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Alaska Story Project
59 minutes | Jan 18, 2023
ASP 24, Lara Messersmith-Glavin, "Spirit Things"
This podcast features the work of author, editor, and teacher, and FisherPoet, Lara Messersmith-Glavin. In each essay from her recently published book, "Spirit Things", Lara holds an object or detail from her early life aboard the family's Kodiak seiner and then takes us beyond into realms of history, science and story. In the Introduction to "Spirit Things", Lara writes, 'When we live with things, imbue them with use and care, when they become extensions of our bodies to work, to create, to touch the world, they take on their own quiet power. I like magical objects and the histories they carry inside of them." Lara reads Chapter 4, 'Wave' Early Kodiak reflections of living in a liminal zone between an ever-bright sky and a dark horror of water "It was many years before I learned to put up barriers between myself and this terrible feeling of limitlessness." Norse seafarers and their use of naming and stories with which to engage the immensity of the sea Reflecting on modern means of navigation: charts and GPS Polynesian means of navigation: "This way of knowing the waves, of seeing forces that are invisible to the eye, represents an entirely different form of understanding from the charts and equipment... It was an experiential form of knowledge in which the cognitive structures are of actions and tendencies, ways of interpreting shifting conditions in the moment rather than mental maps of places or things." Lara reads Chapter 9, "Shell" "When the land and the ocean meet, they speak with many voices and arrive in many moods." Beachcombing: "It's about being there, on the edge of the infinite, staring out into the closest thing to a straight line that nature has to offer, the water horizon." A story of how Lara's parents met in Kodiak and the loss, overboard, of a precious wedding ring Fotsam, getsam, lagan, derelict. Plastics: The Pacific Trash Vortex Atmospheric carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, Ocean Acidification, mollusks, crustaceans Shells on the beach a century from now? "As with what we scavenge, what we choose to protect says so much about us, about what we value and find precious and worth rescuing." Lara's website: https://www.queenofpirates.netShow notes: https://www.alaskastoryproject.comPodcast music by Christian Arthur: https://christianarthur.com
54 minutes | Jan 5, 2023
ASP 23, Bruce Rettig, "Refraction, An Arctic Memoir"
Bruce Rettig recently published Refraction, An Arctic Memoir. Refraction is a Pushcart prize nominee, and has received recognition and multiple awards including an award for non-fiction with the San Francisco Writing Contest, an International Chanticleer Book Award and a Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Award. Bruce also writes literary short stories, creative non-fiction, essays and flash fiction/nonfiction. He continues to be at the helm of his advertising and graphic design agency with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association as an important client. Refraction recounts his experiences as a young man working in Prudhoe Bay. His writing includes both the human intensity of heavy industry as well as the vastness of the non-human world. Bruce defines "Refraction" and why he chose it as the title for his memoir Early experiences as a new hire on the North Slope The complexities of a major industrial push in a harsh, demanding environment Remembering a couple of notable characters as co-workers, Lee and Swan Reads an excerpt from Refraction, "The Dynamics of Steel and Ice" Relates some of the properties of arctic ice, reading an excerpt from the chapter "The Properties of Ice" Barter Island and the Iñupiat village of Kaktovik: Helping recover the Crowley Prudhoe Bay fleet and getting to know some of the Kaktovik villagers Complexity and paradox: decisions, choices and divergent paths: thoughts on the fossil fuel era The importance of conversation and listening: "We all share the same home" Show notes at https://alaskastoryproject.comBruce Rettig: https://brucerettig.com/Special thanks to Christian Arthur for his music: https://christianarthur.com
59 minutes | Nov 28, 2022
ASP 22, Sitka writer Brendan Jones
