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Culture » Book Talk

An Instant Conservation Classic: A Temporary Refuge

Oregon Author Lee Spencer Releases New Book

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Before you stroll the streets on First Fridays in downtown Bend, check out this monthly book review featuring reading recommendations courtesy of the Source and Dudley's Bookshop Cafe. Then head down to the shop for a discount on the books!

Every once in awhile a book comes along to join the canon of its genre. In the pantheon of conservation literature, books like Aldo Leopold's, "Sand County Almanac" and Annie Dillard's, "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" have long been held up as shining examples. So I'll be forever grateful to Lee Spencer for adding another title to that esteemed list: his new book, "A Temporary Refuge."


If you've seen the 2014 documentary, DamNation," you might be familiar with Spencer — the man who for the last 14 years — has spent May through November carefully watching over a holding pool of wild summer steelhead on a tributary of Oregon's North Umpqua River. Culled from his journals, we're treated to a fascinating month-by-month study of these steelhead along with keen observations of the weather, birds, trees, insects and mammals that make up this vibrant ecosystem.

His is the kind of knowledge that can only be acquired through years of extensive field study. That he conveys it in language so elegant and dignified makes this a book to treasure and pass on to everyone you know. Famed Oregon author David James Duncan calls it, "An incandescent work of natural history, an Oregon cultural treasure and a sanctuary for aching hearts in a dark time."

Spencer is a modern-day Thoreau and the North Umpqua is his Walden. If you know where the pool is (he won't tell you), go pay your quiet respects. If not, it should be enough to know that Lee and the fish he watches over are still there, each participating in their own quiet dance.


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