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It’s hard to imagine creatures more enigmatic than the gray whales that migrate along the Oregon coast each year. Ever since the ban on the commercial slaughter of gray whales took effect in the 1930s, the species has slowly recovered, and now thousands of these graceful marine mammals make the yearly journey up and down the West Coast, from Alaska to Baja California and back.

Each summer, around 200 whales decide that Oregon is the place to be, and rather than go back to Alaska for the summer, they stop in Oregon and hang out until it’s time to return to Mexico. 

As soon as I step through the door, my nose fills with that universal sex-shop smell, a combination of chlorine and something sort of sweetish and sweaty and overripe. The guy behind the Plexiglas says “23 bucks,” and I push him three crisp 20s, apologizing for a lack of smaller bills. Yeah, baby, I’m cool! He gives me back a 20 and then my actual change, and slips a small voucher, room keys (no. 161, no TV), two blue Lifestyles rubbers and a bleached towel through the change trough.

Thanks to a gun law in Texas, Eugene is now home to relationship author and blogger Duana Welch. She moved to Eugene last year after her home state of Texas passed a law allowing guns in classrooms. As a college instructor, Welch says she retired in protest, and she and her husband moved to Eugene in search of political ideals more closely matched to their own.

Welch brings to Eugene a wealth of knowledge on science-based dating advice. She runs the online blog LoveScience and wrote the book Love Factually, a guide to finding love based on scientific studies and data. She’s currently teaching a class at Ophelia’s Place that elaborates on the book’s concepts. 

EW sat down with Welch to find out what science has to say about relationships.

Eugene: The World’s Greatest City for the Arts and Outdoors.

That was Eugene’s, ahem, slightly overstated city slogan until 2010. 

The city then rolled it back to:

Eugene: A Great City for the Arts and Outdoors. 

Never has the chasm between “the” and “a” been so wide.

As of Jan. 31, the Jacobs Gallery, located in the basement of the Hult Center — the only city-subsidized visual arts venue — closed after 18 years. Perhaps the powers that be should tone the slogan down once more:

Eugene: A City Where People Go Outdoors.

On Jan. 20, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced 2015 as the hottest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880. 

Oregon itself experienced its hottest year since the state's records began in 1895. Phil Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, says the state’s “average temperature in 2015 was 50.4 degrees, not only a record but far above the average yearly temperature for the 20th century, which was 47.8 degrees.” Mote attributes this to a combination of meteorological conditions and greenhouse gases.

The chairs were organized in circles in the library of Eugene’s Temple Beth Israel, and the congregation was chatting, swelling the sound of their collective conversation. But as the rabbi entered, singing, the talking quickly faded and everyone began to take their seats. 

It was the beginning of the havdalah, meaning distinction, a ritual that marks the end of holy time and transition back into ordinary life at the end of Shabbat or Sabbath, Judaism’s day of rest.

Rabbi Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein was recently appointed head rabbi of this Eugene congregation that serves about 350 households in the area. Rubenstein was singing a niggun, a wordless melody intoned by a group or congregation. The niggun is meant to bring them to a place of meditation, she says.

It’s been a heavy week for Adam Jacques. As he tours around the 40-plus-acre farm in west Eugene where he cultivates some of the most highly regarded medical cannabis in the world, Jacques, always outgoing, nonetheless seems weighted by sadness — not exactly downbeat but weary, like a man recently smacked by the cosmos.

Atop the 100-hour week Jacques and his team routinely put in breeding medical cannabis for patients, he’s also been filling out the reams of bureaucratic and legal paperwork required to go recreational, a move he’s making largely to fund the healing side of his profession. It’s this professional work — the breeding of strains with record-breaking percentages of cannabidiol or CBD, one of the major medicinal elements in pot that, unlike THC, does not get you high — that led Canna Magazine to give Jacques the Most Influential Grower in the Northwest award at its Seattle conference this past August.