Brendan Jones lives in Sitka, Alaska with his wife, three daughters, six chickens, and one dog. He first came to Sitka as a young man to land what work he could find. Soon he was writing for the Sitka Sentinel, and has gone on to write for a range of publications including The New York Times, the Smithsonian, GQ, Washington Post, Patagonia and others. He has recently won the 2022 Green Earth Book Award for Whispering Alaska. All the while, he balances writing with being a father and spending time in the wilds as a fisher, hunter and outdoorsman. This podcast conversation includes: Early days in Sitka, living in the woods, and getting hired as a reporter for the Sitka Sentinel Traveling west to China and around the world, west to east on little funds before returning to Columbia University Working as a Sitka carpenter, then returning to the East Coast to start a business Back to Sitka, Brendan bought the classic WW II tug, Adak How he met his bride as a Salsa dancing instructor The story of the Adak taking on water, saving it, an intervention and a rebuild in Wrangell With his wife, two daughters, and their dog—a year in Irkutsk, Russia, as a Fulbright scholar, teaching and researching the 19th century Russian-American Company frigate “Neva” The story of how the Neva met it’s end on Kruzof Island A reading from Brendan’s manuscript, "Americans in Siberia" Comments on his Washington Post article, "We Need Alaska’s Tongass National Forest Now More Than Ever". The Tongass as a carbon sequestration forest Comments on Brendan’s New York Times article, "A Canadian Threat to Fishing", on salmon and transboundary mining issues Reflections on raising a family in Sitka and Southeast Alaska Original Music by Christian Arthur: https://christianarthur.com/ Show notes: www.alaskastoryproject.com Brendan Jones: https://www.brendanisaacjones.com/
59 minutes | Nov 6, 2022
ASP 21, John & Rebecca Wolfe, Alaska Adventure, 55 Ways
Dan hosts John and Becca Wolfe, co-authors of Alaska Adventure, 55 Ways, Southcentral Wilderness Explorations, published this summer by Mountaineers Books, Seattle, Washington. This 50th anniversary edition of 55 Ways, first written by Helen Nienhueser, represents three generations of wilderness exploring and collaborative writing. Helen writes in the Forward: “It gives me great pleasure that my son and granddaughter are the coauthors of this new incarnation of 55 Ways, thus continuing what has become a family project for more than fifty years. We share the pleasure of guiding you into the places we love and ask that you join us in becoming stewards of these lands, taking care of them as you use them, and leaving no trace.” The podcast conversation includes: Reflections on three generations of exploring and collaborative guidebook writing The unique characteristics of Southcentral Alaska, a 300 mile radius of mountains, watersheds, and coastal inlets John and Becca relate what’s new and exciting about this incarnation of 55 Ways “At the beginning of each trip entry, we provide an indication of Indigenous land: a brief acknowledgment of the people whose lands that specific trip traverses.” New modes of wilderness exploration and travel, appropriate for all four seasons Cautions and comments about Bears and Moose John tells of his vision and involvement for the Alaska Huts Association A personal tale of wilderness adventure with both Becca and John Reflections on wilderness travel and exploring Dan reads a summation paragraph from the Preface of Alaska Adventure, 55 Ways Original Music by Christian Arthur: https://christianarthur.com/ Show notes: www. alaskastoryproject.com Alaska Adventure, 55 Ways: www.55waysalaska.com
29 minutes | May 31, 2022
ASP 20, writer Kim Heacox
Award winning author of several books, including The Only Kayak and Jimmy Bluefeather, Kim Heacox is also an opinion piece writer for The Guardian US. He’s published some 18 pieces—10 in the last year with The Guardian. Kim: “My Guardian pieces are framed within my credo of activist writing, that it’s not only my right but my responsibility to challenge power & the prevailing order, to speak out as best I can, using story, humor and a few numbers, maybe even a little parody. Taped onto the upper right-hand corner of my laptop is a small piece of paper with this quote from Carl Sagan:” “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of the planet.” In this podcast, Kim reads two of his Guardian pieces: “Birds are remarkable and beautiful animals—and they’re disappearing from our world”. In the past half century, North America has lost a fourth of its birds. Earth is now a coalmine, and every wild bird is a canary.” “What we can learn from Rachel Carson as we fight for our planet. With her brave book Silent Spring, Carson changed the course of US environmental history. We would do well to study her example. Host Dan Kowalski offers further context to Kim’s environmental writing by reading an excerpt from Kim’s book, John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire In his prologue, Kim writes: “The only thing that counts is that which can be counted” said Galileo 300 years before Muir. Together with René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and others, Galileo gave us our modern scientific revolution, our Age of Reason, the triumph of the rational mind. And while he and his brilliant contemporaries carried us forward, they also crushed things in our path, They separated us from nature, rather than making us participants in nature. They made us clever and powerful, but not wise. Muir was a revolutionary of another kind; he said, there's much more to good science—and right livelihood—than connecting data and dissecting frogs. There's a deeper meaning than conventional analytical reason. Experiment is not enough. Good science also requires experience, a deep knowing and sense of wonder that comes from being out there. barefoot in the meadow, alone on the ice, naked in the storm. “When we try to pick out anything by itself,” Muir would write, “we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Thanks musician Christian Arthur for his original compositions Show notes: www.alaskastoryproject.com/podcasts
