Welcome to my website, a place for my readers to engage with my writing and with me; catching some story behind the story.
I write not from a formulated, genre way but from a desire to tell a story that explores issues and human portraits that mean something to me and that I feel will resonate with you. Yes, I write what I know from experience but as well about what I am inspired by or stumble upon, working it out in the moment. Ah-ha moments are marvelous! I seek to continue offering engaging, thought provoking, and emotionally stirring works for your reading enjoyment, all with dynamic settings and human understanding.
My Latest Novel : Visionaries A Journey to Table Mountain
After dropping out in the 1960s, idealistic Mac McKenna embarks on a rollicking journey, commune hopping from Laguna Beach, California, to the mountains of Washington State. But, despite the high times, not all was a smooth ride. Mac takes his lumps from shattered love, dashed expectations, dangerous rednecks, and the law.
When he joins a gang of ‘rough around the edges ‘ Visionaries at a commune in the North Cascades, the mythical backstory of the roots of the Rainbow Family begins. Wilderness valley searches and a cosmic trek on an old volcano morph to The Vortex Biodegradable Festival of Life in 1970. From there, with new members, a ‘back to the land’ communal experiment takes them further.
A vision of unity inspires plans for a National Gathering held in the mountains of Colorado in July of 1972. The focus is a massive circle for peace, love, and returning to harmony with Mother Earth. However, for the people to prevail, they must first confront all manner of government and police obstructions and hostilities.
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
Visionaries: A Journey To Table Mountain is a work of fiction in the historical sub genre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by RR Rowley. The book follows a college dropout, Mac McKenna, who is on a spiritual journey through 60s America, moving from commune to commune and enjoying the highs and lows of life on the fringes of society. After joining a group in the North Cascades, Mac is drawn into a movement to bring humanity closer to Mother Nature once more, a peaceful group that incurs the ire of law enforcement and government agencies in a struggle that would come to define the 70s.
The vivid depiction of the hippy communes of the 60s and 70s USA left such a lasting impression on me that when I finally put this book down I felt that in many ways I’d been there in person. RR Rowley’s personal experiences ground both the descriptive writing in the narrative and lay the foundation for a deeply provocative story about an individual finding his place among a wider social and political movement. Mac is an outstanding protagonist for a tale such as this, a lost soul seeking to find himself and figure out where in the world he is supposed to be. His introspection and evolution throughout the tale elevate him into a dynamic and fully realized character that readers will remember long after finishing this story. Visionaries paints a wonderful picture of an important moment in time, contextualizing and exploring it in a way that will leave readers without prior knowledge of the movement with a robust understanding.
EXCERPT FROM VISIONARIES
By now, the sun began to sink through a rippled cloud bank of grey, blue, and purple while a sea breeze blew steadily from the Northwest. Ahead of him, rising out of the shrubs and shore pine trees, a shamble of an old cabin lay in ruins – someone’s homestead by the sea, years ago. Reaching the old place’s shell, it became evident how the onslaught of wind and weather had pushed the sand and dunes onward, overtaking the house, and most probably, the dream. In one corner, a short portion of the board wall remained. Mac made camp in the lee of it.
Camp made, he went out towards the sea. The Northwest that he had longed for swelled up in his heart. The song of it’s glory, scored by the crashing courses of white breakers rolling before him, nearly bringing him to tears. The sea roared, rolled, and broke again until sheeting to the shoreline in a frothy, shifting blanket, all bubbly and hissing from the release of its stored up oxygen.
The horizon darkened, and a massive cloud bank moved in from out to sea. In swift reaction, Mac returned to camp, quickly gathering some kindling from dead branches in the pines. He started a fire and stoked it up bright, then lay back in his sack and watched the shadows flicker on the faded timbers of the ruin. How eerie they appeared, the remnants of someone’s dream.
He thought of his own life – his dream. How far he had come since turning on and dropping out as a teenager, and how far he wished to go. Yeah, the sex was alluring and easy, and the drugs and rock and roll were plenty of fun and adventuresome. However, something deeper had called him – a longing for a mystical, spiritual connection with what he had come to know as Great Spirit. He loved how his tribe understood that connection. Left in California, where were they now? Could this Oregon trip have been a delusion? Should he be doing something else with his life, giving more to the world? Out of the blue, he thought of his parents, how he had hurt them by turning his back on their way of life and running to be wild. It made him sad. Pondering his road forward, he dozed off in front of the fire at the house of broken dreams.
