What they call a micro-lesson, this one about writing from nature, published today: https://hugohouse.org/micro-lesson-writing-from-nature-by-john-farnsworth/
This morning the Seattle Times published an op-ed I wrote: "We've lost nearly 3 billion berds in North America, but you can help the decline."
This morning I submitted comments on a draft environmentl impact statement to restore grizzly bears in North Cascades National Park. The National Park Service proposes to bring the park population up to 200 bears. Interested? You can review the proposal and comment upon it here: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzliesdeis
If you want to read a sample (or see which restoration alternative I prefer, check out the comments I supmitted below.
I write in response to the Draft Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement of January 2017, which I have studied.
During my sabbatical in 2016, I spent time in the North Cascades Ecosystem through the courtesy of the North Cascades Institute, which granted me a residency at the NCI Environmental Learning Center. During that time I became interested in the Grizzly Bear restoration plan, which I have mentioned in my forthcoming book, Nature Beyond Solitude: Notes from the Field, which will be published on March 15, 2020 by Cornell University Press.
After reviewing the various options, I support Alternative D, Expedited Restoration. Grizzly bears are resilient, highly adaptive animals, and they should easily adapt to the proposed population levels over a 25-year period.
A primary reason for my support of Alternative D is its forecast effect on ethnographic resources. As is stated in the draft environmental impact statement, full restoration of the bear population could be achieved within the lifetime of some tribal members. I believe this provides a worthwhile benefit, and I commend those who worked on the DEIS for these considerations.
Today is my wife’s birthday. I shouldn’t tell you how old she is at this point, but I can rightfully brag about the fact that I’ve been in love with her for 44 years.
A year ago today, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. She was with me when we heard the news. It was not a happy birthday.
It’s been a tough year. I retired, we moved away from a state where we’d lived happily for 34 years, and I began a three-phase therapy regimen that was, as best, fatiguing: six weeks of chemo, nine weeks of radiation, and eleven months, so far, of hormone therapy. I also had a book published, contracted for a second book with the same publisher, and, as of last week, finished that manuscript. By “finished,” I mean that it was submitted, peer reviewed, revised, edited, and copy edited, all by June 6th. It’s currently being composited, and will be released on March 15th.
Exhausting. If a reviewer claims that “Farnsworth must have been dizzy or nauseous the entire time he worked on this book,” I will be hard-pressed not to deny it.
Tonight, we will go out to our favorite Seattle restaurant, a boathouse near where we moor our sailboat. Today, I want the world to know how much I love this woman. My prognosis, which they tell me is excellent, is all the better because of a helpmate who has been going through this process with me. She literally held my hand during the biopsies, was there when we discussed treatment options with half a dozen physicians, mixed her tears with mine when we fretted about an uncertain future together.
Cancer patients, and their caregivers, learn to celebrate small victories. Tonight, my love, let’s just celebrate that this year’s birthday is turning out better than last year’s.
Reblogging today's post from the Seattle Audubon Society, where I've recently joined the board of directors.
Reblogging today's post from Sage House News:
Two bills were just introduced into the Washington State legislature that would permit the use of a neurotoxin to kill burrowing shrimp in areas where oysters are being grown commercially. This insecticide, imidacloprid, was not developed for marine use, and the overwhelming consensus of studies conducted both by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is that spraying this insecticide in the marine environment is too risky. In addition to killing burrowing shrimp, it kills crabs, zooplankton, and free-swimming crustaceans. It’s nasty stuff.
The new bills are an attempt to circumvent the State Environmental Policy Act, by basically stating that environmental impact assessments can not be conducted regarding the application of imidacloprid. The bill’s sponsors want the legislature to ignore an 885-page report that details the harmful impacts of this neurotoxin on the environment.
The answer is simple, according to the legistlation’s primary sponsor, Senator Dean Takko. He insists that negative scientific findings are the result of “agenda-driven environmentalists.”
Are environmentalists truly agenda-driven? Well, allow me to become the first environmentalist in Washington to cop to having an agenda. It’s no secret: my agenda is the preservation of the biosphere. This includes preserving the benthic community that Senator Takko is trying to poison.
I encourage my fellow agenda-driven environmentalists to speak out against Senate Bill 5626 and House Bill 1611. Aquaculture has developed effective ways to grow oysters by suspending them off the bottom substrate. Yes, it’s cheaper just to spay neurotoxins indiscriminately, but I don’t mind paying a bit more for oysters that have been grown in a manner that protects the underwater community. For now, my agenda has expanded to include helping the Washington State legislature to learn to respect the State Environmental Policy Act.
I’m back, but then so is commercial whaling.
Apologies for my absence from this blog. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in June, and went through an intensive regimen of radiation therapy through early December. November was particularly difficult: while I patronized the radiation oncology clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance five-days-per-week for a second month straight, Book #1 was being released and Book #2 was going through revisions and contract negotiations. I learned that it can be hard to focus on books when a linear accelerator is focusing on you.
