Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The North Coast and more about this site

For purposes of initial identification, the California North Coast has Humboldt Bay as its more or less geographical center, with the cities of Eureka and Arcata, on opposite sides of it. Owing to a quirk of the California coastline, Eureka is the westernmost city in the continguous states.

The North Coast by some reckoning extends northward into southern Oregon, and south to at least Cape Mendecino. It extends inland, too, perhaps even into Trinity County. This is really northern California, not the mid-coast San Francisco Bay region, which is what's usually called northern CA.

Most of it is within Humboldt County CA. There are other ways of defining it, in terms of watershed, history, and polity ( there's longstanding discussion about its sometimes tenuous relationship to the rest of California, and its kinship to northwest states, for example in the once-proposed new state of Jefferson). But defining the North Coast is one of this site's explorations.

What You Can Expect on this site...

This project began with a 2004 grant from the North Coast Cultural Trust. One component of this site will be to discuss the North Coast's natural and historical legacy, and lay the basic groundwork for determining what makes the North Coast the North Coast: that is, the beginning of knowledge that a native would learn of what makes this a particular place.

To encourage dialogue, I wanted to keep the posts relatively concise, and suggest questions for discussion. But I've also created a companion site, North Coast Texts, where longer documents and more photographs appear, along with more links, related to the topics on this site.

When something is underlined on this site, it means it's a link. Just click on it and speed through cyberspace to its promised destination, assuming the stars are correctly aligned.

Through interviews, photographs, personal essays, links and comments, this site will try to accomplish several tasks:

To begin discussion on aspects of North Coast identity with basic information on the natural and cultural constituents of this place.

To explore the meaning of "place" and "becoming native" in the context of the North Coast.

To give all this personal perspectives, because we are really discussing the relationship of people-ourselves, right now---to this North Coast place.

These explorations are attempts to find the most relevant elements that shape a shared identity---that define this North Coast place. That identity can then help guide action.

One way into these subjects is through the perspectives and experience of newcomers. I consider myself a newcomer, although I've lived here since 1996. There are a couple of reasons I wanted to begin with this perspective. First, there are a lot of newcomers on the North Coast. People coming here from elsewhere seems to be the main engine of growth, and perhaps of change.

Second, newcomers have a lot of questions, and they see things here in a fresh way. They see things from the perspective of where they've come from, as well as what strikes them most forcefully when they arrive.

So those of us not born on the North Coast come here with experiences from outside that shape our perceptions of where we are now. Our "beginner's mind" prompts questions and observations that long-time residents assume, overlook or have forgotten... but often are pleased to be prompted to remember.

At the same time, the newcomer is likely to be naïve about many aspects of the place. Changes that the newcomer may believe would be of obvious benefit, may not really fit. They would change the very aspects of the place that attracted them to come here. The whole idea of becoming native to a place begins with understanding that it isn't a blank slate. It has character and characteristics that make it what it is. It is a system of systems; an ecology. So we need the knowledge that experts and long-time North Coast residents can provide.

Newcomers and long-time residents will together shape the future of the North Coast. That future may well depend on the knowledge they have of this place, the images they hold of it in common, and the commitment they make to it.

So this corner of cyberspace is dedicated to exploring this notion: becoming native to this North Coast place. I will be writing about my own experiences, which includes relevant reading, and my point of view. That's the "creative non-fiction" approach (which has been defined as "nonfiction with an unabashedly personal and subjective point of view"), but it is also intended to start a dialogue. I'm going to be honest and I hope others will, too.

It's a huge subject, way too much for one person. There is no logical, well-organized way to even enter it. So the idea here is to just get started, go in whatever directions we can, and see what happens.

I think that in addition to
*presenting as concretely and personally as possible, a point of view that might prime the pump of other peoples' observations, recollections and thoughts, and
* in addition to presenting some topic-related interviews,
* I can keep suggesting questions that define the scope of the idea: the many elements of what might go into becoming native to this place.

Anyway that's the idea. So welcome to this North Coast place.

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