26 minutes | Mar 10, 2022
ASP 19, Stories of Healing and Connection with Hank Lentfer
Award-winning author and naturalist Hank Lentfer returns to the Alaska Story Project with an audio piece, “10 Sounds That Make You Feel More Alive”. Hank reads from his book, Ravens Witness, the Alaska life of Richard K. Nelson, a passage from his earliest memories living with the Iñupiaq in the Arctic. “We yearn to pull together with neighbors and celebrate our collective success. So why do we find ourselves living in such rancorous times? How did stories of unity get buried by the din of voices tearing us apart? When did caring for our country become a partisan issue? And by country I don't mean a flag, song or pledge but our actual home ground the soil, rivers, forest, tundra, air and climate that make life possible.” Reflecting on what makes a good story, “I'm drawn to stories that blur boundaries, stories that work against our tendency to cut the fabric of life into neat squares and organize it— to label people as Democrats or Republicans or evangelicals or atheist, or the world as natural or unnatural. So any story that helps stitch those squares back into their proper orientation. And a good story in my mind reveals the pain, the folly and darkness of isolation. A good story can illuminate and celebrate the restorative powers of connection. And the best stories do both.” From a published essay, “if I were imprisoned in a windowless cell and allowed out for just one week a year, I choose seven days centered in September. I come home to my Alaska cabin in the woods and clean a few pounds of spruce needles out of my neglected kayak, oil up a fishing reel, pack a three day lunch and paddle up river.” And finally, “Pay attention, hone in on any story that blurs boundaries or awakens us from the delusion of separateness. Retell the story at the dinner table, at church, the grocery store. And remember this you don't have to write a book or produce a podcast to be a storyteller. Our lives are stories, every decision, each interaction, the choice between generosity and greed, between gratitude agreements, kindness or callousness, tells a story. And our stories are not finished. We get to write a little each day. I try and remember that when I wake up, that the hours in front of me are a blank page and I get to choose the story I tell before I go to bed. ASP host Dan Kowalski, “We're recording this in a time of increasing darkness for the human condition. We're in the midst of a historic shift, as a despot has unleashed mind-bending brutality and suffering on the souls of Ukrainians and also hapless Russians. The Alaska Story Project is dedicated to offer stories that have the power to connect and heal as something of a counterpoint or antidote to what's all over the news right now.”Show notes: www.alaskastoryproject.com/podcasts
59 minutes | Jan 24, 2022
ASP 18, with Ray Troll
Ray Troll's Ichthyomuse, Art and Rock & Roll Formative years, early influences Art as Ray’s childhood superpower Kansas to Seattle, art scene, grad school, up to Ketchikan Ketchikan, art scene, native culture, studio above a fish plant Obsessing, drawing and painting fish; First T-shirt project, “Let’s spawn” Growing his T-shirt empire; “Spawn ’til you Die”; “Humpies from Hell” A description of Ray’s work by Brad Matsen; book projects together Collaboration on Planet Ocean We ARE fish; all vertebrates are descendants of fish “How I became a Scientific Surrealist”, keynote at the Academy of Natural Sciences Ray’s artistic process; phrase or pun first? Sketch to finished piece; depth and complexity; adding color Rock & Roll & being part of a band Ratfish: 300 million year old living fossils Deep time; perspectives on our time now Fossil record tells us of enduring life
17 minutes | Dec 12, 2021
ASP 17, Dan Kowalski, Winter Solstice
A thought and theme from Wendell Berry, “coming into the peace of wild things.” A story from the Alaskan cabin with an astonishing encounter with a large, magnificent buck. Reading liner notes from a collaborative DVD project with Kurt Hoelting, ASP podcast #5. “Wildness is a process and not a place. Nothing stands alone. The environment is inside as well as outside. The human mind is wild habitat. Poetry is the wild edge of language.” An excerpt from ASP #4 with writer, editor, fisher-poet, Holly J. Hughes. Holly reflects on our times, her recent book, Hold Fast and reads her poem, “Credo.” A shout-out to contributing musician, Christian Arthur Gratitude for connection, health care workers, and a full embrace of this time of year.
