When Ice on the River is Shot with Blue…

When Ice on the River is Shot with Blue…

The advent of winter is here, and like so many others, I’m turning inward. To lick wounds. To tend to the things I can manage. To imagine a time when my heart will fill up again. To eke out what I can on the page, no matter the off kilter scrawl:

When ice on the river is shot with blue

Do not leave your empty heart

on the table overnight.

Pour in sawdust, stove ash, cobwebs, dirt –

anything that helps you sleep quietly.

When an unknown force binds imagination

and your hope thrashes wings against a cage –

wait. Break kindling against your knee.

Tend to the things you can manage.

After midnight, whisper yourself outside;

heave the pump until water flows.

Before you can mourn the passing clouds

The wavering moon’s in your bucket.

Unburden yourself to the crows inside

so they roost easy among your ribs.

Their dreams of persimmons and the wind

will heal you if you let them.

When the old wolf shadow nips your cheek,

cover your face with the feathered mask.

Shriek down your own wasting sickness

using lung, wing, heel, fire and fist.

Sort your seeds while the earth is thawing

and listen for those who lie sleeping below.

Clear last year’s bracken from around your heart.

Chop and carry until the sweet sap flows.

Go quickly under the next new moon;

to take an ember from the blacksmith’s forge.

Steal home along the fenceline, and don’t forget –

any light serves, even if it’s not your own.

Pull on your boots and mend the plow;

allow the nettles to absorb your tears.

Carry wax-filled hives from the hay-strewn barn

to the crumpled meadow where the dead fawn lies.

At sunrise, do not speak, just work;

feed embers of hope on wild ginger and thorns.

Each seed knows its moment, after all –

somehow you must know yours.

Form a wheel from willow boughs

to link your thoughts to earth and air.

Chase the wheel across the field;

and kneel where it falls – dig, dig.

Plant your silence, your pains, your plans

along with the feverfew, yarrow and sage.

Whistle to the wind to tell the rain

to soak the fawn, the crows, the thorns, the field.

Now fill yourself with mugwort and wine.

Tend the fire and mend your shirts.

feed the sparrows, the towhees, the waxwings…the crows

and beckon your heart back home.

The Lifespan of Creative Rituals – A Storefront Institute Open Classroom

The Lifespan of Creative Rituals – A Storefront Institute Open Classroom

I am thrilled to be co-teaching an open classroom (lively discussion and hands-on exercises) all about the creative rituals that empower and motivate us, and which we occasionally outgrow. Sponsored by the wonderful Storefront Institute. Join us this Sunday at Kaleidoscope Coffee in Point Richmond!

Three Writers and…A Funeral? The Lifespan of Creative Rituals.

In Praise of the Prickly Paddy Melon: The Art of Cedra Wood

In Praise of the Prickly Paddy Melon: The Art of Cedra Wood

Since 2010, I’ve been writing a novel that has revealed itself over the years to be an uncanny love letter to the far north. In 2013, I was invited to participate in an expeditionary residency to Svalbard – which is where my novel takes place. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my blog and to many in person, this trip via sailing ship up the west coast of Spitsbergen (the Svalbard archipelago’s largest island), was a life-changing event in many ways. Foremost was the chance to reconcile the imaginative Svalbard of my novel with the real place, and to glean new threads of the story to incorporate into the framework I’d already created. To engage in this process on board a ship full of equally awestruck artists and makers and an intrepid crew of sailors and wilderness guides, gave me an unprecedented chance to leap forward in my vision and craft.

Once I returned home to my normal life, I had trouble processing all I’d seen and felt. Everything in Svalbard had been over the top, from the ship and camaraderie to the ice/tundra/crags/continuous sunlight equation of Svalbard; an inevitable funk arose upon reentry to my life at home. I have been writing novels since I was twenty years old, so I have no problem working in isolation for long periods, but The Arctic Circle residency was an experience that pulled a group of artists together in a unique way, in a rugged and remote place, and that bond had so much meaning for me that for the first time in my artistic life I felt…lonely.

