With its generous letter-sized pages alone, Camas evokes the open space of the West. This winter issue includes stunning outdoor black-and-white photography, much of it full page, by David Estrada, Doug Davis, Doug Connelly, and others. Between these images is woven a collection of poetry and essays celebrating the many facets of nature and how we humans interact with it.
Kathleen Dean Moore, author of the excellent narrative nonfiction collection Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water, contributes a novel excerpt called “The River, On the Rising Tide,” a meditation on nature's responses to the changing tide. On a less introspective note, Richard Kempa deconstructs the uneasy tension between backpackers and river rafters in his essay “Claim Your Due: A Backpacker Looks at River Runners,” where we learn: “The unalterable rule of the river, known to boatman and backpacker alike, is this: Backpackers are entitled to free beer.” And if you've ever wondered just what kind of people choose to do seasonal work in our nation's parks, Lauren Koshere offers us fascinating written snapshots of the “People Behind Your Yellowstone Vacation.”
Some pieces are more directly seasonal, such as George English Brooks' poem “Palimpsest,” in which winter's subtle secrets are shared, like “the scattered symmetry in the paths of juncos and mice around the compost pit.” We travel then to Alaska, where in her brief but poignant essay “On the Chena River, Alaska, January 2008,” Gerri Brightwell discovers what it feels like to walk out onto a river that might not be completely frozen.
The issue abounds with vivid language, as the poets and essayists write their way into and through the natural world. In “Her Willapa July,” Maya Jewell Zeller's prose poem, “you can feel the moon coming up through your feet.” The hikers in Brett Defries' poem “Western,” speak to each other in a pasture as “the dusk lowered on us its demands.” Pat Musick, in her essay “Worlds Within the Waters,” examines some of the “vast populations of living creatures in the strangest seething, simmering, stinking, roaring, trickling, acidic, alkaline, muddy puddles and clear rivulets in Yellowstone.”
The editors of this issue set out to “question what the West means,” and the answer came back spoken in diffuse and distinct voices, some quiet and some loud, but all of them sure of what they had to say.