Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sea Otter

By the turn of the twentieth century there weren't enough otters left to sustain the commerce in their furs, and the sea otter holocaust ended by default. The Russians and Americans had laid waste to the entire range of the sea otter, from Japan to Baja California, having killed, skinned, and sold somewhere between a half-million and a million animals.

When the Sealing Convention went into effect in 1911, there were only one to two thousand otters still alive... Every otter-every single otter-that had inhabited today's Baja California, the state of California except for the small central coast population, and all of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska was gone.

In the eastern Gulf of Alaska, it was not until the 1950's that fishermen and biologists began noticing otters in numbers again...

-from Steller's Island Adventures of a Pioneer Naturalist in Alaska
by Dean Littlepage
(A good read)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Voyage on Kenai Fjords

No Voyage

I wake earlier, now that the birds have come
And sing in the unfailing trees.
On a cot by an open window
I lie like land used up, while spring unfolds.

Now of all voyagers I remember, who among them
Did not board ship with grief among their maps?--
Till it seemed men never go somewhere, they only leave
Wherever they are, when the dying begins.

For myself, I find not wanting life
Implores no novelty and no disguise of distance;
Where, in what country, might I put down these thoughts,
Who still am citizen of this fallen city?

On a cot by an open window, I lie and remember
While the birds in the trees sing of the circle of time.
Let the dying go on, and let me, if I can,
Inherit from disaster before I move.

O, I go to see the great ships ride from harbor,
And my wounds leap with impatience; yet I turn back
To sort the weeping ruins of my house:
Here or nowhere I will make peace with the fact.

-Mary Oliver
(whom I discovered in Alaska and just love-I can feel the sense of being in this poem with her; good stuff)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches--
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead--
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging--

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted--

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

-Morning Poem by Mary Oliver

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Come with me, let me share this with you. Between the mountains we see grassy marshes with yellow green water lilies. Many ducks, grebes, and pipers find sanctuary in them. If you look closely you can see battered salmon slowly swimming under the surface. Their journey ends as ours begins...

Here is our guide walking with the silvers we caught. It was a cold morning and our hands were freezing as we held the poles. The river was alive around us, I joked that the fish were giving us the fish finger as they leaped all around us but were not on our lines! Two young bald eagles were flying around with sticks playing grown up.

We turn a corner on our walk and encounter another one of these signs. I am ok with turning around, I do not want to get too close to a feeding bear.

The clouds go to the mountains and crown their heads. You can see the snow just glowing out against the face of the rock. It is whiter then the sky and almost luminous as the brief brightness of the sun strikes it. These snow trails hide inside the cracks of the mountains creating a cascade of lines that emphasize the pointed tips of the upward slopes.

We sit for a moment to enjoy this little ground squirrel. He is chirping out a warning cry at us in his tundra home. If we get any closer he will disappear into his burrow. Later as we pass this spot again we find him crushed on the road. I despair for a moment that he is gone when only moments ago he was yelling out to us.

The ground below us sinks as we walk as if it is a plush carpet. There is every shade of green lichen, small berries, moss, and plants in an abudance of color. You look and you see land towering above you, reaching up to the sky. In the valley it is like being nestled between giants, some green and rolling, others jagged and snow covered. These are a severe blue black against the gray sky.

We walk through the grain fields and as the fog lifts we can see the shapes of cranes fly over. They call as they fly with an sound that is difficult to find words to describe. It echoes within me as we walk and I want to mark this moment. They land and dance with each other in an elaborate ritual wings outstretched, heads bowing, and a leap. Hundreds of them are coming in now, filling the fields as we walk.

Look, we can see it today! Mt. Mickinley the tallest mountain I have ever seen dwarfs the mountains around it. It is difficult to imagine climbing those snow covered peaks to try to touch the very top of the sky. As we watch three wolves run through the open grass. They stop for a moment and look up at us. As quickly as they appeared, they are gone. The ghosts of Denali and the true wildness of this massive white mountain.

Fireweed grows everywhere on our travels. It shoots up like a purple spire pointing to the blue mountains beyond it. Sometimes we find it rusty red dying off for fall. Today we have some sun as we walk out towards the beach. You can smell the salty fragrance of it and hear the rush of the waves as they crash upon the rocks.

