The enthusiasm that permeates Matt Love's writing is both contagious and inspiring. As an author focused almost exclusively on Oregon and her history, Love's works have established him as one of the region's eminent writers. In Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker, his first book since winning the 2009 Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award, Love tells the tale of how a chance opportunity to serve as caretaker of a neglected wildlife refuge on Oregon's north coast radically transformed his life.
After nearly a decade of teaching and fruitless attempts at writing, a disheartened Love left Portland and moved to the Oregon Coast, where he took a job at a small private school in Neskowin. Prior to the start of his second year there, Love accepted an offer to move to and act as caretaker of the nearby 600-acre Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Gimme Refuge is set almost entirely in the year between the summers of 1998 and 1999, Love's first year on the refuge and his last as a schoolteacher.
Love's memoir chronicles his tireless efforts to battle not only his professional frustrations and doubts but also the Himalayan blackberries that had all but overrun the refuge. Charged with restoring the refuge to greater ecological stability, Love also set about renovating the dilapidated house he was sharing with then-wife Cindy (the book's illustrator) while fulfilling his commitment to finish out the school year. As the book's narrative shifts between the classroom and the refuge, it becomes evident that the devotion and ingenuity Love employed in his teaching were well suited to the seemingly endless tasks of manual labor.
Suffused with rock 'n' roll references and a vivacious, contrarian spirit, Gimme Refuge seems to synthesize all that Love holds dear: Oregon, the beach, dogs, the Rolling Stones, teaching, loyalty, hard work, storytelling, and the wisdom that comes only from doing what one knows to be right. At turns hilarious, touching, poignant, and insightful, Love's candor commands adoration. Like all great writers, particularly those gifted with an affinity for nuance (be it in perception of a driving guitar solo or espying the formation of flocked geese passing overhead), Love effortlessly imbues the commonplace with a touch of due reverence.
The quintessentially Oregonian tale of striving to blaze a trail for one's self is not new, yet it never fails to charm and inspire others wise enough to see themselves as capable of the same. In yielding to chance, Love's discovery of how to enact his own passions created a lasting legacy that goes far beyond his own personal accomplishments as writer and educator. Gimme Refuge is more then mere memoir; it's a testament to how a single person's actions can permanently enrich the environment of students and ecosystems alike. "I consider my role as caretaker as the greatest one of my life. I had a direct hand in planting some 15,000 trees on the refuge and it's awesome to think that they'll long outlive anything I've ever written." Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Frustrated with life, teaching, and the inability to become a writer, Matt Love escaped Portland in 1997 at 33 years of age and moved to the Oregon Coast. A year later he became caretaker of the 600-acre Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. During his decade (19982008) as caretaker, he helped restore the grounds to fuller ecology, discovered a love for teaching, and reinvented himself as a writer and historian who established Nestucca Spit Press and eventually won the 2009 Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award from Oregon Literary Arts.
Gimme Refuge is his passionate, 177-page account of his teaching career, experience as caretaker, and awakening as an Oregonian. The book also includes 17 original illustrations by Cindy Popp.
"Becoming the caretaker of the refuge was the biggest break of my life," said Love. "I sincerely doubt I would have found my voice as a writer or developed my unique love for Oregon without this incredible opportunity. It also helped me return to teaching and to embrace and love that profession."
Gimme Refuge opens with Love's first teaching day in 1989 and moves forward to 1998 when he taught at Neskowin Valley School and simultaneously assumed the duty as caretaker of the refuge, a former dairy farm in dire need of restoration. The book concludes ten years later when Love left the refuge after losing a public fight to limit public access to the grounds. "I consider my role as caretaker as the greatest one of my life. I had a direct hand in planting some 15,000 trees on the refuge and it's awesome to think that they'll long outlive anything I've ever written."
"Matt Love is one of my favorite Northwest writers. Gimme Refuge tells his story as a free-spirited teacher, writer, and accidental caretaker of a wildlife refuge on the Oregon Coast. At times, this memoir reads like a hip, modern Walden. At other times, with all its literary and rock 'n' asides, it may remind you of The Dead Poets Society or School of Rock. By its final pages, this engaging and uninhibited book should inspire damn near anyone with a passion for anything." Jim Lynch, author of The Highest Tide and Border Songs
About the Author
Matt Love is the author/editor of The Beaver State Trilogy
, Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon's Sesquicentennial Anthology
, Super Sunday in Newport: Notes from My First Year in Town
, and Red Hot and Rollin'
. He's a regular contributor to the Oregonian
, Oregon Coast Today
, and Bear Deluxe
magazines, and writes the "On Oregon" blog
for Powells.com. In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts' Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Agency Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature. He lives in South Beach with his dog and teaches English and journalism at Newport High School. He's currently working on a book about the filming of Sometimes a Great Notion