Cascadia: A State of Mind

Within the past month I’ve really felt something hit home for me…funny, because I’ve known about the idea for quite a while. It concerns Cascadia, the name for the Pacific Northwest Bioregion that starts in Northern California and extends up to Alaska.

A colorful map of Cascadia

Now I’ve even bought a flag (not cheap!). Why? Not for political purposes, certainly. I have no plans to push for secession, writing a new constitution, or anything of the sort.

I’ve become so alienated from this country and the values it stands for, that I’ve begun to identify more and more with the land, and with others who connect with the land, that a little Cascadian Revolution has begun in my heart. I belong to none of the First Nations…I don’t consider myself Native American in any conventional sense. But I do feel native, in some new sense, that has to do with belonging to a place. Not owning it. Belonging to it. Not having rights to it, or deserving political recognition, but taking care of it, celebrating it, crying for it.

I grew up in Brookings and Coos Bay, small towns on the Oregon Coast. They ruined me in a beautiful way, with their krummholz pines, salmon berries, and salt-tanged aire. The modern world has always run at odds with my sensibility. I didn’t camp, or go on wilderness treks, or even join the Boy Scouts as a child (though I did want to join the Boy Scouts – my father had acquired strong feelings about the organization as a youth. I assume so anyway – he refers to them as “paramilitary pedarasts”. Does that sound like strong feelings?). I did, however, get to know my green neighborhoods and the close coastlines, from the time I could walk. I’ve heard the stories a thousand times, about the police returning two-year old me from trying to cross the highway, or on some expedition that makes sense in a toddler’s mind.

Cascadia’s coast shaped me from the beginning. From the coast to the Willamette Valley at the cusp of puberty.

I know this place, the city of Portland, much less than I know the place of my birth and childhood, though I have lived here for twice as long. Twenty years, as opposed to ten years on the south coast of Oregon, in the neighborhood of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

I recently found out that the Willamette River, that runs through the middle of Portland, sometimes runs upriver. Insane. I have just begun to really know this place, though as a naturalist I have more of a conscious knowing of the names of wildlife and habitat here.

In the sense of the Wandering Free Families, and as I mentioned before, I have no political ambitions for Cascadia. My cultural ambitions for her, however, have no bounds. A great tribe-of-tribes, family-of-families, lies at the horizon of my consciousness. Someday, one living room at a time, one hearth at a time, I see a whole new world replacing a dying old one. Cascadia and her people; the Land and her children.

Written by Willem