Monday, July 30, 2012

The Beauty of Brown Bears and Salmon

I always joke that I could be a brown bear. My favorite foods, foods I grew up eating in Alaska, include salmon and berries. My sister-in-law just posted a link to brown bears fishing at Brooks Falls in Alaska. It is too gorgeous not to share.

Brown Bears and Salmon. A perfect marriage. They each need the other. There is no need to root for one over the other. Neither exists without the other. May they be together always.
When I was a little girl I used to love it when my parents would take us to the restaurant at the visitors center at Mendenall Glacier where I would consume the words most delicious tuna sandwiches ( I have tried to recreate these sandwiches to no avail-closest I get is buttering both sides of the bread and spreading a very light layer of mayonnaise then piling on the tuna and adding some salt). Beside the road on the drive to and from the glacier runs a creek. I remember watching it carefully as we drove up when the salmon were running. Dear reader, you could not see the water for the fish. A creek of flashing silver as far as my eyes could see. I imagined it always had and always would be so rich with life.

I remember taking my son to see the Trask River Fish Hatchery here in Oregon one fall as the Chinook were spawning. In Oregon fourth grade public school students must do a report on a state county and my beautiful child scored Tillamook County-home to so many treasures including, conveniently, Al & G Ma's beach cabin in Rockaway.We embarked on an epic exploration of all things Tillamook from the highly recommended Historical Pioneer Museum to the Cheese Factory. We decided to check out the fish hatchery after visiting a nearby Pioneer Cemetery.

There I stood, suspended on a gangplank above the river, caught completely by surprise, sobbing at the sight of so many glorious fish. I never imagined I would ever see such a richness of salmon again after leaving Alaska. I knew it was just a small, hatchery raised group that I was witnessing in the magnificent, poignant finale of a journey as mysterious as it was epic. And there I stood weeping for the bears and the salmon and the native people and the fisherfolk and the little kids (the little me) who knew abundance and now knew that richness was gone. And I wanted my son to understand that story so desperately-to recognize those fish as life-bearers, as silver and red, exhausted gods creating whole worlds with their struggle.

Brown bears can be scary even though they most often remind me of my favorite dogs. We camped on Kodiak Island and heard stories of visitors who had  to swim for their boats as they were chased off the beach by big bears. As we hiked to our cabin, we would ring bells and sing camp songs as loud as we could so the bears could avoid us. I remember marveling at my parent's good humor when all around us prowled hungry brown bears. I was sure we would eventually be eaten but I never let it deter me from running around that island with my brothers splashing into lakes and picking salmon berries.

Silly me, I thought plump children would be more delicious to summer hungry bears than fat salmon. There is nothing more delicious than fat salmon.

On my father's first week of work as state highway engineer, one of his survey crew was killed by a bear.  I knew and respected their power even as a child. And I loved them. I love them. As ferocious as they are.

I hope they live long and prosper and send descendants out into the future to meet up with an ocean tested multitude of fat, shiny, oily, rich, beautiful life-giving fish.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Office Depot Love Letter

Email marketing rarely moves me. But to see that Office Depot teamed up with Lady Gaga and the Born This Way Foundation really made my day. And it will stick with me. Courage in the face of this bully culture some so desperately want to cultivate (I'm shouting at you Sheriff Arpaio and you Michelle Bachmann and you Westboro Baptist Church and oy vay the list!) is a very beautiful thing (You listening Domino's Pizza and Target?). So, I wrote them a fan letter:

"I have never written to thank a company for marketing emails before but Office Depot deserves applause for teaming with the Born This Way Foundation. Our country has such a divisive landscape. Our politicians happily proclaim their bigotry, racism, and sexism. People wear their hatred and fear of others as  badges of honor. It is time for all good citizens (even, perhaps especially, corporate citizens) to take a stand for justice and to defend the rights of all people to safety and self-expression without fear of violence and shame. Thank you so very much. I will never have to decide where I purchase my office and art supplies. You have made me a happy customer."

I'm off to buy some post-its and custom sharpies!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Long Road Trip

Wow. I got no mojo flowing. The mayhem maker has us all chasing our tails as we await what will be. Cryptic enough for you?

It is hard to love people who don't love themselves. That sounds so obvious. Stupid platitude. But in practice, to love someone bent on their own destruction or even just too sick to see they are courting death, is an exhausting thing. Sometimes you want to stop loving them.You want to let them go. Sometimes you wish it was over. Sometimes you feel guilty for entertaining that thought.

I love my brothers. We are each so different. But when I feel small and vulnerable and overwhelmed, I can fall back into a time when it was we three sitting in the back of an old car listening to the radio and singing along with each other. The middle child so very earnest. The baby so affable, sweet, and beloved. And me the big sister bossing and trying to make sense of the chaos. We were together. We were not alone in the world.

This song reminds me of them just because we sang it out loud together on one of our many long road trips.

And for the one who needs it, some truth as I see it and a little hope: