Auguries of the Primordial

Auguries of the Primordial immerses its reader into the very fabric of the biggest, wettest, and most awe-inspiring temperate rainforest in the world. The geography of the book is a thousand islanded archipelago with deep twisting fjords, snow-capped mountains swaddled in centuries-old gigantic western hemlock and sitka spruce trees. Its biosphere abounds with marine and terrestrial life, boasting of the earth’s densest populations of humongous brown bears, and exulting in the numerous species of whales and in the abundance of other aquatic life in its frigid iceberged waters.

The stories in this book are accurate accounts of real events, involving real people in real life-engulfing circumstances. The research component of these narratives is placed on the individualized learning experience of a real person embroiled up to his neck in real happenstances.

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Wystan Hugh Auden

The Hard Question

To ask the hard question is simple:
Asked at a meeting
With the simple glance of acquaintance
To what these go
And how these do;
To ask the hard question is simple,
The simple act of the confused will.

But the answer
Is hard and hard to remember:
On steps or on shore
The ears listening
To words at meeting,
The eyes looking
At the hands helping,
Are never sure
Of what they learn
From how these things are done,
And forgetting to listen or see
Makes forgetting easy,
Only remembering the method of remembering,
Remembering only in another way,
Only the strangely exciting lie,
Afraid
To remember what the fish ignored,
How the bird escaped, or if the sheep obeyed.

Till, losing memory,
Bird, fish, and sheep are ghostly,
And ghosts must do again
What gives them pain.
Cowardice cries
For windy skies,
Coldness for water,
Obedience for a master.

Shall memory restore
The steps and the shore,
The face and the meeting place;
Shall the bird live,
Shall the fish dive,
And sheep obey
In a sheep’s way;
Can love remember
The question and the answer,
For love recover
What has been dark and rich and warm all over?

 

Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973), was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.

Auden grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family and read English literature at Christ Church, Oxford. His early poems, written in the late 1920s and early 1930s, alternated between telegraphic modern styles and fluent traditional ones, were written in an intense and dramatic tone, and established his reputation as a left-wing political poet and prophet. He became uncomfortable in this role in the later 1930s, and abandoned it after he moved to the United States in 1939, where he became an American citizen in 1946. His poems in the 1940s explored religious and ethical themes in a less dramatic manner than his earlier works, but still combined traditional forms and styles with new forms devised by Auden himself. In the 1950s and 1960s many of his poems focused on the ways in which words revealed and concealed emotions, and he took a particular interest in writing opera librettos, a form ideally suited to direct expression of strong feelings.

Maurice Ravel

La belle époque

‘Bliss was it to be alive.’

For a century the music of pre la belle époque was dominated by the Austro-German tradition. And in general terms, within the intellectual and cultural orbit three men were to change the face of the known world in three different but related direction – Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein – come to govern men’s thoughts and feeling about the world in which they lived and thrust deep probes into the future.

France needed to break free of the German musical umbrella, and especially from the all-pervading shade of Richard Wagner, but they only became ‘anti-Wagnerians’ by reflex, as it were. In the words of Erik Satie, spoken to Claude Debussy, it is not necessary to be ‘Anti-Wagner’ but it is necessary to abandon the ‘sauerkraut aesthetic,’ Ravel, even more than Debussy, was one who was foremost in removing the sauerkraut from the French musical menu.

If Debussy’s music is full of ‘mysterious effects’, that of Ravel is all clarity, linearity, objectivity, achieved through a subtle mixture of technical and aesthetic elements. Ravel found his aesthetic ideal in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries most notably in the French clavecinistes, headed by Francois Couperin, on the one hand and Mozart on the other. In certain respects the artistic development of Maurice Ravel parallels that of the poet W.B. Yeats, his senior by ten years in age but his near contemporary in aesthetic evolution. Yeats began to write poetry in a sensuous, romantic, subjective manner, then evolved after the 1914-18 war into a ‘modern style, embracing many of the ideals of the younger generation of poet sand winning their allegiance. Ravel was never as subjectively romanticist in this sense; yet he too showed a similar line of development, from the sensuous quality of restrained romanticism in his pre-1914 works to the deliberate, even at self-conscious ‘modernism’ of his later compositions from the 1920s and 1930s when he joined (though not welcomed), in the ranks of the young pretenders.

