This piece was inspired by the sighting of the long-tailed jaeger during my first day hiking in Denali during my residency. The bird has a striking appearance and I saw it in the midst of rain and sunbursts atop Polychrome Ridge.
The woods in this piece reflect the dramatic migration path of the long-tailed jaeger which ranges from Western South American through the Pacific Northwest to Central Alaska. The vessel is hollow and the lid/finial can be removed. (It is secured with rare-earth magnets). The body wood, big leaf maple, was selected to enhance the inlay design with a sky and clouds effect.
The form seems Asian but that isn't the intent. The sweeping top represents the grandeur of Denali, while the lid reflects the shape of black spruce, and the finial reflects the shape of the tail feathers of the LT Jaeger. The burned, leaning tree imagery represents the threat of increasing fires in the black spruce forests of Alaska due to climate change. Personally, the sweeping top also represents my wife Brenda's stance when she was singing "The Sound of Music" when we were on Polychrome mountain during the first sighting of the long-tailed jaeger.
— Stephen Hatcher, 2013
Stephen Hatcher is a woodturner and sculptor who incorporates mineral crystals into his designs. This unique style of artwork has earned him many awards including recognition by Southwest Art magazine as the most innovative wood artist in 2007. He has also been featured in many other books and magazines, including most recently "100 Northwest Artists." Stephen's work is found in numerous private, corporate, and institution collections around the world. Trained in electrical engineering and mathematics, Stephen was an entrepreneur in the Seattle, WA area for 25 years designing cutting-edge satellite communications equipment. Retiring from the field in 2002, he pursued his love of art which draws inspiration from the natural beauty and cultural aspects of the Pacific Rim. The residency in Denali was deeply inspirational on many fronts and has lead to entirely new lines of artistic exploration. Visit Stephen Hatcher's website.
"The imagery that pervades my work reflects a lifelong fascination with animals. To make the large scale sculptures I search scrap yards for industrial refuse ravaged by usage and demolition. Bent and twisted, such pieces contain energy and potential new life. My welding process is a kind of three dimensional gesture drawing. A network of steel lines builds a skeletal form containing both presence and absence. I investigate the body language of animals to express a feeling or state of being, with motion conveying emotion. Focusing on the animal realm seems no less important to me than on that of humans, to explore the continuity and relationship between all forms of life on earth."
Wendy Klemperer is a sculptor known primarily for her large scale steel pieces of animals in motion, many of which are installed in permanent locations across the country. She earned a bachelor's in biochemistry at Harvard before moving to New York City to pursue art full time, earning a B.F.A. in sculpture at Pratt Institute in 1983. She has had residencies from the Skowhegan School, MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, Sculpture Space in Utica, Denali National Park, and SIAS University in Xinzheng, China. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and Nelson, NH. Visit Wendy Klemperer's website.
Kathleen Dean Moore
Kathleen Dean Moore is is Distinguished Professor emerita at Oregon State University, co-founder and Senior Fellow of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, and a member of the Board of Directors of Orion magazine.
She is a nature writer and environmental philosopher, best known for books set on the edge of water—Riverwalking, Holdfast, Pine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. She travels widely to speak about ethics and climate change. Kathleen Dean Moore's website.
The Rules of Rivers
At midnight on the Toklat River in the Alaska Range, the thermometer recorded 93 degrees. The sun, dragging anchor in the northwest sky, fired rounds of heat against the cabin. I was lying naked on the bunk, slapping mosquitos. Next to the wall, my husband lay completely covered by a white sheet, as still and dismayed as a corpse. He would rather be hot than bitten, and I would rather be bitten than hot.
I had come to the Toklat River to think about global warming, and it wasn’t going well. The week’s heat was breaking all-time records, drawing a new spike on the graph of jaggedly rising temperatures in Alaska. The average day is now four degrees warmer than just a few decades ago, and seven degrees warmer in winter. The Arctic is heating twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Furious and despairing, I had no chance of falling asleep that night. So I pulled on clothes and walked to the bank of the river.
