30th Wenas Audubon Campout Speech

The 30th Anniversary of Wenas Audubon Campout 1963-1993
By Hazel Wolf

It does not seem like 30 years ago when Beatrice Buzzetti, Ruth Anderson and Ruth Boyle and I happened upon this Boise Cascade Corporation campground, set aside for their employees. We persuaded Seattle Audubon to hold a field trip here on that first of the Memorial Day Audubon campouts. I recall that the Portland Audubon birders joined us on the second year. At the time there were only two National Audubon chapters in the state. Tahoma and the North Cascades. Consequently, the attendance was small, although I think we clocked up some 90 species.

However, with the increase of chapters, more people came to this beautiful place from the new chapters to add their eyes to observing the birds, and later to begin listing wild flowers.

Boise Cascades was very supportive in those early days. They declared the area as a wildlife refuge, rerouted their logging road that ran through the campground, over to the other side of the creek. They built corrals off the campground for horses, removed the cattle that roamed the area, furnished firewood for our campfires, forbid motorcycles using the area as a speedway, and many other services. On our 10th anniversary we presented them with an engraved plaque in recognition of their support. Later we lost the close connection and things more or less ran down. Picnic tables were not replaced, some of the pit toilets were on shaky ground, and the ban against motorcycles was not enforced.

Meanwhile, Earl Larrison, of the Idaho University at Moscow, who played a major part in keeping our annual get-together going, published a booklet in 1986 entitled, “The Natural History of the Wenas, Washington Area”, listing the 239 birds and 329 plants observed as of that date. He donated his publication to Seattle Audubon who published it. This book is always on sale at the Book Tent.

Earl died a few years ago, and we miss him very, very much. We have named our large headquarters tree, The Larrison Tree, in his honor, so that his spirit is always with us on the Memorial Day campouts.

Since the first campout in 1963, we have seen very young children, coming with their parents, become adults. Other youngsters, such as Nicholas Noe, have been here almost since birth. Nicholas was an infant-in-arms during his first trip. And here he is, a young man of thirteen, armed with binoculars, watching for birds at Wenas.

My talk tonight is more or less personal. It has to do with great women in my life. I usually give this talk to an audience of women and do a considerable badmouthing of men, to their great delight (to the delight of women, not men). However, although women are my favorite people, indeed, some of my best friends are men. Not that I want my sister to marry one of them.

Seriously, I do think women are better people in general. In may be innate, or it may be they are brought up to be caring and peaceful. In any event, it is largely women who have influenced me. I am not thinking of great women like Florence Nightingale, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Borgia or Rachael Carson. I want to tell you of little great women in my life who have influenced my thinking, believing this might have some relevance that would be helpful to you.

Because of having lived more than ninety years, it seems reasonable that I should be able to say something that would help you solve most, if not all, of your personal problems. The trouble with this is that no doubt many of my own mistakes are looming ahead of me, and I am still trying to repair the damage of those that lie behind.

So, I have had to give up this approach and, instead, I will turn to these great women. After all something must have made it possible for me to have survived to my ninth (or is it tenth) decade with a feeling of security and with my sense of humor all in one piece.

Of course, some persons must have affected me adversely, but I hold them in the contempt they deserve by having forgotten what they did or even who they were.

So, I’ll get on with recalling some who really did influence me as a child and as a young woman. I will start at the beginning, with the day I was born, which was in March of 1898, in Victoria, B.C during the reign of Queen Victoria. I think maybe Thomas Jefferson was president, but I didn’t look it up. Those were the days of no automobiles, no electric lights, no drip-dry clothes, no sliced bread, no split atoms (or split infinitives) and no one ever heard of cholesterol or vitamins. And, of course, disposable diapers or ozone depletion.

Maybe, as Charles Dickins said, “It was the best of times, and the worst of times.” Morals were different too. Shakespeare said about women, in King Lear, “Her voice was low and sweet, an excellent thing in women.” Which freely translated meant “keep your big mouth shut”. And Kipling said, “A woman in only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke”. He couldn’t get away with that one now. In those days it was deemed correct for women to flutter their eyelashes and have very small feet, unless, of course, there were factory or field workers.

