Monday, November 30, 2015


In October, I traveled to Alaska to stay with some friends. I was a week in Anchorage, a week on Kodiak Island, and made a brief stop in Portland on my way back to my own bit of California.

I'd never been to Alaska before, but had heard enough stories from my friends that I'd formed a pretty solid image of snowy wasteland and turbulent seas populated with almost mythical beasts.

I didn't find a wasteland or mythical beasts. Though I did see a lot of bald eagles and there was a moment when my boyfriend--N--and I were driving through the mountains when he turned on the radio and the only thing playing was static. What I did find was a rich and varied land far more magnificent and strange than I'd anticipated.

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was the day that we took the approximately five hour drive from Anchorage to Homer. Half the drive was through snowy, rugged mountains that rose abruptly on either side of the road. The other half was through strangely flat swamp populated mostly by what appeared to be very stunted conifers, but might have been some exotic, northern swamp plant I couldn't put a name to.

I almost felt like I'd seen it all before.

Not because of pictures or ordinary deja vu, though, but because I had imagined a similar setting for a story I have yet to finish writing. Similar, I said, but not the same. I could never have imagined mountains that abrupt or the strangeness of the misty, alien swampland. As soon as I saw them, my unwritten story gained a foundation of truth that hadn't been there before.

Fiction and reality are inextricably linked for me. I filter my experience of the real world through the stories I have read, and judge the stories with the practicality of the real world. Despite their close relationship, though, fancy and everyday world are usually no more than distant reflections of one another. Unfortunately for imaginative souls like myself, we can't expect the world to conform to storybook rules.

Yet, now and then, I stumble across a wonderful moment like this where the two seem to converge. Suddenly, the fairy tale is real and the real world is far more beautiful than I usually give it credit for.

snowy mountains and shoreline outside Anchorage, Alaska
Mountains on the way out of Anchorage

Giant red and green cabbages in Homer, Alaska
Giant cabbages in Homer, AK

me taking photographing snowy mountains somewhere between Anchorage and Homer, Alaska
Me, taking a picture of mountains somewhere between Anchorage and Homer
Photo courtesy of N

smoked salmon flavored vodka in Safeway on Kodiak Island, Alaska
Only in Alaska

beautiful sunrise over Kodiak Island, Alaska
Sunrise on Kodiak

fishing boats in the St. Herman Harbor on Kodiak Island, Alaska
A gray day in the harbor

The view from the top of Pillar Mountain on Kodiak Island, Alaska
The view from the top of Pillar Mountain on Kodiak Island

Moss and lichen growing on a tree in a forest on an island near Kodiak, Alaska
Crazy, vibrant moss on a small island near Kodiak

Abandoned outbuildings in the amazing moss forest

Shakmanof Point at sunset from on the water
On N's skiff near Shakmanof Point

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recent Shakespeare Favo(u)rites

Poetry round-up with Susan returns!  A little different from last time:  I don't have these memorized, and we're exclusively Shakespeare-themed today, but this is some of the poetry I've been loving lately:

Selections from Shakespeare's Richard III 

I follow @IAM_SHAKESPEARE on Twitter, which is probably my favorite bot on the internet.  Are all the bots in your life trying to spam you?  Well, then, it's time to acquaint yourself with the Twitter account that has been programmed to continuously tweet all of Shakespeare's plays (and maybe his sonnets??) at the rate of one line every ten minutes.  Delightful thing, really.  The other day it was catching my eye and I discovered we were in the middle of Richard III's amazing monologue from the eponymous play: 

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? myself? there's none else by:
Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:
Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself!
I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

(Act V, Scene 2)

(Bolded emphasis added by me, of course.  That is the part that made me turn my head and say, "That is no mere mortal tweeting!") 

If you haven't acquainted yourself with Shakespeare's deliciously diabolical Richard, you should.  Here, do it now.  You don't even have to move. 

Sonnet 154

More Shakespeare (surprise!):  the last sonnet in his sonnet cycle.  I remember reading this when I was a young teenager and thinking it was pretty but having not the faintest mumbling of a clue what it was about.  Now I have the (over)confidence to say I understand it completely.  These moments of noticing the effects of a liberal education are sweet.

But seriously, this poem is a beautiful, important thing.  

The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd;
And so the general of hot desire was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm'd.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by, [<--notice how the rhythm slows down here! the fire is cooling! *ahem* carry on...]
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,
Love's fire heats water, water cools not love. 

Greetings from Susan and the Bard....