Random Bookshelf

Taking a second look


What: Whatcom County Historical Society presents "Local History Books Talks" with Candace Wellman, Todd Warger, and Ellen Clark

When: 7 pm Thu., Jan. 11

Where: Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St.

Cost: Suggested donation is $5

Info: http://www.whatcomhistory.net or www.whatcommuseum.org

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

I knew I’d never get around to reading Karen Ranney’s The Texan Duke, but that didn’t stop me from cramming the bodice-ripping romance about an American hunk who inherits a Scottish title into my crowded office bookshelf when the author’s publishers were kind enough to send it to me a couple of months ago.

But with a goal of starting fresh for the New Year, I recently spent some time sorting through the tomes that arrived at the Weekly headquarters in 2017 in order to make room for titles being released in 2018. I jettisoned most of the cheesy romances (sorry, Karen!) and a few self-help snoozers, but ended up taking a second look at what was still there and holding on to about as many books as I got rid of.

Among them was Tore Ofteness’ A Higher Perspective: Aerial Photography of the Pacific Northwest, which was released at the beginning of December by Chuckanut Editions, the Village Books publishing imprint responsible for locally focused reads such as Nooksack Wanderings, Murder in the Fourth Corner, Geology of the San Juan Islands, and Haunted Fairhaven.

Although I’ve been seeing Ofteness’ stunning aerial shots of the area since I moved to Bellingham 20 years ago, I wasn’t aware the seasoned photographer grew up in rural Norway and later served as an airplane and helicopter mechanic in the United States Army—which is where he says he became “intrigued by the view from a couple of thousand feet above the earth” and soon started taking photos from a helicopter with a “very cheap” Brownie 127.

The images in A Higher Perspective were culled from 30 years of high-flying photo shoots taken with a succession of cameras from both airplanes and helicopters, and give landlubbers a chance to see a whole lot of what they’re missing. Among the indelible images are a jaw-dropping panoramic shot of Mt. Shuksan with the North Cascades stretching majestically behind it that was taken at 100 miles per hour, a series of full-moon stunners, a potato harvest in Lynden, swaths of colorful spring tulips in the Skagit Valley, Bellingham Bay with the city and masses of frosty mountains behind it, the crater of Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier, and so much more.

By the time I rediscovered Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis, it was too late to give the pot-focused primer compiled by Nicole Graf, Micah Sherman, David Stein, and Liz Crain away as a stuffing stocker to my favorite stoner. But truth be told, I’ve been waiting for the day—hopefully soon—when Washington state makes it legal for citizens to grow a few plants for personal consumption. In the meantime, it won’t hurt to read up on the best ways to do so. As an avid gardener, I was pleased to see the book covers ground on everything from conceptualizing your ganja grow room to procuring the right equipment and soil mixtures, choosing plants, canopy management, flowering growth, harvesting, consuming and even cooking with cannabis.

I also appreciated the authors’ take on why they had published Grow Your Own. In the introduction, the group writes about a “pioneer ethos” they’re trying to hold on to in the age of legalized weed. Rather than focus on the money that can be made by “deep-pocketed investors,” they say they want to encourage an approach that’s smaller and closer to the soil.

“But it goes beyond cultivation,” they write. “We feel strongly that a deeper understanding of what cannabis is, what it can do for you, and the various ways to enjoy it are just as important as lighting, airflow and soil science. Our hope is that this book will serve as a valuable resource even if you’re buying your bud from the neighborhood shop.”

Another manuscript that was saved from the slush pile was local author Candace Wellman’s Peace Weavers: Uniting the Salish Coast Through Cross-Cultural Marriages. Published by WSU Press last year, the long-researched biographies profile four Coast and Interior Salish women whose arranged marriages to pioneer men in the mid-1800s helped spare our corner of the Puget Sound from a number of potentially tragic conflicts.

In the course of compiling research about Nellie, Caroline, Mary and Clara—the resilient and clever women who acted as cultural interpreters and mediators and thus became what Wellman called “peace weavers”—the historian learned to overcome her own assumptions about her subject matter. She digs deep into their pasts, and brought humanity to history.

She also points out that historians and novelists have long been quick to cement the myth of the 19th century pioneer women—from courageous widows to plucky mail-order brides and saintly schoolmarms—but not their Native American counterparts.

“Not memorialized were the young indigenous women who lived where forts were built and settlers staked claims that displaced native communities,” Wellman writes. “High-born Native daughters sometimes wed army officers, merchants and local officials whom the families considered of equal social status. The women played their own roles on a frontier that was cultural, not geographic.”

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