Well, to get back to the day of my birth. My mother was the first woman to influence me, of course. Because of the early death of my father, she was left with three children to support. She had little education and she worked hard in factories or wherever she could eke out a living. She was a great woman who found time and was never too tired to play games with us after dinner. I never knew until many years later that we were extremely poor. There was not TV to show me otherwise. I suppose I thought everybody had the same lifestyle as I had. In any event, because of my mother, I felt secure and loved.

Another woman influenced me in a substantial way. I have forgotten her name, nor do I remember what she looked like. We were picking blackberries together when a monster of a spider appeared on the bush. I drew back and said, “Ugh, look at that ugly spider.” She replied very reasonably, “Now, I wouldn’t say that because among spiders he might be considered a most handsome fellow.” I took another look with an instant liking and feeling of respect for this beautiful creature, which endures to this day, and has extended to all creatures, both great and small, including rats. Although they have stringy tails, unlike most rodents such as squirrels, they do have cute ears. Haven’t you noticed?

Then there was the problem of my personal beauty. I was about five years old, maybe six, when I wondered if I were pretty. All little girls get to the point when that begins to seem important. I didn’t know we gathered friendships on how we treat people and not on how we look. Anyway, I settled that question early by way of cousin, Lois. She was fifteen years older than I, and I adored her. One day I asked her, “Am I pretty?” She looked at me appraisingly, then said approvingly, “Hazel, you look very, very intelligent.” That settled it for me. I never wanted to be pretty, just wanted to look intelligent. That’s a load of any little girl’s mind, and it was mine for life. And I know I still look intelligent, even if you don’t think so, because my cousin, Lois, said I did almost 90 years ago.

Such casual incidents often affect one’s thinking for life. I have wondered if I changed the thinking of my granddaughter Ann, when she was about five years old. She grew up in a family and neighborhood of boys. It was along about that time she began to see that she was not altogether accepted by this bunch of young machos. As I was tucking her in bed one night, she said, “I am going to turn into a boy”. Oh, oh, I thought, she has run into it. My reply went something like this, “Please, oh please Ann, don’t turn into a boy. We have nothing but stinky boys in this place; you are our only wonderful little girl. Won’t you promise me not to turn into a boy?” She solemnly promised, and she never did. She may not remember the incident; nevertheless, it very well could have changed her feeling about her worth as a female.

Another woman who influenced me was a Mrs. McAllister. (We didn’t use first names much at that time.) With very little education I started to earn a living at the age of 16 in a law office after a six months business course in shorthand and typewriting (now a lost art). Secretaries didn’t have to have PHD’s to work in a law office in those days. I was paid $25 a month, out of which I paid my mother $15 for board, and made a $5 monthly payment on a bicycle. The rest went for candy, I think. I didn’t need to worry about clothes since I already had a bathing suit. This suit, by the way had elbow-length sleeves, a high neck and a knee-length skirt. Very depressing.

At the end of two years on this first job I still couldn’t spell. I felt incompetent and insecure, and had a pretty low opinion of myself. At this critical time along came Mrs. McAllister. She was a supervisor, a person of importance and highly respected by the large office staff. One she stopped by my desk and said, “I have noticed how cleverly you insert paper into your typewriter – so swiftly and efficiently. You have the makings of a really great secretary. Just keep on building on your natural skill.” What kindly impulse prompted this woman to see my need? Having spoken, she went on her way with probably no idea what her words had done for me. I then realized that I was in a learning process, and armed with the “natural skill” I could, indeed, become a competent secretary.

Another person greatly influenced my general disposition. It was my little daughter, Nydia. Do you ever holler at children? That’s very rude, you know. Well, whenever I did, Nydia would say very softly, “Don’t hodder at me Mother.” My sense of humor always broke through my frustration, as I returned to normal. But the lesson has remained and I try not to “hodder” at people, no matter how they annoy me. I don’t think I would even holler at President Bush if I met him. But don’t count on it.