Walk with me on the beach. The sun has not yet pushed through the clouds but the ocean is calm. You can see the sea otters floating among the birds. They roll occasionally to keep air in their fur to stay afloat. The kittiwakes start to cry above us and dive into the water. A young glaucous gull keeps in front of us as we walk. He waits for the tide to go out so that he can reach the salmon skin that lies just out of reach. Some black turnstones forage on the rocks, they are resting for a moment before resuming their long flight south for the winter. A tufted puffin sits among the other birds. You can see the bright color of his beak in the early light.

No words here can catch everything, it will burble up again like the rivers endlessly rushing forward. An eagle soars down from his perch above us. He zips around the shore line scaring up the northwestern crows that are feasting on a salmon carcass. He is interested in claiming it for himself but the crows are not so willing to give up their prize and he is deflected. He sits for a moment then flies off to a perch to wait for another opportunity for a snack.

Have I taken you to the edges of the Bering Sea? You can see the gray of the storm as it sits behind us like a milky curtain over the open ocean. It drives large waves that we climb over and fall upon in the boat. For a glorious moment I am free, alone on the bow riding in the cold wind, watching the puffins and mures dive as we approach them. We are surrounded in jagged rocks filled with nesting seabirds that yell out to the unruly ocean as we pass them. The whales appear suddenly, and despite their great size disappear with such ease. Oh, the tail, see that! Then these old singers plunge and we do not see them again. But I was free as we rode over the waves, no tomorrow no yesterday, how can I leave such twilight days that have encased me in their elegant wildness that can be found no where else in this world? Listen, as the wind sprays salt sea in our faces, the ice groans as we approach and with a thunderous crack breaks free. It plunges into the ocean stirring up food for the waiting seabirds. Eventually the wave reaches us and you can see all around the giant chunks of other avalanches floating around us like white crystals.

Walk with me to the edges of exit glacier, soon we will have to leave this place and return to the confines of reality. It is an easy walk mostly until the end when you have to climb a bit over some gray rocks. You can see that this glacier has receded pretty far from where you could safely walk up to it. Now there is a barrier to keep you from the ice. This glacier is quiet in its melting, more of a slow day to day wear. You can feel the cold of the ancient compressed ice as you get closer. That cold draws you in to examine the blue surface of it with its ripples and cuts that pattern the ice. They glow as the sun hits them, like a thousand jewels.

Who knew, Bears do grow on trees!

Remember being so tired in the twilight days of Alaska, remember the sweet smell of fish mixing with earth as the salmon die and lay on the edge of the stream. Remember the endless mountains everywhere surrounding us as we walk, remember the smell of the air thick with the tannin of earth as we walk. Remember the possibility of seeing something wild and walking in an untouched land that opens around us and takes our breath from its beauty.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Denali Highway

Today he said your name
as we walked above the world
the wind caught it
tearing over the embers
in my soul
igniting them as the red
catches quickly
blazing tundra towards
the cool snow covered mountains
I see you remote
as I walk I reach up
arms outstretched
to fly to you.

-By the Corbyhawk herself
did yah miss me??? I am home (sigh) but missing Alaska and all her wild beauty.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bears, bears and bears oh my!

Denali stole my heart it was so absolutely beautiful despite the fact that you have to ride a bus tour to get in. I hope to spend much more time here someday, maybe as a visiting artist, they have residencies you can apply for. A spectacular place full of wildlife, permafrost spruce forest, tundra, and of course mountains.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Snowshoe Hare

These really rather cute hares are everywhere in Alaska. I was driving in the early morning on the Richardson Highway in Alaska and saw so many of these on the edges of the roads it was surreal. I had to drive slowly and weave around a hare when it decided to put some speed on and cross into the road. They have exceptionally large feet, for all the snow they live in for most of the year. They will soon be turning white for winter.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

One ear

Oh my...civilization today for a moment and I am not kidding. I have been driving on roads that are almost completely devoid of any human activity. The hotels are a bit rustic (wait on the water it has to get heated up first in the house), the views incredible I tell you. They are unspoiled by the occasional house or landmark, they are vast expanses of untraveled country. I can get a sense of exploring somewhere new and uncharted. The weather has been cold mostly, and cloudy although it stays light until 10pm or so. This morning I could see my breath on the tundra it was about 39 degrees out. I cannot get the entire amazingness of this trip in one blurb, but it is a trip of extremes and a memorable one.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Corby is flying off again..