Scene From Chapter One
Mac followed Eve into a royal purple room. On the wall, scattered at varying heights, bold statements of ATTENTION, NOW, HOWL, LOVE, and musical notes ascending and descending in bright colors, danced among the iconic words. Pillows and mats pressed against the walls. ” Set your pack over in the corner and make yourself at home,” Eve said while tinkering in the kitchen. Mac set down his pack, his eyes following the artwork into the kitchen, where on the stove, HOT was brightly day-glowed across it, and it’s neighbor, the fridge, had COLD vertically descending on the door.
Triggered by the indoor change of temperature, Mac had to pee. Glad to have the opportunity to use an indoor toilet, he walked to the bathroom. When the squeaky bathroom door opened, his eyes bugged from seeing what must have been a thousand cockroaches neatly pinned in a galactic swirling twist. Accentuating the moment, one scurried across the floor while he stood relieving himself. He giggled nervously. Should he stick it with one of the pins filling a bowl on the toilet top? He suddenly felt ridiculous. An awkward shade of self-consciousness fell over him. The awareness that he was way over his head in cool unnerved him. GO WITH THE FLOW glowed on the backside of the door.
Mac returned to the purple room, thankful to be indoors while holding insecurely to his confidence. Adam brought in bowls of brown rice and cups of tea. Sitar ragas twanged from the hi-fi. In his captivating, deep voice, Adam spoke to Mac, ” Chew the rice slowly and feel what is going on with the food thing.” He gave Mac the smile of a guru. “Experience eating.” Friends showed up. The music switched to jazz. Cups of wine, joints, warm fuzzy feelings, and animated conversations passed freely. Eve floated from the kitchen with radiance in her eyes. She held a crystal bowl and pronounced, “It’s time.” Giving out the LSD she paused in front of Mac. “Are you ready?”
“Yes, I think so.” He adjusted his position and held out his cupped hands, remembering taking communion at church. The bathroom message flashed through his brain. They chanted OM. Afterward, nervous laughter mixed into lively discussion, anticipation infusing the air.
Time went abstract. Mac held the words on the door as a life preserver against his chest, repeating them over and over. He was scared. He didn’t know what would happen but gained comfort from the extraordinary people circling the room who showed no signs of fear. A tingling in his teeth and gums crept into his mouth. A tightness in his jaw and face foretold of something happening. A warm force pushed up from the base of his spine. Wafting upwards like smoke, it seeped into his conscious mind, expanding, mushrooming like an A-Bomb, spreading his awareness far outside of his body. His being filled the room. Disoriented, he clutched his hands only to see his bones through his flesh like a skeleton. People’s faces were breathing and fluctuating from warped skulls to distorted expressions of WOW! The music sounded lovely – birds sang – car horns honked – lights flashed – the walls moved. He became a child. He laughed like a madman, then sobbing tears of joy, he hugged someone. His pulse roared like an engine at high throttle. Revving, it burst to beyond space and time. He became a lizard, crawling, rooting into the floor, rolling, twisting into the microscopic union of universal atomic structure, going – going -gone. Past the walls of his ego, he released his spirit and fell into the pulsing heartbeat of his being. Butterfly wings fluttered in his heart. Love sprang forth and settled into a glowing golden ball, warming his cortex with comforting peace. He was stoned immaculate. The sun, the shining sun, he mused. Go west young man, the orb proclaimed.
ECO THRILLER – TOXIC SOUP
Toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has been poisoning the environment, human beings, and wildlife for more than six decades. When her brother dies a horrible death at Hanford, Casey Long, a kayaker and windsurfer by day and bartender by night in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon/Washington, swears to put an end to the upriver contamination. But, how can she possibly take on the entrenched fortress of a facility?
After she confides in Little Bear, a bitter Native American fisherman, they contrive a dangerous plan. Joined by a peculiar mishmash of collaborators, they risk everything to save the environment and achieve justice for all injured parties, past and present.
With all of the environmental issues in the world today, this is quite the intriguing read! Casey’s persistence is understandable and admirable, yet we see how distressing the need for revenge can take on a person. She wants justice — don’t we all when we (or someone we love) is wronged?
The author’s ability to pull us into the plot was astounding. All of my senses were on alert, absorbing the strong imagery created through each scene. You feel transported to each one. The characters are also written to the degree that we can relate to each one and I often found myself placing people I know in my personal life into the shoes of the cast if we were in this situation.
