Fall Submissions Now Open!

Hello friends and welcome to another season of Camas,

This issue we’re more excited than usual because it’s our 25th anniversary! Our first issue, printed in Winter 1992-93, was an inspired 24-page black and white, photocopied and stapled publication. The editorial team chose the moniker Camas after the camas lily, which was harvested by the Salish during a time of celebration. It’s been published every year since and is always a celebratory event.

In 25 years, a lot has changed and yet there are oh-so-many moments that feel very much the same. Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida. This year, Irma has already made landfall, and forecasters are predicting the most active hurricane season since 2010. Twenty-five years ago, a nation divided watched rioters set fire to Los Angeles in response to acquittal of the officers who assaulted Rodney King. This year has seen a president use stronger rhetoric to condemn those who kneel during the national anthem than those who rallied around racist and antisemitic ideologies in Charlottesville. Twenty-five years ago, Mae Jemison made history by becoming the first African American woman to enter space when the Space Shuttle Endeavor launched. This year, the world’s largest march, the Women’s March, was held around the world on January 21 to advocate for women’s rights in response to the inauguration of Pres. Donald Trump. We’ve come a long way, but in so many ways, it feels like we have a long way to go.

We’ve left this issue of Camas themeless so those who want to submit can write/reflect/create/act on any subject that strikes a cord. We want a moment for us to celebrate where we’ve been and also where we might be headed. As always, Camas aims to cultivate a community of writers and artists dedicated to land health and cultural resilience in the American West. We mean for this philosophy to be broadly interpreted though, so please surprise us with your submissions.

Thanks, as always, for your readership, and to submit:


And, as an added thanks, here’s a link to our first ever Camas: https://issuu.com/camasmagazine/docs/camas_1992


What Really Matters

By Theresa Duncan

Montana's Roaring Lion Fire burned more than 8,500 acres in July and August of 2016. (InciWeb photo)

Montana's Roaring Lion Fire burned more than 8,500 acres in July and August of 2016. (InciWeb photo)

A collective holding of breath was the order of each day. For weeks, county and state officials had been urging caution due to the dry conditions in the forest. Open burning was closed. Perhaps the Bitterroot Valley would escape the summer of 2016 without any major fires.  

On Sunday, July 21, 2016, at 2:15 p.m., a peaceful, sunny afternoon was shattered as the Roaring Lion Fire erupted to life. That day and time is seared into the hearts, minds and nightmares of many of my dear friends. The monster leapt from zero to 2,000 acres in six short, tragic hours. Sixteen homes and the solace of a deep connection to place lay reduced to ashes behind the veil of thick smoke.

Officials had to close Highway 93 because so many trucks and trailers lined the shoulder, waiting to be allowed into the area to help people evacuate. Most of them knew people that lived up Roaring Lion Creek, but not all. Some just came to help. Brad Mohn, the local fire chief, appeared on the news to thank area residents for donations and support, but ask for a halt to their generosity. They had more than they could possibly use.

There were at least three unofficial shelters in town, offering extra assistance beyond what the Red Cross and Salvation Army could provide. People opened their homes to evacuees, opened pasture gates for displaced livestock. Our community came together in an unprecedented fashion, according to one Forest Service official; he had never seen anything like it in his many years of firefighting.

By mid-September, the Roaring Lion Fire burned more than 8,500 acres when a few inches of snow fell, smothering the most active remnants of the fiend. Most homes in the area still stand, surrounded by a ghost forest. Some reek of smoke and fear; others remain whole against a backdrop of grief and loss.

A dear friend who lost her home and nearly all her possessions put it in perspective. “I am learning how attached we can become to things, to order, to familiarity.” She paused. “I am learning what really matters.”

Theresa Duncan holds an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and is currently teaching an undergraduate course called "The Environmental Vision." She lives in the mountains west of Hamilton, Mont., with her husband, John, and golden retriever, Brinkley. Among the pines, she gardens, hikes, bikes, reads, writes and enjoys frequent wildlife visitors. Her writing focuses on the interactions of people and the elements of place.


Notes from the Country: MSO-->SEA

By Matt Hart

Indian summer in Missoula, sky eggshell blue and sun warm. Up and west, I am following the Clark Fork from a window seat, watching the shimmer of late September on the wandering silver ribbon below. And the northern Bitterroots seemingly endless in stacked ridges of such quantity as to seem uniform, until I look closer and there are the logging roads snaking round their flanks like ropes on a scarred surviving body.

