It’s time to make a little room in your backpack. Since its publication on March 1st, 2023, Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry has been one of the bestselling books in the bioregion. The 8,000 copies initially printed are finding readers so swiftly that Mountaineers Books has already ordered a reprint.
The idea for this amazing collection was born right here in the Wenatchee Valley five years ago when Wenatchee Valley College English and nature writing professor Derek Sheffield reached out to his coeditor, naturalist and poet Elizabeth Bradfield. Together, they found their way to Native Voices editor and Idaho Writer-in-Residence CMarie Fuhrman. Over the next few years, the three of them spent hundreds of hours over Zoom and email curating and writing this unique collection which combines art, poetry, and stories holding scientific, sensory, and cultural knowledge to celebrate and illuminate Cascadia, the diverse ecoregion stretching from Alaska’s Prince William Sound to Northern California and from the Pacific Coast to the Continental Divide.
Containing 13 communities (from Tidewater Glacier to Shrub-Steppe and Pine Forest) and 128 beings (from Geoduck to Arrowleaf Balsamroot), Cascadia Field Guide offers any reader, local or visitor, a new way of connecting-–with heart and mind and body-–to place.
You can find copies of Cascadia Field Guide locally in Leavenworth at A Book for All Seasons, The Plant Ally, and Leavenworth Nursery and in Winthrop at Trail’s End Bookstore and Cascades Outdoor Store. It is also on the shelves at all REI locations. You can also purchase the book online here at bookshop.org and a portion of their sales supports independent bookstores.
Here’s what a few readers and reviewers have had to say:
- “I really do want everyone to go out and get this field guide because, I can honestly say, I’ve never seen an anthology like it. Its beauty, its plentitude, and its inclusiveness. It’s really startling and wonderful.” ~ Paisley Rekdal, in a conversation with Derek Sheffield and Garrett Hongo for High Country News
- “I have to send a river of gratitude to the three of you, and everyone, for bringing forth such a stunning book…not a book exactly, but a kind of ecosystem disguised as a book, a bioregion in book form, a suite of blessings wrapped into a medicine bundle to bring travelers through our times safely into place.” ~ Kim Stafford, former Oregon Poet Laureate
- “Cascadia Field Guide is a triumph. Connecting art, poetry, and ecology brings our unique ecosystems alive.” ~ Rufus Woods, journalist, community organizer, former publisher of The Wenatchee World
- “Here is a literary field guide that merges fact with art and verse to impart a sense of the bioregion known as Cascadia. Here text flows around images of its inhabitants: Map Lichen, Sword Fern, Tufted Puffin—all capitalized to acknowledge the intrinsic merits of their respective namebearers. Space is made and held not only for contributors and readers, but also for the entities and the worlds they are bound to, live by. Cascadia thus resounds as an assemblage of voices, offering a rich and vital approach to contemplate the Pacific Northwest, varied, expansive, everchanging.” ~ Issac Yuen, Orion Magazine
- “There is so much more about birds and bears, slugs and herbs, and fish, lizards and crabs; all bound together in this ecological masterpiece aiming to meld art and science.” Five-Star Review. ~ San Francisco Book Review
- “I was given this book and thought I would just take a peek to see what it was about. Two hours later my morning was thoroughly disrupted in the most delightful way. Every page is a treasure–every poem, every drawing, every description of plant, animal or place. I never thought I would be fascinated by the description of a slug. This book is a necessary companion for all who love the Pacific Northwest.” ~ John Frohnmayer, Former Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts, from his review on Amazon
We are delighted to be able to share a few pages from the Pine Forest Community, including original art by Xena Lunsford.
You know them by what they leave behind—scat, prints, claw marks. In summer, feces mounds sport seeds of berries, which Black Bear eats by the pound. In fall, tracks left in first snow wander into the woods or drainages where Bear will sleep for up to seven and a half months in caves or dens dug into earth. Come spring, they crawl out, stretch, and scratch the trunk of Aspen and Pine, leaving scent messages for other of their kin.
Born blind in a den during the darkest days of winter and weighing less than a pound, Black Bear will grow to be anywhere from three feet tall on all fours to an average of six feet standing upright. Sows can have up to ten litters of cubs and live as many as thirty years, though most die in their early twenties.
If you look up a tree trunk and see claw marks high above you, that’s most likely the sign left by a cub, whose scramble to safety might have taken her hundreds of yards up a tall Ponderosa Pine. Lean into the trunk, smell the musk, then turn and rub your back to it as Bear does.
People harvest Bear for food, as well as bedding, blankets, robes, and moccasins. Today Black Bear is a ubiquitous marketing symbol in mountain towns all over Cascadia, but nothing beats the thrill of seeing her, this almost Human sized being, ambling on turned-in forepaws, mouth full of moths she might eat by the pawful, and close behind, trundling cubs, which will stay with her this winter too.
Seeing a black bear by the road
I shout, “It’s a bear, it’s a bear,”
and cover my eyes, I think
because I like seeing it so much.
When you come across Ponderosa Pine, make sure to find a sun-warmed fissure in the orange-brown bark and take a good long sniff. Many people smell vanilla; others whiff butterscotch or even cream soda.
This thick, jigsaw-puzzle bark, along with a high crown, helps make Ponderosa Pine one of the most fire-resistant trees in Cascadia. Some trunks still hold sign of fires that burned over five hundred years ago. When standing next to the long-needled Pondo, check for claw marks. The great size of the older ones (the biggest being seven feet in diameter and two hundred feet tall) makes them ideal pillars for Black Bear to use in climbing exercises or as an escape route. They also make fantastic back scratchers. Their awe-inspiring size is what earned them the ponderous part of their name.
These forests tend to be open and welcoming and full of light. Ponderosa flourishes on the dry side of Cascadia, and during drought, they can (amazingly) close their leaf pores to prevent water loss. Because they are adapted to the dry side, they grow best when frequent, low-intensity fires sweep through their understory, burning the small brush and dead branches.
Ponderosa Pine, also known as Western Yellow Pine, is an essential source of high-grade lumber because of the uniform grain of mature trees. You will find Ponderosa Pine in the trim around doors and windows and the structural frames of houses. Indigenous people have over two hundred uses for Ponderosa Pine, including using the sap for chewing gum and the inner bark, or cambium, as a sugar-rich food in early spring. Yellow-pine Chipmunk and other beings make caches of the seeds to eat through winter. However, they don’t use all their stores, and those seeds can become little groves that tend to thrive better than wind-planted seedlings.