Ampersand celebrates people and place in the Pacific Northwest. It explores the scientific and the quirky found in our natural and built environments. It highlights the art, ideas and stories that elevate our region.
Ampersand is dedicated to the curious and the creative, to the thinkers and the doers, and to all those who love this maddeningly beautiful place we call home.
In this 7th issue of Ampersand, you'll find unflinching stories about the challenges our Pacific Northwest is facing; the stories of hope and action that bring us together. Read about Hamilton, a small town in the Skagit Valley that wants to end a cycle of flooding and open up critical Chinook salmon habitat. See how artist Chris Jordan’s use of art and activism is creating a safe public space for his Tacoma community to flourish. Discover a community of female East African entrepreneurs in South King County grappling with the displacement of their businesses and the impact on their economic futures. And find a collection of stories about other passionate, persevering women leading projects to protect lands, wildlife and community all over the state.
The orca mother Tahlequah carried her dead calf for 17 days. People around the world were transfixed. Together, we ached with empathy. My sadness blends into frustration and guilt because the loss of this orca calf has a broader meaning. We are failing a crucial litmus test for the health of our Pacific Northwest.
Color is just coming back into the world with the morning twilight. Quietly, I set out from my camp in the Monashee Mountains of southeastern British Columbia. Crossing a small stream, I find tracks of an animal that had come down to the water. Perhaps having caught wind of my camp, the animal abruptly turned and went the other way. The trail is fresh and the huge, round tracks identify its maker: after years of searching, my first encounter with a mountain caribou is at hand.
Hamilton town center was built in a deep oxbow of the Skagit River. In the early days, the town grew quickly along the riverbank on a robust diet of logging and coal mining. When Skagit County was established in 1883, Hamilton’s economic power and prominence allowed it to vie with Mount Vernon for the county seat.
Booming Seattle is the antithesis of progress for those trying to navigate it while blind. Crammed within a single half-block of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, scores of orange diamonds and white rectangles splay themselves out along curbs, sidewalks and streets, forming a confusing kaleidoscope of a city under construction.
Like many entrepreneurs, they worked multiple jobs, took out loans and saved for years before they could finally realize the dream of being their own boss, presiding over their own shops outfitted in the exact way they imagined. Scarves on this shelf; dresses over there; perfumes over here; or maybe just walls and walls of books. Refugees from Somalia and other East African nations, the women held strong to a desire to run their own businesses. One by one, they eventually succeeded.
It seems like there is no end to the problems humans must solve. There are global challenges: human-driven climate shift, ocean acidification, war, the plights of refugees. The Seattle area also struggles with its own growing list of issues, from a lack of affordable housing, to growing inequality and major traffic woes.
Chris Jordan is a 27-year-old award-winning Tacoma visual artist known for infusing activism into his work. Seeing little recreational space within Bay Terrace, an affordable housing community in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, Jordan partnered with the Tacoma Housing Authority to create Home Court, an illuminated ultra-futuristic basketball court that is one of the most unique art installations and community gathering places in Washington state.
One evening, back when he was in high school, Derek Stinson returned to his Massachusetts home with his parents to encounter his younger brother, Jay, waiting for them at the door. “There’s something in the cupboard,” Jay told them, “and it’s not a rat.” When Derek peered into a cupboard containing the family’s breakfast cereal, a pair of big eyes stared back. They belonged to a southern flying squirrel.
Necessity is the mother of invention. It calls for vision, courage and tenacity. That’s a good thing because it has never been more imperative to find ways to protect Mother Earth and save our little corner of the planet. So we asked activists across our region—women making a big difference—what inspires them to stand up and take action for the places they love.
With this 6th issue of Ampersand, we have stories about what makes this place tick and stories about people working to make sure it never stops. We aim to give voice to all the discordant, harmonious enlivening and disconcerting stories of this place that somehow coalesce to make us the great Pacific Northwest—the great sustainable Pacific Northwest. We're not trying to define the inchoate. We're simply storytellers for that mind-boggling, irreducible mix of nature and people that make this the place we love.
With this 6th issue of Ampersand, we have now collected 72 stories about the people and surrounding landscapes that make this the Pacific Northwest we love. Stories about what makes the place tick and stories about people working to make sure it never stops. I’ve set myself a job to connect the dots between some of the latest of these stories—those appearing in this edition. They’re my connections; you’ll have different ones, but no matter, together they sum to a vibrant resiliency for this place, which is what Forterra is about.
On a warm summer morning, dozens of miles away from civilization out in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Geronimo De La Cruz sits on a tree stump and watches over a flock of sheep. Wind wisps through pine trees, the sun gleams down. De La Cruz spends most of the year in solitude. Following the seasonal grazing schedules of sheep, he travels across vast swaths of land, moving hundreds of the animals throughout Eastern Washington.
