Twenty years ago, near the end of my father’s life, we had a conversation about Astoria. I said that the town seemed to be changing in ways that were unworthy of it, and he replied that he, too, worried that Astoria was losing its way, though he added that he believed that “for a long time you will still have the river.”
What he said helped, but eventually I had to admit that neither he nor I had fully enough imagined some of the disappointments to come. The massive, cheap boxes along the river, for example — the Holiday Inn Express and the condominiums near Alderbrook — are buildings that in a variety of ways weaken our love for the place we live. Near these buildings we no longer “still have the river.”
Recently my wife and I completed a photographic book about the Nehalem Spit, south of Manzanita, a place that shows signs of abuse. The book is entitled “Tenancy,” a word meaning “the temporary possession of what belongs to another.” Which is to say that we do not own anything, and so do not have the right to sell or facilitate the sale of anything that does not honor the Creator.