This short film about an artist, tradition, culture and a raven was 3 months in the making, and I am glad for every moment of it. Spending all that time with and getting to know Duane Pasco was as rewarding as making the film.
It was a year ago this week that I built my West Greenland replica skin-on-frame kayak. I was thinking about that, about the passage of time, about how interests change — some strengthen, some diminish, some fade away altogether or get lost among the demands on our time. Twenty-two years before I built a Greenland kayak (qajaq, to be more correct) I painted some; because I found the culture and history interesting, because I loved kayaks, and because (most importantly I suppose) painting is what I did. With the passing of years only the painting has disappeared from my life, which I am suddenly feeling is a damn shame. Many other creative endeavors have filled that void, but perhaps it is time to bring that older form of expression back into my life.
These watercolor paintings were part of a series of miniatures (this is close to their actual size) that I painted in 1990 while showing my work at Artic Rose Galleries in Anchorage, Alaska. The paintings were sold to some unknown person that I hope is still appreciating them. I am glad that I took photos that I could look back at 23 years later, it is good sometimes to do a little time travel.
How better to follow a post about inspiration than with one about determination? We see determination in the natural world around us all the time and usually miss it—the tree growing out of a crack in a granite boulder, the tree whose roots are repurposed into a trunk after being exposed at edge of an eroding cliff, the deer doing its best to run through the woods on 3 legs, even the dandelion that mowing after mowing refuses to give up.
This stump is one of the best examples I've come across, and one of the most remarkable trees I've ever seen. We found it along the trail to our campsite while staying on Hope Island State Marine Park in south Puget Sound. There had been some selective clearing some years back, this tree was cut down and somehow survived losing its crown and all of its chlorophyl producing needles, living at least long enough to grown over its wound with a ring of bark and new growth (perhaps it is still alive? I don't know). Can't explain how it managed, but it is a fine example of a life determined to live.
Hope Island tree refuses to die.
UPDATE: A friend has explained how this can happen, and it is still quite remarkable. The tree likely has roots that are joined with the roots of a neighboring tree and it is getting nutrients that way.
I've been doing some design work for a guy named Duane Pasco, he's an artist carver in the Pacific Northwest Native style. Duane and his wife Betty (a weaver and artist in her own right) had an idea to start a foundation that would allow them to share their skills and knowledge of this art and culture with others. Duane is 80.
Duane's work is beyond beautiful, it is a treasure. Totems, masks, boxes, canoes (CANOES!), bowls, handmade tools, they all are born out of a deep respect for and longing to understand traditions that would otherwise have been lost like so much other indigenous knowledge. He spent 20 years researching Pacific Northwest Coast canoes before starting on his first one, not because he was reluctant but because there was that much to know and understand. That he is, at 80, embarking on a new chapter of his life to pass that passion on is truly inspiring (not to say he hasn't been sharing all along, but teaching will now be his primary focus).
Spawning Silver Moon by Duane Pasco
I like to make excuses about why I need to come visit and chat about something that we could discuss over the phone. You can see what he's up to over at the JayHawk Institute.
I spent most of the summers of my 30's guiding sea kayaking trips out of Seward, Alaska—1 and 3-day trips in Resurrection Bay and 5-day trips into Kenai Fjords National Park, 6-day wilderness classes for the University of Alaska into Prince William Sound—some of the most beautiful and wildlife packed places on the planet and memorable times to be sure (and how I met my wife Kendra). Twice I was lucky enough to be asked to guide for television crews, experiences that left me with special visual memories I can replay and share with others. This video is a segment from my second TV shoot, a pilot shot in '96 for the Travel Channel featuring Ali MacGraw (actress of Love Story and wife to Steve McQueen fame, something that helped me immensely in the 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon game ;^) filmed over 2 days in Northwestern Fjord, a heavily glaciated and remote area of the park a 4 hour boat ride west of Seward. I suggested they bring my friend and park ranger Ricky Gease along as a naturalist, and another friend, Jim Barkley, provided charter boat transportation and food and bunks for the crew. Ali was wonderful, when it was all over I got a kiss and was told it was the most amazing experience of her life (she confessed that it was actually her first time ever sleeping in a tent), and for a while I was able to jokingly refer to myself as "kayak guide to the stars". There are some blank spots where commercials would have been inserted, you haven't reached the end until you see the credits roll. Hope you enjoy it.