What to make of a defiant man who was arrested more than 50 times during his younger years and accused by our state of a crime that he fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court on the principle that it was, in fact, no crime at all? Who battled for much of his life, was cursed at by state and federal officials and reveled in being a living example of civil disobedience—all to make the larger point that cooperation was the key to our survival?
A garden grows in Nihonmachi, just off a Jackson Street alley sandwiched between Kaname Izakaya Restaurant and Tiger Tiger Tattoo. Small, simple and sculpted with a wood deck and a wooden slats fence, it represents the resilience of Seattle’s Japanese and Japanese American community.
Lake Serene sits just south of Mount Index in the Central Cascades range, glistening high above Gold Bar at an elevation of about 2,500 feet. You can access it by hiking a steadily inclining trail through old growth evergreens, abundant fern beds and mossy undergrowth. A serene state of mind is harder to geolocate, but according to recent brain science, a walk in the woods will get you there, too.
Luis and Leona Rodriguez met at Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School. Some 20-plus years later, the couple operates The Station, one of Seattle’s most popular independent coffee shops, in the heart of their longtime neighborhood of Beacon Hill. The baristas—African American, transgender—whip spicy Mexican mochas from behind the counter while Kendrick Lamar or old-school Big Daddy Kane plays on the speakers. Opened in 2010, The Station welcomes people of all backgrounds—the parent with a baby, the campaign organizer, the musician planning the annual Block Party.
During my final year at university, a zoology course introduced me to bird watching. I found birding to be a relaxing pursuit that allowed me to immerse myself in nature’s peace while taking in all of its sights and sounds. My interest in feathered creatures grew over the years as I discovered birdcalls and observed new behaviors and flight patterns. Each bird walk I took was different. Most of all, I enjoyed the meditative quality of being out among the birds.
In 2016, Africatown asked Forterra to help secure keystone land at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street—the epicenter of the neighborhood, and a place fraught with controversy over differing redevelopment plans. Months of negotiations succeeded in an agreement to acquire a portion of the block for affordable housing, neighborhood-based businesses and organizations and space for community gatherings. Now, Africatown and Forterra are teaming up with Capitol Hill Housing, a nonprofit housing developer, on next steps. Hear neighborhood residents’ thoughts on the impending change.
On acid rocks, rooftops and limestone gravestones, lichens are quiet explosions, the elegant blemishes of age and decay. Poets deem them stoic, statements of the liquid passage of time. Scientists call them useful, indicators of clean air. Their growth can be analyzed to approximate the ages of natural masses, like flints and moraines.
We may not agree about all the change that is happening but I'd argue we agree on what we value in Seattle. So here it is in this issue of Ampersand: unique neighborhood locales, the working class, wildlife, artists, affordable housing and beautiful open spaces where we can play and grow things. This is The Urban Issue.
“Urban wildlife,” that’s what scientists call raccoons that are now thriving in our cities. Raccoons are fascinating scientists as they move into our urban areas in record numbers. They stay close to their many dens — usually only traveling in a three-block radius. Raccoon mothers are affectionate and devoted to their kits; females often den together in what is aptly called a nursery.
In the heart of the city, artist-entrepreneur Louie Gong births a first-of-its-kind retail project. As we all know, it’s hard to name what you can’t find at the iconic, bustling, uberly-photogenic Pike Place Market but here you go: Native art made by Native people in a Native-owned store.
Western Washington is a gardener’s paradise. Most of us stick to the predictable assortment of fruits and veggies. But there are some uniquely original outsiders edging in. Some are mossy old timers local tribes have cultivated for centuries; others are fresh-faced newcomers brought here by horticultural pioneers. More recently, immigrants and refugees have been growing a cosmopolitan cornucopia. These are the upstarts,rebels and future favorites of the Pacific Northwest garden.
The assembling, the forging, the hoisting, the pulverizing, the razing — it’s either the glorious roar of prosperity or the vociferous din of a city losing its soul. We may not agree about all the change that is happening but I’d argue we agree on what we value in Seattle.
Bertha went “clunk” and the people involved in building Seattle’s grand but suddenly ill-fated tunnel project began to look at each other. It was considered beyond belief that the “clunk” would come so soon into the actual digging — the result of literally decades of fierce debate and discussion on what to do with an elevated roadway considered a potential disaster waiting to happen at the slightest provocation.
But as Seattle has boomed, that image of Seattle as my forever home has slipped away. I still get nostalgic when I smell the low tide from downtown or take the walk from the ferry to the baseball stadium or sit near the Seattle Center fountain. (I now rent an apartment in the Central Area). But the truth is, I don’t see how I’d ever afford to own a home here.