Casey’s support system attempts to keep her grounded, yet the depths that she is willing to go come as quite a surprise at times. It made me question my own morals and values as to what I would do in her shoes. Knowing that government officials are playing blind and passing the buck on the problem is relatable in numerous ways. Just when you think you wouldn’t resort to the levels Casey does, events occur that make you say, YEP! I get it! And soon, you’re cheering her on.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to get my hands on this book….I couldn’t finish it fast enough, yet I also forced myself to slow down and absorb every word. There were a few parts that I had to go back and re-read to fully understand or to clarify, but it helped immerse me in even further.
EXCERPT FROM TOXIC SOUP
When the abandoned reactor sites came into view, they swung their kayaks into a backwater eddy. Spooked ducks sprang into flight in front of them. Boats gliding, they studied the depth of the water, avoiding the chance of running aground. Before them, some sickly grasses appeared at the edge of the river. Was this it? Casey paddled closer, excitement rising. Pointing to a spot upon the bank, she called to Rex, “See that? See that? Is water trickling out of the ground over there?”
He removed his sunglasses and squinted. “You’re right. There is a wet spot over there.”
Straggly, yellowed grasses drooped away from the seeping water. They moved even closer to get a better view. A foam rose from the trickle of liquid and spread to a nasty orange and pink gunk smeared over exposed rocks. “I see it!” Rex cried out, a jolt of fear zapping through him. “Radioactivity!” he screamed, quickly backstroking. “You’ve got your evidence. Let’s get out of here! I don’t want to be anywhere near that stuff.”
She had her proof. Toxicity flowed into the river. How many other places existed? Perhaps beneath the water, the contamination was much worse. Untouchable Hanford is getting away with whatever they want. Something needed to be done, but what? Something not only for Charley but for the birds, the fish, and all the little creatures suffering at the hand of man’s dereliction of duty. She knew what she had to do.
FIRST TEN PAGES OF TOXIC SOUP
Sun-baked dirt crunched beneath Charley Long’s boots. Every step tested his will to carry on as he plodded uphill towards the high desert knoll’s summit. When he reached the top, he bent over and braced his hands upon his thighs, lungs billowing. Sweat pearled down his face. A rancid smell of sour washcloth wafted up into his nose from inside his airtight, protective suit.
He stood and surveyed the daunting valley before him, where steel and concrete storage tanks puffed in a row out of the desert sand like muffins in a pan. His jaw hung in anticipation. He knew that within the tanks, slushy atomic fusion excrement gnawed against its confinement. Nuclear waste remaining from the Cold War ballistic weapons era. Spawn of split plutonium atoms. Stored up God-awful stuff, no one knew how to get rid of but kept on producing anyway. A cringe crawled under his skin. He sensed the innate desire of what festered before him, to devour all life force.
The city of tanks beckoned beneath the hot sun. He would be among them soon enough. Nausea gurgled in the pit of Charley’s stomach and seeped into his throat, wanting to expel. He winced from desperation, and tearing at his mask, pushed it up onto his forehead. Freed from the covering’s restrictive filtering, he sucked the fresh air in heaves.
Nausea quelled, claustrophobia released, and with a sense of duty commanding, he willed his body to soldier down across the desert sands towards the tanks. His mouth soured again as he gained ground. The chafing of his protective suit rubbing between his legs scratched his nerves. Everything about this mission rubbed him raw. He clenched his teeth and ordered himself forward despite it all. Earn his damn paycheck. That’s for sure.
He knew he’d be in proximity to radiation when he signed on to work at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. What surprised him was getting sent to the front lines for leaking tank inspection and repair. But the money was good. The federal paycheck and the benefits were way better than anything else available in the high plateau desert on the eastern side of Washington State. The job, a shot at saving the money he needed to buy that plot of homesteading land shining in his dreams.
He twisted his head and checked behind him. His team advanced but remained a good ways back, so he decided to wait for them. Enter together—strength in numbers.
Without warning, a deep, moaning growl cracked the silence of the desert. The frightening bellow reverberated from deep within the tanks’ bowels, sounding like the prelude to some angry underwater symphony. The sludge awakened. Charley jerked to attention and froze. A shudder rippled through him, and his eyes stretched wide as his ears tensed for any other sound.
The ground rumbled and shook in its depths. The sludge stirred. Charley crouched to steady himself, spreading his arms as if ready to jump. While he poised, a turgid, hollow bubbling sound burst into an erupting burp, giving forth like a giant-stomped pumpkin. The sludge spoke. Its breath came unseen, mistily reaching through the ether for Charley. His hands sprang to clutch his face, sizzling in excruciating pain, and he smelled the stench of unholy dread. Inhaling the toxic spew, he crumpled to the ground, writhing in agony, darkness engulfing him into a sea of fire.
