Ken Cooper, Cultural Consultant for Fish, Timber and Wildlife of the Lummi Tribe of Washington state, listens to the "trees as they talk to one another, the songs in the wind, the stories of the pathway that started a long time ago…When I come back I play the song that I hear floating on the wind and play the feeling that I hear coming out of those trees that are pained, that know they’re going to be cut down. They do talk. They have a lot to teach us. Anybody who goes in the mountains and sees beauty has a form of healing."
A few days respite from work before beginning the commute from Kingston to the Seattle waterfront onboard one of the new Mosquito fleet. This morning I sat on a park bench overlooking the Kingston marina drinking a damnably expensive cup of coffee beneath a sky obscured by high cloud. The water of Appletree Cove was so still that concentric ripples left by a gull taking flight could be seen half way to the far shore. I listened to the high, distant drone of a float plane, the twitter of swallows returned from the south, the irritated cackle of crows (crows seem always irritated), and the sound of gulls squabbling over some scrap of food or place to stand.
Since before the birth of Christ, perhaps before even
the birth of the Roman empire that crucified Christ, the Makah have been
hunting gray whales off the pitch of Cape Flattery. They hunted in open boats
carved from cedar trees, with floats made from seal guts and lines made from kelp and harpoons tipped with muscle shells. They hunted whales weighing 40
tons with flukes that spanned 10 feet on a coast that even now invites
shipwreck. The hunting of whales defined the Makah as a people, as a culture,
and as the finest small boat seaman on this continent.
An amazing series of still photos capturing the mechanics of a boat capsizing. The sailboat is making for the passage between the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, a place notorious for standing waves and tide rips. The surf is breaking ten feet or higher. Once committed, there is no possibility of escape.
Traditionally the Navaho believe that each of us is animated by a wind soul. The wind enters us in our mother’s womb; the circular patterns on our fingertips and toes are the mark of the wind like the tracks of
a dust devil across a dry Southwest plateau.
On a bright day last Fall I drove to the end of the earth and parked. A boardwalk of cedar planks led from the trailhead, through stands of western hemlock, red alder, and cedar draped with epiphytes, to Cape Flattery and the northwestern most point of land in the contiguous United States.
It’s early in the morning, hours before false dawn. A full moon streams a wake of light across the landscape – dead grass and a split rail fence, the dark copse of conifers standing in the wetlands, and the stump of an old madrone bleached the color of bone. It’s silent except for an occasional car rushing for an early ferry, the distant sound of tires on pavement like the chant of Tibetan monks. This is the holy hour of darkness before the day begins.
I’ve been thinking about the ruined fence that frames the far side of Lindvog Road, the planked fence made from trees milled where they were felled. The trees were small, too small for serviceable lumber, just large enough to make a fence slat. Some of the planks in the fence were the entire width of the tree. Their edges undulate with the natural contour of the tree trunk. Bark still clings to them like a thick skin.
Traditionally Pacific Islanders have sailed vast distances without compass or instruments, steering by the stars, the flight of seabirds, the shivering air of thermals rising above islands, the green hue of a lagoon cast on the belly of a cloud, or the feel of the swell generated by familiar winds.
It’s late in March and a lowering sky hangs heavily over the village of Kingston and Appletree Cove. There are no apple trees on Appletree Cove. There never were. Lt. Charles Wilkes, commanding the United States Exploring Expedition that surveyed Puget Sound in 1841, mistook the flowering dogwoods for something more familiar.