The Toklat is a shallow river that braids across a good half mile of gravel beds, dried stream courses and deep-dug channels. Sloshing with meltwater, it clatters along through islands and willow thickets. Banging rocks on cobblestones, surging into confused swells, the grey currents looked unpredictable and chaotic. But there were patterns.
A hydrologist once explained the rules of rivers to me as we walked a river-path. The processes of a river are manifestations of energy, he said. A fast, high-energy river will carry particles – the faster the river, the bigger the particle. But when it loses energy and slows, the river drops what it carries. So anything that slows a river can make a new landscape. It could be a stick lodged against a stone or the ribcage of a calf moose drowned at high water. Where the water piles against the obstacle, it drops its load, and an island begins to form. The island – in fact, any deposition -- reshapes the current. As water curls around the obstacle, the current’s own force turns it upstream. Around one small change, the energy reorganizes itself entirely.
And here’s the point: No one pattern continues indefinitely; it always gives way to another. When there are so many obstacles and islands that a channel can no longer carry all its water and sediment, it crosses a stability threshold and the current carves a new direction. The change is usually sudden, often dramatic, the hydrologist said, a process called an ‘avulsion.’
On the Toklat that night, the physics of the river played out right in front of me. A chunk of dirt and roots toppled from the bank upstream, tumbled past me, and jammed against a mid-river stone. The current, dividing itself around the rootball, wrinkled sideways and turned upstream. It curled into pocket-eddies behind the roots. Even as I watched, the pockets filled with gravel and sand. A willow could grow there, and its roots could divide and slow the river further, gathering more gravel, creating a place where new life could take root.
I shoved a rock into the river. The sudden curl of current made me grin. Yes, we are caught up in a river rushing toward a hot, stormy, and dangerous planet. The river is powered by huge amounts of money invested in mistakes that are dug into the very structure of the land, a tangled braid of fearful politicians, preoccupied consumers, reckless corporations, and bewildered children – everyone, in some odd way, feeling helpless. Of course, we despair. How will we ever dam this flood?
But we don’t have to stop the river. Our work and the work of every person who loves this world – this one – is to make one small deflection in complacency, a small obstruction to profits, a blockage to business-as-usual, then another, and another, to change the energy of the flood. As it swirls around these snags and subversions, the current will slow, lose power, eddy in new directions, and create new systems and structures that change its course forever. On these small islands, new ideas will grow, creating thickets of living things and life-ways we haven’t yet imagined. Those disruptions can turn destructive energy into a new dynamic that finally reverses the forces that would wreck the world.
This is the work of creative disruption. This is the work of radical imagination. This is the work of witness. This is the steadfast, conscientious refusal to let a hell-bent economy force us to row its boat. This is much better than stewing in the night.
At the East Fork Cabin, All is Well
Kathleen Dean Moore reads "At the East Fork Cabin, All is Well"
“All is well at the East Fork Cabin,” I shout at the satellite phone. Every day, at 7 am and 7 pm, I am supposed to call in to the communication center. If I don’t, they’ll send a ranger over to make sure we haven’t been routed by bears or nudged by a bus off Polychrome Pass.
“I read you,” Randy the dispatcher shouts back. “All is well at the East Fork Cabin. Talk to you tonight.”
“No really,” I want to tell him, “Really, all is really well.” I want to tell him that in this early morning air, each willow catkin glistens with frost, and the snowdrifts over the creek bed are hard and shining. Last night’s bell chorus of waterdrops from the roof of the snow bridge is quiet now – just a pock here and a pock there in the wet arch of darkness. Papery ice sheets grew across the shallows overnight, drawing silver topographic maps, rivers and ridges radiating from each pebble. Under the bank, ice crystals have raised crenelated towers and turrets, glass cathedrals with mud roofs. And on the bank, ice fills the perfect pawprint of a wolf.
I don’t want to keep Randy. I know a satellite phone is pay-per-minute and I have to make my prepaid 43 minutes last ten days, and he’s breaking up anyway. And maybe emergency calls are coming in, but I want to tell him how good it is that there is a time in the early morning when the river is not hurrying. It has not taken up its to-do list, which is mostly the slow demolition of mountains. First it will attend to the smaller work of tuning up the river, each riffle and stone, preparing to sing the praise-song to the morning.