One evening shortly after my return, I went on The Arctic Circle’s website and looked through the names of program alumni. Clicking through the artists’ websites, I really got a sense of the body of work that is emerging from the residency – arctic landscapes and connections with climate change, the poetics of glaciers, and lone figures standing sentinel in the backgrounds of paintings and drawings – invocations of our wilderness guides during the trip, who watched for polar bears while we doodled and journaled on shore. I was just starting to feel the camaraderie again when I clicked on Cedra Wood’s name and found a video of her exquisite arctic journal (Svalbard begins at 04:40)

Even though I couldn’t actually read the writing, Cedra’s eloquent expressions of her Arctic Circle residency, paired with the soothing cadence of the page-turning itself (maybe it’s a writer thing) were a balm for the loneliness I felt post-arctic, and I began following her work via social media. I soon discovered that beyond the arctic connection, Cedra’s work inspired me on many levels. It is concerned with wild nature within and without, and her interest includes species commonly referred to as ‘invasive’ and she puts them in close relationship with humankind. Her work is vividly mythological and timeless, and leaves room for the viewer to distill different meanings. And perhaps the element that is most provocative and inspiring to me personally: many of her works are concerned with the creative process itself. She sews garments to be worn by models in her paintings; she uses video for performance art that also serves as painting fodder; her journals are cohesive artworks that express a creative journey. Above all, Cedra embodies artistic integrity and focus – two qualities I admire and to which I aspire.

Last month, I took the train from Emeryville, CA to Reno, NV to visit Cedra and her partner, comics artist/painter Christopher Baldwin, and to see Cedra’s solo exhibit, A Residency on Earth, at the Nevada Museum of Art where she is a fellow at the Center for Art and the Environment. Each of the gallery walls of her exhibit show work from places Cedra has traveled: Australia, Svalbard, and the American Southwest. Cedra gave an artist’s talk while I was there, and graciously gave me permission to reprint some of what she discussed. Excerpts from Cedra’s notes are italicized.

My parents are not storytellers, but once they told me about the invention of my name. In their courtship, they were riding my dad’s motorcycle, brainstorming the names of their potential future children (as one does). My dad being a forest ranger at the time and very interested in trees, his surname being Wood, and both of them evidently feeling whimsical, they settled on the name of their firstborn girl child as a pun: Cedra (Cedar) Wood. (My dad joked, “It could have been worse. we almost named you Sandal.”) I loved this story because this conceiving of my name (1) links me with the natural world. (2) The very idea of me was born in motion, going down the highway. And (3) it’s playful. I can’t think of three characteristics that I’d rather embody.


The series below was created in southern Utah, where Cedra considered the fleeting yet extreme ecosystem of ephemeral pools. These pools are naturally occurring sandstone basins that collect rainwater and windblown sediments and organisms. Cedra focused her process on one such organism, the tadpole shrimp (!). In an attempt to emulate the shrimp’s lifestyle and make art along the way, Cedra buried herself in the dry pool, leaving only her carapace and caudal rami exposed.

I find that the right odd moments,–juxtaposed–complete and compliment and complicate each other, begin to harmonize into a composition, like a bunch of dissonant sounds suddenly resolving into a chord.


Cedra’s painting is on the left in the photo above, and the three photographs on the right were taken by the artist Lauren Greenwald.

Transplants, 2014. For this work, Cedra made two costumes out of burlap, linen, cotton, yucca fiber, cottonwood fluff, juniper berries, velvet grass, sunflower leaves, and leafy spurge. You can see from the images behind the costume that models wore the clothing in sketches for eventual paintings. The costumes were made in Ucross, Wyoming, and the landscape that appears in the backdrop of the draft drawing is Mount Edith Cavell, in Jasper NP (Alberta).


The ranch [at Ucross] supports efforts that are agricultural and economical, narrative and aesthetic, observational and analytical; but one seemingly central element was the abundant plant life…fodder for conversation as well as cattle.With this in mind, I referenced clothing patterns from the late 1800s to create homesteading-era costumes, covering the garments with hand-gathered plant materials.



These pants are made out of sunflower leaves!

Not long after I got my MFA, I went with a small band of Land Arts alumni to Australia. I was a sort of bashful ambassador in an exchange of ideas with the field studies program at the Australian National University. I had never been out of the country before.

As before, found myself in completely alien surroundings. To find my bearings, I found myself thinking of the field expeditions as a game. A game that there are hundreds of ways to win…all you have to do is learn something…and the only way to lose is to have a really, irredeemably bad time.

The trick was to land in the middle of things and not to panic. I gave myself permission not to try to leap to solutions or goals or conclusions, or worry whether I could immediately produce a work of genius–but to trust that over time, the things that stood out would prove their significance later. The idea of invasive species was something that kept coming up over and over in AU—that some introduced plant or bird or animal would thrive at the expense of biodiversity by outcompeting or exterminating its fellow species. Even dingos weren’t free from this controversy, despite having been there for several thousand years.