Blogging will be sporadic as I am flying off to Alaska tomorrow! Be well!
I have dreamt of a place for you and I
No one knows who we are there
All I want is to give my life only to you
I've dreamt so long I cannot dream anymore
Let's run away, I'll take you there

We're leaving here tonight
There's no need to tell anyone
They'd only hold us down
So by the mornings light
We'll be half way to anywhere
Where no one needs a reason

Forget this life
Come with me
Don't look back you're safe now
Unlock your heart
Drop your guard
No one's left to stop you

From "Anywhere" by Evanescence
Wishing someone else I know was going...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A strange pair

A bad storm is on its way so short blogging! These two were trouble I tell you.

Friday, August 08, 2008


I wanted to go to a show opening tonight, they have all these events in town and I had some hopes for there. However, I have a bad case of poison ivy and some is on my chin and it is not pretty. So here I am at home hiding my face away sleepy from the medicine the Dr. gave me for it. (yes it is bad enough for a Dr.'s visit.) Nothing but fun times lately, no swimming either for that matter, argh.

In case you are feeling badly for me, watch a somewhat cheesy home video about where I will be going so very soon and hopefully get better pictures from, here
(yes I am a lucky stinker!)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mute Narcissus

an encore for dw

If I can no longer see you
I will paint an empty sky
without the smudge of a bird's wing or cloud
to break the blue
cobalt cool devoid of deep prussian
or bright thalo
I will take up my brush
a turn of the hand that flicks
color craving new meaning
without your perfect chromacity
no browns to match your eye
they are gone, sienna, umber
lost ochre a heartbreak
no flesh pink or scarlet lips
the empty blue ground stares at my eye
a picture plane devoid
I add a thousand drops
of titanium white rain

-By the Corbyhawk herself

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If there be any one can take my place
And make you happy whom I grieve to grieve,
Think not that I can grudge it, but believe
I do commend you to that nobler grace,
That readier wit than mine, that sweeter face;
Yea, since your riches make me rich, conceive
I am too crowned, while bridal crowns I weave,
And thread the bridal dance with jocund pace.
For if I did not love you, it might be
That I should grudge you some one dear delight;
But since the heart is yours that was mine own,
Your pleasure is my pleasure, right my right,
Your honourable freedom makes me free,
And you companioned I am not alone.

-Christina Rossetti

Monday, August 04, 2008

I have re-met a friend from 17 years ago today. How odd to walk up to someone you have not seen for 17 years and re-start a friendship from there. It was effortless and instant, quickly stepping away from the first few minutes. The funny part was how closely our experiences parallel each other and how comforting to know that someone else has been in the same boat as you. So it was a great day of re-visiting old high school haunts (literally the local cemetery!) and to jump in where we left off. Where have all those years gone anyway? So fast, time just is flying.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


That was how she found the swan
and fell into his soft brown eyes
as he turned to her
reaching with pinioned wing
her fingers found his breast
and curled within its feathers
he held her such white
softness his grip fierce
running his face upon hers
biting leaving marks
how easily she surrendered thus
fell -backwards on sand
and rock
felt him everywhere around her
in a canopy of white feathers
she clung to him for the last
before he took flight.

-by the Corbyhawk herself

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pinned down

I am in the midst of cleaning up my studio. This is a big project because I was so busy for so long that I mostly would set things in piles until eventually there was no room left. I built a painting rack and moved them over so I have some more space to paint in. So far it is going well but I think I am quitting for now, writing this, getting some tea, and curling up with my book in bed. I found lots of my old journals so here is two old poems, from winter 2006.

You say you are of words
as well
but I am of eyes
namely of the language
that falls out of yours
reach my hands to catch
I find my fingers over them
and try to decipher
your heart.

He looked at me in the mirrored glass
and I stood
aware unaware shifting
each rebuff
but daring to hope
I could be closer
afraid so I
set up
stuck fast
I long for
the opposite

-By the Corbyhawk
One more bonus poem

lucky she sees you
in everyday
while I catch moments
she has had everything
and I only hours
when you fall to earth
she will mourn you
and I will wait
until we live again

-By the Corbyhawk