I take my seat on the bench by the river in a grove of aspen trees. Sometimes, a morning is so quiet that you can hear the breath of quiet itself, the slow in and out that shimmers in new leaves. Leaves tick. They tick.
Now as the silted current sifts over stones, it rustles like an orchestra getting ready to play. Flutists puff air through the narrow tubes of their flutes to warm silver and brass. There it is – the soft brush hush as violinists lean forward to adjust their scores and singers find the page. That little tap tap: a chickadee opens a seed and a percussionist tunes the tympani. Softly, a Swainson’s thrush whistles up the scale.
Do you know the sound when all the members of a choir stand, the rustle of their rising? That’s what the river sounds like, every pebble pushing up its wave. The road grader on the bridge beeps its backup warning. There is a sudden silence. Everything is poised to begin. The morning draws in its breath. Here now is the first flooding chord of water over pebble and cobble and boulder, and the basso profundo of the first bus downshifting on the grade over the pass. A ptarmigan cackles. A flock of siskins whistles. Silt rasps against rocks, and cobbles roll. So indistinct, but so musical, so full, the sounds I hear could be the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and orchestra carried on the wind from yesterday, or from a hundred miles away.
Icy catkins are candles in this early light. Their flames flicker. Yellow light flows through new poplar leaves. The northern anemones are still sleeping, or maybe they are praying, standing up with their heads bent over, the petals closed across their faces. When I passed them last evening, their heads were thrown back like tenors, full open to the sun. But now, the cells on one side of their stems have lost their timbre, and their heads nod.
And Randy, I want to tell you this, that when my father was dying, he listened over and over to the chords of the old hymn that ends with a great upwelling of voices and joyous trumpets, All is well. All is well. That’s the refrain he listened to, reaching out his hand to press ‘replay.’ All is well.
I didn’t understand that then. How can a person who feels his breath failing, feel as well the gratitude and reassurance that flow over him like water and fill him like music? But maybe I am beginning to understand it now, because I’ve listened to a river carry a mountain to the sea. I’ve seen how light changes to darkness and back again, and ice to mud. The snow will melt, the white anemones will fade back into the earth, the wolves will pass into the stars, our fathers will be folded back into soil. But even when all lives are gone, there will still be the music of water on stone, and the faraway singing of the wind.
East Fork of the Toklat, Sunrise
Kathleen Dean Moore reads "East Fork of the Toklat, Sunrise"
Today, June 13th, the sun is scheduled to rise at 3:46 am, and I am here to meet it, sitting on a bench by the East Fork of the Toklat, looking upriver toward the snow-covered ridges of Mount Pendleton. This early in the morning, the braided riverbed, the mounded moraines, the rising peaks are printed on the Earth in shades of grey. Even the sky is grey. But there it is, right on time, the first spot of color, a pink brush stroke on the peak of the mountain. At first, that’s all there is, the surprise of this pink mountaintop in a grey world. But soon enough, the sun daubs the same pink paint on the shoulders of the mountain and adds lavender strokes over the glacier and down the east ridge. Now there’s cadmium yellow across the face of the snowfield and more pink on the talus slopes. Slowly, as the Earth rolls, the sun slathers pink down the angle of the ridge. Burnt umber dots the gravel slopes of the alluvial plain. This is not a watercolor wash. This is oil paint or gouache. These mountains are daubed and streaked in color as thick as van Gogh’s.
But now, here is green, a big slathering of green along the tundra plains of the hills. Painstakingly, the sun applies permanent green in short strokes over the grey spruce forests and sap green over the grove of aspens. One by one, the cobbles in the broad riverbed take on all the colors of stone – ochre, black, silver, red – and now the reaching arms of the river and the sky itself are suddenly blue. Cerulean blue, applied on the river with the tip of the brush, and with wide strokes on the sky. The colors are rushing now, streaking toward me, splashing on the bars and rills, a flood of colors splattering across the stone. And here is my shadow, long and black in front of me, and I can feel the sun paint color across my neck and down the back of my sweater. I didn’t know that blue was so warm, or that color would feel heavy as a hand on my shoulder.
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