A girl comes of age in Oregon in the 1970s and 80s, navigating her way through the perils of sex, drugs and camping before finding her way to the place she belongs. Published by Nestucca Spit Press Summer 2011. In her debut as an author, Kim Cooper Findling’s Chance of Sun: An OregonMemoir, unfolds the story of an Oregon girl coming of age in the 1970s and 80s, navigating her way through pick-up trucks, dive bars, higher education and backwoods trails before finding a place she belongs. Beginning with her childhood in Coos County, Findling relates a rural unbringing spent walking beaches and hiking in the woods with her forester father, attending summer camp just over the hill from the Oregon Country Fair, road-tripping to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with schoolmates, and learning about the fickleness of love in campgrounds, beer joints and on the University of Oregon campus.
Yet, following a move to Oregon’s biggest city after college, Findling lost her way and her connection to Oregon’s landscape, becoming caught up in the drugs and booze that flowed so freely in Portland’s restaurant scene. But it was Oregon that helped Findling find herself again later, this time on the east side of the mountains, where she found clarity in High Desert trails and a wide-open sky, as well as life’s most grounding phenomenon—love. In 23 essays set over 20 years, Findling traces her own coming-of-age story against the beauty and complexity of the Oregon landscape. Nestucca Spit Press Publisher Matt Love writes,“InChance of Sun, Kim Cooper Findling presents a fresh and distinct literary voice. I might even call it sexy. At long last we have a memoir by someone that captures the fantastically loose and earthy spirit of growing up in Oregon during the 1970s and 80s.”
Loon Lake was a forty-five-minute drive north and east of my wind-battered coastal hometown. The first twenty miles took us just far enough away from the places we saw every day to achieve a taste of the exotic. The second twenty miles took us inland, away from the ocean, where the wind subsided and summer temperatures were finally allowed to seize their hot and humid due. If we wore a swimsuit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it was at Loon Lake. If we swam in a body of water outdoors, it was at Loon Lake. Loon Lake was handy for other summertime rituals as well, like underage drinking and making out on the beach, which is why as soon as any of us had drivers’licenses and access to a car, we visited Loon Lake as much as possible. As soon as we hit the winding road that climbed through hazelnut and alder to the top of the hill where the lake perched, the anticipation would build. Who would we run in to today? We’d freshen our lip gloss, powder our noses and run a brush through our hair one last time, because Loon Lake might ostensibly be about enjoying the outdoors in the summer, but it was really about romance. For the new teen in the mid-1980s, Loon Lake turned out to be the perfect place to master the finer points of hooking up. By the time I was in high school, Loon Lake’s way of helping young folks come together was a phenomenon I understood well. Every Labor Day weekend since grade school, my mother brought us here for our annual camping trip—an activity she loved, basically, yet managed to only accomplish once a year. She liked campfires and sleeping under the stars. She didn’t so much like the extra hardships camping lumped atop the usual single-mom burdens of cooking, cleaning and parenting. But her husband was long gone, and who needed him anyway? Mom was the original Oregon-bred Camp Fire Girl in our family. Her parents’ families had both moved to Oregon within the first decade of the 1900s. They’d camped in the rugged Oregon woods decades before Dad’s people down in Los Angeles had ever crossed the state line.