The mountains are not endless. The Clark Fork opens into the ear lobe puddle of Lake Ponderay and then the land becomes subtler, foothills and bumps and soon the stubble and swales of Eastern Washington. A patchwork of grain. I want to sit in a coulee in the heat of this sun, far away from anyone who knows me. I want to wear these boots into a tavern in one of those little specks of a town and hear the low rumbles of ranchers and farmers who fit on their barstools better than anywhere. I won’t speak much there.

And then suddenly the Columbia, racing south, deeply cut, and the last agriculture, and then starkly immediately unequivocally: new mountains rising fast, more spruce and fir and logging roads, and soon huge billows of cloud obscuring much. The coastal forest, yawning in deep green. The peaks impose a new jaggedness of form, taller and snaggletoothed, igneous knife-edges rising toward us in our puny white plane. And they are still rising.

And we are still moving, 500 miles per hour. Finally, as the spires fade to foothills and the first neighborhoods, it is there, to the south, rising above a Mordor of pointed peaks and cloud. Rainier, snow and rock pouring down the hulked sides, little flat gray clouds hanging on the summit like flies dogging the ears of an elephant. The mass of the thing is unbelievable. If I were born in the shadow and knew no other country, how could I understand this mountain as anything but the source of the divine?

The spell is broken by ocean. Puget Sound shimmers and sparkles and curls and absorbs. The curtain of the Olympics hazy in distant relief against cloud and reddening sky. Between the spiraling arteries of cul-de-sacs and ballfields and schools, the towering Doug firs, the lighter hardwoods. From above, it is so easy to picture it all barely inhabited by us, a rolling blanket of damp dark forest spanning mountain and sea. The forms of concrete, brick and steel pressure-washed from the land. Wood and water and cloud enduring. As they will. I step off the plane and the coastal air is cool, the asphalt hard beneath my feet.

Matt Hart is a senior co-editor of Camas.

Announcing our Winter 2016 Theme: Country

Photos courtesy of (clockwise from top left): Charles Gurche // Aruna Project // Charles Gurche // Eric Martinez

Photos courtesy of (clockwise from top left): Charles Gurche // Aruna Project // Charles Gurche // Eric Martinez

Country music. Countryside. Home country. Wild country. Whether you’re thinking politically or geographically, civically or culturally, the word “country” holds a varied resonance for the people and places of the American West. We are excited to present it as the theme guiding our Winter 2016 issue of Camas. We want to hear your thoughts on the country, from the country, beyond the country. In words and images, prose and poems, we will delve into what troubles, what sustains, and what makes up this place—this wide and lovely country.

Submissions are now open via our Submittable page, with the deadline of 11:59pm on October 15, 2016. We welcome all submissions, as our theme is meant to be interpreted broadly.

In his song "Country Is," Tom T. Hall concludes, “Country is what you make it.”

We’re excited to see what you make it in our next issue of Camas.

Peter Gurche and Matt Hart, Senior Editors

Seeing Salvelinus

By Tom Sentner

Quartz Lake, Glacier National Park // photo by Tom Sentner

Quartz Lake, Glacier National Park // photo by Tom Sentner

The deep, emerald green lakes on the west slopes of Glacier National Park are mysterious to me. It amazes me that lakes so high in elevation could be so deep, and that lakes so cold could be full of fish and insects. The unique color of the water leads me to peer again and again into the depths of lakes like Bowman and Quartz.

There is a genus of fish here, Salvelinus, which to my mind is swimming in mystery. Fish of the genus Salvelinus are char, the coldest of the cold-water fishes. Brook trout, lake trout, and bull trout are all technically char, not trout.

The advance and retreat of glaciers has left pockets of char in cold waters across the Lower 48 states. Brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, are native to the small rocky streams (or brooks) of the Appalachians. They can be found in pools so small they barely keep the fish wet, pools they share with giant hellbender salamanders in the misty, humid forests all the way down to the western Carolinas, ice-age remnants of the South’s cooler past.

Lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, once supported commercial fisheries in the Great Lakes before overharvest. They are native to the Hudson Bay drainage of Glacier National Park, but were introduced into Flathead Lake, and from there have become invasive in the Columbia River drainage of the park. While in the Hudson drainage they co-exist with our native char, the bull trout, in the Columbia drainage they displace them.

Bull trout, the Salmon-Trout, so important for the cultures of the Crown of the Continent, are being displaced by a fish that was in turn displaced from its place in the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

Bull trout are the char of great western rivers and mountains. I spent the past summer in Glacier National Park learning about how the Anthropocene, the topsy-turvy and perhaps short-lived age of humans, has fish mixed up and bull trout on the brink. But what affected me most was actually seeing Salvelinus, a genus with DNA shaped by ice ages, in a land shaped by glaciers.


Tom Sentner is an aspiring nature writer and a second-year graduate student in the Environmental Studies program at the University of Montana. Years of odd jobs doing manual labor and environmental work have landed him in some strange situations in wide-ranging parts of the U.S., and he is now attempting to write about those experiences in the greater environmental context of our times. He is originally from Florida, but has also lived and worked in Illinois, Texas, and Washington State, and is greatly enjoying residing in Montana.

And We're Off! A Letter from Your New Editors

Dear Camas readers:

Welcome to a new and exciting year for the magazine. It promises to be a pivotal year in the West. Coal clashes and wildfires have communities buzzing about climate change. Presidential candidates with widely differing views on resources and energy fill the airwaves. A complex debate over protection of the magnificent grizzly bear will have long-lasting impacts on how we relate to our neighboring species. Through it all, the rooted and resonant visions of Westerners will emerge and bring new meaning to our understanding of the region. We are thrilled for the opportunity to showcase those interpretations in Camas.

As co-editors, we are committed to continuing the magazine’s traditions of illuminating your writing, breathtaking art and photography, and a lively dialogue between the familiar and the new, between emerging and established voices. We are also committed to expanding Camasreadership and the scope of its content, as well as its online presence. That’s where we need your help. Since moving to Missoula, we have each been impressed and inspired by the diversity and clarity of the voices that percolate through our community. Having also lived in our fair share of other nooks and crannies around the West, we know that this phenomenon is not singular to Western Montana. Big landscapes and big ideas: the West is full of both. When you witness one, whether it originates within yourself or from the people and places around you, we want to hear about it. Your attentiveness and your inspired work will keep Camas growing as a space for exploring the West in all its colors.

We’re excited to kick off the year with a blog series called Field NotesFriends of the magazine will share impressions from their summer experiences as we begin the countdown to announcing our next issue’s theme and opening submissions. Whether farming in the Rattlesnake Valley or documenting the National Parks’ centennial from the slopes of Glacier, members of the Camas community were busy this summer, and their fresh perspectives promise to begin the year with gusto. We also hope to ramp up the magazine’s social media presence, sharing voices and ideas we encounter that will keep the discourse surrounding Camas broad and ongoing. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and join the conversation!

We’d like to conclude with a brief thought from farmer, writer and thinker Wendell Berry, whom a member of the Camas community was recently fortunate to meet. Mr. Berry had this to say when asked about environmental writing: “If I tell my wife I’m going out into the environment, she won’t know where I am. But if I tell her I’m going up the crick a spell, she’ll know exactly where I am.” To us, that means specificity above all. We envision a magazine that moves beyond abstract notions about “the environment” and digs down into the raw detail of place, of experience. In the poem or essay or photograph that reaches out and touches the truth that’s right in front of us, we may find our way forward.

That’s the news from Lake Missoula for now. Be sure to check back next week for the first installment of Field Notes and stay tuned to the conversation on social media. Deep thanks for your support of Camas and warmest late summer wishes. Off we go!


Peter Gurche and Matt Hart

Low clouds and a late-summer sunset over Missoula. Photo by Peter Gurche.

Low clouds and a late-summer sunset over Missoula. Photo by Peter Gurche.

Past the Edge of Snow

Peter's piece can also be found on our Winter 2015 Featured Content page, alongside Eva Saulitis' "Ever-Moving World." This piece is dedicated to Eva. 

