What does it take to begin a journal here, to carve out space in the Word-Sphere, where 152 million blogs already exist? (Note: an actual number, as of 2010, as quoted by Blogpulse). And more, to promise weekly notes on all that is good (excellent, absurd and just plain wrong) in this life, notes delivered from afar, from two distant islands in Alaska, where I live?
I could say courage, optimism, self-confidence, but really it requires something more: a belief that we are “stewards of the word” as Marilyn MacEntyre reminds us in Caring for Words a Culture of Lies.
And that we must love language, meaning that we cherish it for its “beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal,”
Equally essential, a really good pair of X-tra Tuff boots and Grunden’s raingear as I muck about in the messiness of the world, a camera, and a few hours to spare every week. (Those of you who Know, know that you can’t claim “Alaskan” without those essential items.) Successfully stocked with said items, and with photos to prove it---I begin.
As I carve out this new place at the start of a new year, I think back to a funeral. (oh yeah, great place to start a blog!) Can you come with me here? I’m thinking about the day when we dug out a grave, the first ever, on our fishcamp island in Alaska. It was for my father-in-law, a man who spent almost fifty years with nets and salmon and skiffs, filling a little red cabin on a tiny wind-whittled, tree-less island with a life and personality that was immovable and immense.
Like much of our lives here, nothing about this funeral was ordinary. The casket arrived after a ten hour trip on a commercial fishing boat, was lowered onto our barge and ferried ashore, then hoisted by a tractor with a forklift. The mourners came also in boats, in heavy seas, arriving salted and wet. We stood in the cold summer wind holding our coats around us, hand in pockets and gloves, clumped around the gaping hole in the ground, the casket suspended over it on spruce planks. I pulled out of my pocket words many of us know well, even by heart and memory
a time for war and a time for peace
When I finished, we lowered the casket tied with fisherman’s knots, into the hole and dropped a shovel or a handful of dirt.
In the space created here, I will be casting stones and gathering stones, getting and losing, killing and healing, breaking down and building up, keeping silent—and speaking---about books, Alaska, movies, mad politicians, food, outhouses, theology, salmon, commercial fishing, church, fishcamp, forgiveness, beauty, writing …. All of this will happen not with words alone: There will be photographs here. Of fish. And blood. Mountains, fields, oceans, weather that harms, wilderness that tricks and instructs. Wild creatures so dazzling they tame us as we watch. My family will appear at times—unknowingly, of course. There will be food (salmon—smoked, pickled, grilled, rubbed . . . halibut, salmonberries, jellies,) There will be honesty and confession. There will be rants. And poetry. And there will be travels to other faraway islands and places.
I’m not promising you Frontier Woman, though I have lived a frontier life at times, and I live on an island with an outhouse and not much running water, and I carried water for 10 years and have done things I shouldn’t even tell you about (like living “out” for a year without benefit of an outhouse) I won’t confess everything—only what’s interesting and entertaining---like, my present to myself at 50 was a padded bra—my first. (Want more? See my essay in More magazine)
Most of all, I am promising you notes on the goodness of life from a far-away place. AND, I’m promising a place to converse and share with one another. I hope you carve out a bit of room in your own life to join me here every week!
Let me know who you are, where you live, and what you want to see and know about in these “Far aField Notes.”