Casey Long climbed up from the rushing White Salmon River with her kayak snugged against her hip. Halfway to the top of the trail, she paused to catch her breath. The air rising from the snowmelt water smelled sweet. A smile graced her face. When she engaged with the river, nothing else mattered. The troubling world fell away, and there was only oneness with nature.
She turned from the river and ascended the switch- backing trail. Reaching the top, she went to her trusty Honda parked alongside the country road and slung her kayak up onto the rack, breathing a sigh of relief to have finished the trek up from the river with the boat in tow. Arching her back and bunching her hair behind her head, a light breeze feathered her sweaty neck.
Her phone rang from within the car’s glove box. She opened the box and took out the singing device. “Hello.”
“Hello. Is this Casey Long?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is Clair Wright calling from the Hanford
Nuclear Reservation. Casey, I’m afraid I have some terrible news for you. An accident has killed your brother, Charley.”
Casey’s heart clenched. Her hand flew to the side of her face in shock. “No! Dead? What the hell happened?”
“I’m afraid he got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. A tragic accident that no one could have expected. Casey, we are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Casey stood stunned. Charley’s death, unfathomable. Images of him, from child to man, whisked through her mind. She squeezed her hands and quaked, calling to the sky in wide-eyed exasperation. “Why, Charley? Why him?”
Her attention fell back into the phone, Clair’s voice speaking into her ear. “He got exposed to radiation and toxic chemicals, and we are holding his body in a special ward.”
Casey answered with a tremor in her voice. “What does that mean, and when can I see him?”
“I’m not authorized to share all of the details, but I can arrange for someone from the Department of Energy to meet with you. Can you be here tomorrow morning?”
Casey exhaled, “I’ll be there.”
“Good, Casey. Something else you should know. We must handle Charley’s radiated body properly, and it requires burying in a special way.” The word, buried, made Casey’s head spin. What would Charley want? Burned or rotted in the ground? She remembered them encountering a decaying deer carcass in the woods as children. The squirming maggots had freaked him out. Burned—that’s what he would want.
“Don’t worry. We can talk more about that tomorrow. Follow the signs to area 200 West and then HPMC. About eleven o’clock? Is that good for you?”
“It should be okay.”
Casey lowered the phone. Reality slapped her. She stomped her foot in the dirt and spun a circle, crying out, “Oh, Charley!” Her eyes squeezed and her tears flowed as the hurt overcame her.
Casey’s housemate, Frank, came up the hill from the river. His wet suit, peeled down to his waist, revealed his buff, inked arm that clutched his kayak as he made for the Honda. A slash of dirty blond hair hung over one eye, and a grin showed the pleasure gained from his run down the White Salmon. He saw Casey slumped against the car; her arms locked across her chest, her eyes blankly staring, her puffy red face laden with pain. He set down his boat and hurried to her side. “Casey, what’s wrong?”
“My brother is dead,” she croaked, and surrendered to his open arms. They held each other by the roadside, rocking in the moment. “He got nuked somehow at Hanford,” she furthered. Her words sickened her. She had never faced death before. Where did he go?
Frank gently held her. “What happened? How could he get nuked?”
She pulled away and wiped her eyes with her arm, her face tightening. “I don’t fucking know. But I sure am going to find out.”
“What happens now?”
“I’m driving out to Hanford in the morning. I have to talk to some special Department of Energy person to get answers,” she said with a doubting curl hanging at the end of her lip that she often held as if scrutinizing the world, not expecting much.
They changed and drove upriver to drop Frank at his truck. Frank broke the quiet between them. “Typical Feds,” Frank said, snugging down his straight-billed, snapback cap with ‘Wicked’ in red letters on the front. He shifted his head side to side as if they might be watching. “They try to make like everything is cool out there. You know, talking about how great their safety programs are, while in reality it’s a leaking cesspool of the most deadly shit on earth. What got into Charley to want to work out there anyway?”
“Lured by big money, I guess. Thought if he toughed it out for a while, he’d get ahead. Not everyone is sitting fat like you.” Frank rolled his eyes and shrugged off her red-neck roots getting the better of her. “I’ll find out the truth about what happened. You’ll see. Somebody is going to pay. They’re not going to get away with murdering my brother.”
“Whoa, girl. I get you being upset, but like what? You’re going to take on the Federal government?”