By Peter Gurche

This winter, I spent two grey weeks in coastal Alaska, skirting the borders of loss. Seven hours after Christmas dinner with my own family, after the pork loin and ginger sauce and carols and gifts, I was on a northbound plane moving through the dim winter dawn toward a house heavy with grief. Elli, my girlfriend, was losing her stepmom, Eva, to metastatic breast cancer. After years of chemo, the cancer wouldn’t be held back: the fluid built up in her chest and abdomen, the tumor grew.

When I landed in Homer, a change in the weather had lifted the snow line to a few hundred feet above sea level. Most of town was drab and damp, but looking up you could see a white world that floated there like another universe, intertwining with ours on the hillside in dense thickets of alder and birch, pale and beckoning. I stood staring at the divide, until Elli picked me up at the airport and took me home. Inside, Eva sat next to the woodstove, sipping tea, while her oxygen unit purred quietly.

“Hi, Peter,” she said softly, but with a smile. “Merry Christmas.” She wore a headscarf, and underneath it her eyes glowed warmer and brighter than the fire she sat next to. I went over and wrapped my arms gently around her, feeling the bones in her shoulders, the bones in her back.

“Hi, Eva,” I whispered into her scarf. “It’s good to see you.”


*                      *                      *


It’s hard to know what to say when someone is dying. I had known Eva for seven years—known her as a runner, as a gardener, as a cutthroat Scrabble player. And for most of that time, I’d known her also as a cancer patient. But that last qualifier hardly seemed real, always buried beneath Eva’s vitality and spunk. Now it sprang out from her bird-thin wrists, the steady doses of morphine, the constant exhaustion. It hung behind our words, and in the spaces between them, a stranger in the house.

Perhaps the strangest thing was the way that it was possible, in certain moments, to ignore the cancer, to lay aside the utter uncertainty that we went to bed with every night. Strange, and also miraculous: we still laughed, still did dishes, still listened to music and went for runs. Eva wouldn’t settle for anything less than life just as plain or wondrous or desperate as it came—no moping, no sugarcoating.

The last meal Eva cooked was my birthday dinner. She made meatballs—“Jeff’s Balls” she called them, for a friend who supplied the recipe. It took her four hours. She brought an onion and cutting board over to the couch and worked slowly with the knife, taking time with each slice. She stopped when she was tired and let the allium fumes fill her nose and water her eyes. She formed the meatballs patiently, fried them in oil, covered them in rich red sauce. When we sat down to eat, I smiled through watery eyes at my plate and its two perfect globes atop the pasta. I brought a fork to my mouth: garlic, gratitude, stewed tomatoes, and the loveliest of gifts, freely given.

In those weeks, I stood outside of the pool of deep loss that Elli and her family swam through. I moved on the quiet edges of grief, inhabiting the outer orbits, circling. But I was in turn bound by my own small moon, my own piercing and weighty sadness. I straddled the space. I wasn’t an interloper—I knew and loved Eva, and had my own relationship with her—yet I didn’t face the same anguished rending of the heart. So I tended the fire, the raging grief of Elli and her family, while another burned in me, smaller, but still painful to the touch.


*                      *                      *


Eva died a week after I left. In the gulf of her absence, an urge to search sprang up in Elli and her family and me. We saw signs of Eva’s passage in birds, and wind, and old corners of memory; but it was hard to find a trace of Eva herself. When I think back to the day I landed in Homer and the line across the hill, I think I know where she went. She went to that winter world, that place of fey light and thicket, of ice flake and feather and raven calls. The world that hangs above this one and is twisted up in it, and sometimes, if the weather is right, descends when we’re sleeping and wakes us to a dream that is soft and white and encompassing. And on those days we can go out walking in it, and take its air into our lungs, and sing soft songs in the gathering dusk. 

A Revolution of Slowness

By Matt Hart

The word is beautiful, demands attention. Say it aloud. Revolution. What images does it conjure? For most of us, the answer is unlikely to be lunar phases or a model solar system, those cyclical circumnavigations of a middle school science class. No, revolutions are political things according to our frantic, contemporary zeitgeist. And whether it’s powdered wigs signing a declaration or a rumpled septuagenarian waving his arms, urgency seems a prerequisite for the term’s use. Momentousness, in the sense of not waiting a moment longer.

