My preoccupation with the landscape of western America has grown steadily over the years, beginning in 2014 with a pivotal road trip through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Oregon. Articulating the West’s magnetism for naturalists – why it remains a draw for environmentalists and gardeners alike – is a task better left to professionals: Jonathan Raban (journalist and Englishman moved to Seattle) summarises it perfectly, writing in Granta Journal back in 2008;
“In the dry and lightly populated West, for all the ranching, farming, logging, mining, damming and city-building that have gone on for the last century and a bit, (…) Americans have altered the land less immutably than the Romans, Saxons and Normans altered the face of England. Most of what has been done here still looks like a recent project, a work in early progress, that could yet be stopped..
(…) here, where the lust for the antique is no less keen than in Britain, the true antiquity is wilderness. Old mining towns, chasing tourist dollars, deck themselves out with false storefronts, wooden boardwalks, faux shoot-’em-up saloons, but nobody’s fooled. The real thing – the pricelessly antique antique – is deep forest, the river running wild, the open prairie. There is no second nature here to fall back on, only an either/or choice between nature as it was before we came and the dreck we’ve piled on it in the recent past..”
The concept of ‘Second Nature’ explains it all for the European, whose natural world appears wild, yet reflects centuries of human alteration. In the West, however, primal Nature remains visible just under the surface.
I have passed through central Oregon three times now, each time more enthralling than the last. Here are a few photos I took, with my dad’s old Canon 35mm, during the last, all-too-short visit.