I never thought I’d find it so excruciatingly difficult to leave Oregon, especially southern Oregon’s timber communities. As I drag my feet in my final days before heading north, I want to take time to consider what I learned in these rural towns that dot our state. What do I most hope to impart to others? What inspired me? What made me wince? What made me smile? 

Here are my mosts. There are many more—but these are what came to mind today.

What I MOST hope to change in the rural/urban divide: 
These two arm wrestlers on stage at a town fair capture how I currently feel about the rural and city warring match. Both are strong, fierce competitors, neither willing to let go. It was just about the longest of all the matches. Both are determined to outmuscle the other.

This is what the rural/urban divide feels like to me. IMHO, muscle matches should be a sport, not a way to create healthy, sustainable communities.

Over lunch, a rural friend drew two diagrams for me. First she drew a three-inch horizontal line. Then a vertical line at either end about a quarter inch in. “It used to be,” she said, “that eighty percent of the people held a middle-reasoned view of the world and with only ten percent at either end holding extreme views.” She paused. She likes dramatic pauses.  She then drew two new vertical lines each a half inch in. “I believe” she slowly said, “today the extreme views and vitriolic rhetoric at either end have expanded to twenty percent, shrinking the middle to sixty percent. I fear that the fringes are winning.”

I don’t agree. There are far more of us in the middle than people realize. But . . . and there is a but . . . we must  start to have reasoned conversations. It’s the only way we can thoughtfully address the real issues rather than being enslaved to the media and voices that want to keep us ignorant. To find how to gain more comfort going rural yourself check out my blog post about how to GO RURAL

Last week, I was invited onto “All Things Oregon,” a radio show in Coos Bay. The discussion turned to guns and a mayor in California who is challenging Prop 63 gun regulations. I googled, trying to keep up with the discussion. At the break, the host, Cam Parry and I had a quick exchange. “This is a town in California next to Arizona. The recreational economy includes hunting—it’s a major source of income for the region. The problem: With Prop 63 it’s illegal to purchase ammunition in Arizona, just minutes away. The closest town in California is one and a half hours away. We agree with many of the issues raised and the need for gun regulation. There just needs to be exemptions for rural communities whose economies often depend on hunting.”

This makes sense to me. Instead of shouting matches, and violent rhetoric, I want to believe that we have the capacity to understand that different regions need different laws. 

I want to have reasoned thinking classes for all the politicians, extremist thinkers, and folks who still believe that the news is telling the objective truth. 

Now for a bit of good news.

My MOST favorite story of tribal reclamation:

As you’ll read in Good News From Tribal Country, prior to this trip, I’d never heard of the The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. What they’ve accomplished in less than 40 years is beyond remarkable.

As towns began to fracture with the decline of the timber industry, the tribe set it’s sites on reclamation—of land, of industry and of economy. It fought. It won. Today it is not only the second largest employer in Douglas County, it’s also has a foundation that is recognized for the far reaching philanthropic contributions.

If you don’t know about the Cow Creek Tribal Nation, you must! It gives me such hope for the future of our country!

My MOST favorite organization creating a community of inclusion:

I have only scratched the surface uncovering the amazingly driven organizations in this region. I long to find out more. This might change, but these folks have set a high bar, a very high bar! Check out my other posts about Talent Maker City 

What I learned from them is just how simple inclusion is. As Ryan Wilcoxson, the executive director makes clear, there is nothing special about this table, it is just the way life should be.

But sadly, life is not. So many  communities are hidden from view, others are struggling to survive.

This next one was gleeful, moving and inspiring. 

The parade that MOST surprised everyone.

Hands down the Pride Parade in Roseburg demonstrated to everyone that rural attitudes have shifted, big time!

No one, even the organizers, expected the number of people who came. As the crowds gathered, I asked if I could jump in the bed of a huge black pickup truck at the front of a mass of people of all ages, colors, genders and gender choices. “Sure,” the woman in the driver’s seat said. Hands reached down from the bed filled with people to lift me up to higher ground for the view.

The next thing I knew the truck inched forward. Little did I know that it was the leader of the parade. For the next thirty minutes I had front row seats to a crowd that kept growing. As the march circled downtown the ranks grew to nearly 400. Spectators in equally colorful outfits cheered from the sidewalks. It was like a party on overdrive with no one expecting so many would come for the celebration.

For a town of less than 19,000 that is an impressive size.  When I did the math, proportionately, it was almost the same size as parades in larger cities! 

Mindsets are changing. Inclusion is growing.

All this gives me great hope as I head northward. 

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