It’s a blustery night on the largest of the Orkneys, a group of islands far off the northern coast of Scotland. Finn, a reporter from Ireland, plagued by ulcers and a moribund marriage, has taken temporary refuge in this remote agricultural community. Traveling on foot to attend a musical performance, he takes a shortcut through a cemetery and discovers the body of a murder victim… [Read More]
Imagine a secret society devoted to rain, rooted in the rich, sodden soil of the Pacific Northwest. Members recognize one another by the soaked state of their outerwear, hair plastered to glistening foreheads, eyes wild with the prophetic water that they invite to run down their faces. They exchange secret handshakes with slick hands and wrinkled fingertips. They gather in cabins moldering beside rivers, where rain infiltrates through a fallen roof and slides down walls padded with moss. [Read More]
With battered grace they thrashed upstream, bashing themselves against the current, rocks, other obstacles, and their own mortality to reach their natal waters. Their ordeal had flayed away their steely overcoats to reveal the muscle that powered their thrust toward the new life for which they would sacrifice their own. [Read More]
Charles Le Guin’s novel, North Coast, is a peninsula of a story. Set in the fictional community of Bridger Bay, the protagonists—Kim, the narrator, and Steve, who becomes his closest friend and briefly his lover—reach out between individuals, cultures, and elements.
The dead are lined up according to size and type,
as neatly arranged as clothing in a drawer,
records on a shelf,
bullets in a chamber.
A quiescent machine waits to lift them,
its steel mouth clamping one, nipping at mossy skin
and flaccid lichens.
How can human beings, with our arrogance so many orders of magnitude greater than our understanding or our reverence, hope to recreate the intricacies of these familial relations between different types of trees, plants, fungi, and fauna?
When I was a child, two sounds soothed me to sleep each night: the washing machine in the basement and the bell buoy in the bay. The liquid repetitiveness of the washing machine churning laundry in its gullet contrasted with the intermittent knelling of the bell as it warned ships away from the shoreline.
I wonder how often the “generals” of forest-product corporations visit the clearcuts and view the devastation for themselves. And if they do, do they perceive their surroundings as the wreckage of an ecosystem or as a lawn that has been mowed, as easily regrown as grass?