"One River"

By Wade Davis

Special to the News

There was a half-moon, and I awoke to the sounds of the forest: cicadas and tree frogs, the piercing notes of a screech owl, the caw-caw-caw of bamboo rats. At one point I thought I heard a jaguar but wasn't sure. I looked about, saw smoke weeping out of the thatch of Kowe's house, heard soft voices and the swoosh of a feather fan bringing a fire to life. Someone was singing on the other side of the village, a far-off nasal chant, difficult to distinguish from the other sounds.

Entering the book, One River, one begins a dangerous and captivating journey. Wade Davis, an ethno-botanist, describes the layered complexities of the Amazon Rain Forest, the strange and hallucinogenic mushrooms, the lethal toxins of snakes, and the life-saving medicines distilled from them. The profound and complex structures of native cultures fit precisely into the fabric he weaves. He is not sparing when he relates the cruelties visited upon the natives by some "civilized" people, but he also notes the kindnesses of others. His telling of the treatment of the indigenous people by the "rubber barons" is more ghastly and revolting than any horror story. It is a fact, nonetheless, that explains much of the suspicion and hostility the native people have for outsiders. The text of his rich landscapes enter one's head like photographs taken at just the right light, focus, and backdrop.

"The rising sun touched the flank of the mountain, casting long shadows across almost imperceptible undulations on the earth. The shadows drew in toward dawn, quivered at the last moment, and gave way to a river of sunlight that poured partially over every slope . . . to the northwest the mountains fell away to the sea and the shimmering on the horizon was an open expanse of the Caribbean."

Upon finishing the book, the reader realizes that besides his having been happily transported by Davis' masterly prose, he has also become well-versed on the botanical riches of the forest, the history of ethno-botany from the 18th century to today, become conversant with the jungles of the Amazon, and persuaded of many of the conclusions Davis has made about its future.


Margaret Euwer lives in Parkdale. She wrote this review for the "Beloved Books" feature in the Feb. 27 Kaleidoscope.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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