But there’s business, and then there’s the business of healing, with its hard-won triumphs and inevitable losses. On the morning of Jan. 3 came news of the passing of Frank Leeds, a cancer patient with whom Jacques had been working closely for the past five years. It was his work with Leeds — and in particular the breeding of “Frank’s Gift,” a high-CBD strain of cannabis — that opened up for Jacques the possibility of turning his green gifts toward the services of healing.

Margaret Miner Morton, better known as Peg Morton in the activist and Quaker community, died Dec. 19 at age 85 of natural causes. Before she died, her voice and charisma still filled rooms, and with medical intervention, she likely would have had more years to live, love and be politically active, but her body was telling her, “It’s time to go.” 

She was hospitalized with pneumonia over Thanksgiving weekend, and her overall health and vitality were slipping. She said she didn’t wish to burden herself or her loved ones, or expend resources through the kind of prolonged decline she had observed in others, most recently while living at the Olive Plaza senior apartments downtown. Morton said she appreciated medical science, but not when it artificially extended life at great expense and suffering.

She granted EW an hour of one-on-one conversation in her light-filled 12th floor apartment, overlooking east Eugene and the Cascades in the distance. She was limiting her diet to a cup of yogurt a day and some green tea. She was about to begin the dry fast that ended her life Dec. 19, after two days in a coma, at the home of friends and in the presence of loved ones. The way she chose to die, by not eating or taking in fluids for 12 days, represents only a small part of her life, but it was also a spiritual and political statement. 

Charles Wilson is founder and CEO of Portland-based Cricket Flours, a platform food ingredient and consumer food product company. 

Wilson says his mother’s gluten-intolerance inspired the business. He founded the enterprise during his last year of law school at the University of Oregon.

“Ten or 15 years ago my mom got diagnosed,” Wilson tells EW, “and she couldn’t have gluten anymore.”

About four years ago, Wilson and his sisters were also diagnosed gluten intolerant. Wilson’s family had to make significant changes to their diets. “That’s what led me to find cricket protein sources,” he says. “The whole idea is to get this new type of food ingredient into your favorite recipes — dishes, shakes, smoothies. It’s basically a way to incorporate more protein into your diet.”

Have you ever listened to a song and, without even realizing it, started tapping your toes? Have you ever been brought to tears through music? Most of us can probably answer “yes.” 

There’s a science, and a whole profession, built around the reason why. 

I’m in the cheery downtown studio of Danielle Oar, a board-certified music therapist and owner of Refuge Music Therapy, LLC in Eugene. 

I have come to accept the fact that I will never love running. You heard me, Track Town USA. I admire Eugene’s gleeful hoards of marathon runners and I understand that, to some, running is a sacred form of exercise.

To me, it is a merciless slog. 

And yet, I still do it. Or rather, I jog. “Jogger” is a term that actual runners use to describe amateurs such as myself. The hallmark of the “jogging” condition: feeling as though I’m burning nine million calories while dutifully dragging myself along the bike path when, in actuality, I am moving at a geologic pace as 5-pound dogs and small children hurtle past me, laughing joyously. 

LIke yoga but with a stick, Bo Yoga combines elements of yoga with a bo, a wooden staff used in the Japanese martial art of bojutsu. Those familiar with yoga may recognize hints of familiar poses like table or warrior, but it is a unique discipline, incorporating tai chi and dance. 

Nate Guadagni, founder and instructor of Bo Yoga, says he came up with the idea while trying out different kinds of bo staffs. 

“I realized it allowed me and my students to do a lot more,” Guadagni says about the plastic-and-foam bo he uses in class. “The bo staff allows you to use leverage.” And that means it is possible to stretch more deeply with less effort and strain. The practice is particularly helpful for people recovering from injuries, he says, as well as improving balance and self-discipline. 

For the third year in a row, EW has asked our readers (and ourselves) what we dream for Eugene, as well as the cities and area around us. The best planning involves dreaming, and so we looked at a couple of areas in Lane County we feel don’t get enough attention — Glenwood and north Eugene — and the Whiteaker, which some might argue suffers from too much of Eugene’s attention and gentrification. 