59 minutes | Sep 23, 2021
ASP 16, Jonathan White, "Tides"
Jonathan White is a writer, surfer, sailor and educator. His work has been published in Orion, The Sun, Fine Homebuilding, and Natural History. His first book, Talking on the Water, (Sierra Club, 1993), explores creativity and the natural world. It grew out of "Seminars Afloat" with writers Gretel Ehrlich, Ursula Le Guin, and Peter Matthiessen, along with other visionaries, activists and artists, such as poet Gary Snyder, whale biologist Roger Payne, and Gaia hypothesis co-founder Lynn Margulis.His most recent book, Tides, The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, (Trinity University Press, 2017), takes the reader around the world to where the tide is most dramatically at play. He goes to the arctic, Panama, Chile, Europe, China, and Alaska, among other far corners, to explore the cultural and scientific stories of the tide. “White goes deep beneath the surface with the grace of a poet,” writes Susan Casey, author of The Wave. “Be prepared for some serious magic when you read these pages.”Dan and Jonathan discuss: Building a sloop and sailing it offshore in the Atlantic. Surviving a hurricane. Working with innovative theatre director and theorist, Jerzy Grotowski. Founding the “Seminars Afloat” on the schooner Crusader. Aground in Kalinin Bay north of Sitka. Saving the boat, and returning Crusader to ship shape in three days. Beginning research for Tides. Discussing the science, complexity, and intrigue of tidal forces. Stories from visiting the most dramatic tides. Modern tidal theory: harmonic analysis, tidal basins, resonance His current project in the Sea of Cortez, retracing the 1940 voyage of Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck, from which came The Log from the Sea of Cortez.
37 minutes | Apr 14, 2021
ASP 15, Joe Upton & Dan Kowalski.
Spring Patterns and Surviving a Glacial Tsunami. Dan & Joe reflect on seasonal patterns Preparations for an upcoming season in Alaska John Muir's quest to experience a living glacier A story of near-death from a calving tsunami at the Dawes Glacier Coming close to the Big Black Wings Deep appreciation and motivations for sharing stories
61 minutes | Mar 1, 2021
ASP 14, with Hank Lentfer
The Art of Listening Stunning recordings from the natural world of Alaska Hank's story of his "acoustic awakening" An iconic recording of a Loon with Richard Nelson Several of Hank's favorite recordings and the stories behind them Hearing, Listening and the Art of Listening Robin song: getting to know individuals A wolf howl and a Malamute's response The Art of Listening and being human Recording a whale trumpeting with perfect amphitheater acoustics
81 minutes | Jan 16, 2021
ASP 13, Author Hank Lentfer
Stories of Connection: Barry Lopez; Faith of Cranes & Sandhill Cranes; Raven's Witness & the life and work of Richard Nelson; sound recording. Barry Lopez and the importance of story. A childhood memory from the Arctic & reflecting on our times now. Building a home in Gustavus and considering Sandhill Cranes. Raven's Witness: Friendship naturalist & author Richard Nelson. Nels' time in the Arctic with the Inupiaq. Nels' time with the Koyukon; interconnectedness. Writing and Island Years. Hank and Nels' collaboration with sound recording. A shattered and healed deer bone. Barry Lopez: Isumataq.
58 minutes | Jul 13, 2020
ASP 12, salmon advocate, Allison Barrett
Growing up with salmon, fishing for salmon, and transboundary mining issues. Early memories & running north through the Inside Passage in the family seine boat. Fishing for sockeye salmon off of Noyes Island in SE Alaska. Alarmed by the Mt. Polley mine disaster, and implications for the major transboundary, Alaska—B.C. rivers with vital salmon runs. Embarking on a documentary film project: "Sisters and Rivers" concerning transboundary mining issues. First nation peoples of B.C.— their perspectives on mining issues. Stories of their long resistance and struggle with multi-national corporate development in the Sacred Waters area of northern B.C. Implications of running a power line up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, 37, into NW B.C. The Red Chris mine in the headwaters of the Stikine River; the KSM mine development in the headwaters of the Unuk River. The complexities of transboundary mining issues: perspectives. Aliveness, storytelling, and the documentary.
