November 2021 Message from the Chair: Stories Matter
I have always been a proud Washingtonian, appreciating the privilege of calling this beautiful corner of the world my home. I started fantasizing about time travel when I was a kid; imagining Portland when my Great Grandparents migrated there in the 1890s; following Dad on his escapades during the 1920s in Seattle; showing my kids the Kent Valley before it was paved over. As I listened to Rena Priest, Washington State’s Poet Laureate read her beautiful poetry during her visit to Pend Oreille County, I revived my fantasies and then some.
Rena’s command of language is masterful, lyrical and magical. Her poems reflect her Lummi heritage, especially the importance and art of generational storytelling. Her words illustrate the interdependence of the natural world and how recent generations have forgotten to respect and honor that interconnectedness. I recognize the changes that occurred in my lifetime; many lauded as progress, but I no longer see many of those changes as something to celebrate. So much destruction was caused by the influx of families like mine, greedily using resources as if they were infinite. If we had more closely observed and honored the natural world and listened to the inhabitants who preceded us perhaps this conversation would not be needed.
Rena spoke of Native American activists working for decades with minimal success to protect our forests, salmon runs, water purity and more. They understand change must occur before it is too late and continue working despite their frustration with the system. Their unflagging persistence was the message I really needed to hear. It is so much easier to think, “What’s the use? No one listens or even cares.” If we don’t acknowledge problems, we can pretend they don’t exist. Silence cannot be our response. We must address the hard stuff because the alternative is unforgivabl
Rena suggested to attendees and now I suggest to you that we rethink not just our past but our “in this moment.” Consider what you hold dear. What aspect of our local environs do you already miss, or would hate to lose, and would make this place no longer feel like home? Stories and the visual arts are powerful tools, more powerful than derision, criticism or anger. Tell your story in a way that is meaningful to you and will resonate with others. Together, we can be the pebbles thrown in a lake, rippling in ever growing concentric circles, interconnecting and growing.
This month let’s find gratitude every day, not just on Thanksgiving.
Today, I am grateful for this platform to share my thoughts and for my readers.