I now come to Irene Urquhart, an avid birdwatcher and member of Seattle Audubon Society. We used to go hiking and camping together. I marveled at her skill in telling a male from a female blackbird, but sort of left it at that. She kept urging that I join the Society, but I really didn’t want to join that bunch of birdwatchers. However, to get her off my back I finally joined. To make a long story short, I eventually became its secretary, and still am.

And that, too, was because of another and maybe even the last of the great females who influenced my life. She was a little brown. I knew she was female because she looked so intelligent. On my first field trip with Audubon, I was handed a pair of binoculars to look at this little bird, jumping up a tree, eating little things invisible to me as she went. At the first lateral branch she flew down to the foot of the next tree and up again she went. I was told she always went up, never down.

Like a flash I related to this small creature. Why, she worked hard for a living, just as I did.  And she had her own little lifestyle, always up in the tree, never down. I, too, had a little lifestyle: I got up in the morning, went to work, at lunch, back to work, and home again – everyday except Saturday and Sunday. Like the little brown creeper, I would have liked to go away in the winter, but that was not possible in my lifestyle.

Because of the creeper, all birds took on a new dimension. I wanted to protect them and their habitat and ways of surviving. And Audubon was the answer, for me.

But enough of these great women who influenced my life. Where did it all get me? As of now I am involved in the environmental movement largely through my membership in the Audubon Society.

Before I discuss one or two of the issues of this organization, I want to answer a question that has often been asked, and that is: How am I able to go on, year after year, fighting the Establishment for pure water laws, good forest management, to ward off the use of chemicals in our food, and the like, without suffering from burn-out?

I believe the reason is that I leave the city turmoil from time to time to run a river, to take a field trip in the city parks to do some bird-watching or go camping. With all the things to see and observe, there is no room for worries, either personal or otherwise. The mind gets a change of direction and a complete rest.

I return refreshed and ready to go out after a polluting corporation or the Exxon Oil Company, or whatever. Relating to nature’s or other person’s problems outside of one’s self, it is a healing process.  It works a sure cure for burnout. I believe the Compassionate Buddha figured that out some 2,500 years ago.

The early Greeks commented on this need for contact with Mother Earth through the legend of Anaeus, the son of a human father, and Gaia, the earth goddess. Every time his foot touched his Mother Earth, he grew stronger and became invincible. However, the muscular Hercules, learning his secret, defeated him by holding him up high, separating him from his mother. There is a lesson for us in this Greek legend.

We who live in cities lead stressful lives and need to refresh ourselves by touching our mother earth from time to time. It is a healing process to visit a city park or a beach, as you all know.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t live any place else that in a city.  That’s where the action is.

Living all of my life in the Pacific Northwest, it is understandable that I would be influenced by the natural world around me. As a hiker, I spent much time in the forests, particularly wilderness forests.  Before the coming of white settlers, the land was heavily forested. Over the years they have been cut down until we have but a couple of million acres of old growth forests left out of the original 33 million.

There are sound and practical reasons for saving them. These are areas where there are not access roads, and where conifers of many species are hundreds of years old. An old growth forest is an entire ecosystem made up of the soil and its micro-organisms, the trees, birds, plants, fish and wildlife, the streams, insects, mushrooms, and many other elements, all dependent on each other for survival. When a forest is clear-cut the whole system is done away with and cannot be replaced. Like Humpty Dumpty, who could never be put together again even by the King’s horses and all of his men.

These remaining forests are valuable in many respects. They provide opportunities for research, including medical research. As you know, not long ago it was found that the bark and needles of the Yew tree, which grows best in the ancient forests, can be used to help cure certain kinds of cancer.

These forests are also valuable for studying what makes forests grow. The information can be used to cultivate newly planted second-growth trees. We have a lot to learn about this kind of sustainable forest management.

