Getting to the core of climate change with creative writing

Paul Lask measuring Doug Fir This summer I spent a week collecting tree and plant data in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon for a collaborative study that included Portland State University, the Nature Conservancy, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Our crew leader was Laura Platt, a PSU geography graduate student studying under Institute for Sustainable Solutions Faculty Fellow Andres Holz, who runs Portland State’s Global Environmental Change Lab. Holz’s work has focused on the relationships between climate change, humans, and fire. The on-the-ground samples we were acquiring were part of a year-long project to understand how these forest worked before we began changing them.

The experience resulted in a story, Coring the Forest, which appears this month in Cascadia Magazine.  

Here's an excerpt:

Sometimes the rings were well-spaced helixes, and at other times scrunched into almost indiscernible swirls. Good samples were bagged and tagged, placed into perforated plastic straws marked with masking tape. Getting a good sample in this mixed, moist conifer forest at roughly 5,000 feet could take numerous pokes due to the abundance of rot.

The shaft sank deeper as I turned the handle. The sound was something like a rooster being strangled. It needed to go deep enough to reach the pith, the central dot the rings grew around. “Getting pith” was striking gold. It meant one got to stand up and announce the next number in the sequence, like calling bingo.

The moment of truth had come. 

Read the full story in Cascadia Magazine

Paul Lask is a writer, adjunct instructor in English, and an ISS Faculty Fellow.