As if cancer isn’t enough of a mind-blowing experience, the particular sequence of my diagnosis made it seem unreal. On June 11th I received a letter from the university president containing the welcome news that I was being granted the emeritus status my department had recommended me for. On June 12th, my wife’s birthday, we received the diagnosis. Commencement was on the 15th, and we began to clear out our dormitory apartment on the 16th, a process that involved donating 27 cartons of books to the university library. It some point during it all, we had to move a 46’ sailboat 900 miles to the north.
Since our arrival in Seattle in July, I would prefer to describe the ordeal merely as “onerous.” But herein lies the problem: I haven’t yet landed on a metaphor that accurately captures my experience of cancer. “Ordeal,” employed above, seems a bit melodramatic. My lived experience doesn’t justify the use of the term. Other than for a few moments of sharp pain, I haven’t really been in agony. I haven’t felt tormented, and it hasn’t been torturous, largely because of the genuinely passionate care extended to me by clinicians. There’s been a lot of fatigue, but this has been dealt with via frequent naps. Does one usually take naps during an ordeal?
Pugilistic and militaristic metaphors, similarly, fail to capture my experience with cancer. Family members have encouraged me to “kick cancer’s ass,” and while I appreciate the sentiment, I’ve never really been much of an ass-kicker. I’ve cultivated pacifist leanings long enough to cringe at the thought of engaging in a crusade or a battle. Out of earshot, my wife tells family and friends that I’ve been a trooper, but this comes from a woman who employs terms of endearment that many of my associates would find questionable. Let’s leave it at that.
Some clinicians refer to the cancer experience as a journey, but I find this equally cringeworthy. I indeed sometimes visualize my life as a journey, but at best cancer is an interruption of that journey. My metaphorical journeys are about places I want to go and goals I want to accomplish, and cancer isn’t one of those places. My education has been a lifelong journey, and book authorship has been a notable destination; cancer is a freaking nuisance, albeit one that can kill you.
I’ve been subjected to a gamut of inadequate metaphors: marathon; roller-coaster; struggle; quest; character test; crusade; disability, job. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs, and it’s been intense, especially from an emotional standpoint. It’s also been a tedious, frustrating, rewarding, nauseating, stimulating, confusing, fulfilling, love-filled and yet hard-to-describe process. Got a metaphor for that? Throw in hot flashes and some diarrhea and you’re just about there.
Here’s the good news: my prognosis at this point is excellent. Having completed radiation therapy, I’ve got a greater-than-90% chance of surviving more than 15 years. That’s pretty much the best odds that I can be given for something that’s considered a life-long disease. I’ll continue with hormone therapy for at least another 18 months, but at this point that’s mostly about making sure the cancer never returns. I’m down for that, whatever the metaphor.
Like I said, I’m back.
It’s been less than a month now since I was diagnosed with cancer, but it wasn’t until today that the diagnosis became technical. As of this morning I officially have stage T2C prostate cancer, which means that the cancer has spread throughout my prostate, but it hasn’t yet spread beyond the prostate. I’m told that I have greater than a 90% chance of surviving for more than 15 years, given the therapy we opted for today, which sounds like pretty good odds at this point in my life.
So here I am, outing my Cancer. Beginning next week, Carol and I will be wearing cancer awareness bracelets designed by Good Hope, an organization founded by cancer victims that raises funds for cancer research. The color for prostate cancer bracelets is light blue, and it’s a color that Carol has alway thought looks good on me.
I ask forgiveness for keeping this situation secret up until now. The symptoms became apparent right around the time of my last lecture and my amazing retirement party as were were approaching commencement and other end-of-year celebrations in academe. Commencement has always been an emotional time for me—too many goodbyes to too many great kids—and my retirement festivities had already been befogged by the passing of my mother-in-law. I didn’t want the uncertainties about my diagnosis and treatment options to mar the various celebrations.
Life goes on. Our sailboat is in the process of being recommissioned in Seattle, and our powerboat is ready for the opening of crab season this Saturday up in the San Juan Islands. Construction on the new writer’s shack is right on schedule, and last week I was able to proof the galleys on the new book, due out in a few months. Things will probably slow down this fall when I go through radiation therapy, which will probably be administered five days a week for the better part of the fall quarter. I’m hoping to catch up on my reading, finally.
Please know that I'm in good hands: the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is one of the top treatment facilities in the country. My doctors are great, and they know what to do.
Prayers are always appreciated. A niece has already lit incense for me in her temple, the best man from our wedding has performed Reiki for me, a dear cruising buddy has been wearing a bracelet for me, and candles have been lit. Mom is sending her constant vibes. I embrace it all, and appreciate every gesture that propels creation toward good health.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature