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Wilderness, Ecology, Community


“Wherever you are and wherever you live, what’s most important in your life in some ways connects to questions of landscape and weather and air, to relation of inner and outer worlds, imagination and fact.”                                                                                                                                         —Gary Snyder

Robinson Jeffers initiated an earlier era of ecological awareness in “the fate going on outside our fate.” That perceived gap between human existence and other species has narrowed. In our era, global warming and mass extinction impinge upon Jeffers’s duality: nothing is “outside”; rather, we are immersed in an intimacy shared by all life-forms.

Though our world today “seems increasingly focused on the needs of humans” as Melissa Kwasny said recently as visiting writer to Eastern Oregon University’s low residency MFA, “the struggle to widen the world to one where we exist in relation to other forms of life seems crucial.” EOU’s one-of-its-kind Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program within the low residency MFA seeks to empower students to explore those crucial relations in a connected world.

The EOU Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program connects students to the Pacific Northwest’s rich tradition of writers and thinkers with a deep and abiding connection to the land—Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, William Kittredge, Norman Maclean, Kim Barnes, Barry Lopez, Kathleen Dean Moore, Robert Michael Pyle, Renée E. D’Aoust, Robert Wrigley, and Ana Maria Spagna, to name only a few who are familiar to us today.

Like those in generations before them, students in the EOU Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program are drawn to the diverse geographies and manifold life-forms of the Pacific Northwest. Cautioned by the “slow violence” of the region’s history, they too join their voices to the long and ongoing conversation with the landscape and its many peoples.

Situated among some of Oregon’s most remote, undeveloped areas, EOU lies in a valley surrounded by the Wallowa, Elkhorn, and Blue Mountain ranges. The Eagle Cap, Hell’s Canyon, North Fork Umatilla, North Fork John Day, Monument Rock, Strawberry Mountain, and Wenaha-Tucannon Wildernesses all are located nearby.

In cooperation with EOU’s Outdoor Program and our partners at Fishtrap, writing residencies and wilderness retreats, will include visits and guest lectures by scientists, biologists, native plants specialists, staff from the Greater Hell’s Canyon Council, Signal Fire, Tamastlisk Institute of the Confederated tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Wallowology, and other local individuals and organizations.