The poster announcing a new show at Chimera Gallery caught my eye. I knew I’d enjoy the combination of color, texture, and shape these three artists would offer. I wasn’t disappointed.
I hadn’t expected, however, the synchronicity of one of the quilts by Barb Nepom.
Tears stung as I stepped closer to the vibrant squares, realizing the tiny print across each block created lists of extinct species. “Even worse,” Barb told me, “the list could have gone on and on.”
The simple starkness of the piece resonated with me and echoed a theme in a poem in my book, Writer in a Life Vest: Essays from the Salish Sea.
For this collection, I experimented with different essay forms to write about the beauty, power, and fragility of the Salish Sea and its inhabitants. First, I studied these waters that surround me, for, although I’ve lived in this seascape for nearly thirty years, I had much to learn (still do, for that matter).
An intensive, six-day Marine Naturalist Training Program at the Whale Museum gave me lots to ponder, especially about the endangered Southern Resident killer whale. I wrestled with participating in the course’s final activity, a whale-watching trip. I went, and ended up writing an acrostic poem (in this case, the first letter of each line of the poem helps spell out a word significant to the theme).
by Iris Graville
We board the “Western Prince” on this final day of Marine Naturalist Training,
At least some of us—to spot J, K, and
L pods of Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Eyeing the gray horizon, squinting through raised binoculars,
We watch for a dorsal fin, a saddle patch, a slapping tail fluke.
And yet, I silently hope the killer whales avoid this boat and the other 111 vessels in operation,
Their engine din a threat to communication, blocking whale
Clicks and whistles calling their kin to swimming Chinook salmon.
Harbor seals, sea lions, and minke whales are the only mammals we see that day and
I confess, I’m relieved. Yes, it’s thrilling to see Southern Residents in the wild, but
Not at their expense. Unless we change our ways, someday soon they’ll all be
~ ~ ~
Words. Images. They’re tools to grapple with the harsh and wondrous realities of this precious world.