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
  • PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a candidate with excellent communication skills and a commitment to environmental conservation for the position of Public Lands Program Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia, CO, seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking, and a creative problem-solver. WSCC is committed to creating...
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.