It’s All About the Fog

This piece was the honorable mention winner in the 2013-2014 Far Western Region Blog Contest.

lbeckerby Leah Becker
Vice President, Alpha Upsilon Epsilon chapter
University of Portland, Portland, OR

Northwest literature is all about fog. Yes, there is much more to Northwest literature than the weather, but what it really comes down to is fog. You see there is no other fog like Northwest fog. It’s not like the fog in New York City that tumbles in like ocean waves and swarms around buildings and into alleyways. It’s not like the yellow fog in T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that rubs its nose against the windowpanes and circles before slumping sleepily on the floor. No, Northwest fog is tall. Northwest fog drips, but at the same time it floats. Northwest fog is tinged blue, giving everything a hue of late dusk or early morning. Northwest fog isn’t a wall and it isn’t a soup: it’s another sky.

fog

Foggy view of Lake Washington in Washington state

The reason why fog is so important in Northwest literature is because a huge part of life in this region revolves around the weather. One of the main reasons it took so long for our forefathers to settle this region of the country was due to the inclement weather. In fact, the weather was more than inclement: it was aggressive, menacing, and threatening. The chaotic downpours of rain, hail, and flurried and watery snow did not allow for the patterned, exacting life of the early Americans. Crops that thrived one year were dead and dormant the next. Houses that withstood winter might crumple in the mudslides of the spring. The land of the Northwest was unpredictable, and thus the region drew a motley crowd of stubborn and crazed settlers from the fringes of “regular” American society.

These settlers—the lumberjacks, determined farmers, pioneer women, and hard-worn children—became the Northwest’s first written authors, following generations of Native American storytellers and oral historians. These original settlers wrote about standing up to the nature of the Northwest, transforming the land in order to build more prosperous lives. While sometimes noted for its beauty, the landscape of this early Northwest region was more often seen as a challenge to overcome.

However, as the proceeding generations learned to listen to the language of the land and live alongside it, the literary depictions of the Northwest region evolved. The hard-worn children of the first settlers learned to accept the region’s “faults” and build their lives around the rain, hail, mud, and ice. As their acceptance of the region grew, so did its value. Thus, nature in current Northwest literature is no longer a driving, antagonistic force, but is instead seen as a daily part of human life that is embraced and utilized for spiritual and meditative experiences.

BeckerBlogPic

Cathedral Park underneath the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, OR

Northwest literature today, however, is often overlooked as being Northwestern, for the stories no longer focus solely on mountains, weather, and forests. Instead, books by Northwest writers, or even books taking place in the Northwest, tell larger stories with heroic characters, fantastic events, and dramatic endings. Nature, it seems, has taken a backseat in such literature, for it is no longer a main character, but rather a member of a large and inconsequential chorus. However, to put region and nature into this box in the background would be wrong, for it is not lying in wait behind more essential plots and characters. No, rather nature and region is overarching in Northwest literature. It is in every scene and within every character, shaping actions, words, thoughts, and motives. In this way Northwest literature mirrors Northwest life, for just as the region becomes a part of those who live here, so it becomes a part of all of the literature it inspires. In the world that is Northwest literature and life, region is the sky, encompassing every aspect of the small corner of the world it “rains” over.  The people and the novels soak up this inspiration and become denizens of a Northwest spirit that lives through them.

Thus, Northwest literature is all about the fog. Fog in the Northwest doesn’t tumble or nose its way into things. Instead it slowly eases down from the sky in wisps and droplets. It falls down into the dips in the tree lines and it encircles and curls around those who walk within it. It is weighty and patient as it carefully and expertly seeps into our lives and into the day. Just like the fog, region is not overt in every Northwest novel or poem that it inspires. In Northwest literature the region seeps into the story in the same determined, yet gentle way the fog seeps into the morning. Both fall from their overarching states and settle among us, however subtly, and in all we do, in all we write, we reflect the region and the fog.

