Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ouroboros - Ten Years

As if October were not busy enough, I currently find myself in the City of Roses (Portland) for the Land Trust Alliance's 2009 Rally. This was my fourth Rally experience. The first was 2004 in Providence, RI. I certainly was interested in Madison for 2005, but that did not work out. Then in 2006 I attended in Nashville, TN. I then found myself in Denver, CO for 2007. After a polite "pass" for Pittsburgh in 2008 (I had visited the city recently), coming to Portland in 2009 was a no-brainer! At the time, I did not realize the significance of being here at this particular time.

It was right before lunch on Tuesday when I met a familiar face did this all come together. Following my graduation from the University of Washington in 1999, I was looking for a job. My main degree was in Forestry, and I had become involved with the Society of American Foresters. So I thought it would be an excellent idea to come to the Oregon Convention Center for SAF's annual conference.

One fateful morning I arrived early for an organized breakfast. I recall being assigned a mentor, an older gentlemen. Per instruction, I told him about my interests, specifically in forestry and history. Later in the breakfast several of the "elders" were invited to stand up and talk about their mentee. This guy turned out to be a loud mouth, but told the crowd about my interests and he then pointed across the room and mentioned there were two gentlemen who would want to talk with me.

Those gentlemen turned out to be Judson Edeburn, Manager of the Duke Forest at Duke University, and Steve Anderson, director of the Forest History Society (also HQ'ed in Durham, NC). After the breakfast they did descend upon me with rapt fascination. I told them once again my interests. I knew very little about Duke, and could hardly pinpoint where exactly it was located. I did know they had a great basketball program with a coach whose name was hard to pronounce.

Turns out Judd and Steve were talking about finding talent to research and write a book about the history of the Duke Forest, which would be turning 75 in 2006. They talked about the School of the Environment located at Duke and whether I would be interested in pursuing an advanced degree while researching a book.

Naturally this was all overwhelming. They said there would be significant (although not complete) funds for me to come. I returned to Seattle a little stunned. I did take a job with the Chief Seattle Council for the time being, but the wheels were in motion.

So in August of 2000 I cast my lot and headed eastward. It was ten years ago in this convention center that it began. And now in October of 2009 I was headed to grab a lunch when all the sudden there was Steve Anderson. It was his first time attending Rally, the FHS had a booth and he was hoping to get land trusts interested in the archival services they had mastered.

Ten years. What would have happened had I not come to Portland, or gone to that breakfast? I never would have gone to Duke, never would have adopted Winston, and never moved to Charlotte. I am so glad I don't skip breakfast!!!

I am also pleased that the book was published. It was hard to leave Durham without a finished product, but the original thoughts of me staying through a PhD were scrapped early so it was implied that I would go as far I could go. I do recall Judd and I getting through some great oral histories.