Rogue Redux

It was like college again — which was a very long time ago indeed. Do the right thing and finish "The Great Debate" for my book club the following week, or float the Rogue? My answer too was much the same as 40 years ago — The Rogue, obviously.

A quick read of the New York Times book review would give me the fizz to fake a book discussion — again just like 40 years ago — except this time I also could fool myself by bringing along my Kindle in a dry bag and pretend I would read at night. What, and miss the Milky Way or the constellation Lyra with its commanding blue-white star Vega, or Cynus anchored by the bright Deneb? As it turned out, no way.

Have you ever floated a river? With an honest-to-goodness River Rat? That is, one who is in it for the rambunctiousness of the river, the stunning landscape of live oak and pine, the abundant wildlife from mink to osprey — and of course the well-supplied food cooler. It’s not to be missed. I’m used to hiking where everything is light, meager and strenuous. Seems a great rafting trip is where you weigh more at the end of the float than when you put-in.

We had a nice Aire raft and Sotar inflatable kayak. My buddy the R. Rat handled the raft with a mix of proficiency, aplomb and elegance that comes with 3 plus decades of floating about any stream in the Pacific Northwest that he could put-in. I zipped around in the more-forgiving kayak. After one run when my handling around some rocks seemed particularly natty, a surprise lateral wave spilled me: a message direct from Ma Nature that I should have lost the hubris and gained some proper humility over these last 40 years.

Few places in our country can you be on a river wondering if the bear ambling along the bench will wander into camp while your buddy’s cooking, and then be at work the next day in a city with rapid growth as its biggest challenge.

We are at a special time in the Pacific Northwest, and it calls on us to reach for the extraordinary to ensure we keep our place what it is, and that it has room for all of us — not just those in cutting-edge industries along the I-5 corridor.

I did make it to the book club meeting but I didn’t even try to fake it with a book review — so that’s one difference in 40 years. Everyone there agreed that I made the right choice on the float trip too. No question.

The conversation per usual was good-natured, broad-ranging and very thoughtful. One of the attendees compared Forterra to the polar views of Paine and Burke explored in The Great Debate. On the one hand, our vision for a sustainable, equitable and resilient Pacific Northwest embraces big goals rigorously grounded on foundational principles that hearken to Paine’s prescription for political action. On the other, the carefully crafted, deliberately inclusive strategies we use to attain our goals — along with our deep commitment to listen and bring all views into our work — is much a Burkian approach. I was honored by the comparison and very impressed at his ability to join Forterra to these seminal political thinkers… kind of made me wish I had read the book.

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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