“Whatever it takes, Frank. I’m saying I’m not afraid of them, and I’m not going to buy into any bullshit. I’ll find out what happened to Charley and who’s to blame.”
At the bottom of the hill, where the White Salmon met the spring melt swollen Columbia River, Casey swung east towards the town of Bingen. On mental auto-pilot, she headed upriver back to her shared ‘little run-down but cute’ home, an estate agent might say. Out of her car window, she saw the big river dotted with kite-boarders launched from the tawny sand bar fingering from the Hood River into the grey-green Columbia. The kite-boarders ripped across the channel, capturing the winds that blew steadily from the west off of the Pacific Ocean. The multi-colored sails, set against a clear blue sky, flew across the water like a kaleidoscope of butterflies luffing into the wind.
Dashing the picture of wind filled colorful sails, an eye-blinding headlight barreled around a bend in the river. It appeared to be coming straight at her. Like breaking the sound barrier, a one hundred car coal train roared into Casey’s brain. It thrust through her, and it’s roar and clamor of vibrating clatter of wheels obliterated all other sounds. It’s inertia gutted her. The force of it leaving her hollow, blowing past her like the life of her brother. Here, then gone, then emptiness and silence. She tightened her grip on the wheel. She just wanted to get home.
The trains through the Gorge ran relentlessly. Following the river banks, they tunneled through basalt cliffs and found their passage from the eastern plains through the Cascade Mountains and down to the sea. The coal and fracked oil trains transported the drilled and dug remains of eras past that greased the present’s wheels and tarred the future. A chunk of loose coal blew out of a train car and bounced off her car’s hood.
“Fuckers!” she screamed, pounding on the steering wheel.
Past the six-block, downtown strip of the lumber mill town named Bingen, Casey turned and drove three blocks before hitting the side street that led to the wood-shingled bungalow. She came to a halt in the large carport, perfect for hanging wet suits and gear. Scattered in front of her in the yard were Frank’s toys: kayaks, windsurfing and kitesurfing boards, sails, a couple of dirt bikes, snowboards, and a snowmobile. Between two glacier peaked volcanos with countless miles of National Forests veined with rivers, the outdoor playing never ended. But today, the sunny fun clouded behind the darkness of death.
Frank parked his pickup beside Casey’s car and joined her in stowing their gear. They walked to the house in silence. The screen door flapped and Jett, a housemate, came out to greet them. He emerged with his dark hair tousled, wearing protective eyewear and a mask dangling on his chest. A peculiar odor clung to him. “How’d it go, guys?” he said with a welcoming smile.
Casey walked past him.
Jett’s head jerked back.
Frank raised a finger to his lips and led Jett into the living room, where he sat Jett down and told the sad tale of Charley’s accident.
“Well, that explains everything,” Jett said, dropping his voice to a near whisper. “Damn awful, isn’t it? Killed by radiation and toxic chemicals. Gruesome, man.” He hung his head. “Poor Casey. She told me how Charley took care of her growing up in Spokane.”
“Yeah, it’s going to be hard for her for a while. You know—sad, angry, and maybe even spiteful. We need to help her get through this tough time.”
Casey flung herself onto her bed, clutching a pillow to her head. Questions bombarded in a repetitious circle. What had happened? People aren’t supposed to die when they go to work. Charley—gone? Death, a stranger.
She wished it a bad dream she could wake from, but it remained valid. Tomorrow, she would learn more. Determined to hold herself together, she got up, showered, and changed for work. She hoped carrying on with her regular schedule would distract from the turmoil of her mind. How she’d make it through the night, she wasn’t sure? Break out the melatonin, she guessed. Tomorrow, she’ll see him—or what’s left of him. She grimaced at the thought. What did radiation do to a person anyway?
She needed to talk to her girlfriend, Lolly. To hear her voice and to share the overwhelming grief with someone intimate. She called. Lolly answered. “Hey, Casey. I was thinking about you, too. Funny how that works. I should be leaving Portland and coming out your way later next week.”
“Something horrible has happened,” Casey said and managed to tell of Charley’s death with agonizing difficulty.
“Oh, Casey. Poor Charley. What a terrible shock. You sound devastated. Are you all right? Look, I’ll get off work and come straight out.”
“No, don’t do that. I’ll be okay. Just hearing your voice is what I need. Sweet of you to offer, but things are happening quickly. I go to see Charley first thing tomorrow, and decisions need to be made about what to do. You don’t need to get involved in all of that. Bad enough that I will have to see his dead body. No reason for you. “
“Sure you don’t want company?”
