Exxon Valdez: 23 Years Later

24 03 2012

I was 11 years old when Bligh Reef ripped open the Exxon Valdez’s steel belly, bleeding over 40,000 tons of crude into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound. My family had traded Alaskan residency for our migrant lifestyle by then, setting up a winter life in Washington State and returning to Southeast every summer for the salmon season. I remember staring at the images on TV –  seabirds grounded by sludge-drenched wings, dead otters like blackened driftwood – and wearing a T-shirt that expressed despair through furious satire: caricatures of a party boat perched “on the rocks,” newly christened the Exxon Fuxxup.

Twenty-three years later, I’m sitting aboard a boat in Southeast Alaska, my body re-calibrating to the continual motion of a life cushioned by the sea. The view is stunning. Living in the midst of the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and a parade of wildlife, it’s sometimes hard to remember that this splendor isn’t guaranteed. That however firmly rooted nature appears to be, we can’t take her for granted or become indifferent to our responsibilities as good stewards.

Poet Vivian Faith Prescott is a fifth generation Alaskan who knows all too well the cost of indifference – environmental, cultural. She knows that when horror is so vast, grief so unspeakable, art provides a life raft. Her post,  “Fetched Up Hard Aground: Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill,” pulls readers into that life raft. If you’re not familiar with her work, please take a moment to visit Vivian at Planet Alaska.

Named and gendered, boats take on identities independent of the captains who come and go. They’re sized up and judged, bestowed with reputations that can’t be absolved with a change in ownership or a new name. So what  was the fate of the ship forever shackled to one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters? The Mudflats blog answered that question earlier this week:  “The Exxon Valdez Gets Its Death Sentence.”

In our sound-bite society, with social media’s barrage of moment-by-moment news updates, we’re good at year-of tributes. Succinct summaries of what happened back when and where they are now. This post is a perfect example – I wrote in that exact formula, without a second thought. And now I wonder… We remember, but what have we learned?

Photo Courtesy of John Lyle, ARLIS Reference.

Update: Immediately after posting this, I learned that Mudflats had re-posted her 2010 story, “Walking With the Ghost of Exxon.” A powerful account of what she found lingering in Prince William Sound 21 years after the spill – long after we’d been assured that everything was cleaned up –  this is on Hooked’s “Required Reading” list. Please do read and share.





The Liebster Meets Alaska Book Week

12 10 2011

Early September, I hit land and jumped online. Waded through weeks of spam, mass mailings, and impersonal updates. Just when I felt like I might as well have stayed at sea, a message from Annie Boreson leapt out:

I just wanted to tell you that I love your writing. You live a fascinating life and you write beautifully about it. I just gave you the Liebster Blog Award. Hope that is okay!

Okay? An award for Hooked? Reeling from delight rather than landsickness, I was a giddy, blushing mess of awe and wonder.

Writing is such an isolated activity, it’s easy to feel alone with your words. I spent years stifling the urge to write and disparaging the pieces that forced their way to paper, certain that any complimentary responses were merely friends being kind. People who “had” to like my work. Surely no one else would care about my bleeding heart reflections.

But the Liebster suggested otherwise!

From the German verb lieber – to love – the Liebster Blog Award recognizes worthy blogs with less than 200 followers, thereby raising their visibility. The “rules” are simple: thank your awarder and link back to them, select 5 blogs as your own nominees, and let them know by leaving a comment on their site.

My gratitude to Annie Boreson, author of Atoll Annie & the Non-Specific Rim, for awarding Hooked the Liebster. From the comic perils of giving birth in Norway in July, to a heart-wrenching tale of an abusive grandmother’s secret love, Annie is a superb storyteller. Introspective and audacious, reflective and funny, she got my laughter and subscription with her goal, “To go viral before  the Mayan Calendar stops me.”

Every adult grown of an outcast kid carries the searing recollection that selecting some means excluding others. I agonized over the nominations. Beyond inherent reluctance to name “favorites,” how would I choose? Hooked’s readership represents my ideal neighborhood: delightfully diverse, our residents range from conservative Alaskan fishermen, leprechaun-green environmentalists, contemplative memoirists, even a self-described “ex-party girl turned Midwestern wifey-poo.” With such differing life languages amongst you all, what 5 blogs could speak to everyone?

To the rescue: Alaska Book Week! Coinciding perfectly with this post, my Liebster picks are dedicated to some of my favorite Alaskan blogs. If you don’t have time for a new book this week, please take a moment to visit one of these Alaskan writers online.

Nagoonberry reminds me to stop and breathe. My first visit was to this post about my favorite flower, and I’ve been a subscriber ever since. This is a blog of journeys. Humans learning to live together in community. Personal and communal introspection. Thoughts on spirituality and sustainability. I suspect those of you drawn to Hooked’s more reflective moments will connect with Nagoonberry, too.

A Fairbanks English teacher, Paul Greci describes Northwriter as “a blog about writing, running, kayaking, and life in Alaska.” His posts include lovely photos and reflections on his environment. Ever imagined a lynx strolling across your porch? He’s got a great story about that very experience here. And don’t miss the photo of his treadmill laptop – talk about productivity!

If you’re looking for pure, unadulterated fish talk, PickFish Tales is for you. Reading this blog is like being in a BS circle on the dock, with one star storyteller, Jen Pickett. Jen’s been fishing for 20 years, is a fellow contributor to Alaska Waypoints, and has an awesome ability to honor deadlines in the midst of the season. And she’s funny! In addition to following her blog, you can often find her performing with the Fisher Poets (where her work was recently included on the gorgeous site In The Tote – congratulations, Jen!)

Whether writing verse or prose, Alaskan writer Vivian Faith Prescott is a true poet. You’ll find breath-stopping, heart-singing imagery and Tlingit honorifics on Planet Alaska, in stunning pieces like “The Language of the Landscape.” During these off-season months, when I’m struggling with the miles separating me from Southeast Alaska, I read Vivian’s work and she carries me home.

49Writers is such a fabulous resource that I have to close with some love for them. A non-profit supporting Alaska writers and their work, they host an impressive caliber of events. (More than once, I’ve wished I was in Anchorage to attend.) Literary folks – whether in Alaska or Alabama, an active writer or an avid reader – should consider subscribing. Here’s a post for writers who dream of crafting their work during a summer in Denali.

A note to these gifted awardees: I generally shy away from “Pass It Along” virtual movements. But it is lovely to learn that your voice touched someone, and I do recommend favorite books to friends… Is this really so different? If participating in the Liebster isn’t your kind of party, no worries. Please enjoy the public recognition of your work, knowing that your words have mattered to me, and spread a bit of liebe in your own private way.

(This is a particularly good time for Hooked to share the love, having received another bit of sweetness this week. Thank you, Cami Ostman, of Seven Marathons on Seven Continents, for naming Hooked one of your favorite blogs! Feeling honored, indeed.)

Got a favorite Alaskan blog of your own, sweet reader? Please share! 








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