Chena River riding yellow leaves
on currents under Cottonwood canopies
where Fireweed and blue Irises
become bluegrass weddings curled Birch paper
Bob Parlocha’s late night jazz
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
spruce trees in moon shadows
fingerprint of peacock feathers
“secret things whispered
in a bath of moonlight”
single raven brilliant black against sky
cadmium red lines rippling inside conch shells
cut lemon of crescent moon
Goldstream Valley high bush cranberries
sheet ice silver on slough
asks one thing of me as an artist—
“Your landscapes open
to a new season. You leave me breathless
from frost-lined stories
about a land falling into a snowy sleep…”
to listen ever
so carefully with
In honor of Amy Komar, my daughter, the artist
and the opening of her exhibit, Translations
The Alaska House Art Gallery
November 7, 2008
Notes from the Writer. . .
What a pleasure for me to collaborate with my daughter, Amy, as she prepared her collection of paintings for the November 2008 exhibit at The Alaska House Art Gallery. Earlier this year, she asked me to write a “found poem” for the exhibit like I did for her first show in 2001, Narratives of Memory, at the Bass Concert Hall and Performing Arts Center (University of Texas at Austin).
Writing a “found poem” is like walking the beach looking for shells, sea glass, or driftwood—things I have done countless times and in countless places. As I walk, I am continually looking and reaching down to pick things up. Then later, spilling my treasures on a table, I enjoy each “find” again and what first charmed my eye and stirred my imagination.
In writing the poem Art, I combed the entries Amy wrote for her blog, View from my Window. Like walking the beach, I didn’t know what would entice my eye or imagination or how I would use the words and phrases that did. That is the joy, the excitement, the adventure of walking the beach. . .and of writing.
I did have a starting place, however, in the sentence written for Amy’s exhibit. Art as translation of experience asks one thing of me as an artist—to listen ever so carefully with my eyes. And I did have an idea. I would take this sentence, arrange it into lines of poetry, and then fill the spaces in between these lines with the “found” words and phrases from Amy’s blog.
However, I wanted the poem to be visual as well. I saw the lines of the exhibit’s sentence in boldface with the interspersed lines (created from Amy’s words) in italics—a layering of word and text in much the same way Amy layers paint and color, shape and repeating patterns. And so, enjoy. . .my “found” poem celebrating Amy’s collection of paintings. . .
24 October 2008
After the salmon season ends, we like to stay a month or so out at the cabin in Uyak Bay. There is still work to do, but there is also a quiet that settles around the bay. It is more than the silent radio once most of the setnet families have stored their nets and boats and left for other homes. In the fall the light is soft and everything else is crisp—the breeze and night skies and the sharp smell of herbs when I empty pots into the garden.
In October we watched the changes in wildlife that signal the impending winter. We spent a day watching a pod of orcas as they circled the bay and saw humpback whales breaching just a few hundred yards from the cabin. When Peter would point out the arrival of murres, or ducks migrating overhead, our son Liam would respond by pointing and mimicking his favorite bird this summer, "chickadee!"
This year our last visitors of the season were friends from Anchorage with their new baby. We're lucky to have family and friends who don't mind the work of getting out to Amook Island for a visit. Seeing their appreciation of the site always renews my own feeling of gratitude for the beauty around us.
Company is also a good excuse to pull out the kayaks and take long walks. We went kayaking on one of those mornings when the bay wakes up a lake, before the afternoon brings waves and a breeze. On water that calm, you can hear the breath of fin whales and the splash of kittiwakes diving. Mostly we floated without paddling, and watched harbor porpoises and seals surface around us.
One night before the moon was up we took advantage of the early darkness. We drifted in the skiff and watched the bioluminescence glimmer in the black water. There is something magical about creatures generating their own light. With the delight of kids chasing fireflies, we splashed the water to watch the sparks and then marveled at the way the skiff's wake glowed on the way home.
As we closed up the cabin, we had visits from several bears foraging on the beach. They left their tracks along the tide line flecked gold with the last cottonwood leaves. When Peter drained the waterline he found their wide prints in the trampled mud and water shooting up from bear bites in the pipe.
Last winter our setnetter friends in neighboring Uganik Bay had a bear in their cabin. It climbed through a window and left through the wall. When we leave, we board up the doors and windows and hope we won't return to a mess and chewed-up couches and mattresses. We also clean out the pantry, which makes for interesting meals. For several days, we cooked giant omelets to use up the eggs and garden onions.
I have heard subsistence described as "always getting ready" and it rings true with every seasonal transition in Alaska. I think of winterizing as always trying to guess what nature might destroy while we're away. Something will inevitably freeze or break, but we try to take things down that an earthquake might shake from the walls, and store the solar panels and anything else the wind might take.
I shouldn't admit it, but I find it almost as satisfying to put the garden beds to rest as it is to plant the first seeds in May. When I rake compost and seaweed over the cabbage leaves and broccoli stems, I imagine the soil resting under a layer of snow and it feels like making peace with the end of another season at the site.
Now we've moved to the town of Kodiak. It's back to marking time with days of the week and dates on the calendar, back to telephones ringing, seatbelts, and grocery stores. In the winter, it's the small things that I'll miss from our season at the fish site, like having time to write a real letter and starting the day with a slow walk in a quiet place.
Kodiak-based Sara Loewen, formerly a teacher and now a student in the Master of Fine Arts program at UAA, fishes in Uyak Bay with her husband, Peter, and year-old son