These are prickly paddy melons [photo below, on right], which were growing in abundance near Calperum Research Station in South Australia. As further articulated, the objective of the fieldwork game is to absorb an experience of a place fully by any means available to me, and later articulate the significance of that experience. So my first move was to blindly follow impulses toward things I wanted to understand better. Like what it meant to feel overwhelmed or oppressed by an excess of something. Or, the flip side of that coin, what it could mean to have a really personal, maybe significant, interaction with a bounty of something that has value on its own merits.


Once, when I was a kid helping my mom clear the garden, I asked my mom what the difference between a flower and a weed was. She said, ‘a weed is a flower that grows where it’s not wanted.’ The large and global story of invasiveness, migration, and the subjectiveness of being wanted or unwanted, hit home for me personally too in Australia, as I was in a strange place, an invader whose amplified social anxieties led me to place myself firmly in the invasive category.


My immediate goal was just to keep track of everything that surprised me. Seek out the tensions. Keep an eye out for symbols. Listen to the themes that emerge in conversation.

Svalbard, 2012.


During her residency onboard the tall ship Antigua, Cedra Wood and the artist Christy Georg braided Cedra’s hair into the rigging. Another example of what could be called performance art that later became fodder for a breathtaking painting (not done justice in the photo below).

[While onboard] I had decided I wanted to make myself a part of the ship. It was quickly evident how much we depended on the ship for survival (food, warmth, companionship, etc). Wanting to be as useful to it as it was to me. Fruitless of course. I just finished—last night, truly—the painting that’s the culmination of this performance.

This photo shows the painting being hung up for the exhibit. I had the good fortune to be hanging around with Cedra while she finished it the night before in her small hotel room in Reno.


As I hone in on finishing my novel-in-progress,  Cedra’s work has provided a deep level not only of inspiration, but also insight into another artist’s process, interests, and vision.


Oh, and while I was in Nevada, Cedra and Christopher took me to Pyramid Lake at sunset. Sadly, we didn’t see any Cui uis, but the land- and lake-scape were sublime.













The Enchanted World: To Vincent Price and Back Again

The Enchanted World: To Vincent Price and Back Again

Recently, I read a large number of online lists of favorite books. In general I found these lists inspiring. Sometimes, they frustrated me, i.e. will I ever read W.G. Sebald? Will I ever be in the in-group? I considered posting a list of my own but I didn’t quite get around to it, and like most other online flurries, the lists soon disappeared. But something stuck in the back of my mind, and eventually I realized what it was.

The truth is, if I heeded the hilarious instruction of one pass-it-on type posting to “not think too much before responding,” my favorite books were obvious. But in this age of cultivated online personae, how could I broadcast to the world that my all-time favorite books were published by Time Life, and I read them when I was 12?

Well, Vincent Price’s 1985 TV commercial for the books helps with that a bit.

I received the first one from my parents: Fairies and Elves. Soon to follow were Legends of Valor, Wizards and Witches, Ghosts, Magical Beasts, and Water Spirits. I don’t know who Time Life’s editors and consultants were for the Enchanted World series, but the stories and artwork they picked are classic, gorgeous, and not at all rated PG. Ghosts is terrifying, and that made it the best one of all. I fell in love with the Pre-Raphaelite paintings of nymphs and the lady of Shalott, Japanese fairy-tale illustrations, and provocative drawings of all manner of shapeshifters, hollow-mountain dwellers, undersea horsemen, selkies, warlocks, tricksters, ethereal fairies and elemental priestesses. The stories are told as if around a campfire. In them, there is a strong sense that magic lives in the world, even if it is declining. These stories of the fantastic, eerie, mysterious, and magical seeped into me in the best possible way. Deep, and entwined with my budding ideas about the creative process and making imaginative meaning of the world.

I adored these books for years, and then, during the second half of adolescence, I drifted away from my fantasy roots. I was embarrassed that as a kid I’d read mostly Arthurian legends and trilogies of novels in which the heroines  maintained telepathic links with their soul-mate spirit animals. Pretty soon I was an English major reading the 20th century literary canon (oh that horde of Johns!). That’s all fine, and Rabbit, Run is still one of my favorite books, but I had left the enchanted world behind. Then I was writing my first novel, set in Washington State’s Skagit Valley. Then 9/11 happened, then I was in graduate school. Then I found the love of my life. Then I was writing Among the Wonderful. Then I was navigating the publishing world and trying to market the book. Then my child was born.

