Prior to Portland’s insane bureaucracy around mural artwork exploded in 1998, when AK Media, now called Clear Channel, sued the city, mural artwork was blooming all across the city, including on or around many elementary schools.

Across the street from James John School in the St. Johns neighborhood is this rectangular mural, expressing the geography – both natural and unnatural – which defines this complex quadrant between the Willamette and Columbia rivers.

The painting is on a semi-abandoned building and hard to see from almost any position. The colors are bright and intriguing – the colors you would find on a ramble through the fields and streams of Smith & Bybee lakes, or trundling by the riverside through the Baxter McCormick superfund site.

It’s a map of the neighborhood – from the St. Johns bridge and following the rivers and sloughs. Herons, boaters, a smoke-belching factory, a concrete pipe gushing run-off into the stream, bumblebees, green water grass, willows and cottonwoods.

Surrounding the mural are four statements – none with attributions.

This was the most beautiful stream in the world. I think this must have come from a child – it captures the sadness of this community, that they live within a ecological wonder which, unprotected, was poisoned by greedy corporations.

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one”Jacques Cousteau. We forget how Cousteau’s gentle eco-humanism swum through the television blue on Sunday nights during the childhood’s of the 40 somethings.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love”Baba Dioum, a Senegalese conservationist said this during a 1968 general assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in New Delhi, India.

The full homily goes, “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, we will understand only what we are taught.” Good stuff to be teaching teachers.

Finally –
Perhaps our grandkids will never miss the chance to see a wild river.
The grammar here misleads, some local Engrish, but the intention matches Cousteau concern for the multi-generational communications problem a free market, corrupt politicians and the fragility of our planet.

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