The Freeflow Podcast
a media project of Freeflow Institute
SEASON 1 | EPISODE 8
Joe Wilkins: On Edges
5.7.2021 // PODCAST SEASON ONE
Joe Wilkins is the author of a novel, Fall Back Down When I Die; a memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers; and four collections of poetry, including Thieve When We Were Birds, winner of the Oregon Book Award. Wilkins grew up north of the Bull Mountains of eastern Montana and lives now with his family in western Oregon, where he directs the creative writing program at Linfield University.
Today on the Podcast we visit southern Oregon’s Rogue River and the Klamath Mountains through which it flows. As writer Joe Wilkins describes in his essay, called “On Edges,” the Rogue River canyon is a wild place, complex and intricate, teeming with living greens and deep browns, at once lush and verdant, desiccated and vulnerable to the fires that seasonally rip through the region.
In “On Edges,” Joe reflects upon the differences between the wild Klamath Mountains and the eastern Montana plains that raised him. He explores, within the contexts of these Western landscapes and parenthood, concepts like freedom, wildness, liminal spaces, failure, and doubt. Joe helps us draw a parallel between the freedom in wild water and the freedom that children need in order to find their edges, to fall, to get back up, to understand the limits of the physical world and the limits within human societies.
Speaking of freely flowing water, the Rogue and Klamath Rivers are and have been at the center of the American discussion on dams for decades. The Klamath River dam removal project, slated for 2023, will be the biggest effort of its kind in US history. For thousands of years, tribes including the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Shasta and Klamath, have lived along, in, and with the river. Klamath River salmon runs were once the third-largest in the nation, but in recent years they’ve fallen to a shocking eight percent of historic numbers. Chinook and coho, steelhead, coastal cutthroat trout, sturgeon, and lamprey all call the Klamath home. Removing four dams across southern Oregon and Northern California will be vital to restoring clean water, endemic fish populations, Indigenous sovereignty, and justice for the Klamath River.
- Learn about the Klamath River dam removal project here and here, in a short video from Outside and American Rivers.
- Read more of Joe Wilkins’ work here, on his website.
- Read “On Edges” in its original form, in Orion Magazine.
- Check out Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Tim Palmer’s A Field Guide to Oregon Rivers, and David Rains Wallace’s The Klamath Knot, all of which are referenced in Wilkins’ essay.
Rick White is a writer and producer of The Freeflow Podcast. His work has been published in The A.V. Club, High Desert Journal, Westword, and Camas, and was recently nominated for Best American Essays. He likes stories that are rich in mischief, especially the misadventures of lovable losers on impossible quests.
Stephanie Maltarich, a producer at The Freeflow Podcast,is an independent audio producer based in Gunnison, Colorado. She’s reported and produced radio stories for NPR, Colorado Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio. She’s contributed to the Out There Podcast and written scripts for Duolingo’s language learning podcast. She discovered her love for audio storytelling while completing a Master’s degree at the University of Montana.
The Freeflow Podcast is made with love in Montana, near the storied Blackfoot River.
Arlo, on the banks of the Blackfoot, during the summer months when weathered sticks, sunshine, and warm, flat rocks define his days.
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