Jeanne Murray Walker

Wild Women in Boots! Luci Shaw & Jeanne Walker in Alaska

What are the chances? What are the chances of a visitation by two beautiful muses, icons both who have inspired thousands of writers in many places? What are the chances that these women will fly thousands of miles, then pull on rubber boots and climb into a fishing skiff in Alaskan waters, zooming to an island they have never seen? More impossible than you can even guess. 

 

The story starts here:

 

Decades ago, a young woman just out of college lived on a tiny island on the edge of another island way up north. She lived in the loft of an old warehouse on a rocky beach, withher husband, a commercial salmon fisherman. She fished too, and mended net, and cooked and did whatever else was needed, working the livelong day and the long-lit nights, as everyone did. The deep stormy ocean, the wooden skiffs, the crows that danced on the aluminum roof over her head every night, the silver fish that flashed in her aching arms every day----this world was bright, unending and exhausting, fuller than any life she had known. But something was missing. Words. Poetry. Metaphor. Language that did more than tie skiffs to lines and pull fish from the sea. Words that did more than call her to the nets and shout her around the reefs. She could hardly speak.

 

But she did not come alone to this island of men, fish and work. She brought her favorite poets, Luci Shaw and Jeanne Murray Walker. Her sister-in-law, also an English major, loved poetry as well. Both of these women wrote furiously in the night, before breakfast, while mending net, when the men weren’t looking, in whatever small spaces were given. They shared their poetry with one another. And their words slowly, improbably, began to go out into the world, into journals and magazines.

 

These women, one week, wrote a letter to Luci Shaw. It was a ridiculous dream, to write, to ask about her poetry. To ask how they might some day publish a book. They knew nothing would come of it. But one mail day a long handwritten letter came to the island and into their incredulous hands. A kind letter, leading them in what to do next.

 

 

More than two decades later, this woman from Alaska taught grad classes with Jeanne Murray Walker. Shared stages with Luci and Jeanne.

 

And then, last week, these two women came booted and hatted, careening off into this wild Alaskan world, both of them crazy with wisdom and metaphor and love. And all the other writers who gathered for the workshop drank it in. But no one more than the woman who asked them there.

This could not have happened. There is more to this story that cannot be told---but it’s impossible, all of it. But so is the world we inhabit.

A world where a Word thundered into black and conjured up light

Where syllables sprouted irises, snapdragons and spruce trees

where bodiless hands shaped human hands from the dirt.

A world where water spouts from a rock

Where the enslaved walked free through a parted sea.

A world where a Savior entered in diapers

          then was killed as an imposter.

A world where love kills death

Where losing means gaining

Where the blind count fish and

       the crippled win at hopscotch.

Where the silent find their tongue

and pens spout poems in the dark . . .  

 

Of course the beautiful muses came!  Of course this island of fish and nets is now a place of words and grace!  All of this---a long long wish that God made flesh.

 

And you this week?

 

Dear Friends, dear Dan, Heidi, Jan, Michele, Cathy, Lizzie, Bill, and so many others, Is there a dream you wish God would enflesh? Don’t give up. If you dream of beauty and kindness, of peace and wisdom, of teaching and learning, of growing and grace, of community and love-----it isn’t far away.

With God, nothing good is impossible.

For God, you can do all things.