OK, so once in a while I sound like an idiot ("Uh, yep, they are..."), but hey, there was no script and I never knew what she was going to ask, so cut me some slack! (You will need an HTML5 capable browser to play the video.)
Building a Greenland skin-on-frame kayak has been a dream of mine for 20 years. When that dream became a reality this last February it came with an unexpected surprise—it came with my mom. I was trying to drum up interest in a class scheduled to be taught by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayak in Port Townsend in mid February, promoting the event on Facebook and school mailing lists when I got a call from my mom (Judy) saying she thought it sounded great and had signed up! I am going to be rounding the "big five-O" myself this spring, so you can imagine that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was something my mother was interested in doing. It turned out to be one of the most awesome weeks of working side by side and experience sharing that you can imagine. We started with 2 pre-cut gunwales and over seven furious days created finished and outfitted sea kayaks, all tenoned, pegged and lashed—no screws, nails or glue.
Photo by Brian Schulz
Our boats are beautiful; my mom built Brian's F1 design, a shorter (14 ft.) more versatile kayak that would be as at home in ocean surf as it would be in the flatter waters where it will likely be used, I built a replica of a West Greenland hunting kayak catalogued in 1931 (Canadian Museum Civilization catalog no. IV-A-375, known as the '31 Disko Bay) that seduced me with its beautiful lines and sense of history. Each finished kayak weighs only 27 pounds, something that makes this a particularly great boat for my mom as she can easily sling it around by herself.
Below are photos (a combination of my mom's and mine) and time lapse video (shot with iPhone and Timelapse.app) from the class. If you think this might be something you would like to do sometime I cannot say enough good things about our teacher Brian.
Fun in the sun and snow at Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park. A few families from Kingston made a group outing to snowshoe and sled, what a great time! And actually, once you move away from the ridge the wind is not bad at all. You can see the slideshow full size here.
I went out for an afternoon paddle yesterday, went farther than I was planning, stopped to take a couple phone calls (yeah, I know) and got caught by that ever earlier November night. I was pointing myself towards a light at the head of the bay, expecting it to be the streetlight over the entrance to the park next door (where I launch from), but as I got closer I was surprised to see that it was my house—living room lit up and shining through the trees that was guiding me home. Cool.
Here is a little public service message on the 7th anniversary of the accident that changed my vision (and life) forever. Please throw your bungie cords away.
On October 4, 2004, I was securing a load in a borrowed trailer to haul some junk to the Anchorage transfer station when a tautly stretched bungie cord came loose. I neither saw or heard it, I just felt an impact as my right eye was torn apart. If I hadn't been wearing glasses that had absorbed some of the force as the lens shattered I would have certainly lost my eye (if you wear them, pay for polycarbonate lenses) . As it was, it took a skilled surgeon 4 hours and 22 stitches to put my eye back together—although it was now missing a lens and most of the iris and a year later I would discover that a fragment of my old glasses was left behind.
My eye in the days following the accident. Take away the bruising and it still looks more or less the same.
Over the course of the next 3 years I would have 3 more surgeries, eventually restoring a remarkable amount of vision (thanks in large part to the generosity of an organ donor and a hospital that bought an expensive German made fixed-opening lens that the FDA still deemed experimental). I am truly lucky, if you look at it the right way. But it still sucks, and I don't want it to happen to you. In bright light I have to close it, in dim light everything goes grey—the rest of the time it adds an element of blur that I try to ignore. My peripheral vision is not what it could be. So throw away your bungie cords and spend a few bucks on some good straps. And be an organ donor, it is good karma.
We were given the opportunity to visit my dad, mom and sister's family in northern Michigan earlier in August. Time with faraway family is always special, but so is spending time in the favorite spots of my youth—some are virtually so unchanged it feels like time travel.
The Frankfort lighthouse, public beach and Lake Michigan are beautiful spots no matter where you've traveled and what sights you've seen.