The Education of a Caretaker
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 (1998-2008) 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,” said Love.
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