By Kathy Crabtree | Contributing Writer
The title, This Rough Magic, at Home on the Columbia Slough is immediately intriguing. The book was published in August and is about the preservation and restoration of the Columbia Slough Watershed, a natural swamp containing over 20 miles of channels that flow from Fairview to the Willamette River in Portland. Authors and partners Bruce Campbell and Nancy Henry explain that the title describes how the slough transforms the “roughness” of industry degradation into the “serendipitous magic of the natural world”. The publisher, Aristata, is a woman-owned non-profit organization that was founded in 2020.
Since 2008, Campbell and Henry have lived in Sunderland, just north of North Colombia Blvd. Their log cabin sits on the slough which has provided an opportunity to observe the slough’s capability to withstand the damages caused by the modern world. That was the inspiration to write about its history, the settlements of the indigenous tribes and the arrival of the Euro-Americans to it, as well as the negative environmental impacts on it, in their new book.
The authors traverse the slough via foot, kayak, and bike and pass establishments such as shopping centers, highways, fruit orchards and tent camps. Among the people, buildings, and neighborhoods they encounter, there are also moments of serene beauty. The slough’s tributaries and vast wetlands are home to a myriad of creatures such as bald eagles, river otters and painted turtles, who continue to need the support of humans to survive.
The couple describes Rough Magic as a labor of love; they wrote alternate chapters and edited each other’s work. Campbell’s contribution focuses on restoration; the “re-wild-ing” of the area bordering the Buffalo slough, an arm of the Columbia slough that’s between 8 and 9 miles from its mouth. Rewilding is an unusual term but according to Campbell, it is exactly descriptive of the process needed to restore and preserve nature. Henry’s chapters are devoted to the creative efforts it took to build a life on the slough and restore their log cabin.
As a whole, the book seeks to celebrate the many people and efforts that exist to revitalize and clean up the Columbia slough, and Campbell and Henry also hope to influence others to advocate for it. One such organization is the Columbia Watershed Council, a non-profit founded in 2002 whose mission is to “enhance the gem of the Columbia slough.”
Campbell and Henry hope that Rough Magic will help them make new contacts who value increasing wilderness within city limits and they encourage others to take advantage of the accessibility of the sights and sounds of the slough. For those wanting to learn more about the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC), contact: Heather King, Executive Director at Heather. King@ColumbiaSlough.org, or Amanda Gallegos, Outreach and Event Director at Amanda.Gallegos@ColumbiaSlough. org. To learn more about the slough watershed and how Concordia residents can support environmental restoration projects in their own neighborhood, visit ColumbiaSlough.org.
Kathryn Crabtree is a retired Nursing Educator and author of books that celebrate women of a certain age- invisible to many, who use their deductive reasoning to solve mysteries. The bad guys never see them coming.