Meanwhile, we continue to pay the mortgage on a house that is seriously upside down in value and, as we’re discovering, built with unnecessary haste. The paint quickly faded, the irrigation system never works, and you can see cracks in the drywall. We feel stuck, but grateful to be stuck after hearing so many sad tales of families losing homes and jobs.
I can look out my window and still see an open field and the Cascade Mountains. Cattle graze in an adjacent pasture that would be houses if we had continued at the same pace. The city moved to open that land for development just before the market collapsed. I can sense some kind of divine intervention telling us it was time to slow down, time to refocus on community—if we can just hang on long enough.
Rebecca Lundgren is a freelance writer and the winner of the 2005 Oregon Quarterly Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest. An earlier version of this essay appeared in The Source, a weekly newspaper in Bend.