A newsworthy autumn

Autumn was my favorite season until I got old enough to relate to it, now I prefer summers. But one can't deny that fall is generally lovely, and here in the high desert it's been glorious. The aspens and vine maples flash bright red and yellow in the sunshine and the bright leaves light secret paths through pine and fir forests. The Ponderosa pines (pondos to the locals) have dropped thousands of needles across our little yard, a fact I confess I find surprising. I knew needles fell, of course, but it never occurred to me that I might have to rake them.

The Harvest Faire was the big event of the season, with the Nugget reporting that it drew more than 180 artisans and crafts people from across the Pacific Northwest. We went, of course, and bought, of course—mostly gifts for the upcoming holidays. And although our neighbors raved about what a great market it was, I found it pretty much the same as all the others, only bigger. Sisters has more craft markets than any town we've ever lived in.

The Nugget, a weekly, is a surprisingly good paper for a town this small, and it's apparently healthy. Like papers of yore it's full of advertising, letters to the editor, and stories about local politics, people, schools, and events. Articles this week run the gamut from "Senator Wyden talks energy in Sisters" and the announcement of next year's rodeo queen, to a fascinating column by a local naturalist on horse flies, called "The blood suckers." The 32-page paper makes a positive contribution to the community, keeping us informed and providing a platform for discussion of local issues.

Good newspapers offer what the Internet cannot and I find it disturbing that so many have folded. It's a loss to readers and a blow to democracy, and it's a loss that contributes to the polarization we all feel. When we visit online sites that cater to our predisposed beliefs and bigotries, when we read only what we agree with, or limit our reading to our own narrow interests, we lose more than a better understanding of our world. We lose community, we lose the sharing of common knowledge and facts, and we lose a diversity of opinions against which to balance our own.

As I sit here in this bitter political season I am grateful for our local paper with its diverse opinions and for the community it helps sustain. Local elections and issues will be argued in its pages and politicians will buy ads. This is all good. And while the election plays out in the pages of the Nugget and in the bits and bytes of the Internet—and my blood pressure rises and falls in tune—I will find relief in gold and russet leaves and the wind-blown pondos outside my window. And if the tension gets really bad, I will go outside and rake.