By Ashley Lodato
Paul Herget is a retired carpenter who lives in the valley, and who occasionally sells homemade birdhouses at the farmers market in the spring. In the wake of the fires, Paul, who spends a lot of time out in the woods observing wildlife, got to thinking about birds, and lost habitat, and about what he could do to mitigate the situation. His solution was to make 55 birdhouses to give away, which were distributed to guests at the Methow Conservancy’s Cider Squeeze last week. The birds’ habitat will have to be restored at nature’s pace, but Paul’s birdhouses will at least give them a jump-start on nesting next spring.
More thinking about flora and fauna was done last week, when the entire fifth-grade class at Methow Valley Elementary School spent three days at the North Cascades Institute (NCI) on Diablo Lake at NCI’s “Mountain School.” Fifty-one students, their two teachers, and seven parent chaperones spent the days engaged in field studies that allowed them to explore a slice of the Skagit watershed, learn some area geology, study the decomposition of organic matter, and think about the role of glaciers, rivers, and streams.
They also learned fun tidbits — some quite useful, others with marginal applicability — such as the fact that sword fern alleviates the pain of stinging nettle and that when you crunch wintergreen LifeSavers at night sparks are visible in your mouth.
Coincidentally, at the same time that the fifth-graders were at NCI, some graduate students at NCI’s Master of Education program spent a day at Red Shed, where the fifth-graders had just done a field trip the week before.
Those of you who attended last year’s Mazama Festival of Books may remember Spokane author Shawn Vestal, who read from his collection of short stories titled Godforsaken Idaho. That book was just selected as the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize winner, which honors an author whose debut work represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.
Godforsaken Idaho is both funny and poignant, as well as a little irreverent and edgy. At the Mazama Festival of Books, Shawn was very humble about his capacity as an author, which makes it even more appropriate that he won the PEN award. Yay, Shawn! We can say, “we knew you when … ”