A creative force for our planet: Ursula K Le Guin

Credit: OSU, Marian Wood Kolisch

The news of Oregon writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing traveled swiftly through our office today. A few moments earlier, a crow had roosted on our fire escape, with yearning eyes and an unusually friendly stance that caught our attention.

Two separate instances but in a strange way connected.

You see, Ursula’s name is familiar to all of us here at the office. Regardless of our backgrounds and our work to protect Oregon’s treasured water, air and land.

If you’ve visited us, you know. Feet from our water cooler, hanging on the wall, rests a signed copy of a poem Ursula shared with us as a generous token. It’s from her collection of poetry, “Finding My Elegy New & Selected Poems.”

As an internationally acclaimed writer who wasn’t afraid to tackle important issues such as climate change, her writing sparked ecological awareness in a powerful way. And as this poem shows, simple places such as a coast range highway can represent so much more.

The poem is a special piece that stands quietly amidst our daily work to protect Oregon’s water, air and land. A creative connector into the why we do what we do.

We thought we’d share it with you:

Coast Range Highway, November
Ursula Le Guin

Sky gloom and gleam.
Road rain-glaze glare.
Infinite light glitters
in fern-fronds, fir-needles,
flashes from great gold maples.

~

The local crow
patrols the road.
The local crow
knows.
And discloses,
reports, remarks,
speaks freely.
Though no doubt keeping
certain dark
secrets.

~

As the old oaks
are swift and shy
in their delicate flower,
so the reticent nobility
of the bronze oak autumn
lasts only briefly.
But the short-lived, long-leaved,
roadside willows will not
be hurried into gold,
and hold their green intention
to leaf out long before April.

~

The next rain crouches
in the yoke of the hills
dark-grey puma
with a misty tail
lashing the silent
trees of the forest.



Ursula’s writing helped shaped the careers and lives of many. Many of our team members have dedicated their careers to safeguarding a healthy place for our future and find inspiration in her writings, her art of finding harmony with the environment:

“I have admired Ursula K. Le Guin’s work since I was a child and first read The Earthsea Trilogy. Recently, I read The Lathe of Heaven, first published in 1971. This sci-fi novel is set in a post-apocalyptic Portland, and I was startled to see reference to climate change. The novel describes our beloved Mt. Hood without snow due to the greenhouse effect. Her prediction is coming true–our glaciers are, indeed, retreating. Ursula K. Le Guin cared deeply about our environment–she raised awareness through her writings and she supported groups working to protect our planet. We can honor her memory by doing all we can to promote a more equitable, sustainable future.”  —Chris Hagerbaumer

“‘Left Hand of Darkness’ was the book that launched me from high school into college with a wide open imagination for what’s possible. I learned from Le Guin how powerful it is to imagine a different way of being than what we’ve been taught. That lesson has been so important to me in imagining a way forward for our society in which we can thrive in harmony with the environment.” —Jen Coleman


Knowing that our work was backed by a passionate Oregon creative force who wasn’t afraid to speak up about important issues, is inspiring. Thank you, Ursula. Rest well.


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