Paris in the 1920s

Since the death of France’s leading composer Claude Debussy (March 25, 1918), musical fashion was being set by a young group known as ‘Les Six’ — Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc , Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey and Germaine Taileferre. They were given their collective name by Henri Collet in 1920, who enrolled under the banners of jean Cocteau and Erik Satie. Milhaud also gave them the name of the ‘Ecole d’Arceuil’ (a commune in the Val-de- suburbs of Paris), in tribute to the influence of Satie. There was a certain irony in this, since Satie had been an early champion of ravel and Ravel in his turn had helped to champion Satie’s return to the limelight after his dozen years of self-enforced obscurity. Yet Ravel was one of the French composers who had come into prominence in the pre-war years and was now regarded as over-refined, ‘post-Wagnerian,’ and generally démodé. Along with Debussy, ravel found his reputation on the shelf, himself misjudged and without much honor in his own country. It would not last; it did not last; but while it did last it helped to distort a number of important values and perspectives.

The cold-shouldering of Ravel and his music by the young ‘Les Six’ composers in the immediate postwar years is confirmed by many contemporary reports and by the published commentaries of the period. He was for the time being more honored and appreciated outside his own country than within it. The late Master of the Queen’s Musick, Sir Arthur Bliss, wrote in his autobiography, As I Remember—

When in 1919, I met Ravel in Paris I told him that his was the first ‘modern’ music I had ever known, and his slight answering shrug perhaps conveyed an ironic comment on my choice of words, the reaction against his works in favor of the ‘circus music’ of his juniors being very apparent at this time. My first affection for his music has never wavered. Some of his work may consist of trifles, but they are trifles fashioned with all the imagination and finish of a Fabergé ornament.

Ravel in fact again experienced a situation in close parallel with that of W.B. Yeats in poetry. Yeats, like ravel, found himself temporarily out of favor, somewhat ‘old hat,’ in the face of the new challenge on the one hand of the American T.S. Eliot—Ezra Pound development, and on the other of the younger Auden—Day Lewis—Spender—MacNeice group with their political and technical curiosity. And, also like Yeats, Ravel responded in kind. It perhaps fitted Ravel better than Yeats, if only because Ravel was by nature and temperament a ‘classicist’, in the true and merely journalistic sense, while Yeats remained at heart a Romantic, so that Herbert Read could not unreasonably write of his later work —

In spite of the romantic diction against which Yeats right reacted, I feel that it produces a unity of effect which, romantic as it is, is superior in force to the more definite, more classical diction of the later version . . . The old suit may have been shabby, but it was a good cut and even tone . . .

In the end, of course, both Ravel and Yeats come to be seen as more accurate and more profound representatives of the modern world and its currents of thought and feeling in its first decades than many of their morel obviously ‘contemporary’ juniors with their great technical agility and fashionable appeal. In the case of Ravel, if ‘Les Six’ caught the contemporary limelight, won momentary accolades, ultimately most of their music immediately attractive though it is, seems to belong to category of ‘circus music’ as Bliss (and in another context Sibelius also) defined it. There was in most cases evidence of too many overtones and not enough fundamentals.

* * *

The idea for L’Enfant et les sortileges (The Child and the Spells) originated when the Director of the Paris Opéra, Jacques Rouchè, asked the celebrated writer Colette for a ballet scenario and suggested Ravel as the possible composer. This first came to light during the war years,

while Ravel was on active service. Agreeable in principle to the proposition, he awaited the arrival of the text, which Colette had provisionally entitled ‘Ballet pour ma fille’. In the confusion of the war, it never reached him. The first he saw of it was sometime in 1918. He took it with him to Mégève the following year when he began to think about it, but he did not make a start on the music until 1920. Rave; had known Colette and her first husband, Willy (Henri Gauthier-Villars), since the days of his youthful aspirations in the Paris of the 1900s. Colette herself wrote about Ravel and their early association towards the end of her life –

