End of an Era in the Woods Creek Valley

Some friends of ours are departing for Britain on the 27th of August for life in a new country. They will be missed here for their intelligence and their civic minded spirits.

It is sad that these folks are going because it’ll leave our community poorer for their absence. But I fully understand their motivation. Rolf is a college professor and the opportunities offered to him in Britain were so superior to what was happening for him here at the University of Washington that it was, as they say, a no-brainer when it came time to choose.

I’ve written before here and here about the brain-drain that’s slowly eroding the United States’ scientific talent base. And so much of it is due to the current swing in the US towards religious conservatism and the concurrent suppression of science and scientific truth when it doesn’t fit the prevailing religious and political climate – as if objective scientific truth is malleable or negotiable.

Witness these stories among many many others: , , , , , I came up with these stories in just five seconds by simply Googling, “Bush suppresses report”.

And then the most recent bit of amazing scientific suppression wherein a federal judge had to order the Bush administration to produce a national global change research plan that was due by July 2006; and a scientific assessment of global change that was due in November 2004. Reports which the administration has been sitting on.

So, our best scientific minds are looking elsewhere to find nations which value science as it should be valued. But those of us left behind shouldn’t worry. We’ll have plenty of Christian theme parks to visit to fill our time.

Ah, but let’s get back to why I’m writing this piece. Which is to honor Rolf and Katy as they move from our community to a new and hopefully better life in Britain.

I know Katy’s work best of these two. She’s made a big impact on our local community here. She began and led the Monroe Arts Council here which today is a thriving organization which promotes the Arts in Monroe, Washington. There’s a large mural decorating a wall here in town as a direct result of her tireless work. And there are numerous other projects up and running which would not have come into being without her efforts.

The River of Life Mural

Some years ago, when Katy and Rolf came to Monroe, they bought a piece of property with an old about-to fall-down farmhouse on it and over the intervening years have changed it into a beautiful home with barns, river walks and a tremendous sense of environmental integrity about it. Down by the river, they’ve helped to preserve some of the largest original trees left in our valley. Last week, Rolf took me on a walk through their place to areas down by the river where I’d never been and I could see what a wonderland they’ve created and preserved and how hard it must be to leave it all. We can only hope that place’s next owners do as well with it as the Aaltos have.

Katy’s become a Blogger in the last six months and has written extensively about their hopes and fears regarding the move to the other side of the world. It is a story full of emotions, intelligence, passion and poignancy all at once. I highly recommend it both for the story and because she’s a fine writer.

Katy’s a very direct and strong person which are qualities I treasure immensely. And Rolf is a PhD. world-class academic in the study of rivers and how they transport mass. Together, they are a powerful couple and their presence and influence in Monroe will be missed. We can only hope that this country regains some of its sense of what’s important and wakes up before we lose all of our best and brightest.

Thus, love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

T.S. Eliot – Little Gidding

My very best to you, good travelers and friends.

One Response to “End of an Era in the Woods Creek Valley”

  1. Katy says:

    Your tribute, Dennis, is humbling. We will miss you and the Woods Creek Valley as well. Thank you for your continuing good work on your own blog — it always helps reframe my own perspective. In Britain, incidentally, there is much more sensitivity to the environmental issues you discuss — definitely more awareness of these, and not the religious zealotry that prevent so much environmental legislation from taking root in everyday lives. I miss a lot about our farm and the environment we created, but I am completely glad to be out of the country for this fresh new perspective where people see the light, not deny it. — Katy