I am writing on a blog, a total new experience. I have decided to call myself the pensive poet. At many periods of my life, family and close friends have said to me that they just did not think about things so deeply when I would go off on one of my tangents about family history that I had finally pieced together, or just history in general. History was, by far, my favorite subject in school and I probably should have studied it in college. But when I finally made up my mind to go to college I was already 39 years old and had three children that I was raising on my own. I would also add that I was living in Juneau, Alaska, one of the most beautiful places on earth, and so attended the small campus of University of Alaska, Southeast, or UAS. The cafeteria where I stopped for my coffee in the morning sat on Auk Lake a short distance from Auk Bay out on the Gastineau Channel, and the vista through the large windows faced the Mendenhall Glacier. Just as an aside, I graduated UAS in 1994 and from recent pictures I have viewed on-line, I have been stunned at how quickly the glacier has receded in my lifetime. I lived in Alaska for 25 years and did not see that rate of recession during my entire time there.
The history department consisted of one professor, but so did most of the other departments with the exception of English and Mathematics. I think there may have been two professors of each and a few adjunct profs. However, my history professor was a first-rate teacher, but looking back, if I had wanted a practical degree I should have studied something like marine biology that would have opened some doors to graduate school for me. I tried to be practical and signed up to take Business Administration classes towards a four-year degree in that field, a field I had absolutely no interest in, but thought it would be marketable. For my first semester humanities class I chose Intro to Anthropology and, in the same way that all things are interconnected, I found my true love. Where written history ends, anthropology begins and then looks back to what is to discover, or at best speculate, about what was.
I switched majors although it never officially did get switched, and, yes every anthro class I took was with the same professor. There was one exception. We had a visiting professor who taught a linguistics class, an expert in the Kickapoo Indian language. What I learned twenty years ago is that languages can only be traced back for 10,000 years and then the linguistic thread is lost. There are language isolates, some among the Native peoples of Alaska and the Basque language is another that I remember, which cannot be traced back to any major language group. This is not so very surprising when you think that they were always small tribes splitting off and moving around the globe. All it took was a resentment, or a blood feud, to get a group of family and friends looking for greener pastures. But in the last twenty years the politics of globalization has extincted languages that were already on the fringe. Add to that the fact that so many technological terms have been introduced that the use of acronyms has caused further corruption of our own language so quickly that if I were to be reborn 100 years into the future I don’t think I would understand what my own great, great-grandchildren were saying to me.
It was during this time that I watched the first of the Qatsi trilogy filmed by experimental filmmaker Godfrey Reggio. Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance is the first of the series and is filmed completely without dialogue in the form of a ‘visual tone poem’ intended to demonstrate Reggio’s point of view that “language is in a vast state of humiliation. It no longer describes the world we live in.” It was just serendipitous that I saw this movie when I did since it went out of print for much of the 90’s. But it made a vivid impression on me. Reggio stressed in his works the same points that my Anthropology professor always drummed into us. There is human to technology relations, human to human relations and then human to ideology relations. The technology tends to change very fast as humans come into contact with new ways of doing things either through conquest or trade or by independent invention, and human social interactions also change but much slower and over generations through marriages, alliances, and so on and so forth, but ideology is embedded on a much deeper level and is very resistant to change. Professor Olson drew this truth as a triangle inside of a circle, a symbol that has been used over and over again to express the tri-fold structure that supports a single concept, such as the Trinity. If this is true then no wonder the world is out of balance with new drugs coming off the assembly line daily that we can roll off our tongues by the rote memorization of advertising, (not only the brand name but the generic as well), as slick as the names of the formerly unheard of diseases that they are used to treat.
Even as I write this I am making connections, reawakenings, you might say. It is one of the things I love about writing and when studying Anthropology you do a lot of reading and writing. So, it was good that I enjoy both of these things. I’ve had stories brewing in me for a lifetime now that have never been written. I suppose another thing that drew me to Anthropology is its reputation as a free-wheeling science with whip-cracking dash. But there was no physical anthropology classes either at UAS or the graduate school I attended for a year, so I could not achieve even a BS in my field, and I was 45 years old when I finally gave up because I was working as a waitress. I found out how delusional I was to think that any social science would be easy. But I have never stopped my education either. I continue to work my brain since it is a muscle like any other. And I have never regretted that I did not go to Oxford or Harvard, or that I gave up practicality for what I loved. I do wish I had lived a more disciplined life, but rather than live in regret for all the days that have passed since they so outnumber the days that will be, I have learned to live in the dream world of poetry and to try to write all those unwritten stories.
My words are often clumsy and I struggle to find the right ones, but I love the process and along the way I continue to make connections. For months now I have been collecting references to the clouds in literature, poetry, paintings and song, and drawing from my education concerning the hot topics of twenty years ago that are being incorporated as part of our modern ideology, are emerging more fully formed all around me. Things like Chaos Theory, Fractal Geometry, Origins of Life Theory, and bits and pieces of all the things that stuck to me because they seemed important, as if they were keys to some hidden knowledge. If things go as planned I will finish my Ode to the Clouds this week. I am still researching things and hope that I can infuse facts with magic, because what is stranger than truth? In the meantime I will post a few of my older works should anyone ever chance upon my blog.