Last August at my parents’ house, I saw those enchanted, albeit dusty, spines for the first time in a decade and a half, even though they’d been sitting in plain sight all those years. While my daughter slept, I opened up the books and again fell in love – this time with a gasp of unexpected love for my former self . I recognized the art on every page and realized that myth and folkways are threaded together with my reason for writing fiction in the first place, my connection with wild nature and my deepest aspiration as the mother of a wee one.

In an urban world that I often find confusing and troubling, there is a crucial nourishment and comfort for me in mythic stories and artwork, from the Inuit to the Scottish Highlanders. Partially for me, and partially for my daughter, I reclaimed the Enchanted World. Then, I poked around online, since I’d never heard anyone else mention the series in all those years. To my delight, I discovered there are 21 books in the series, and I have only ever read  7. New titles (well, new to me) included Night Creatures, Spells and Bindings, Seekers and Saviors, Giants and Ogres (shoot! I should have had that one while I researched Among the Wonderful), and Fall of Camelot. Even right now, at the moment I am writing this, I am giddy; I can’t wait to dive into those other enchanted worlds. How did I not know there were more?

It turns out that my good fortune didn’t end there. During that same haphazard online research session, somehow I landed on writer, artist, and editor Terri Windling’s blog, Myth and Moor. The post I read that day was Swan Maidens and Crane Wives, which exquisitely explores not only the power, lightness-with-knowing, and archetypal force of the swan, but also the complexities and difficulties of domestic life when part of your spirit is wild. As a new mother and a novelist, I could relate. Utilizing literary, artistic and musical (yes, the Decembrists’ Crane Wife is there too) sources, Terri Windling draws from the same well as the Enchanted World series to conjure a provocative portrait of these avian women, and she relates it all to the world as it is, right now. Terri Windling’s thoughtful, magical blog helped me then, and helps me now to anchor firmly in the world of myth and the fantastic that I’ve always loved, while also linking that world securely to the here-and-now of creative process.

One day, on Myth and Moor, I discovered that Terri Windling was packing up Endicott

West, the writers retreat she cofounded with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman in the Sonoran desert near Tucson, Arizona. Through Terri’s blog posts, I commiserated with Terri, and then Ellen too, as this powerful retreat for mythic artists folded up shop. But when they announced an online auction of books from the Endicott West library, I felt the enchanted world rush in. In recent months, I’d been challenged and enlivened by elements of the fantastic creeping into my novel-in-progress. I’d been wanting to read mythic novels and stories for inspiration and lessons on craft. Here was my chance! In a blur I bid on and then won two boxes of “mystery fiction” to be chosen by Terri. The auction proceeds were to help pay for shipping costs for Terri to bring part of the library back to Devon, England, where she lives.

After I found the boxes on my doorstep, I left them unopened for many hours, just so I could savor my exquisite excitement. But of course I couldn’t wait for long. And so it is that one enchanted world leads to another and another, and it just may be that magic is not declining after all. In me it grows.

Spitsbergen Journals 2

Spitsbergen Journals 2

Please read the first installment of travel journal entries here.

Isfjord, underway
June 17 continued
Standing at the rail, my eyes compulsively travel the parabolic upsweep of these great, coastal mountains, and come to rest only in their heights. Now, like in Longyearbyen, I perceive that something invaluable lies in these crags. Not just an awesome beauty, but something else. Something invaluable to me personally. Is this just how I experience wonder in this moment of my life? As a seeking more powerful than any I can recall? I try to ease myself back into a place of less wanting. Back to Emerson’s eyeball: I am nothing. I see all. I keep thinking of those Mayan architects, their temples designed so that we humans would be humbled before the gods, climbing up and up hundreds of narrow, steep steps, basically on all fours, to meet the ascended deities. The upward and inward draft of our breath in the face of the truly sublime — there is something of that here in the Spitsbergen ranges that makes me reflect on the humility of the devout. A good thing, too, since my Arkady Afanas’ev, in the pages of the book, considers himself something of a holy man. At first his faith is an answer unto itself. But of course that paradigm crumbles.
St. Jonsfjorden
Goose feathers tangled in a kelp holdfast. Paper-thin leaves of shale splayed like a hand of cards. A seal carcass eroded by stream flow. Two pairs plus one of common eiders. A trapper’s utilitarian hut seen as a monument to the simple fact of human survival up here. And such delicacy, too: a purple sandpiper picking its way through the shallows, and the logarithmic spiral of a tiny, rose-colored snail shell. Rosettes of lichen, pincushions of moss. Purple saxifrage. All in this place of places, which we now explore. A terrible wonderland of ice, stone and sea.

