Cottage Grove

Front-yard dining a neighborly treat

As Coiner Park is wrapped in caution tape and sits mostly empty, residents look for ways to connect. A recent front-yard dining experience with neighbors was a fun way to safely interact during the pandemic.DANA MERRYDAY/PHOTO

For a little break from the monotony of self-isolation some of our neighbors hatched a plot. “Hey, we are having dinner out in the yard on Friday evening, feel free to join us in your own yard. We are encouraging the whole neighborhood to get out into the open” thus I was accosted by my kitty-corner neighbor up the street. So I happily cooked up tofu curry, chilled a bottle of wine, and dragged the saw horses and a square of plywood out into the front yard. My wife set a beautiful table complete with a candle and we enjoyed the slow parade of cars and pedestrians, many of them acquaintances or friends, as it passed by our dining room in the grass. All in all it was a most delightful experience, safe, wholesome, and something different. Maybe you can suggest it to your neighbors from a safe distance.


It was 50 years ago, on April 22, that the first Earth Day was held. In a different time and universe it seems. America was still in the midst of a social upheaval with the Vietnam War with counter protests, The Beatles were breaking up, and youth were questioning the core values of society.  

The year before, in 1969, there had been a horrific oil spill on the California coast at Santa Barbara. Images of oil-coated birds and beaches had been burned into the minds of millions of citizens who began now to question whether the environmental price was worth our lifestyle.

Now celebrating its golden anniversary, it first was imagined as a teach-in on college campuses nationwide. It was pitched by two conservation-minded Republican Congressmen, Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Rep. Pete McCloskey. They chose the April 22 date, which in 1970 was a weekday, midway between Spring Break and final exams, to get the maximum student participation. Denis Hayes, a young activist, was recruited to lead the effort. He realized that there was a much larger audience than students.

Hayes assembled a national staff of 85 and renamed the event Earth Day. They broadened the outreach to include faith groups, and organizations working on pollution, wildlife conservation, pesticides, etc.  

This first Earth Day touched a nerve and it saw over 20 million Americans (10% of the population at the time) participating in the teach-ins, marches, demonstrations, and gatherings. In contrast to today’s highly charged partisan divide, Earth Day 1970 was supported by Republicans and Democrats. By the end of the year the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and ground-breaking legislation like the Clean Air Act had passed. Other environmental laws soon followed. What a contrast to the present anti-science, anti-environmental Trumptopia world.

With social distancing restrictions in place the annual Earth Day celebration in Coiner Park wasn’t held this year. Hopefully next year we will see it rise phoenix-like from the COVID-19 ashes of this year.

Ironically, the virus has probably done more to slow man’s impact on the Earth’s condition than all of the Earth Day activities would have. With about a quarter of the world’s population staying home, cutting out unnecessary trips, reducing air flights, etc., has had a measurable effect on the levels of greenhouse gasses. 

This little bump is temporary and comes at a huge human cost. Not celebrating, and still pointing out changing environmental degradation is possible. As we try to pick up the pieces and put our world back together when it is safe to do so, couldn’t we imagine a different, more healthy and sustainable world geared toward future generations?


There is nice news for those who have benefited from the Sunday evening meal provided by Soup’s On. The good volunteers are providing meals to go from a new location from 4:30-6 p.m. Sundays.

Soup’s On will be serving out of the back window of the Rural Organizing Project office (the old Healing Matrix), 632 East Main St. It is wheelchair accessible and love is in every bite.

If you are hungry or having a hard time with your budget, there is help. Community Sharing and Food for Lane County (FFLC) have been working out ways to get food to the people. FFLC has set up a mobile food pantry, which is using the Bohemia School parking lot each Wednesday from 4:30-6:30 p.m., 721 South R Street. 

If you are shut in or can’t get to either location have a friend pick it up for you. This is also an excellent opportunity for someone looking to do a good deed. Get permission to pick up the food from the person you are helping, a hand-written note is fine (be sure to include the first and last names of the person the food is for and the name of the person who is picking it up), and you are good to go. If the person you are helping has never been to Community Sharing before, there is paperwork, so call ahead at 541-942-2175.


The residents at Middlefield Oaks are getting a little stir-crazy, not being able to get out on some of their usual outings. They are hankering after some simple pleasures. 

However, they are sitting on a goldmine – toilet paper. Alicia at Middlefield is helping make some of these wishes come true through the Grant-a-Senior-a-Wish program on Facebook. You can help make these wishes come true. Besides taking a roll of the good stuff home for your kindness, you will also be rewarded with that good feeling of having made someone’s day. If you want to play, call Alicia at 541-767-0080.  


And speaking of stir-crazy, how is it working out being a parent, working from home, doing all the chores and also adding a new hat, resident teacher? Well, you have my sympathy, all of those are demanding jobs, parents first and foremost. 

There are great resources available on the South Lane School District’s website. Teachers and district staff are there for you, too. They are trying to contact students at least once a week. Also on the website are the locations for the “grab-and-go” lunches that are for all children up to 18 years old. Don’t forget that there are bus routes distributing the meals as well, even out to Dorena and Saginaw. Although it’s challenging, the rewards are also potentially great as well.

Many neighbors report they are enjoying increased family time. It is great to see families walking and using the bike trail together. It is a safe activity that you might not have had the time for previously. Mind your spacing.

In Cottage Grove there are a lot of people pitching in and doing things to help. That is one of the things that makes it such a great place to live. I want to point out one such effort: The Health Hub COVID-19 Emergency Fundraiser organized by Samantha Duncan.

The vision is a sinking fund that will be designed to fill a little hole for folks who are stuck in a hard spot or waiting for unemployment or a stimulus check, or if something unexpected pops up. If you are able to donate you can do that directly through Banner Bank. If you are online you can find a donate button on Facebook. Now that there are some funds available there is an application for relief up to $100 also on Facebook: Health Hub COVID-19 Emergency Fundraiser.

It is all of us doing something that we can to help others that will allow us all to make it through, stay safe and maintain diligence!

You can contact Dana at [email protected]



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