“Can I say that I ever really know him, my illustrious collaborator, the composer of L’Enfant et les sorilèges? I met Maurice Ravel for the first time at the house of Mme de Saint-Marceaux, who received guest every Wednesday evening after dinner. Those receptions in the Saint-Marceaux town house, forty years ago now, were not merely a diversion for the worldly and the curious; they were a reward granted to faithful music lovers, a higher form of recreation, the bastion of an intimate artistic world. Those two, not particularly large drawing rooms opening into one another were for a long time the place which set a final seal on the reputations of composers and virtuoso performers alike, for their mistress was a woman of great musical culture. In truth, Mme de Saint-Marceaux was far from being a celebrity hunter, yet the honor of being a regular at her Wednesdays was very much sought after . . .

* * *

In Paris the ‘jazz influence’ was peripheral. Ravel, like all the younger French composers and some older non-ethnical French ones like Stravinsky, was attracted to the attracted to the superficialities of jazz but had only the vaguest idea at best of what true jazz was really about. He and they could see it only from the outside. Characteristically, Ravel greatly admired what was purveyed at the time as ‘symphonic’ jazz, the pseudo-jazz, that is, of Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin, which tended to be both pretentious and simplistic. The indigenous black music that crystallized into jazz appears historically to have been born in New Orleans and spread north to Chicago in the 1920s, but in fact it had already emerged in many varied forms all over the United States during the 1910s. Ravel himself visited the States in the 1920s and Darius Milhaud did hear some of the black Harlem bands in the immediate postwar period. But their contact with their ‘real thing’ remained superficial. Milhaud’s La Création du Monde is probably the most successful and idiomatic of the ‘jazz-inspired’ compositions of the Parisian 1920s; but even that is only successful in part, and in every sense inferior to the authentic jazz beginning to be created in America. The original Dixieland Jazz Band had created a sensation in London in 1919 and various jazz or pseudo-jazz bands had appeared in continental Europe

Wystan Hugh Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was an English poet,
who later became an American citizen.img_0001
Born: 1907, York, United Kingdom
Died 1973 Vienna, Austria

 

“We are here on earth
to do good for others.
What the others are here
for, I don’t know.”

W.H. Auden

“A poet is, before
anything else, a person who is
passionately in love with
language.”

W.H. Auden

“To save the world you asked this
man to die, would this man, could he
see you now, ask why?”

W.H. Auden

I’ll love you dear, I’ll love you till
China and Africa meet and the river
jumps over the mountain and the salmon
sing in the street.

W.H. Auden
* * *
Among Auden’s highly regarded attributes was the ability to think symbolically and rationally at the same time, so that intellectual ideas were transformed into a uniquely personal, idiosyncratic, often witty imagistic idiom. He concretized ideas through creatures of his imagining for whom the reader could often feel affection while appreciating the austere outline of the ideas themselves. He nearly always used language that is interesting in texture as well as brilliant verbally. He employed a great variety of intricate and extremely difficult technical forms. Throughout his career he often wrote pure lyrics of grave beauty, such as “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love” and “Look Stranger.”

When asked to name his favorite language, Auden replied, “I would choose English. I am fascinated with other languages, such as German, for there are certain things that you can do in German which you can’t do in English. I think we are frightfully lucky because being a mongrel language, we have this enormous vocabulary. And then because it is an uninflected language, you can turn nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns in a very nice way: the line of Shakespeare’s “The hearts that spaniel’d me at heels,” which you couldn’t do with an inflected language.”

* * *

An interview with Auden in the autumn of 1972:

INTERVIEWER
I wondered which living writer you would say has served as the prime protector
of the integrity of our English tongue . . . ?

AUDEN
Why, me, of course!

He was sitting beneath two direct white lights of a plywood portico, drinking a large cup of strong breakfast coffee, chain-smoking cigarettes, and doing the crossword puzzle that appears on the daily book review page of The New York Times—which, as it happened, this day contained, along with his photo, a review of his most recent volume of poetry.

