Storyknife #3: Sightings

I’m not going to lie. The days here in Alaska during my 30-day writing residency run together. There are days when I sit at my writing desk, glancing up between bouts of laying down paragraphs, barely noting the drying fireweed of fall in the field beyond my window, barely remembering there are volcanoes across the Cook Inlet. Only to be greeted by a radiant view of Iliamna breaking through the clouds. Today, it was the merest hint of a rainbow arcing over Mt. Augustine that caught my surprise. (Well, where the volcanic island is supposed to be, but at 60-some miles distant, it’s socked in today.) Sometimes, it’s the striated colors of clouds stretched and loosely twisted like taffy at sunset that make me grab my camera. These things catch my notice. But they don’t all stick with me. (That first night’s sunset does, because it turned out to be an ephemeral and welcoming one. No sunset has touched it since.) Read more

How Extreme Birds Inspire Us to be Better Humans

Memorial Day. Graduation. Father’s Day. The solstice. For most people, one of these marks the beginning of summer. For me, these calendar events signal the coming completion of albatross season. Albatross? You mean those big white birds with wingspans longer than I am tall who glide over the surface of the sea as gentle as a leaf loosed from its tree in fall and floating on currents of air? Yes, those. They can soar for hundreds of miles, skimming the ocean’s waves and wheeling up into the sky, with barely a beat of their wings. Read more

Holy Mōlī: Albatross and Other Ancestors

In the days before Cook introduced Hawai‘i to the world and an onslaught of foreigners arrived. Back in the days before the old religion was abolished and missionaries arrived on scene. I’ve read that winged creatures represented messengers of the gods, because, unlike mere humans, birds can fly to great lengths and heights. Places far over the sea. Places high in the mountains, where as the scientific phenomenon known as the orographic effect explains, that are often shrouded in mist and clouds and a sense of the ethereal. Birds can easily mix between the mortal and immortal. Read more