On Bend

by F.

The Economist has a piece this week on Bend, Oregon, entitled Real estate and the West’s economy. Noteworthy factoids:

  • “As towns such as Missoula, Montana, and Sun Valley, Idaho, have also found, trees are more valuable standing than chopped down for lumber, says Nina Chambers, a researcher with a think-tank called the Sonoran Institute.”

  • “From September 2005 to September 2006, home prices in Bend leaped 30.4%, the highest rate in the country, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which regulates the government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

  • “At the St Charles Medical Centre, the hospital’s CEO, Jim Diegel, frets that his maternity unit, now being expanded, will be at capacity the minute it’s finished. Bend’s school district is bulging too, with enrolment jumping 58% in the past decade, and 1,100 new students in the past year alone.”

We drove through Bend a couple years ago and I must say “I was not charmed.” It’s mostly a volcanic wasteland. In Moon Landing, Auden captures my feelings about dry, desiccated landscapes:

It’s natural the Boys should whoop it up for
so huge a phallic triumph, an adventure
it would not have occurred to women
to think worth while, made possible only

because we like huddling in gangs and knowing
the exact time: yes, our sex may in fairness
hurrah the deed, although the motives
that primed it were somewhat less than menschlich.

A grand gesture. But what does it period?
What does it osse? We were always adroiter
with objects than lives, and more facile
at courage than kindness: from the moment

the first flint was flaked this landing was merely
a matter of time. But our selves, like Adam’s,
still don’t fit us exactly, modern
only in this—our lack of decorum.

Homer’s heroes were certainly no braver
than our Trio, but more fortunate: Hector
was excused the insult of having
his valor covered by television.

Worth going to see? I can well believe it.
Worth seeing? Mneh! I once rode through a desert
and was not charmed: give me a watered
lively garden, remote from blatherers

about the New, the von Brauns and their ilk, where
on August mornings I can count the morning
glories where to die has a meaning,
and no engine can shift my perspective.

Unsmudged, thank God, my Moon still queens the Heavens
as She ebbs and fulls, a Presence to glop at,
Her Old Man, made of grit not protein,
still visits my Austrian several

with His old detachment, and the old warnings
still have power to scare me: Hybris comes to
an ugly finish, Irreverence
is a greater oaf than Superstition.

Our apparatniks will continue making
the usual squalid mess called History:
all we can pray for is that artists,
chefs and saints may still appear to blithe it.