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  • Karl Thunemann

Karl’s Keyboard #16

The Columbia River Writ LARGE

Some time ago –maybe as long as two years back—Robert Anderson brought a charming little essay about the Columbia River to share with a writers’ group at the cooperative where I live. We all loved it. Later, when I started this blog (about seven months ago), I asked Andy if I could share his essay with readers of the blog.

Sure, he said, but as we all know, some things are more easily than done. Trouble was, he had written more than one essay about the mighty river and he wasn’t sure which he had read us. He sent me a swell essay, but it lacked an element I distinctly remembered from his reading. There was no mention of Celilo Falls, the sacred Native American fishing spot where fearless men fished for the Columbia’s salmon. All that remains of the falls is some splendid photos of the fishermen taken in the last century before a hydroelectric dam obliterated the falls. These memories are part of what makes Columbia worthy of contemplation and meditation.

Remembering those falls and their place in the spirituality and mystery of the river, I asked Andy if he could add them to the epistle. And so began a series of back-and-forth exchanges. He wanted to add something about Astoria, the famous Oregon seaport at the mouth of the Columbia. I wanted him to mention that he grew up in Longview, the carefully planned timber port at the conjunction of the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers. He added David Thompson. I added Woodie Guthrie.

By the time we were “finished,” we had a post more than three times longer than my longest posts. And not only that! Our manuscript was in three large chunks that I struggled to put into a cohesive whole. I sent it back to Andy one last time. He strung it together, and here it is—the largest project of this blog so far! I hope it’s well worth reading.

And The Columbia River Writ Small …

I too have long been fascinated with the Columbia, but only one incident corresponded with one of its famous incidents. (And no, it was not the search for D.B. Cooper, the infamous high-jacker.) It was the early 1960s, and my wife and another couple were out looking for adventure in in Northern California. The day started inauspiciously enough, when we had two flat tires in the far reaches of the Hoopa Indian Reservation. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, we got back on the road by late afternoon.

Our friends had heard on the radio that the new high-rise bridge across the Columbia that would link Astoria with the Washington coast was nearly complete. If we drove all night, perhaps we would be fortunate enough to take one of the last ferry rides across the river! So we drove through silent coastal towns and magnificent ocean vistas shrouded in darkness. But by the time we arrived in Astoria, the ferry was no longer in service. But we would have to wait two hours for a pilot car to shepherd us across. So we had time for a midnight dinner in Astoria, which ignited a persistent passion for that distinctive little city. The ride behind the pilot car? It was no ferry. We had missed our brush with history.

The Kingdom of Blogs, Far Vaster than You Might Think

After I called my friend Mary Scriver the queen of the blogosphere in the previous Keyboard, she replied:

“Now that I own my house, such as it is, and have a tiny income from SSI and a small pension, there is little I have to fear short of house fires or health crises. I’m hardly a Queen of the Blogosphere. There are a zillion amazing people out there who produce more in rightfully and more popularly than myself.”

And then she provided these mind-boggling figures:

"There are over 600 million blogs in the world today, out of over 1.7 billion websites.

  • Tumblr alone is home to 471.6 million blogs, as of July 2019. (Source: Statista)

  • And 77.8 million new blog posts are published each month on WordPress, along with about 54 million new comments. (2018, WordPress)

  • In fact, over 2 billion blog posts are being published each year worldwide. That’s 5,760,000 blog posts published per day, and 4,000 blog posts published each minute. (2018, Internet Live Stats)

In the United States, there are over 31 million active bloggers posting at least once per month."

She continued: “The Queens all post on WordPress, which is too complicated for me to use though in early days I posted a lot of short stories. Blogger is nice and simple. Medium was going to concentrate on fine writing and even pay a bit, but it has turned out to be for people who write derivative pop magazine articles. Tumblr works well for people who essentially write ‘vlogs’ — that is, video included.

“I follow Twitter to keep up with Blackfeet who write, but refuse to have anything to do with the criminal Facebook. Twitter has been amazing in terms of keeping up with politics and I completely accept the posts that claim we have been facing a mafia mob rep, Trump, who is entirely controlled by Russia, but has gone mad. Dementia is not the same thing when it grips a criminal broken mind.

“I’m beginning a new sequence of blog posts that attempt to capture the enormous change in what religion is or can be. I’ve been working on it since seminary but the breakthroughs in science and thinking have been coming so quickly, they’re almost more than I can assimilate. The aim is to produce a ‘book.’"

Prairie Mary

For myself, I can see that neither nor anyone else I know has done a decent job of nourishing the blogosphere. If we all jumped in and started sending a modest dozen blog items a day, is there a chance we might change the world?

Featured in this Keyboard

Nirvana Is a 7-Letter Word; So Is Samsara. I spend a lot of time at my computer playing Scrabble. Sooner or later, you might think I would try to turn Scrabble into a meditation! I’m on that path, and here is my first report! (Just one featured piece from the blogger this time.)


Frequent contributor: Robert Anderson Rockets down the Columbia!

Andy and I have been passing this post back and forth for what feels like months! See the intro in the main Keyboard article, above.

The Big Huzzah

I write so frequently about mild cognitive impairment you might think I am a bloody expert. And so I am—on my own! Here’s your chance to read what an actual expert has to say about cognitive impairment in older adults. I get regular mailing from Dr. Kernisan, so you might think of her as one of my medical advisers.

Let’s have more dialogue!

There are two ways to take part:

1. Post a comment on the blog! Some readers haven felt frustrated with this, but it is pretty simple: To comment on the blog: scroll down to the bottom of the post, where there is a comments box. You will have to leave a name in order to comment, but all other information is optional. It will give the option to leave your fb, Twitter, or Gmail but you don't have to.

2. Consider becoming a contributor. I will consider posts meditation, broadly defined. I prefer stories over instruction, but I am flexible. I like posts shorter than 1,000 words. Send your proposed text—or a query—to me at

Til next time …

With the Winter solstice at hand next week, try meditating on the Light.

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