Cranberries in Springtime: A Literary Meeting Place for Rural Alaskans
Lingonberries, Vaccinium vitis-adaea, kwntsan’.
About this Blog
Spring Breakup in Bush Alaska
When I first moved to Alaska in March of 2000, I lived in a wall tent while building a cabin at the edge of a remote lake in the Interior. I remember eating the last apple from its box by early April, and having no fresh fruit for a month. And no bath, either, until the ice melted. In May, we started up the Honda 40 horse outboard, and rode in the boat an hour downstream to the edge of where the ice was still breaking up along the Kuskokwim River. We stopped and got out to look around, and discovered lowbush cranberries on the tundra. The flavor of this unexpected gift brought tears. After a month of eating dried fruit, porcupine, and squirrel meat, those winter-sweetened cranberries were the best thing I had ever tasted.
Living in Village Alaska
Years later, living in a small Athabascan community far upriver from where I found the lowbush cranberries, I heard stories, in both English and Athabascan, about the critical importance of those berries to survival of individuals and people of the north. My experience that day led to a deepened understanding and appreciation of the skill and perseverance of local people. And the experience connected me viscerally to the land that sustains us, in a way no words can ever quite describe. Over the years, this memory has become a metaphor, or story, that continues to instruct me in my life.
Cranberries in Springtime
Unexpected second chances in life. Sweetness rendered in this sour fruit, by winter’s bitter cold. Beauty and destruction after a forest fire; morels, fireweed, and renewed forest growth follow. Wildflowers growing up out of an old tire in the woods. Children laughing and playing. Juxtapositions. Oxymorons. Silver linings. Lemonade. Gifts of grace.
Come. Let us sit down in the moss, lichen, and berries of the tundra and know this earth that is our home. The dialectic of healing requires some messiness and discomfort, to enjoy the beauty. It is a journey I would prefer to take together.
Most Recent Posts
Origins Stories of the far North: When the Whales Leave and other works by Yuri RyktheuOn the Northern coast of the tip of far northeastern Russia, just over sixty miles from Alaska, there is a barrier spit of land and a town named Uelen. Yuri Ryktheu, one of Russia's...
From Captains on the Arctic seas, to military highway engineers, to attorneys and legislators, African Americans in Alaska came early in the history of the territory and helped develop the state as we recognize it today. Black whalers were some of the first people from the east coast to see Alaska, starting in the early 1840s . . .
Water flows over and through the pebbles on the cover of Mostly Water: Reflections Rural and North. Water connects. Mary Odden, a long-time resident of rural Alaska, has graced us with this collection of essays written over the course of her many years in various regions of rural Alaska. Built upon each other with love, these anecdotes articulate connections between people, animals, land, sky, water, music, and memory. It’s an intimate book, and not a skimmable one. Nuggets of humor and irony randomly appear like brown sugar in the most unexpected places, and you won’t want to miss them.
Floating Coast reads like a wave, moving from ocean to shore on both sides of the Bering Strait, from ocean to ice to land, then up the rivers, and then underground, then spilling back out to the sea. Floating Coast is a . . .
“It is an extraordinary betrayal of a national promise to care for, that the state will care for the people and its land. And . . . that the state has said “Yes, we are here, you can depend on us. Put aside your traditional ways of gathering food or of looking out for each other. Because we are here now, . . . to . . . supplant your economy with our economy now, so you can depend on it and we’ll be there.” And then for that state to disappear, is deadly. It’s really deadly.”
Dogs, blizzards, and ice dominate the dark landscape of Taaqtumi, An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories. A supporting cast of zombies, nanurluk (giant polar bear), snowmobiles, and more, round out these horror stories from the far North. Traditional Iñuit storytelling and modern literary styles . . .
In this episode, we dive into specifics about the author’s identity and experience as a white American woman from New York City, observing rural and Indigenous Russians of Kamchatka in their day-to-day lives. We hear her reflections about time spent in rural Kamchatka, traveling with dogsled teams, reindeer herding families, and gathering wild foods. We reflect on circumpolar questions about the ocean’s fish supply after Fukushima,
Three hours north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Armstrong had several large new homes situated on a rise above the town, each with a law enforcement vehicle parked in the driveway. Below these houses, most of the community lived in older, smaller, rundown homes. We wondered about the relationship between these officers in “Armstrong Heights” and the rest of the community, given
Welcome to our podcast, Salmonberries, where we bring you stories, interviews, and discussions from across the circumpolar North to surprise, delight, and build community. Our inaugural podcast features an interview with author Julia Phillips, who wrote the debut novel Disappearing Earth . . . As I read it, I kept thinking of all the ways it is relevant to Alaska. I was so excited by the author’s approach to storytelling . . .
Set in the Kamchatka peninsula of far northeastern Russia, debut novelist Julia Phillips writes in Disappearing Earth about the interior worlds of women, the importance of community, and the impacts of gender-based violence on both, with a depth of human insight reminiscent of Tolstoy. The story opens with the kidnapping of two young Russian girls . . .