For six weeks this summer Forterra hosted the University of Washington’s Doris Duke Conservation Scholars who traveled throughout Western Washington, speaking at length with over two dozen millennials. They are twenty-something college students who care about the intersections of social and environmental justice.
A q-and-a about the sport, the lifestyle and favorite places in Seattle for traceurs.
Most days the store feels more like a community center than a grocery store. Like a lot places in the Central Area, it’s a community center that we’re about to lose… The more people I talk to, the more I begin to see the Central Area as an intricate constellation of stories connecting generations of residents and all the hard work they’ve done to stay put and build and thrive. There are lots of bright stars in that constellation, where many stories intersect. The Red Apple, at the corner of South Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue South, is one of them.
A scientific exploration about the season of spring. An essay about rebirth in the Methow. Photos of the charismatic pika. An ode to bees. Gorgeous landscape paintings. And, more.
Spring is a noisy time in the Northwest. Marshes reverberate with the croak of frogs. The woods fill with the twitter of birds. Even the forest floor seems to hum with the white splashes of flowers. After months of long nights and gray days, Nature greets the sun with a shout. Come along for a brief sampling of spring awakenings, both loud and quiet.
If the polar bear ever needed relief as the stricken planet’s most preemptively mourned victim of ecological disaster, the American pika has stood with apparent readiness to accept the nomination. The diminutive, rock-dwelling cousin of the rabbit certainly delivers the cuteness factor writes Glenn Nelson.
A selection of poems about our natural world by students in Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program.
Our third issue is titled Breaking Trail and highlights one of the Pacific Northwest's most defining characteristics: our innovation. In the stories below, you’ll meet a handful of out-of-the-box thinkers and doers steeped in a desire to sustain this region.
An interview with Maya Lin, a map and photos of the Confluence Project, a public art installation spanning 438 miles along the Columbia River.
One scientist thinks solutions to climate change lie in the potential of heat resistant super wheat.
Our third issue is titled Breaking Trail. It’s our spotlight on five people and projects we think are breaking trail to sustain our region. One such idea is an up-and-coming wood product called cross-laminated timber, which makes use of smaller diameter logs and low-quality wood.
Read about how Project Feast, in South King County, uses a food skills program to carvee new paths for refugee women.
In this second issue of Ampersand, you’ll find stories that will provoke, inspire and connect you to some of the issues surrounding this place. Our home is changing, transforming at a pace we never imagined. We need to take a look now so we can decide how to best respond.
Writer Bruce Barcott explores the notion about what it actually means when we regard a place as being “wild.”
Our inaugural issue of Ampersand focuses on stories about people & place that allow you to armchair travel through our Pacific Northwest and see how this place matters—from our wildest lands to our densest communities.
Ampersand Magazine goes from page to stage at the Moore Theatre for Ampersand LIVE! Join us for an engaging evening of storytelling about people and place.
Ampersand LIVE was an incredible evening. From Jehan’s incredulous retelling of the time she ran from lightning towards the jaws of a Grizzly bear, to Paul’s intimate war portraits of iconic creatures threatened by climate change, to Jade’s heartrending dance, to Okanomode’s high notes, to Bill’s recipe for “goo,” there were so many unforgettable and thought-provoking moments—all punctuated by gorgeous harmonies from The Westerlies. It was a night filled with gratitude, amazement, love and hope for our Pacific Northwest.
Bob and Sue Mecklenburg were so moved by our stage show, they wrote about it to their friends and family. Read their words here.
Author & biologist Thor Hanson shares a story in rhyme about Beatrice Beaver
Gabriel Campanario uses his sketchpad to immortalize historic buildings the city has lost to development, to capture moments in time and to learn from the experiences of those he meets along the way. From angry turkeys and goats to kayaks, urban sketching turns even the mundane into an adventure.
Two days after the presidential election showed us how divided we are as a country, more than 700 people came together for an evening of stories, spoken word, photography, parkour and song.
Forterra’s second Ampersand Live showcased a diverse group of storytellers joyfully celebrating what we love about the Pacific Northwest.
For the second year, Forterra is putting on a live edition of its biannual magazine, Ampersand, with “Ampersand Live,” a fast-moving and unrehearsed show of 16 different performances in which locals from all disciplines explore and connect the audience to their relationship with the Pacific Northwest.
An eclectic mix of artists, journalists and activists celebrated people and place at Town Hall in Seattle on Nov 6, 2014. Armchair travel through the Pacific Northwest during two hours of thoughtful, edgy, funny, political, corny, scientific and emotional storytelling at this unrehearsed event.