Oregon memoirist and novelist Craig Lesley packed the children’s room at Cannon Beach Library last Saturday afternoon as he presented a stellar Northwest Authors Series reading from “autobiographical” writings set mostly in Oregon and based on his experience with working Oregonians: Indians, cowboys, small-business people, secretaries and family members.
Lesley began with a description of the gathering of native people on Sunday, March 10, 1957 to witness the drowning of Celilo Falls and creation of Lake Celilo behind The Dalles Dam. For 15,000 years, Celilo Falls had been the most important Native American fishing and trading site on the continent. It’s now been underwater more than 62 years.
Three months before my 10th birthday, the Columbia River began rising and quickly covered this traditional fishing site. I still remember asking my dad if we could drive up the old Columbia River Highway to watch the falls disappear. This falls always had fascinated me when traveling to Hammett, Idaho, to visit my grandparents.
Having plans for both of us to spend the day preparing raspberry and boysenberry vines for spring growth, my father dismissed my request quickly, The image of Indians leaning over basalt cliffs and netting 40-pound Chinook high above the rushing river provided me an image that still ties me to Oregon,
Unlike other omnipresent Oregon icons - Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge, Haystack Rock, the Columbia bar or Multnomah Falls - a drowned Celilo Falls is a possible memory only for those born before the 1950s who are reminded by the careful words of a Craig Lesley. I also have the advantage of walking several times a day by Mollie Wight’s plein air painting of Native Americans fishing at Celilo Falls in the early 20th Century.
As Lesley described the 1957 drowning of Celilo Falls and the reactions of Native Americans witnessing this loss, he coaxed tears from me as he showed the harm the Corps of Engineers caused while believing the agency was doing good and doing so efficiently.
He then finished his reading with a laugh-out-loud description of his childhood fear of contracting leprosy. Lesley has narrative range and a wonderful gift for humor.
The Northwest Authors Series is on a roll. Novelist Stephen Holgate read from his thrillers in October, keeping his audience both amused and engaged.
These past two authors have made these reading must-attend events. And there’s more to come.
Last year, the Northwest Authors Series sponsored a “Writers Read Celebration” that attracted writings about “Life on the North Coast,” with authors of selected works reading their writings on that theme at the library. That event went so well that the Northwest Authors Series decided to try this again, using a slightly broader theme.
This year, north coast authors are asked to submit writings on the theme of “Views from the North Coast.” This is an opportunity for local writers to address their relationship to the north coast: What is your vision of the coast? What draws you here? How do you feel connected to what you see here?
Anyone can participate and submit an entry. Entries may take the form of essays, stories or poems. Writers are limited to no more than three entries, of no more than 600 words each.
Deadline for submission is Jan. 17, 2010. Entries can be emailed to info@cannonbeachlibrary, or mailed to the Cannon Beach Library, P.O. Box 486, Cannon Beach, Oregon 97110.
Submissions should be anonymous. Include a cover letter with the writer’s name, email and telephone number. Do not, however, put your name or contact information on the entry itself.
A panel of judges will select nine or 10 entries, which authors will read at the library on Feb. 28, 2020.
Cannon Beach Reads will meet at the library on Nov. 20 from 7-8:30 p.m. to discuss “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. Bob Lundy will lead the discussion. Anyone may participate in this free event, and enjoy the discussions and sample the refreshments.
Penny Rice will lead a Cannon Beach Reads discussion of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo,’” on Dec. 18 from 7-8:30 p.m. Again, anyone may participate in this free event and sample the refreshments.
Every year, the library sponsors its Holiday Tea to thank members of the Cannon Beach and Arch Cape communities for the support of residents, businesses and visitors - and to sweeten the opening of the holiday season.
This year, the Holiday Tea is scheduled for Dec. 7 from 1-4 p.m. Volunteers will serve exquisite homemade cookies, candies, sweets, nuts, hot cider and tea. Decorated for the season, the library offers a warm location to meet with friends, new and old, until the Cannon Beach Lamp Lighting ceremony begins across Hemlock Street at 4 p.m. in Sandpiper Square.
A drawing for a handmade quilt, donated by Karen French, will take place during the Holiday Tea, too. Remember to buy drawing tickets ($1 each, six for $5) at the library from now until the tea. The holder of the winning ticket need not be present at the drawing to win; the quilt will be mailed to the winner.
Finally, for volunteers to serve homemade holiday treats at the Holiday Tea, library members, volunteers and patrons must prepare their favorite recipes, as they do every year. Those planning to bake or help serve sweets should drop by the library, or call 503-436-1391, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.