His singular perspectives, priorities, and tastes were strongly manifest in the décor of his New York apartment, which he used in the winter. Its three large, high-ceilinged main rooms were painted dark gray, pale green, and purple. On the wall hung drawings of friends—Elizabeth Bishop, E. M. Forster, Paul Valéry, Chester Kallman—framed simply in gold. The cavernous front living room, piled high with books, was left dark except during his brief excursions into its many boxes of manuscripts or for consultations with the Oxford English Dictionary. His conversation was droll, intelligent, and courtly, a sort of humanistic global gossip, disinterested in the machinations of ambition, less interested in concrete poetry, absolutely exclusive of electronic influence.

INTERVIEWER
Does this current deterioration and corruption of language, imprecision of thought, and so forth scare you—or is it just a decadent phase?

AUDEN
It terrifies me. I try by my personal example to fight it; as I say, it’s a poet’s role to maintain the sacredness of language.

INTERVIEWER
Do you think the present condition of our civilization will be seen by the future, if there is one, as a prewar decadence?

AUDEN
No, I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact of another war. But in the old days people knew what the words meant, whatever the range of their vocabulary. Now people hear and repeat a radio and TV vocabularyimg_0004y thirty percent larger than they know the meaning of. The most outrageous use of words I’ve ever experienced was once when I was a guest on the David Susskind TV program. During a break he had to do a plug for some sort of investment firm, and he announced that these people were “integrity-ridden”! I could not believe my ears!

INTERVIEWER
You have said bad art is bad in a very contemporary way.

AUDEN
Yes. Of course one can be wrong about what is good or bad. Taste and judgment can differ. But one has to be loyal to oneself and trust one’s own taste. I can, for instance, enjoy a good tear-jerking movie, where, oh, an old mother is put away in a home—even though I know it’s terrible, the tears will run down my cheeks. I don’t think good work ever makes one cry. Housman said he got a curious physical sensation with good poetry—I never got any. If one sees King Lear, one doesn’t cry. One doesn’t have to.

INTERVIEWER
You have said that the story of your patron saint, Wystan, was rather Hamlet-like. Are you a Hamlet poet?

AUDEN
No, I couldn’t be less. For myself I find that Shakespeare’s greatest influence has been his use of a large vocabulary. One thing that makes English so marvelous for poetry is its great range and the fact that it is an uninflected language. One can turn verbs into nouns and vice versa, as Shakespeare did. One cannot do this with inflected languages such as German, French, Italian.

INTERVIEWER
You have always been a formalist. Today’s poets seem to prefer free verse. Do you think that’s an aversion to discipline?

AUDEN
Unfortunately that’s too often the case. But I can’t understand—strictly from a hedonistic point of view—how one can enjoy writing with no form at all. If one plays a game, one needs rules, otherwise there is no fun. The wildest poem has to have a firm basis in common sense, and this, I think, is the advantage of formal verse. Aside from the obvious corrective advantages, formal verse frees one from the fetters of one’s ego. Here I like to quote Valéry, who said a person is a poet if his imagination is stimulated by the difficulties inherent in his art and not if his imagination is dulled by them. I think very few people can manage free verse—you need an infallible ear, like D. H. Lawrence, to determine where the lines should end.

INTERVIEWER
What are the worst lines you know—preferably by a great poet?

AUDEN
I think they occur in Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts, in which Napoleon tries to escape from Elba. There’s a quatrain which goes like this:

Should the corvette arrive
With the aging Scotch colonel,
Escape would be frustrate,
Retention eternal.

That’s pretty hard to beat!

INTERVIEWER
How about Yeats’ “Had de Valera eaten Parnell’s heart” or Eliot’s “Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings”?

AUDEN
Those aren’t bad, really, just unintentionally comic. Both would have made wonderful captions for a Thurber cartoon. As an undergraduate at Oxford I came up with one: “Isobel with her leaping breasts/Pursued me through a summer . . .”