As February temperatures rose into the mid-fifties last week, Missoula hosted esteemed thinker and activist Vandana Shiva. On a Wednesday afternoon that saw sandals and Frisbees reemerge from closeted torpor, students and community members packed into Gallagher Business Building – oh, the irony – to hear Dr. Shiva deliver a ringing denouncement of profit-driven global food systems. That evening, in an enthusiastic Dennison Theater, she carried similar themes into her lecture, “We Are All Seeds: Food Security and Environmental Sustainability.”

Perhaps her most cutting and comprehensive moment came when she said: “The ability to choose what we eat surely has to be the most foundational freedom.”

In Latin, revolvere, the root of revolution, means “to roll back.” Political revolutions, we like to imagine, are inherently progressive, an acceleration of forward thought, a venture into uncharted provinces of human affairs. But ecofeminism – among other discourses – reminds us that such linearity is a colonial construct, that the life systems of Earth are overwhelmingly cyclical.

If you haven’t done so already, you must witness the “Super Bloom” happening now in Death Valley, the first such event of the 21st century. Stop reading this post, watch this videoand marvel at the beauty of Earth’s slow cyclicality.

More Shiva from last Wednesday: “If being primitive means taking care of the prairies, taking care of our forest, then I would rather be primitive and be a member of the Earth family than have the illusion of being part of man’s empire over lesser creatures.”

What if we viewed revolution etymologically? What if the revolution we need is truly a rolling back of superficiality, a revelation of that slower, older wisdom – call it primitivism if you must – so often hidden by the flimsy crust of techno-modernity?

This, I believe, is what Wallace Stegner called for when he challenged the American West to learn that “cooperation, not rugged individualism, is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it.”

There is no site more ripe for revolution, for rolling back, than the West. Amid the urgency of August smoke and February thaw, centuries of Indigenous history teach us that here, lasting prosperity is only achieved when we act for the benefit of the many, not the few. We are revolutionaries when we preserve soil, when we slow down and think cyclically, when we fight the greed of Bundy and Bishop with the magnanimity of Stegner and Shiva.

“Where would we be without a Rachel Carson?” Dr. Shiva asks us.

In the age of fast technology, to write, to slowly search for truth on the page, might be the most radical act of all. We at Camas invite you to share your searching with us. The seeds of revolution have long been drenched in ink.





Camas, the literary magazine of the Environmental Studies department at UM, is pleased to offer an Editorial Internship for the Spring 2016 semester. We welcome applicants who are interested the process of writing for, editing, publicizing, designing and producing an environmental literature and arts journal of the highest quality. We strongly encourage students with interest in visual art, photography, design, communications, social media, and event organization to apply. Writers, poets, aspiring editors, and brilliant individuals of all backgrounds are enthusiastically welcome to apply for these internships with Camas.


The ideal candidate for this position will:


·       demonstrate consistent initiative and follow-through, even during the busiest moments in the semester,

·       possess skills in website management, social media, and/or fundraising,

·       express interest in event organization and creative public outreach projects,

·       and demonstrate exceptional written and verbal communication skills.


We invite applicants to consider their own interests, strengths, and experience in the context of the Editorial Internship. What can you bring to the magazine? We enthusiastically welcome your ideas and will work with you to define the parameters of the internship, given your needs and expectations, as well as those of the magazine.


Position responsibilities may include:


·       editing and curating website content,

·       social media management,

·       help with event planning and coordination,

·       solicitation and reviewing submissions,

·       and help with magazine design, promotion, and distribution.


Applications should be received no later than midnight on January 30, 2016 . Finalists will be invited to interview for the position shortly after the deadline.


Please email your completed application to camas@mso.umt.edu. Include a cover letter, CV or resume, and the answers the application questions that follow.


You may also apply for this internship via Griz eRecruiting: job listing 63727/Editorial Intern, Camas Magazine




Name  _________________________________________________________________

UM email address_________________________________________________________________

Phone number_________________________________________________________________

Expected graduation date____________________________________________________________

Major(s)  _________________________________________________________________

Minor(s)  _________________________________________________________________


Application questions (no more than 300 words per response)

Please attach written responses to this application.


1. How will the Camas Editorial Internship contribute to your educational, professional, or creative goals?


2. What are some ideas you have for increasing readership of Camas?


3. Please describe your skills, strengths, and experiences as they pertain to your role as Editorial Intern at a journal of environmental literature.