66 minutes | May 26, 2020
ASP 4, fisher-poet Holly Hughes
In conversation writer Holly Hughes: Early years on the waters of Alaska as a fisher and operating a salmon tender. As a mariner, the necessity of paying full attention and its influence on writing. Holly reads from Sailing by Ravens. A reading from Passings, which was recently awarded the American Book Award. Choosing full engagement with both the challenge and beauty of our circumstances. Reading from Holly’s newly released book, Hold Fast.
49 minutes | May 20, 2020
ASP 11, Whales-2 with Dr. Fred Sharpe
More on Alaska's Humpback Whales. Whale spouting and breathing, lung capacity. Breathing in rough seas; sleeping whales. Diving: depths and prey. Lunge feeding; cooperative behavior & bubble net feeding. Rescuing whales, disentanglement tools and techniques. The Alaska Whale Foundation. What continues to intrigue and surprise whale researchers.
51 minutes | May 6, 2020
ASP 10, whale biologist, Dr. Fred Sharpe
33 years of behavioral research with Alaska's Humpback Whales. Formative years as a whale biologist. The remarkable characteristics of Humpback Whales. Songs of the Humpback Whale. Whale brains, four times as large as a human brain. Spindle neurons and social behavior. Whale communication, ocean acoustics. "Whale internet". Concerns: Ocean noise, ships, military, seismic testing, entanglements. Warm water anomaly: "the blob". Whales and humans: similarities in social behaviors, cooperation, altruism. Whale health vigilance: promising research tools and practices. Whale vocalizations, structure & implications for what constitutes intelligence.
51 minutes | Apr 20, 2020
ASP 9, historian, author, Sheila Kelly
Treadwell Gold, An Alaskan Saga of Riches and Ruin. Approaching Juneau, Treadwell on Douglas Island. The Treadwell Mining complex and Sheila's personal connection to its history. The Alaskan Gold Rush; placer mining, hard rock mining, and the Klondike. A timeline, beginning with the Tlingits to the decline of Treadwell. A description of life in Treadwell during it's heyday. The business of a successful mine; labor and management. Willy Kelly, machinist; Gus Anderson, hoist operator. The 1918 catastrophic flooding and cave in at Treadwell. The aftermath; Fire, Taku winds, the Spanish Flu. Reflections on both the Titanic and Treadwell; industrial romance and facts of nature.
57 minutes | Mar 12, 2020
ASP 8, writer, Nancy Lord
Alaska Writer Laureate 2008-10, Nancy Lord. Coming to Homer, Alaska and early years as a set netter on Cook Inlet. Reading from Fishcamp: Life on an Alaskan Shore. Beluga Whales. The Harriman Expedition and Green Alaska. Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North; feedback loops and permafrost melting. Ph: A Novel; pteropods, ocean acidification. Reflections on Science and Art; the FisherPoets gathering.
39 minutes | Mar 3, 2020
ASP 7, Author, FisherPoet, Lara Messersmith-Glavin
Writer, Educator, FisherPoet Lara Messersmith-Glavin. Reflections on growing up a Kodiak fisher. Reads a piece, "Spellbind", performed at FisherPoets, from her forthcoming book. How Alaska influences her life now as a creative writer and educator. Reflections upon wildness, bigness and relationship with work. Reads from her piece," Hiraeth". Reflections on a big picture question.
69 minutes | Feb 12, 2020
ASP 5, with author & guide Kurt Hoelting
Dan opens with Kurt relating his early years coming to Alaska. The sinking of the classic halibut boat, the Lloyd. Kurt's harrowing survival story Dan and Kurt discuss an important mentor, poet Gary Snyder. Kurt reflects on how his Alaskan experiences deeply inform his current work as both a wilderness kayak guide and mindfulness teacher.
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