Think what a marvelous cartoon Thurber could have done to that! Whoops! Whoops! Whoops!

INTERVIEWER
What’s your least favorite Auden poem?

img_0002

AUDEN
“September 1, 1939.” And I’m afraid it’s gotten into a lot of anthologies.

INTERVIEWER
Of which poem are you proudest?

AUDEN
It occurs in my commentary on Shakespeare’s Tempest, a poem written in prose, a pastiche of the late Henry James— “Caliban’s Speech to the Audience.”

INTERVIEWER
Have you ever finished a book you’ve hated?

AUDEN
No, I’ve skipped . . . actually I did, once. I read the whole of Mein Kampf because it was necessary to know what he thought. But it was not a pleasure.

INTERVIEWER
Have you reviewed a book you’ve hated?

AUDEN
Very rarely. Unless one is a regular reviewer, or one is reviewing a book of reference where the facts are wrong—then it’s one’s duty to inform the public, as one would warn them of watered milk. Writing nasty reviews can be fun, but I don’t think the practice is very good for the character.

INTERVIEWER
What’s the nicest poetic compliment you’ve ever received?

AUDEN
It came in a most unusual way. A friend of mine, Dorothy Day, had been put in the women’s prison at Sixth Avenue and 8th Street for her part in a protest. Well, once a week at this place, on a Saturday, the girls were marched down for a shower. A group were being ushered in when one, a whore, loudly proclaimed: “Hundreds have lived without love, But none without water . . .” A line from a poem of mine which had just appeared in The New Yorker. When I heard this, I knew I hadn’t written in vain!

INTERVIEWER
Have you read any books on women’s lib?

AUDEN
I’m a bit puzzled by it. Certainly they ought to complain about the ad things, like ladies’ underwear, and so forth.img_0003

INTERVIEWER
Are there any essential differences between male and female poetry?

AUDEN
Men and women have opposite difficulties to contend with. The difficulty for a man is to avoid being an aesthete—to avoid saying things not because they are true, but because they are poetically effective. The difficulty for a woman is in getting sufficient distance from the emotions. No woman is an aesthete. No woman ever wrote nonsense verse. Men are playboys, women realists. If you tell a funny story—only a woman will ever ask: “Did it really happen?” I think if men knew what women said to each other about them, the human race would die out.

INTERVIEWER
What about collaboration? Did you ever go through your poems with T. S. Eliot?

AUDEN

No, one can’t expect other people to do such things. He was very good to me; he encouraged me. He wasn’t jealous of other writers. I had met him just before I left Oxford. I’d sent him some poems, and he asked me to come to see him. He published the first thing of mine that was published—it was “Paid on Both Sides”—which came out in The Criterion in ’28 or ’29.

INTERVIEWER
Was Isherwood helpful at this time?

AUDEN
Oh, enormously. Of course one depends at that age on one’s friends; one reads one’s work, and they criticize it. That’s the same in every generation.

INTERVIEWER
Could you characterize your working relationship with Stravinsky?

AUDEN
He was always completely professional. He took what I sent him and set it to music. He always took enormous trouble to find out what the rhythmic values were, which must have been difficult for him, since prior to my working with him he had never set in English.

INTERVIEWER
Did you correspond as did Strauss and Hofmannsthal?

AUDEN
No. The funny thing about their correspondence—which we’re very fortunate to have—was that they chose to work through the mails because they couldn’t stand one another!

INTERVIEWER
Did you and Stravinsky discuss the work over the phone?

AUDEN
No, I don’t like the phone very much and never stay on long if I can help it. You get some people who simply will not get off the line! I remember the story of the man who answered the phone and was kept prisoner for what seemed an age. The lady talked and talked. Finally, in desperation, he told her, “Really, I must go. I hear the phone ringing!”

INTERVIEWER
Where did you pick up your interest in the Icelandic sagas?

