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UR Here: Boundary Waters

UR Here: March 2010 – Eastern Iowans nervously watched the snow pile up in their yards and fields this winter. While we did not threaten any records, the memory of 2008 lingers like the shadow pain of a broken bone recently healed. Indeed, the news outlets are running stories that tell us forecasters are worried […]

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UR Here: Small Towns, Big Loss

In my last column, I presented some statistics demonstrating that the majority of Iowans are “urban” by U.S. Census standards and have been since 1950. With fewer farmers, the raison d’être of most small communities in Iowa—servicing the region’s agricultural economy—has disappeared. If the economic foundation of a town disappears, what’s the big deal? Close […]

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UR Here: Place in Time

For the past few years, July has been a special month for me. Since 2005, I have taught a one-week workshop in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival focused on writing about place and writing about nature. Since 2007, I have followed that up with a several-week course at the Iowa City Senior Center focused on […]

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UR Here: Nature's Economy

As the global economy crumbles around us, I have been writing about relocalization as a way toward sustainability, last month expanding on the concept of abundance as the foundation upon which it could work. One more important fundamental concept for a sustainable economy is looking to the natural world as a model, so I’d like […]

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UR Here: Hope Localized

January 20 is approaching. The “hope-mongers,” as Barack Obama jokingly called himself at a Northwest Junior High campaign rally in December 2007, cling to visions of revolutionary social transformation. The hardcore liberals are shaking their heads at the President-Elect’s centrist and hawkish Cabinet appointments. To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit of both: […]

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UR Here: Visiting Ober

I visited the grave of Ernest Oberholtzer today last month. I was invited to read from my new book of essays Under a Midland Sky (ok, that’s a plug) at the Unitarian Church in Davenport. This was a wonderful occasion to find the resting place of one of my heroes, especially given that Davenport’s Unitarian […]

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UR Here: Inscrutable Iowa

This is the month of masks. As the calendar veers toward the month’s end, more and more false faces and outré makeup will replace our regular countenances. Who is that? Who are you really? In Iowa, I sometimes wonder if every day is Halloween. People from our state, as well as most Midwesterners, are stereotyped […]

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UR Here: Climate Control

Wow. We don’t want to go through that again. Starting with the heavy snowfalls of November 2007—which then went on and on and on—through the devastating tornadoes of this past spring and on to the historic Flood of 2008, we’ve had more than our share of weather-related disasters here in Iowa this past year. Let […]

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UR Here: Flood Stories

As our community continues to recover from our greatest disaster ever, flood stories are piling up like sandbags near the riverbank. Personal stories of homes destroyed, of the kindness of strangers, of grit and determination, of remarkable generosity, and of watery amazement are all entering the annals of our community experience and history. I’d like […]

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UR Here: Farewell, Mr. Higgins

In Tribute to a Great Iowa Citian: Ron Prosser If you were in the Iowa City Public Library any time before a few months ago, you know who I’m talking about. There’s a good chance he checked out some materials for you, or you at least saw him sitting behind the new library card desk, […]

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