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(fiction) In my youthful self, I imagined the sea was a basket of treasures. All things that came from it were delights to my eyes or thrilled my mouth or woke my skin. When my sister and I set out foraging, I always suggested the sea’s edge, while she liked best the woods and mountains. I tried to be patient, but her need for dabbled shadows and high views ignored my need to flow and ebb, to breathe with the waves, to throw on changeling colors with a caprice of mood. I loved my sister, yet if I listened deeply to the chambers of my heart, I loved the sea more. Until I met Whale. Then I loved him best. My story never would have happened if I had been born a man, for then I would have met Whale as danger or as prey. I would…

Learning from a tree To understand the black spruce, remember it grows from a fist-sized root ball as grey and compact and crucial as a brain. Each black spruce spindles itself straight up into the crack of the cold, stout branches making a skyward scrub from base to apex all winter night. And below that brain of roots lies permafrost, even in summer. This, then, is a tree that keeps ice in mind. I remember meeting black spruce during my move from southeast Alaska to the interior. I was ill at the time, a fjordlands creature with an immune system gone haywire, taking temporary leave from the rainforest and a sabbatical from the whole glaciated coast against which my fevers flared. I went inland, aiming for semi-arid, boreal-forested Fairbanks, where I hoped to find a kind of medicine. It was end-summer when I went, fall-not-winter. The road north took me…