In the last weeks of a long Oregon winter, everybody must be imagining last year’s summertime. I am remembering fondly a particular day. It was the end of that long Oregon summer, when the evenings just dabbled with early darkness.
Jane and I were walking down a dirt road between Douglas firs. We passed a whale made of aluminum, and a small room, of earth. Bonsai trees, small succulents and ferns in tiny pots; then into a garden of tall corn stalks and rows of lettuce, chickens and goats, and an occasional wanderer, enjoying the flowers. The garden edges off into fields, and then the forest, rising everywhere around it.
So much has changed here at Tryon Farm, since a small group convinced Portland to let them build a learning center for sustainable living in place of a sprawling condominium development, which would have hung awkwardly over the city’s second largest urban wilderness park.
Jane and I walk up into the living room of the old house at Tryon Farm, where the residents are slowly gathering in for dinner. Everybody is immediately helpful, asking me questions and how they might help. Earlier in the year, I explain, my brother and I stumbled on an Indian site and uncovered a small stone tool in the southeastern corner of the state. Now, I explain, I want to fall into the world of Oregon’s prehistory – to find answers about the stone tool the slow way, by peeling back layers of history through experience and travel.
I write notes and email addresses and first names, or last names, of people who might be able help. The chatter flows easily between talk of the Makah Indians of Washington, or about the ‘hippie dust’ that flavors the lasagna. We ask questions about their lives here; 18 adults and three babies experimenting with growing their own crops, teaching school children about sustainable living.
Brenna says, “Even as we sit around here, it’s clear that there are very few people that know about Indian history. I mean even we are sitting here debating some pretty basic things.”
What Brenna means is, even the folks who know the most about Oregon’s native past, don’t have a complete picture; knowledge is fractured, the textbook is missing.