by Mike Hodges
On the weekend of June 29 through July 1, Cascadian enthusiasts converged in Portland, in Seattle, and at the Peace Arch for celebrations of and conversations about bioregionalism and interdependence.
The weekend began on June 29 in Portland, where several dozen Cascadians assembled around a fire to share beer and discourse. The evening began with organized discussions about personal histories of Cascadian self-consciousness and bioregional hope. Later, as the sun set, the beer cans began to pile up in the recycle bin, and rain began to hiss into the fire, the chatting became less structured and more free-flowing.
Posters and stickers were distributed, new friends were made, and arrangements were put together to caravan to Seattle the next day for the meeting there.
Multiple vehicles packed tight as salmon in a tin with well-caffeinated and well-fed lovers of Cascadia made their way up I-5 on June 30, eventually landing at Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park. While some scheduling difficulties led to the gathering happening in two distinct segments – the first comprised primarily of Seattle Cascadia Project members, the second composed primarily of Portlanders – the day was, overall, a great success.
Seattle Cascadians brought and grilled burgers and hot dogs, and people shared homemade strawberry mead while talking about Cascadian and American politics and the continually evolving social and cultural dynamics of the Cascadian movement around a roaring bonfire on a beach facing out towards the Olympic Peninsula.
Those who stayed through the afternoon eventually retired back to Seattle’s Sodo district to watch documentaries and continue the discussions they’d begun earlier in the day and the weekend.
The next morning, July 1, folks emerged re-energized and, with several new members added to their ranks, moved up I-5 again, this time to the Peace Arch State and Provincial Park.
The Peace Arch – a U.S./Canadian border crossing between Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia – offers the only place in the bioregion where citizens of both states can come together and mingle without having to pass through border controls.
The Peace Arch thus is at the same time a tremendously useful meeting place and a symbolically rich site. The engraving on the northern side of the arch declares that people from throughout Cascadia are “Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity,” while the monument’s south side declares that those from north and south of the border are “Children of a Common Mother.”
Cascadians from both sides of the artificial border took full advantage of the park’s symbolic and practical value, sharing food and flags in the shadow of the stone monument.
Motorists waiting to cross from Canada into the United States smiled, waved, and offered thumbs-up, and engaged the Cascadian supporters in conversation. The Cascadians were only too happy to respond, handing out stickers, flags, and pamphlets to interested and curious passers-by.
At one point during the day, a group of Cuban anti-blockade protesters marched through the park, chanting and waving flags as they attempted to bring a truckload of aid supplies through the border in preparation for a caravan of their own. Several Doug-waving Cascadians joined them, and were met with smiles and good cheer.
It was that kind of good cheer that was the continual marker and the ultimate outcome of the weekend. As Cascadians from throughout the bioregion went back to their respective localities, one group, many of whom had been at all three convergences, took time to gather back in Seattle and reflect on the experience.
“It was wonderful to put faces to names,” one of those gathered said, “and the conversations that we’ve had all weekend long were really amazing.”