The environmental movement has succeeded in temporarily halting the clear cutting of old growth forests on our state and federal lands. This, although not the only reason, has caused the unemployment of thousands of forest and mill workers and a deep depression threatens the timber dependent communities in which they live. Environmentalists are not insensitive to those human needs and are joining with certain labor leaders to see that relief for workers and communities is provided at both the state and federal level.

If the clearing of old growth is not stopped now, in 15 or 20 years, workers and communities will have to deal with these same problems, except that the old growth trees will be gone forever, and the land will be dotted with abandoned communities.

Things have somewhat changed since President Clinton called for a Forest Conference last April in Portland, to consider some solutions to the dilemma facing the timber industry in the Northwest. The day before the conference, some 75,000 people held a rally in Portland where speakers emphasized the need to save the old growth forests. These people came from all over the Northwest, and their message was clear. Cut no more old growth! Our Jim Piscott and National Audubon Society vice president Brock Evans spoke at the rally, and Peter Berle, NAS president, attend the conference. I really think the President was listening and we have great hopes that his commission will come up with a recommendation that will not only save the forests, but will address the matter of jobs and financial help for the timber dependent communities.

The second priority in my Audubon activities is one we call the “Community Network Committee.” Audubon, like most of the environmental groups, is almost 100% white and middle-class. This is not by design; we are not racist. It lies in our historical roots. Most of us are convinced that if we hope to ward off the various threats to our earth, we are not going to be able to do it alone. We must get help from the larger community, churches, women’s movement, peace groups, and above all from the many ethnic groups that make up our diverse society. The ethnic groups in particular are struggling for more survival, beset as they are by unemployment, deteriorating neighborhoods, homelessness, hungry children, and lack of health care and educational opportunities.

The idea of contacting these groups through their leaders has spread throughout the environmental organizations. It is met by some of our people with apathy and even with resistance in some quarters, but the majority agree that we need to look around for allies.

Some time ago, originating in Seattle Audubon, which is basically an urban chapter, a steering committee has been assembled, with representatives of many ethnic groups, some churches and several environmental groups. We are planning a city-wide conference for next February where we will sort out the issues that we all have in common and can work on together. It is certainly true that we breathe the same polluted air, picnic on the same polluted beaches, and abandon after dark the same city parks because of crime and drugs that make them unsafe for the people in the community, as well as for the Audubon members who would like to listen for owls after sundown.

I am sure there are many other areas of common concern. We in the environmental movement need to broaden our focus which presently is concerned entirely with the natural environment, to include matters that impinge on the human environment. This concurrence will be Audubon’s first step in this direction. It is an idea whose time has come.

A most remarkable awakening is taking place in people all over the world as to the serious threats to life on this planet. It is not confined to the environmental organizations in this country, but is world-wide and spreading. It includes churches, senior citizens groups, labor unions, peace groups, scientific, professional and business groups. It is particularly noticeable among children. These youngsters are picking up litter, teaching their parents to recycle, planting trees and even writing to Congressmen.

I speak to many classrooms through kindergarten, elementary middle and high schools in the Seattle area and have witnessed their interest. Recently, I was invited to address eight grade children in Decatur, Alabama, and there again I found these children just as concerned with environmental issues as the Seattle children. They were recycling, picking up litter and while I was there, they were circulating a petition to stop the building of a chipping mill near the school. Their first concern was that increased traffic presented a hazard to children crossing the street, but their second was that chips came from cutting trees and they wanted to save the trees. They even took their petition and made a presentation to the Decatur City Council. So, from this I am assuming that this developing awareness among children is not confined to the state of Washington and Alabama, but is nationwide.

I learned when attending a world environmental conference held in Nicaragua some years ago, that this growing awareness is global. Seventy nations were represented and they all reported on their thriving environmental movements. Many were led by women.

This leads me to one last point, and that is the emphasis currently placed on the role of women. It is a natural role, raising their caring and nurturing of the family to a global level of caring and nurturing the earth we live on.

Now I am back on the subject of women and I have done this on purpose, so in conclusion I could tell you the true story of creation. As you know, God created man. Then She stood back and looked at him and said, “I know I can do better than that.”

And She did.