6 min read

A Green Interlude: Oregon Digressions

A Green Interlude: Oregon Digressions
Bend, Oregon (Author Photo)

My adventures as a full-time RV nomad continue as I conclude my stay in Silver Lake, Oregon, a place unto itself.

The first cutting of hay has been left to dry, meadow grass as well as alfalfa, according to innumerable seasons of farm life. If anything gives hope to the fallen structures of Silver Lake, it's the relative health of agriculture in the region. I considered this on a walk through the high desert breeze, during which I greeted the property owner.

I chatted with my summer landlord as she planted tomatoes and wondered about the condition of Biden's mind. She asked if I had seen the debate, as she appeared eager to discuss the untenable position of the Democrats. To which I replied, "No, the whole thing is a scam, whichever side you choose." From there, she brought me up to speed on the progress of haying season and lamented, momentarily, about the town's apparent demise.

A Stone Edifice, Sunlight, and Hogs

Yesterday, I visited the corner market with its array of energy drinks, hardware items, and old packages of hotdogs, bottled water being a rarity on its dusty shelves. Indeed, most of the refrigerator cases are empty and in need of cleaning. I asked the woman at the register if they were planning to stock bottled water soon, to which she replied with a quizzical expression, "No, we're out." Okay. And that's the market.

Happily, I continued walking and found another convenience store with additional offerings, including frozen pizza, more energy drinks, beer and--hurray!--water. This store also stocks every kind of beef jerky imaginable, in addition to Fruity Pebbles, Oreos, and canned vegetables. It's the only food option apart from Dollar General, that offshoot of Wally World, which sits an hour to the east in rural isolation. I asked the young woman at the register if they stocked extra food for the winter months--necessities that would otherwise be an hour away through the snowy forest--and her demeanor shifted from cheerfulness to quiet confusion. "I don't know." Alrighty.

After leaving, I glanced up the street to the abandoned school, a stone edifice which looks quite durable, as if belonging to another time and awaiting revival. Apparently, the town's drama group occasionally mounts performances in its deserted rooms, and one can take a tour of the structure with a local guide. I entertained the idea momentarily but declined, the thought of mold and fetid air giving me a shiver. Across the street, two hogs ran happily through their pen, gray hides and bristles warmed by the emerging sun.

Bend, Oregon is the place to go for groceries and a change of scenery, an hour north through the magnificence of Deschutes National Forest.

Neighborhood Park, Bend, Oregon (Author Photo)

Mountains highlighted by June snow beckoned, as the dogs and I drove north, all the way to Trader Joe's and a series of glorious neighborhood parks. I love Bend, Oregon. As much as I enjoy the odd desolations of Silver Lake, green interludes are a delight, not least for the wildlife sightings they offer. I watched as a buck grazed near the highway with its sprouting antlers and insouciance, an animal confident enough to ignore my approaching motorhome. The scene was moving and brought to mind something I had not considered for a while; it's what I call the hazy reverence nature enthusiasts seem to exude when discussing Oregon.

When I was younger, we called them granola crunchers, and admired them for their chunky sandals and peaceful ways. Now, years later, I see their point, which leads me down additional rabbit holes of thought.

Technopoly and Greenery

After finding all sorts of goodies at the store--including water--I had lunch and drove the dogs to Pageant Park for a walk, shadows of greenery attending our every step. It was wonderful. Actually, the area was filled with a number of parks, spaces able to inspire all but the most jaded hearts. And this brings to mind a book I've recently been reading, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman. On page 63 we learn:

(it is) possible to say almost anything without contradiction provided you begin your utterance with the word "A study has shown . . ." or "Scientists now tell us that . . ." More important, it is why in a Technopoly (sic) there can be no transcendent sense of purpose or meaning, no cultural coherence. Information is dangerous when it has no place to go, when there is no theory to which it applies, no pattern in which it fits, when there is no higher purpose that it serves.

Now, here is a magnificent contrast; as I enjoy an interlude of greenery, I think about our relationship to information technology, that disquieting intersection where human thoughts mingle with countless algorithms. Postman insightfully reminds us that a technopoly offers no place for meaning or "cultural coherence." With this, the concept of virtual reality comes quickly to mind.

As the realm of faux reality extends, moving ever deeper into human perception, dilemmas arise. Information can be configured--and spewed by experts--to justify nearly anything, even to portray lies as flexible expressions of truth. That said, I disagree with Postman's belief that "Information is dangerous when it has no place to go." Actually, it's dangerous when it has too many places where it can hide and flow unnoticed into our lives. Thanks to a certain event in 2020, we know how the public can be deceived when information--or the semblance thereof--is granted too many strongholds. In the end, it's a matter of lies overshadowing truth.

Indeed, one of the greatest problems we face, as a society, is the rampant contextualizing of facts; that is, the stories and bits of propaganda that are used to frame information, the former giving the latter undeserved legitimacy. And this is the power of technopoly, in my estimation--this and untold amounts of money. We are bombarded by oceans of "content," information shaped and re-shaped to govern our beliefs, a never-ending onslaught of manipulation. This line of thinking feels so fascinating and ironic as I wander through forest landscapes. And other ideas come to mind, as well.

Today, we find the connection between humanity and pristine nature--of which we are an integral part--to be troubled and deeply nuanced, and the separation between minds and machines to be nearly nonexistent. I ponder this while chatting with locals and shopping for coffee beans.

Before wrapping up, I will offer a final reflection, regarding something dreadful that caught my attention.

Bend, Oregon (Author Photo)

The Traveler's Prospects

Walking east toward the abandoned school one day, I noticed the motel I had mentioned previously, an apparent horror movie setting of suspense and sorrow. On the occasion of my walk, all of the room doors had been propped open, vacant realms being cleansed by morning air, at least in theory. In truth, more than wind would be needed to exercise whatever darkness lingers in these spaces. Passing by, I peered into each chamber, noting the wallpaper, the mattresses and boxsprings with floral patterns and, most disturbingly, piles of stained pillows. Faced with such a prospect, any sensible traveler would opt to pull over, lock the car doors, and sleep just long enough to refresh and drive quickly out of town. And what about the RV park where the dogs and I have camped for the last two weeks?

Actually, it's quiet and pleasant, even quaint with the tomato plants and flowers of summer--as well as the stories of my eccentric neighbor. Yesterday, he and the owner pointed out the old buildings that grace the property, remnants of logging camps, each structure undoubtedly harboring secrets. So, the park has been ideal for a brief visit, and my next stop appears all the more alluring for Silver Lake's strange complexities.

Regarding my recent journeys, I feel grateful and look forward to exploring Grants Pass, Umpqua National Forest, and the Rogue River soon, where I will camp at a local RV resort and perhaps remain for the summer.