Ordinary people, politicians, musicians, artists, teachers, students: If you have a dream, we want to hear it. What should we dream about for next year? How do we turn our dreams to action?

I Dream of The Whit

I Dream of North Eugene

I Dream of Glenwood

I Dream of the City

I Dream of Kesey Square

I Dream of Staff Picks

Juan Carlos Valle Founding president of The League of United Latin American Citizens of Lane County

My dream for Glenwood is to be an iconic area that connects both Eugene and Springfield cities.

A destination point where a beautiful riverfront public access and a convention center harmonize and complement each other.

In the Pacific Northwest’s damp, dark days of winter, it’s hard to imagine any beckoning outdoors spaces, like say the twinkling age-old Christmas markets of Germany. But we do have a pocket of possibility right in the heart of the city: Kesey Square. Rather than look at its brick shell as some unintended consequence of ad-hoc city planning — where some local developers want to plop a building — we ask you to dream of the possibilities. 

Lisa Arkin  Executive director of Beyond Toxics

The southern Willamette Valley is defined by the forces of the Willamette River, which deposited fertile soils as it weaved from the Cascades to the ocean.

West Eugene is the recipient of the river’s largesse, Class I and II soils, so rich in nutrients they are capable of growing nearly any edible crop. I dream of a bounty of crops erupting from the seeds planted by a new generation of land stewards.

All staff pick

We dream off a permanent publicly run, staffed and funded shelter for the unhoused, or series of shelters across Lane County.

We could fund it by asking businesses like local breweries to “round up” on their purchases and donate to supporting a shelter and staff.


Ted Taylor  Editor

Kitty Piercy Eugene mayor

Dwight Dickinson  Local musician and satirist

In 2012, Roger Fields was staring homelessness in the face. Fields was three weeks away from being released from the Oregon State Correctional Institution, where he had served 22 months of a 31-month stretch stemming from convictions for car theft, drug possession and a parole violation. 

“I have family out here, but you sort of burn bridges at times,” Fields says. Fields, 53, says he would have been “on the street” if not for his third application to Sponsors, Inc., the Lane County-based nonprofit that provides housing opportunities and help with employment, education and other services for people with a criminal record. 

Sponsors accepted his application at the last minute, Fields says. After his release, he began his reentry into society by staying at one of Sponsors’ short-term living facilities while he got back on his feet.

The joy of racing to the end of an amazing book is soon marred by the realization you are closing the page on a world you’ve been living in for hours, days or weeks. You hope for a sequel (one that doesn’t kill off your favorite characters) and the hunt begins for the next dive deep into another time, place or reality. I’m so reading obsessed, I get a little depressed if I realize that I don’t have a book to come home to. I hoard books, share them, get them back and reread them. Here at EW we are delighted each year to share what we’ve been reading all year in our annual Winter Reading issue.

Coloring ain’t just for kids anymore. In fact, coloring books have been deemed a bonafide stress reliever for adults and the phenomenon is catching on. In 2015, the benefits and rising popularity of coloring books for adults were touted by The New Yorker  and The New York Times

Every once in a while something crazy happens: Someone self-publishes a book and it takes off. The Celestine Prophecy started that way as did Still Alice, and 50 Shades of Grey started off as internet-published Twilight fan fiction. Lane County has a whole host of writers publishing themselves or getting published by a “vanity” press (Hey, it’s not vanity if it’s good!). They, and we, hope one of these books takes off. Here’s just a smidge of what got dropped off at EW this year.

Once upon a time, and not all that terribly far back, Jeff Geiger was undergoing what he now describes as “a dark night of the soul.”

The Eugene writer had arrived at the artistic crossroads. “I’d been working for, I’d say, at least a decade as what I’d consider to be a serious writer,” he says. Deciding that he was most passionate about young adult fiction, Geiger wrote two such novels that came up bust. They had heart, but “they weren’t selling. It was an incredibly frustrating experience,” he recalls.