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Geography and History Go Hand in Hand

14 Nov

I recently had the pleasure to read an article by a writing friend of mine, Ann Carr . . . the shortened title was “A Sense Of Place, A Sense Of History,” and it was brilliant.  I don’t say that about too many articles I read, but this one deserves it . . . brilliant!

In it Ann suggests that writers stand in a place and study the surroundings. Study the geography and try to imagine how that geography shaped the history of that particular place.  It is an exercise I have done myself, here in my city of Olympia.  It is a fascinating exercise, to see things as those centuries ago saw things, and to imagine the decision-making process which shaped that area.

Read the article if you get the chance, and try the exercise where you are.

In Olympia, it is the geography which made the city, and in particular it is one small river, the Deschutes, which spearheaded the homesteading movement.  The Deschutes empties into the lower end of the Puget Sound, the inland sea here in western Washington.  In 1848 settlers arrived here, having heard stories about a swift-running river emptying into a deep waterway.  They arrived and immediately built lumber mills, and to ship that finished lumber they started a shipping line.  Other families arrived shortly after that, and Olympia became, at that time, the most influential city in what is now Washington State.

Later, that same river became the impetus for a brewing company to be formed, Olympia Beer, “It’s the Water” their logo, and that company became one of the leading employers in the area for decades.

One river, untamed, flowing with possibilities.

Go outside . . . look around at your surroundings . . . what do you see?

You just might be surprised!

Kneel down!  Scoop up a handful of dirt.  The dirt in my hand is actually rich soil, and similar soil, accompanied with a long growing season, are the reasons people flocked to the Oregon Territory starting in 1843.  The promise of a better life resides in that soil, rich alluvial soil, silt, sand, and clay, with generous amounts of organic matter, all promising abundant crops for Midwest farmers wishing for free land and an easier life . . .

Do you see it?

Do you feel it?

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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