David, a spark behind the creation of both Fairhaven and Huxley Colleges at Western Washington University, investigated many subjects, including the pollution in Puget Sound.
“Beware, beware, of things in the air
that we can’t see, like mercury!” – David Mason
To learn more about David Mason, visit the David Mason collection at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies , located at the Goltz Archives, on the campus of Western Washington University, or:
This series of conversations with David Mason didn’t really happen as written. David and I dreamed it all up. However, this series is based on real conversations that David and I have had at sometime or other, and this particular communication is based on what we discussed this very morning, inthe Fall 2004.
Talking with David Mason has always been a creative process. He is thought provoking, often puzzling, and mischievous. I observe David teaching himself, and everyone around him, how to be a better student; passionately merging art and science, work and play, mystery and mastery and humility, into new pursuits and accomplishments.
I am grateful to be one of the people who understands David periodically. David is a word painter. He can say things that cause vivid pictures to suddenly form in my mind. But lately it gets harder and harder to talk with David because he has been caught by the Parkinson’s epidemic and the disease challenges his ability to communicate quite dramatically at times.
“I want to send postcards from the edges of your life to fellow lovers of the Pacific Northwest.” I inform David when he inquires into my motivations and goals for this project.
“What to do at the edges of life? Change your sex. Get a wife.” David sings to me softly, with a puckish twinkle. He appears to enjoy watching me search for the best words to write for him, for me, and for this region.
Unquestionably, David has a huge vocabulary and sadly, I do not.
“David, back in the early 60s, when environmental science was new and you and your peers started looking at the damage already done, you knew that oil was going to run out, that the forest industry was headed for trouble, that the salmon were in danger and that global warming was going to cause huge climatic changes; right?”
“Yes, actually we expected the things we are experiencing now to happen much sooner – by the end of the 60s.” David tells me.
I feel a crackle of electricity, and I am surprised by an attack of goosebumps, as David says slowly, “It is deja vu; remembering the pronouncements we made then, while we watch events now.”
“People are moving to the Pacific Northwest so quickly.” I murmur, “You predicted the population explosion too.”
“Yes, and we understood how the Pacific Northwest is, by it’s very ‘nature’, the land of the cedar, the eagle, the salmon.” David flashes me a 1950’s style all American happy grin and declares, “Visitors love it here. They dream of moving here.”
Then, intent and serious again, David asserts, “And when they do move here, they unwittingly promote a terrible terrible tragedy…the ‘Los Angelizing’ of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.”
“The ‘Los Angelizing’ of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.” I repeat back to David slowly, suddenly feeling frightened and sad.
“Is it too late, David? How can we save our regional habitat, culture and identity, when we are experiencing overpopulation and economic upheaval? Is it even possible to preserve our forests, air, waters and save the diversity of Pacific Northwest species?”
“We predicted 40 years ago what we are experiencing today,” David comments as he turns and gazes out of his picture window over Bellingham Bay. “But I have no knowledge of the future now.”
David hands are shaking to the Parkinson’s beat. I watch him contemplating the view, which includes the ugly, now vacant, Georgia Pacific pulp mill complex. I know that David is fully aware of the mercury in the waters stretched out before him. He knows the way that mercury rises into the air, and how it poisons organisms. David turns to me and quietly concludes:
“I can only see how desperate the present has become while we wait, wondering what we have already lost.”