4. Please list two faculty members who can speak to your skills, commitment, and dedication to your work. 





Place is a story we tell ourselves

Place is a story we tell ourselves

by Kate Leary

Place is a story we tell ourselves. The physical world is there, right out the window, with its piney hills or city streets, rolling plains or red-rock desert, tended fields or rushing rivers. Yet that alone isn’t place. Geography cannot capture its breadth and richness. Even the finest examination of geologic faults and fissures never quite hits bedrock truth. The neat maps we use to guide ourselves through the messiness of our world are always falling short.

In Camas we wish to learn about the west, but which west? The mountains worked by miners are different from those that climbers ascend to. Foresters walk through different woods than backpackers who tread on yet different paths than biologists or loggers.  There is the west of rafters and of ranchers, of urban-dwellers, of tribes. Place is a tapestry of voices, a clamor and a conversation.

If place is a story we tell, then it is also one that we have a chance to retell, to revise and reinterpret. Place grows as new voices are added and new ideas blossom, inviting us to see the same beloved landscapes with fresh eyes. It’s a project engaged in by a growing community, scattered across biomes, time zones and worldviews, but united by the conviction that the land we live in matters. What we are asking you is no less than that: tell us your west. 

Kate Leary is a second-year grad student in the environmental studies program at the University of Montana.

Meet Me There

Meet Me There

by Theresa Duncan

A damp chill seeps into my pores as I walk. At seven a.m., campus is at peace, silent, waiting. The leaves of all the native and the non-native tress are beginning to change, much the way students from near and far will be transformed by the knowledge and relationships we will each build at the University of Montana. 

Autumn semester is upon us, with all its excitement and busyness. This is the season when my right hand begins to ache, when my favorite pen seems to call out to me. Off-white pages whisper to me from behind the journal cover. The streaks of dark purple, midnight blue, deep burgundy, olive green, and brilliant gold reflect the season. A pumpkin decked out in green vines and leaves sits in the bottom right corner. The beauty of this cover begs me to fill the inside with the beautiful music of words. The blue ink flows across the page, creating rivers of life and remembrance. Let the artist have his canvas. For me, words are my subjects – of study, of inspiration, of belonging, of life.

The pace of this new beginning unsettles me, and I ground myself in remembrances of summer. There is the photograph of my brother and I beneath Skalkaho Falls. A scrap of paper marks my place in my Politics of Food class textbook. On this ripped shard, a hastily scrawled cowboy poem pokes fun at jack-e-lope hunting. I pause to remember that character I met on the trail up in Glacier, a bit larger than life, and I wonder what fiction I might craft to tell his story. The true story of my forester father-in-law rests, partially written, on the desk beside me. 

What story is asking to be released from you, my friend? What words will flow across your pages? Please, share them. Camas Magazine is seeking submissions for the Winter issue. Your stories will take us on a piece of your journey, perhaps while we sit by a warm fire in the cold of January. Your stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, photograph or poem, will connect each of us on the page in a way only the magic of words and images can. 

Take some time. Edit to make sure we will grasp your true meaning. And submit.  Perhaps we will not meet face-to-face. Perhaps we will never meet anywhere but on the page.  But I invite you. Meet me there, on the pages of Camas.

Theresa Duncan is a second-year Master's student in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. In addition to being a mother, grandmother, and writer, she serves as a senior genre editor for Camas


Camas announces Winter 2015 theme: MOVEMENT

Camas is pleased to announce the theme for our Winter 2015 issue as MOVEMENT. 

We are now accepting submissions of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, art, and photography, and our submission period closes at midnight on October 16, 2015. Please send us your work; all submissions will be considered. 

Prairie Songs 2015: In Photos

We couldn't have asked for a better evening. David James Duncan made us laugh. Annick Smith brought us to pin-drop silence. William DeBuys got us thinking about the self-absorbed feline family. Amy Ratto-Parks' and Melissa Mylchreest's poetry was absolutely beautiful and edgy. Bryce Andrews brought us to Central America like only he could. All braided together by our talented friends, The Wartime Blues. 

Overall, 200+ people, nearly $1000 raised, many new subscriptions, and a new tradition set as the biggest evening of environmental writing in Missoula. Here are a few photos. Thanks so much to the Top Hat Lounge for having us, EVST, Bad Goat Lumber, Fang Mountain Wilderness Hardware, CutBank, The Wartime Blues for playing music (so good!) 

