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Hiking Outside Sisters « Andrew Pulliam

Hiking Outside Sisters

outside sisters(s)

Jenny and I attended a wedding reception outside Sisters, OR and took advantage of the circumstances to take a day hike.  Consulting a torn out page of a Sullivan guide we set out walking for Tam McArthur Rim. The rim is named for an early 20th century executive of Pacific Power and Light who also served as the secretary of the Oregon Geographic Board and authored the definitive volume on place names in Oregon.  McArthur’s utility company was consolidated along with many others across the west into PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.  This entity owns hydroelectric, geothermal and coal energy resources from here to Wyoming.  I’m fascinated by the narrative of the settlement of the west, one of the late cases of subjugation of a wilderness under a rational human order.  Naming is an interesting way of asserting control over the world, putting it into an intelligible order, and so it’s appropriate that a place where the landscape is so amenable to survey be named for a secretary of the official naming body, and a professional of natural resource brokering.

When I’m out in the woods I reflect on the tension between the thrill of the sublime immeasurable landscape, and the undeniable fact that it is offered up to my imagination through a artificial and contrived human artifact, even if only present in the form of the trail.  But this has certainly always been the case.  I imagine every place has always been grasped within a bigger human narrative, whether a constructed cosmology or rigorous technocratic survey.  I happen to live in the epoch of asphalt networks, weekend sojourns in and out of the rural landscape, along well-worn recreational paths.  I indulge myself in nostalgia for a time that probably never existed, before the names of the land were well-known and documented.  What a task to account for all of it, and to commence shaping it toward an idea of human profit.  That sounds so evil, but I don’t know if people can really see the world outside of what it is to them, or for them. The conservationist (whose practical agenda I of course support) subjects “nature” to a constructed narrative just like the energy mogul.  Which is perhaps ultimately only to say that I’m the type who doesn’t stop wondering what it sounds like if a tree falls in the woods with no one to hear it.  And also one who embraces the responsibility of creatively defining the world, something we are unavoidably wrapped up in as humans.



outside sisters2(s)

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