As is evidenced by the rich cadre of writers who have found inspiration in the North Cascades, this region is almost eerily conducive to writing. Maybe it’s the short, bright blinks of summer or the fog and rain always promising mystery. And not only writing, but simply reflection on life in its splendor, difficulty, and variety is greatly facilitated by the natural character of this area.
This year as a Naturalist Educator turned Creative Resident I’ve been fortunate to develop a familiarity with the North Cascades. Through teaching we deepen our own relationship to the subject and the particular spirit of learning that we teach 5th grade students here is one of wonder and curiosity. What a convenient way to remind ourselves of that essential inclination. In my instruction I encourage not just creative expression, but creative im-pression as well. That is, I always remind students to be aware of just how much they’re taking in as they go about Mountain School. As a creative person, that causes me to accumulate mountains of inspiration alongside the students.
For my residency I’m finishing a book of poems called Outline of a Hollow Bird. It’s essentially my poetry journal for this year refined into a chapbook. My hunch is that it documents some personal growth and transformation. There is a great trove of wonder just beyond the grasp of our words. As a poet, that provides me with a zesty challenge. My book is intended to begin in the trope of the solitary wilderness poet, flap its wings through transformative moments, and then to bring the reader to something unfamiliar, just beyond logic.
Many thanks to NCI for employing me this year, and granting me a residency. It’s been quite a year. What I’ve accomplished here adds a rich line to the poem of my life.
The following is a piece taken from ‘Outline of a Hollow Bird’.
ash later paradise is drier
so we brought fruit
reclaimed bellyaches while standing against air
flying air carrying bits of new desert
slash the tether moist promise
calling us or maybe just you up
to mix juice with the dust
paradise darkening our faces we sliced
thinly the vitality to keep
pack the hymnals in alongside
then in that moment
where you’re tottering
rocks purple with seawater
skyline fractures it runs into you filled
with a sudden vacancy your shards falling
tide takes them in
out of the gap in the sound
somebody’s eyes crackle force light
into themselves battered ribs battered recollections
the beach aches
under the whiteness remembering its mandate
remade this time of sand
eroding with the hush hush
piled on each other visit our old
realm in the reeds
no longer easier on our bodies
than kelp and foam
walking as they do
from old gates in the trees of legged things
will they see in the sound
robbed of dimension in that way
we carried out rites
to draw their skin to our currents
Written by Evan Holmstrom. Title photograph courtesy of Angela Burlile.
About Evan Holmstrom
No stranger to stunning landscapes, Evan Holmstrom has spent time in Alaska (where he is originally from) and Montana before making his way to the North Cascades. His initial arrival placed him in the upper Skagit, where he spent several months at a meditation center. He then joined the North Cascades Institute to work as a Naturalist Educator last spring. A man of innumerable talents, his skill and knowledge greatly contributed to programs like Mountain School, Conferences and Retreats, Base Camp and Family Getaways. You can find a copy of his work, ‘Outline of a Hollow Bird’, in the Wild Ginger Library at the Environmental Learning Center.