Kongsfjord / Kongsbreen
June 18
My first glacier. The deepest aqua blue ice is the oldest, the most compressed, the de-oxygenated. This blue, frozen crystalline medium is a jewel of our earth. The face of the glacier bears so many textures, words certainly fall short. But I recall the names given to different types of marbles and they seem somewhat fitting for these calved chunks of glacier ice that drift away from the glacier with the tide: the swirl, the cat’s eye, the aggie (named for an agate’s concentric rings), the purie, the mica, and the dragonfly. Looking at glacier ice, I can think of a few more: the galaxy, the sno-cone, the sparkler. I imagine white onyx. Each piece of floating ice is a sculptural marvel: grand pianos making their sideways way through the water. Cups following their translucent saucers. Miniature mountain ranges and the upturned hulls of ice ships. And as this ice drifted by it emitted the popping sound of many fingers snapping.
Five beluga whales visited our middle distance today. Their backs were creamier by far than the ice that surrounded them. In fact their banana-like color was warmer than almost anything I’ve seen today. In all their diving and surfacing I never saw their faces.
Sometimes even a porthole-full of this landscape overwhelms. But the continuous joy and daylight make up for it.
“The long tradition of hunting on the arctic seas resulted in the formation of whole family dynasties engaged in this work. Practical skills and psychological strength were passed on from generation to generation. Possession of these skills was highly appreciated in Russia at this time, and members of such families quite often found jobs in the merchant fleet and in the navy.”
–Jasinski, “The Russian Hunters on Svalbard” 1989.
No doubt that E. Starostin, patron saint of the Pomor hunters in my book, came from such a family. It is said that he spent 37 years in Spitsbergen without once going back to mainland Russia.
The main prey of the hunters was walrus (tusks, skins, fat); beluga and all species of seal; on land, reindeer (meat, hides), fox (fur), and eider (down and eggs). They brought prefabricated wooden huts with them from the mainland. They also built huts out of driftwood. The front door would be on the leeward side, and a vestibule followed, for food and storage. The one dwelling room was living room, kitchen, bedroom, and workshop. The Pomors made stone or brick ovens (unlike the Norwegians who used metal ovens). The floors of Pomor huts were usually made from the wooden planks of ships. They often built slate foundations. The Pomors shot ice bears through specially constructed slots in hut windows. They lured them close with meat. A scurvy-proof diet would consist of fresh, raw meat, blood and fish; barrels of soured milk, cloudberries, starka. They brewed potions from pine cones and needles. They ate the local scurvy grass. Out of the 20 graves at Russekeila, near Kapp Starostin on the southern edge of the entrance to Isfjord, only one skeleton showed symptoms of scurvy.
My Starostin’s hut has whale bones for rafters and walrus skull sconces.
June 19

Here in Magdalenefjord, the beach is made of larger, more rounded stones than I’ve yet seen. Granitic, in shades of gray from TV static to whale back. An ocean of stones, and between them fine sand, very soft to the touch. I wasn’t expecting that. And on this peninsula lie the bones of 130 whalers. How did they fall? Accidents at sea, injuries while processing whale blubber? Fighting each other? And was this their heart’s most beloved place? I imagine them having no allegiance but to Spitsbergen. Or perhaps they lay here out of necessity and nothing more. In the ground here, where the blubber ovens used to stand, the presence of the whales is still felt: intense green and yellow moss shows where the whale oil permeated the ground. Even after so many centuries (because the ground thaws for only a few weeks every year) those nutrients feed the earth. And the black upright crust that seems to be part of the oven-ruin is actually petrified whale oil that holds the shape of the old copper cauldron.
I hear little auks here and their voices disconcert me. Strange, how I dwell in two different Spitsbergens: the one of my imagination, of course, from which I’ve written a draft of the book already, and now this real one, with these Magdalene mountains rising up in their green moss capes, and flocks of seabirds traversing the heights. The sum of this view reminds me somehow of tropical highlands – Peru, maybe – and I expect an ancient temple city to emerge from this fog.
And the transmutation of observation into fiction takes time. Gentle, now. I believe I am frightened of how beautiful and strange Spitsbergen is. Frightened and excited by the ways my imagination created this place in a good way…in a way that works…even before I came here. Frightened, in hindsight, that I had the gall to start the book, not having yet been here. In the end, of course, wonder and gratitude prevail.