AUDEN
img_0005My father brought me up on them. His family originated in an area which once served as headquarters for the Viking army. The name Auden is common in the sagas, usually spelled Audun. But we have no family trees or anything like that. My mother came from Normandy—which means that she was half Nordic, as the Normans were. I had an ancestor named Birch, who married Constable. The family, I understand, was furious that she had married a painter. I’ve seen some of his portraits of her—she must have been quite beautiful. I’ve another relative who’s married to a Hindu. This goes along better, I think, with the family line, which says that either one marries an Englishman—or one marries a Brahmin!

Stalking the Dainty Ostrea Lurida

img_0002In putting pen to paper in this December month is when in my youth I stalked the wild mollusk, the dainty Ostrea lurida, with the common name of the Olympia oyster. It lives in the Puget Sound of Washington State. The dainty Ostrea lurida is a species of most delicious, most edible oyster, a marine bivalve mollusk in the family Osteidae.

It’s okay to stalk this tiny mollusk in December because there’s an ‘r’ in December’s spelling. Most people will tell you that the “r-month rule” doesn’t matter anymore. They’ll say that it’s cool to eat raw oysters in a month doesn’t have an “r” in it—like August—because it’s safe. And sure, it is safe. But you know what? It’s gross. Raw oysters aren’t meant to be eaten then, so stop it. And besides, oysters grown in cold water taste better, and are better, so just follow the “r” month rule[1].

img_0005Oysters in their raw state are a succulent luxurious treat. Raw oysters glistening with the briny sea liquor make quite a sensual impression. M F.K. Fisher referred to them as “a lusty bit of nourishment”, and I’d have to agree with her perfect description.  You can enjoy them raw and experience the sea that they lived in. Because the oyster is an animal that lives to pump and filter sea water through its body, you can really get a taste of the water that the animal lived in, which can be good or bad. If you want to eat raw oysters, you should buy them in the shell and shuck them yourself. It is not advised to eat raw pre-shucked oysters sold in bulk.

M. F. K. Fisher liked oysters and so do I. I think oysters are more beautiful than any religion. They not only forgive our unkindness to them; they justify it, they incite us to go on being unspeakably horrendous to them. Once they arrive at the supper-table they seem to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the thing. There’s nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster. And speaking of fine dining, oysters and absinthe are a match made in heaven, forget champagne. The combination of briny, mineral-rich oysters and the soft fennel and mint of the absinthe strikes a chord in the discriminating epicurean palate and brings each element to light in a new way. James Beard said, “While a mug of stout or a glass of champagne is great, it is absinthe and oysters that really make a perfect match.” It stands to reason that it must be so because James Beard said it.

img_0004James Beard also said; “Don’t say ‘oyster juice,’ say ‘liquor.’ Oyster liquor is the natural juice inside the oyster that keeps it alive once it’s out of the water. It is unacceptable to rinse or dump that juice out of the oyster before consuming it raw. That juice is precious and should taste amazing, and that’s why it’s referred to as liquor. James Beard also said; “Don’t say ‘water’ say ‘terroir.’ It’s a French word that you may have heard used with wine. Terroir (pronounced ‘tehr-wahr’) means the characteristics of a place—its climate, geology, and wildlife, for example—that impact the food produced there. Beard says terroir affects the flavor of an oyster just as much, if not more, than it does wine because the effects are less subtle. Oysters take on the exact same salt level of whatever water they’re in.” He says; “Ocean oysters, for example, will be much saltier than oysters from the northern Chesapeake. Other terroir elements that affect flavor include the algae in the water (because oysters eat algae) and the water’s minerality.”