“I’ll get one of the guys to go with me. Bring some big hugs when you come out next week. Okay?”
“You seem upset. I should come.”
“Let me get past tomorrow. You know, seeing him and all that. I’ll keep in touch.”
“If you say so. Call me if anything changes. You know I’m here for you.”
Lolly’s words were magic to Casey’s ears. All her life, she had needed someone to feel that way. “I love you,” she said.
“I love you too. Call me.”
Jett moved cautiously towards Casey when she entered the living room dressed in her work outfit for bartending across the river in the larger town of Hood River, Oregon. He reached out to her. She came to him. Eyes watering, he hugged her tenderly. She melted into the comfort of his arms. “Casey, I’m so sorry to hear about Charley. Can I keep you company on the ride out to see him tomorrow?”
Jett said what she needed to hear. He had a way of knowing her insides. Casey gripped him at arm’s length and found his eyes. “I’d like that.” She turned and walked towards the front door. The thought of leaving to see dead Charley in the morning slammed her. She stopped before the door. Her shoulders dropped. Her face darkened, and she threw back her head. Shaking her hair defiantly, she cried out, “Fucking Hanford! Why did he have to go there?”
BLOG POST FOR A REVIEWER SITE
REFLECTIONS ON EARTH DAY
Planet Earth, the blue-green jewel of our galaxy, is a living being that provides the air, water, and soil that sustains all life forms. Although often taken for granted or believed to be ours for indiscriminate use and abuse, the beauty and life-giving force of Nature can be a source of restoration and renewal for humans, often burdened with the weariness and struggles that make up our lives.
Going for a simple walk in a leafy urban park, hiking on a countryside trail, having a ramble through a cacti-strewn desert, or a stroll along a sandy beached shoreline can bring a smile of joy and a lifting of the heart. A bird song, a sweet, oxygen-laden breeze, a wildflower in bloom, or a lapping of water against a riverbank delights the senses, triggering one to find a connection with the oneness our species shares with our planet. What a beautiful gift, this jewel of life in all its forms, one that deserves protecting and nourishing. Do you agree?
Yet, where do we find ourselves as a species? Heads in the sand, we slowly destroy our air, water, and soils. Humanity remains absorbed in unfettered financially driven motivation, surging towards ending the way the natural world is known: dead coral reefs – decimated forests – smoggy overheated and fossil fuel polluted air – climate change. Where in space is there another place like ours? Where else do whales sing and graceful birds wing?
And when was the last time you walked on a beach and didn’t find plastic and unnatural debris? What about the times when you have your urban walk, and a wave of exhaust fumes from idling gasoline engines overtakes you? How far do you have to travel to find a forest like it was intended to be? If only we care and dare to take action, we could change the world and realize our symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth.
But, above all, there is another dreadful creation of humanity that crowns the list of environmental threats, which remains an untouchable deadly force for multiple generations and reaches the apex of human ability to annihilate all living things – Nuclear Waste.
As I sit on this Pacific Northwest clear-skied spring day, devoid of the often choking wildfire smoke driven by climate change, I gaze over the magnificent Columbia River. Over millennia it has carved its curvaceous way through the Cascade Mountains, onward to the awaiting Pacific Ocean. Over millennia it has been a source of life-giving water and food for animals, birds, and humans. Today only three percent of the salmon found in Lewis and Clark’s time spawn in the river due to the species called human beings.
The sun sparkles upon the broad river surface, twinkling a pretty picture. I can imagine how pristine it must have been long years ago. However, knowing what merges with the waters and what intermingles within her silty bottom dulls my inspiration. Upriver is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the US Government made the plutonium for the first atomic bombs and countless thousands of nuclear warheads. Unbelievably, they dumped the toxic waste from production into the magnificent Columbia River in the beginning. Can you imagine the logic there? Flush it down like in a toilet? Like the earth and its waters are meant to be toilets?
Presently there are 177 old and failing waste storage tanks and contaminated groundwater seeping into the river. In addition, a steady stream of drums of undying sludge arrives on site regularly, sent from nuclear facilities across the nation that have no idea what to do with the killing gunk yet still produce it in the name of clean energy.
People have cried out about Hanford for years, only to have governments ‘pass the buck’ onwards. The Facility maintains a protective guard over its denial. In my novel, TOXIC SOUP, Casey Long, spurred by her brother’s death in a horrible exposure accident at the site, creates a plan to shift the stagnant tide. For better or for worse, you are the judge.