(Click the Photos for More.)

Join us for the 2nd Annual Prairie Songs!

Join us for Missoula’s biggest environmental writing event of the year. The 2nd annual Prairie Songs at the Top Hat Lounge will showcase some of the best writers in the West, along with acoustic music from members of the Wartime Blues. An event organized by Camas Environmental Literary Magazine. 

More about the Readers: 

-- David James Duncan: The River W, The Brother’s K. Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Award, New York Times Notable Book Recipient. 

-- William DeBuys – Pulitizer-Prize nominated writer from New Mexico. Author of several books, including his newest, The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth's Rarest Creatures. 

-- Annick Smith – Long-standing name in Montana literary community. Her work has been featured in Outside, National Geographic Explorer, Audobon, etc. Partnered with William Kittredge. 

-- Bryce Andrews – Winner of 2015 Barnes and Noble Discover Award. Rancher and writer and EVST alum. 

-- Amy Ratto-Parks – Winner of Merriam-Frontier Award, nominated for 2006 Pushcart Prize, professor at the University of Montana. 

-- Melissa Mylchreest - Prominent local writer. 2014 poetry collection Waking the Bones won the Dorothy Brunsman Award. Published in High Country News, High Desert Journal, and many others. EVST and MFA alum.

Welcome Our Newest Addition to the Camas Team: Rebecca Collins

Hello! My name is Rebecca, and I am thrilled to be this semester’s Camas intern. Since I will probably interact with many of you in the coming months, I thought I would introduce myself a bit. I am a junior studying environmental studies and English literature. Two teachers raised me in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. My mom quoted Shakespeare and Teresa of Avila and her ESL students, and my dad led me to birdhouses he had set up for Western bluebirds all along the country road where we lived. I like light rail trains, playing violin, singing the Ode to Joy chorus, reading theology for my bedtime stories, hiking, climbing badly but with a philosophical mindset, and examining every word you throw at me.

I write out of necessity. Last semester, I signed on for twelve credits of independent study related to pilgrimage in Europe--its history, its literature and stories, and its religious significance. I combined this with a focus in travel-themed nature writing. Then I walked--well, also bussed--the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage that ends in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, which is said to hold the remains of St. James the apostle. I started walking just south of Lyon, France, in Le Puy. I had expected enlightenment to just show up and ravish me. I had expected to feel limitless. Instead, I came to an understanding of my limits, and into a need for writing. I got and stayed injured, despite daily icing and stretching and weeks of rest--some days, I could not even step out as a tourist.

All the comfort and enlightenment I had wanted often did not come, but friends came. Friendly donkeys came. Decrepit, echoing cathedrals with fading ceiling frescoes (and one with a hutch of indoor chickens) came. Dancing poplar leaves came. And, most importantly, I witnessed something mysterious carrying me through it all, if you can believe it. Friends still ask me daily, “how was your trip?” and I tell them, “It was spiritual. Every day was difficult. I made a lot of friends. I am still recovering.” I don’t think we’re ever meant to stop recovering. Paul Elie, author of The Life You Save May be Your Own (a book about four prominent American Catholic writers) believes that “a pilgrimage is a journey taken in the light of a story…the pilgrim…[seeks] to be a witness.” We are meant to remain witnesses, to keep reacting to everything we experience in the narratives of our lives. I have just recently awakened to that idea. I do less lately; I hope to witness more. And, of course, I will undoubtedly react to it with writing.

I am glad to be back in the Missoula valley, a place where I have met so many other people who choose to be witnesses--to dying white bark pines, to successful river clean-up projects, to wildflowers in the mountains, to shrinking glaciers, to fracking, to just the food on our tables. In Missoula, I turn to Camas for a window into how other people of Missoula and of the West witness the world. There is something beautiful, rare lately, to this slower, thoughtful place and community and publication that lets life impress itself upon us, that lets us stop in the rush of our lives and react to and love this world. 

Winter 2014 Teaser

Camas Magazine, Winter 2014 Issue. It's currently whipping and whirling through the printing press and will show up at our office front door in several large boxes in a few weeks. We are thrilled, and we hope you are, too. Here's a little teaser to get you ready.  Subscribe or gift Camas Magazine to a loved one by December 8th to ensure delivery before Christmas! 