Southwestern Student Leadership Candidate

TU-14-photo-Laszik-Stephanie Stephanie Laszik
Candidate for Southwestern Student Representative, 2014-2015
Graduate Student, Epsilon Omega Chapter, University of Texas at Tyler
Tyler, TX

Positions, other memberships, offices, etc., currently or recently held:

  • Sigma Tau Delta: Epsilon Omega Chapter Member since 2012
  • Publication Committee President 2012-2014
  • Vice-President Fall 2013-2014
  • Other: Phi Alpha Theta 2013
  • Sigma Alpha Pi 2012 (National Engaged Leader Award)
  • Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society 2012 (Secretary, 2013)
  • Spanish Club 2012
  • Significant Practicum Experience: Pixels, Panels, and Prose, Tyler, TX, 2013 (Presenter)
  • Student Research Conference, Tyler, TX, 2013 (Presenter)
  • Phi Alpha Theta 2014 Biennial Convention, Albuquerque, NM, 2014 (Presenter)

Explain why you are running for office and comment on any skills, experience, or personal qualities you possess that would contribute to your performing the following duties: promoting communication among chapters other than your own, producing official publications, assisting your Regent, serving on the Student Leadership Committee. Further comments or ideas are encouraged. Include your region and your first and last name at the top of the page. Please do not include sensitive personal information in your essay. Candidate essays will be displayed publicly before the election. Do not exceed 500 words:

As a seasoned representative of student interests through my contributions to various academic organizations, I would be honored to rise to the occasion and offer my dedication to the interests of my fellow Southwestern Sigma Tau Delta members. With a firm belief in the opportunities and necessity in networking, I will promote communication across the Southwestern region and further develop active participation throughout chapters. I look forward to having the opportunity to represent my chapter and region and assist the Regent and Student Leadership Committee in the following year. The ability to promote the core beliefs and goals of Sigma Tau Delta is important to the continued growth, success, and integrity of the field of English studies.

There is still time to apply for a student leadership position for any region. Simply bring your completed application form to the convention and turn it in at the convention registration desk any time before the Regional Networking meetings on Thursday afternoon.

Eastern Student Leadership Candidate

Courtney Dunn
Candidate for Eastern Student Representative, 2014-2015
Junior, Theta Kappa Chapter, Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, PA

Positions, other memberships, offices, etc., currently or recently held:

Explain why you are running for office and comment on any skills, experience, or personal qualities you possess that would contribute to your performing the following duties: promoting communication among chapters other than your own, producing official publications, assisting your Regent, serving on the Student Leadership Committee. Further comments or ideas are encouraged. Include your region and your first and last name at the top of the page. Please do not include sensitive personal information in your essay. Candidate essays will be displayed publicly before the election. Do not exceed 500 words:

I have decided to run for a student representative position for two specific reasons. The first reason I have decided to run is to gain the professional knowledge that is sure to accompany such a position. The second reason is to meet and connect with new people. Although I am currently involved in many organizations at my university, I recognize the benefits of expanding and meeting new people in new places.

Throughout my college career, I have held numerous student leadership positions pertaining to my Psychology and English majors. I have worked in the Psychology Department at Bloomsburg University for over two semesters. This position provides me with the opportunity to interact with students and faculty on a daily basis. This therefore allows me to gain experience communicating effectively and providing useful information in response to questions and concerns. Along with this job, I am an officer in the Psychology Association in which I assist in planning and facilitating numerous volunteer and group events. I also co-manage and update the Psychology Association Facebook page and therefore am responsible for informing fellow members about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Volunteering has been a passion of mine from the start of my college career, and so I enjoy getting other students involved. I have accumulated over seventy hours of community service during my college career. By getting involved with the community and campus organizations, I have not only learned how to be organized and prepared. I have learned how to care for others and help them reach their goals.

Along with volunteering and providing assistance for campus events, I am a GRE preparation program instructor. In this position, I am responsible for holding preparation classes and instructing students on how to improve their English and writing skills. I am also a writer for “The Voice”, the university newspaper. I have recently received my own column and put a lot of time and research into my articles in order to guarantee the validity of each piece. This position requires meeting deadlines, coming up with new material, and having a clear understanding of the needs and interests of college students. In addition to my articles published each week, I have had a piece published in “Warren”, the university literary journal. I will also be presenting a piece at the 2014 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention.

Over the past few years, I have gained a great amount of new knowledge and skills. I have learned to be organized and prepared for the benefit of a larger group. I have learned to communicate effectively with both students and faculty. I have even had the benefit of being published for a larger audience. By running for a student representative position, I am simply hoping for the opportunity to put these skills and this knowledge to use. By doing so, I hope to gain new experiences for myself as well as the people I am privileged to work with.

There is still time to apply for a student leadership position for any region. Simply bring your completed application form to the convention and turn it in at the convention registration desk any time before the Regional Networking meetings on Thursday afternoon.