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Ursula Le Guin, author and desert lover, dies at 88

On Monday, January 22, 2018, author Ursula LeGuin died at her home in Portland, Oregon.

Le Guin is best known for her widely read and critically acclaimed science fiction novels, including The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea chronicles. In addition to her novels, she was a prolific writer of poetry, short stories, essays, and children’s books.

In Out Here, a book she co-authored with Roger Dorband in 2010, Le Guin shared poems and drawings about Steens Mountain, a landscape she became smitten with after her first visit.

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Badger

Badger

Badgers are generally nocturnal, but, in remote areas with no human encroachment, they are routinely observed foraging during the day. They prefer open areas with grasslands, which can include parklands, farms, and treeless areas with crumbly soil and a supply of rodent prey.

Badgers are born blind, furred, and helpless. Their eyes open at four to six weeks.

Latin name: Taxidea taxus

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Bobcat

Bobcat

Found only in North America, where it is the most common wildcat, the bobcat takes its common name from its stubby, or “bobbed,” tail. The cats range in length from two to four feet and weigh 14 to 29 pounds. Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares, but they will also eat rodents, birds, bats, and even adult deer.

Latin name: Lynx rufus fasciatus

 

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Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Stewardship Fence Building Timelapse

Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin speaking at ONDA's Desert Conference in 2015. Photo: Win Goodbody

Le Guin became a member of ONDA in the 1990s, was a steadfast supporter through the decades, and presented at an event ONDA held celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the designation of the Steens Mountain Wilderness. In this short essay, Concerning a Wilderness, she describes her love of Steens, the connection between ranchers and the landscape in eastern Oregon and her esteem for ONDA, writing, “Nothing in conservation work is ever uncomplicated! But I’m proud of ONDA for working on that conversation, being neighborly, trying to include the human landscape in the natural one as truly part of what is to be honored, protected, and saved.”

In spring 2016, she offered the following reflection to ONDA.

Falling in Love with a Desert
From a little packet of family papers in a footlocker, I just learned that my great-grandfather Johnston homesteaded on the Alvord side of Steens Mountain in the 1870s.
Moving the cattle up from California, my grandmother Phebe then age twelve, rode herd. My dear great-aunt Betsy was born there, near Wild Horse Creek Canyon.
But I didn’t know that, the first time we went out to the Steens country, nearly fifty years ago. All I knew as we drove away after one night in Frenchglen was that I was in love, and all I could think was: I have to come back!
One way or another, we’ve been back many times.
Our general purpose in going is just to be there. A morning drive down the Conter Road – a visit to see the dear old awful trailer I lived in when Ki taught workshops at the Field Station – a picnic at Benson Pond – an afternoon watching a buzzard’s great lazy circles over the rimrock, the clouds boiling up over Steens, the slow change of light as the sun goes west … it’s enough to live on for a year.
Sometimes I can write a poem about it.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, March 2016

You can read the poem “High Desert” and see Le Guin’s drawings from Out Here on her website.