Wildness Keeps us Alive

Camas Magazine poetry editor Megan McInerney shares some thoughts after our reading "Wilderness and the Human Imagination," hosted in the Mansfield Library in collaboration with Cutbank Magazine.

Those of us here at Camas and the University of Montana are lucky to call Missoula home. It’s not just that we live in a spectacularly beautiful place. We live in a town full of people who appreciate some of life’s finest things: words and wilderness. 

On October 8th, community members gathered in the Mansfield Library for a Wilderness Reading — hosted by Camas and CutBank Magazine — in celebration of The Wilderness Act’s 50th Anniversary and to kick off Missoula’s fifteenth annual festival of the book. Students from the University’s MFA and Environmental Studies programs shared stories and poems interwoven around a common theme: to explore the intersection of the human and wild.

What does it mean to be wild?
What’s our fascination with wilderness, and what’s our place within it?
How is it designated and managed?
Is wilderness still wilderness if we’re in it?


These were some of the questions raised during the reading, along with stunning moments and images left to linger in listeners’ minds: 

A child faces a dusty terrarium, admires a beautifully spun silk cocoon. A human being realizes she’s just a speck, like the stars. A soul sermon in the wilderness, more powerful than any in church. The indescribable power of wilderness and a vow to love and preserve it, until its death, or ours. A poet discovers that emptiness in the air is the only thing that can fill her up. A city boy confesses he seldom goes to the wilderness, but he wants to know it’s there. Abandoned bird nests. Thick barked oak. Owls and alders beneath a speckled sky. An activist’s startling advice: the best way to save the natural world is to sit down in a city and refuse to get up. A wilderness prayer that brings wildness into the room, leaving the audience silent and shut-eyed. 

Why do we need wilderness?
Why do we need words?
Can words be wild?

Whether it refers to an un-tame, unspoiled state in the natural world or a state of mind that refuses to be cultivated and controlled — we need what’s wild because it’s what keeps us alive. Gathering to hear spoken word and stories is a dying ritual within an American consumer culture that promotes entertainment as mindless (and often visual) distraction. Words, just like wilderness, are vanishing from our daily lives faster than we can figure out how to preserve them. 

These kinds of readings matter because they generate hope. 

I remember what Rick Bass said when he read to a packed audience at the Badlander last spring: “Missoula ought to be the place to show the rest of the States how to resist the bullshit.” 

It’s why we do what we do at Camas. The world needs these voices, these stories. 

(Click on image below for more images) 

An Invitation for Honest Conversation

A short update by Camas Editor Nick Triolo about forming editorial boards, the mission, and our fierce call in this Winter 2014 issue for a true, poly-expressive voice of the West.  

Filleted magazines, sticky-fingered snacks, expired tea mugs, and bold ideas were spread everywhere across the table. 

A few weeks ago, Emily and I had our first meeting at the UM FLAT to organize editorial boards for Camas Magazine’s Winter 2014 issue. We spent the evening roundtable-discussing the direction for this publication. What previous experiences got us all here? What purpose do literary magazines really serve? Why is it so important to usher forth a diverse set of voices for and of the environment?

By the end, it was clear that we had the right group of editors, those that saw the work ahead as more than just a magazine, their tasks as more than a dusty stack of to-do checkboxes. Instead, we all saw the work as continuing an honest conversation with place and with ourselves. 

Each editor was given a sliver of paper with Camas Magazine’s new mission statement on it: 

“Camas Magazine cultivates a community of writers and artists dedicated to promoting ecological and cultural diversity and resilience in the American West.”

Emily and I both invited each editor to tape this mission statement to their binder, their mirror, and their forehead, because this is what anchors us, what holds us all together. It reminds us why Camas Magazine matters. We think it matters because the planet seems to be asking for honest voices to converse with, voices with varied backgrounds reflecting diverse perspectives--ethnicities, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, those handi-capable, and many others.

After all, these are the varied and true voices of the West. 

October 15, 2014 is the deadline for our Winter 2014 issue. Our new team at Camas Magazine intends to respond to this invitation with our most honest voice ever, one including all of our shades of eco-cultural expression. We hope you submit any writing, photography or artwork that may help us respond to this call.