Fires in Oregon 2015

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Willamina Creek Fire has engulfed 230 acres since it began an early Thursday morning in August 2015. The fact that there are so many fires currently blazing in the western United States has limited available resources including firefighter personnel, access to water has been limited due to current drought conditions being experienced by all states in the Western portion of the United States. The cybersphere has been aflame with images, articles and testimonials of workers, homeowners and concerned citizens. Some of the more humane articles are the focus on providing shelter and air-quality environments for the elderly and individuals who need medical assistance due to exposure to smoke and the fire. It is as of this writing, 75% contained, and the unified effort of all of the workers for this fire are deeply appreciated and a resounding THANK YOU needs to be heard throughout the region.

However, Oregon is a timber state, a significant portion of it’s exports are within the timber industry and affiliated by-products. A local group the Confederated tribe of the Grand Ronde have posted a statement that their timber interests are being closed as a response to the fires. As an aftereffect of this closure will adversely affect projected production and employment within their organization

In a casual interview with a representative of a major lumber company within the region; the ranking of the Bureau of Land Management Industrial Fire Precaution Level Four was explained to this writer. Apparently, the BLM has been placing the Oregonian region under this level multiple times moving from a Level 3 to Level 4, which means shutdown of lands administered by the BLM. In Oregon, a majority of the BLM land is available for contracting with local lumber companies. These companies and their employees rely on the harvesting of lumber. With the precaution set in place, it basically shuts down the the company. For an area whose residents rely heavily on lumber industry this can spell misfortune on economic conditions for individuals and families. Ultimately trickling to less expendable income hence affecting the community as a whole.

In conclusion, these wildfires are more damaging than property damage and projected income loss. Once again, Oregon relies heavily on its timber industry, and these fires are very difficult to recover from emotionally, financially, and physically.

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Bon Dance Ewa Beach, HI

At a roadside church in Ewa Beach, the Honpa Hongwanji A Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple held an event called a Bon Dance. It is advertised in various local newspapers and online, but my attention was drawn to it from an invitation from a friend.

On the metal gate outside of the parking lot, there was a Hand lettered sign announcing an Obon Dance advertised on June 18, 2016. A friend who is of Japanese, Hawaiian and Filipino decent suggested I attend, as it is open to the community. She had attended many such events throughout her lifetime and hoped to see a few friends there, as well as enjoy some food, purchase homemade baked goods and participate in the dancing. The event was scheduled from 7pm – 10pm, but we went early as the events can get crowded and finding a seat will be impossible once the event begins.

As it was explained to me, the Bon Dance is celebrated throughout Japanese culture, as a means to connect with the community, to provide social opportunities, a time to meet up with old friends, see family, and enjoy traditional food as well as learning traditional forms of dance and worship.

The tower was set up in the middle of the yard, with rounded rice-paper lanterns of red and white strung from the tower to the outlying buildings and trees; awaiting the nightfall to light the grassy area where the dance circle would be conducted.

The attendance was over 500 people, who were all crowded into a less than an acre space within the church grounds. The church itself was a single room building with 10 rows of double pews, with outlying buildings and mobile trailers for the office, kitchen, restrooms, and banquet hall. I went into the temple to give honor to Buddha and the temple as is my way, when entering any sacred space.

After procuring my homemade butter moche, I sat across from a couple who were wearing modern clothing,, they were friendly and everyone seemed to have their camera phones ready. I looked around at that time while the sun still shone, and noticed the variety of attire. Some of the attendees were in modern dress or aloha wear, while some of the ladies and children wore kimonos. Attached to this article is an image of the tower from which the music plays and emcee makes announcements.

Immediately next to the tower and at ground-level are 8 to 10 teachers (sansei) who dance and show the gestures, steps and postures that are to accompany each traditional song. Upon observation, I recognized the hand gestures and movements similar to Hawaiian traditional Hula that indicates when one is tilling the soil, or rowing a boat, as well as the more dignified gestures of reaching into the sky to acknowledge the sun and the stars. For as with Hula, the Bon dancers are acting out the story of which the lyrics are expressing, in a language I did not understand, so I just let the music move me.

I joined in, as all were welcome, and dancing on the outer circle, of which there were five total. The pace is measured, and taking care to be aware of one’s neighbors, it is a joyous experience to be had by all. There is a definite sense of the sacred, as well as celebration.