09/22/2006: "LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN MAGAZINE August 9, 2006"
This is an unpublished letter to the Sun Magazine. I did get a response, from an administrative assistant, who wrote "Thanks so much for your beautiful letter. Here is the June 2006 issue that you requested. Please donít worry about the payment. This one's on us. "
I wrote this letter a few days ago and it melted. So I will try to reconstruct it from memory, not on a soggy pad by a fire in the middle of the wilderness, but inside, dry, in town on a computer:
The rain is relentless. Drips are falling onto my words almost faster than I can write. My June copy of The Sun is so wet to read it I peel each page a part from the next and hope I won't tear a page in the process and lose some words. As usual the first section I go to is Readers Write then I read "Where The Water Is" By Jan Shoemaker. I frankly can't tell if my tears are from the honesty of the writing or from smoke in my eyes. I'm taking a turn keeping a fire going with what we could collect, wet wood and dead alder bush branches. Meanwhile, the other women I've come on this adventure with are curled up in their sleeping bags, napping and waiting in a damp tent.
After living in Southeast Alaska for over ten years, I'm working on a quirky documentary film about women, wilderness and food. It is film about connection to place and the choices we make about living deeply where we have roots or where we pick to live and make home. Two of the women in the tent are trying to hunt their first goat, the other has come up to Alaska to help me film. The interview with Barry Lopez couldn't be more relevant. I feel like he is talking to us from a far, though he absolutely couldn't reach us on a cell phone or drop by.
We are camped by a lake in the Tongass National Forest, one of the last remaining intact coastal temperate rainforests in the world, 1800 feet above sea level, miles from town. We traveled in by float plane days ago. Now, there is too much wind and too little visibility for a plane to pick us up. We don't know when a plane will come and we have no idea what are families are thinking. Bushwhacking out is not a safe or sane option in this weather. We're stranded, surrounded by rugged peaks with rocky inclines, crusty snow packs and burgeoning streams. A waterfall near us grows stronger and louder every minute. I don't think any of us has ever been out in the rain this many days in a row. While we can't communicate out, we can listen on the handheld VHF marine radio to the weather updates for more rain, gales and small craft advisories.
I grabbed a copy of The Sun before we left town. This is one of those places, with no phones and no one coming to the door that allows me to appreciate the words I read and see the relevance to both the projects I'm working on and every day life. Another place I recall feeling that deep appreciation was on a 20-something day South Pacific ocean crossing in a small wooden boat. I opened a copy and in the midst of reading, as we bumped over the ocean 1000 miles offshore, I was startled and thankful too not only read, but to see one of my images printed in the magazine.
What I was wondering though, can you send me another copy of the June edition of The Sun? Then my husband can read it and I can file it away with the other Suns I can't quite add to the recycle pile and that I also use when I teach film or photography to kids, letting them study and contemplate the black and white images, and catching them at moments reading the words too.