The wild home of hope

  • ISTOCK
 

Rock Water Wild: An Alaskan Life
Nancy Lord
248 pages,
hardcover: $24.95.
University of Nebraska Press, 2009.

Alaska writer laureate Nancy Lord's infatuation with that state dates back to a fourth-grade school project. Like so many transplants, she moved to the Far North to reinvent herself. Alaska's remoteness, its low population density, natural wealth and often-harsh living conditions recall a younger West, making it a repository for hope -- as if we've been given another chance there and can somehow avoid the mistakes of the past. In prose clear and fluid as mountain water, Lord has composed a paean to "the last place in America that's big enough and wild enough to hold the intact landscapes and the dreams that are so absent today from almost everywhere else."

But the author of Rock Water Wild is no soft-handed scribe. She has worked a number of odd jobs and, with her husband, fishes commercially for salmon near Homer. With her hands deep in fish guts, immersed in subsistence activities thousands of years old, she explores "visible linkages between natural systems, history, and the present." In doing so, she acknowledges geopolitical contexts and how they affect local communities. A good example is an essay that contrasts subsistence-style and commercial whaling. Sojourns outside Alaska, such as a trip to Wyoming where she contemplates ancient teepee rings and modern fence lines, only sharpen her focus on her home state. Other chapters address the importance of landscape in the Dena'ina Athabaskan language, or the impact of roads upon wilderness areas. The political fuses with the personal: A tale of species extinction precedes that of an Alzheimer's-plagued parent, whose displacement feels just as devastating.

A collection like Rock Water Wild, which spans over 20 years, can feel somewhat fragmented; two chapters about literary influences barely relate to Alaska. But the book reveals the maturing of a voice. What does it take to become an Alaskan? Lord's answer to that question also sums up her style as a writer: "a certain restlessness of spirit, a comfort in space and quiet, and more than a streak of independence." These essays connect like the webs of a fishing net, linked by the writer's belief in a "right place," a place where lives can find their true shapes. Luckily, Lord has found hers.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...
  • DISCOUNT SOLAR PANELS
    New w/25 year warranty. Shipped anywhere in the lower 48. Minimum order of 10 units. Call, text or email for current prices. .50-.80/ watt
  • SWEET MOUNTAIN HOME
    3.8 acres in pine and fir forest on a year round creek. Custom home, 2x6 framing, radiant heat, wrap around decks and established berry patch....
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR AND STAFF ATTORNEY
    Friends of the San Juans' Legal Director and Staff Attorney ("Legal Director") leads our legal advocacy and litigation practice and participates in many other organizational...
  • SPRING-FED PARCELS ON THE UPPER SAC RIVER
    Adjacent parcels above the Upper Sacramento river, near Dunsmuir. The smaller is just under 3 acres, with the larger at just under 15 acres. Multiple...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Volunteers Wilderness Volunteers (WV), a 24-year leader in preserving our nation's wildlands, is seeking a motivated person with deep outdoor interests to guide our...
  • POEM+ NEWSLETTER
    Start each month with a poem in your inbox by signing up for Taylor S. Winchell's monthly Poem+ Newsletter. No frills. No news. No politics....
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau with lodge, river trip and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.