Spitsbergen Journals 1

Spitsbergen Journals 1

Between June 14 and July 2 I participated in The Arctic Circle‘s expeditionary residency, an arts-and-science-driven voyage on a barkentine sailing ship up the west/northwest coast of Svalbard, Norway. During this trip I absorbed the landscape (sea, mountains, ice, river, sky) and worked on my novel-in-progress, which is largely set in Svalbard. Here is the first installment of selected journal entries that I made during the trip.

Oslo, Norway
June 13
I’ve been up for 27 hours. Two planes, two trains, two buses and a whole lot of first-day-in-a-new-city flailing. Special train or regular? Why doesn’t my credit card work in the ticket machine? Am I on the right bus? No! Yes! But no matter, I got to see the Viking ships. Millenium-old oak carved with serpent heads, spirals, knots. So much grace in the craftsmanship. Metal puzzles, remnants of woven tapestries, bridles, jewelry. And to think that this most beautiful ship, filled with riches, was the burial place for a Viking noblewoman (perhaps a shield maiden). The actual burial chamber was there in the museum too, a peak-topped tiny cabin of charred wood, reconstructed post pyre. I wonder if the oils from her earthly husk infused those old beams and if she haunts this place. Wood, copper, iron, stone. Woven sails, ships full of men each sitting on his own sea chest as a bench. Moving silently through fjords to the open seas. Rambling now just to savor this day. Turning toward the sea, welcome the allies and ghosts of this journey. Rest in it, the woven shawl, the braided rope, the metal and stone baubles.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard
June 15
I am here. Shale and snow patch. Barnacle geese, Svalbard reindeer, snow bunting, glaucous gull. One small moss campion cushion glimpsed while walking back to New Town. Passed a tipi full of people blasting the Jackson 5. So many children here, playing outside in snowsuits. There is an Arctic Nature Guide school here…be still my heart. Random coal buckets and mining infrastructure scattered across town, and an old boarded-up mine high on the mountainside, hanging over this place like a ghost. The landscape something out of myth – citadels, battlements, precipitous heights. Rivers of shale flowing down and turning to moss and then the sea. All of it beneath a thick overcast.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard
June 16
Last night I hiked to the abandoned mine. Up scree that changed from brown to red to a soft black sand that must be coal. Above the mine little auks gave me a true welcome to this place: their ominous, insane laughter mocked the human presence here. My eye constantly travels up to these stone faces above me. I try to read the expressions in pinnacle and crag. Many-faceted meaning many faced. You can search those stone faces all you want, all you can handle for as long as you can stand the mystery of unanswered questions. Inside the mine, treacherous going. Would hate to break a leg before the trip really begins. I inched inside for just long enough to sense jagged icicles and missing floorboards. Broken equipment, graffiti in many languages. I’ll stay out in the perpetual daylight instead. It’s 1 am. Time to head down to the valley and see what else is stirring.
Isfjord, underway
June 17
Yesterday we boarded the good ship Antigua, which is a square-rigged barkentine and part of the Dutch Tall Ship Fleet. I was met by three spectacular female wilderness guides: Theres, Sara and Åshild. Purple sandpipers, northern fulmars, a puffin and arctic terns. Standing at the rail, my heart full to bursting. My cohort is amazing. Already conversations about ethereal Norwegian doppelganger spirits who slip between different dimensions of reality, chapter 42 of Moby Dick, ravens. Everywhere I step I trip over inspiration. The sea at first bordered on emerald and then shifted to a strange, white-cast blue. As if the color intends to be friendly and yet within the white opacity you sense only death.
Break open preconception. Toss habitual modes overboard. How can I take a cue from these improvisers, my companions? Some of them shipped supplies that did not arrive in time for our departure. Some counted on a trip to the Longyearbyen hardware store but it was closed. Mia rolling her tarpaper down the mountain. Amanda collecting vintage ropes and spinning paper to rope like some patron saint of seafarers. I hold my story, The Gyre, in my cupped palms. It is time to lose my knowledge and move the book forward into new territory. Listen: where is it?