But it is M. F. K. Fisher who admonishes us, “And NEVER say ‘aphrodisiac,’ research shows that raw oysters are rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of ‘sex hormones’. And, yes, sometimes to some people oyster resemble female genitalia. And yes, an 18th-century male named Casanova who said he slept with 122 women used to eat 50 oysters for breakfast. But that whole thing is both annoying and gross, so don’t talk about it if you want to be a charming oyster person.

img_0006I remember an Oyster Bar of my youth located on Chuckanut Drive a roadway that veers hard to the northwest like it’s making a getaway—escaping to greener pastures and better views, which it offered in spades: forested islands rising from the glistening waters of Samish Bay like the great backs of giant whales; eagles, herons, and ancient forests; far-off peaks forever cloaked in snow and ice. And this oyster bar of my remembering was the Pacific Northwest’s premier dining experience; its intimate, multi-tiered dining rooms offered stunning views of the San Juan Islands from every seat. The seasonally inspired menu features a variety of fresh seafood, steak, and vegetarian dishes with locally sourced produce and an award-winning wine list to pair. The Oyster Bar on Chuckanut Drive—once just a shack where oysters were sold to passers-by, became the epitome Oyster Bar of fine dining. Clinging to the side of a wooded cliff overlooking Samish Bay, the setting is hard to beat and every table had a water view—and sunset, too, if you time it right. With a name like Oyster Bar, it’s not surprising that oysters feature heavily on the menu. During the warmer months they opened the outdoor patio, which was accessible via the lower level. Perched amongst Douglas fir, Madonna and cedar trees and facing out to Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands, it is not an experience you’ll soon forget.

img_0003The Olympia oyster bears the weight of history on its barnacled shoulders. As the only indigenous West Coast oyster, with a range from Baja California to Alaska, it sustained Native Americans for millennia. Lewis and Clark gorged on them, and Gold Rush forty-niners literally loved them to death, depleting vast beds in the San Francisco Bay and beyond. Even in oyster-rich southern Puget Sound, where pioneers crowed that “when the tide is out, the table is set,” the free meal ended. By the late 1920s, polluted wastewater from pulp mills slowly decimated Olympia stocks. During my own youthful summers on the south Sound in the ’60s and ’70s, at the family cabin on Totten Inlet outside Olympia, the oyster was like an honored ancestor—no longer seen but fondly remembered by my grandparents, who could spin tales of prodigious pan-fries and pearly shell mountains outside shucking house doors.

[1] The r-month rule is only important with raw oysters. Grilled or fried ( what a terrible thing to do to an oyster) oysters are about the same year-round.  But still, oysters grown in cold water are better so just follow the ‘r’ rule.

Image in the Wind

imageinthewindImage in the Wind is an assortment of eight authentic slice of life stories set in the vast forested wilderness and the thousands of miles of passages, channels, and fjords of the Alexander Archipelago. This was the author’s life, exempt from public haunt, finding tongues in trees, books in burbling streams, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

The Russians called our island Ostrov Kutsnoi, “Fear Island”, probably because Alaskan brownies far outnumbered the human inhabitants. Gigantic trees grew, huge birds flew, oversized fish swam, immense bears prowled, and whales swam in the fathomless fjords of this wilderness. Within this wild splendor dwelled indigenous peoples who, since time immemorial, have accessed its rich resources of land and sea. The forest floor was thickly covered with mosses and blueberry, while muskegs opened the tall forest canopy to sedge and sphagnum bogs. This memoir gives its reader a key that unlocks a door to the past, to the unspoiled wilderness of yesteryear.

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Echo of the Imago

Echo_of_the_Imago_Cover_for_KindleSet in the vast forested wilderness of Alexander Archipelago, the author and his companion Sophie found a connection to their evolutionary heritage in their primal surroundings. They sailed the thousands of miles of passages, channels, fjords like a reed driven by the wind and this lapping of waters, bird songs, wind in the trees and crashing surf is a part of a magic medium compounded of adventure, distance, and danger.

Their sail boat the Green Wind, a 36 foot, gaff-rigged cutter, became a part of their journey through the wilderness, giving them the gift of an almost forgotten freedom. The way of their sailboat was the way of the wilderness, it opened a door to waterways of ages past, to a life of profound and abiding satisfactions. I remember long trips in this wilderness when food was running low, when the weather for a week or a month had been impossible, and the joy of coming back meant comfort and the satisfaction of hunger. Coming back from any sort of a primitive expedition is the real adventure. We need contrast to make us know we’re really alive.

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This book can be purchased on Amazon.