The Eternal Return
Stories: The Heart and Soul of the Cultural Landscape
The heart and soul of the cultural landscape are the stories we live and the stories we tell. Stories are what hold my cultural landscape in a place that I can understand. Stories help me to make sense of things. I will share with you one of those stories here. It is a story of love and lust and salmon. Yes, those things go together; at least in my worldview they do.
The eternal return is the concept that things come around in cycles: events, seasons, etc. In Tlingit oral tradition there is a Woman-at-the-Head-of-the-Stream who calls the fish back to her. This archetype appears in many other cultures. In my Finnish culture she is Veen emo, the water mother.
In the poem "Eternal Return" I take a family story, the story of my grandfather's love affair, and turn it into a mythical story. I transform the woman he loved into the Woman-at-the-Head-of-the-Stream and my grandfather is a salmon— the perfect love affair. In my family's story, my grandfather was married to my Grandma Ruth when he had an affair with Bette. Bette hung a red nightgown on her clothesline to signal to my grandfather an "all clear" sign (Interestingly, the name for a salmon egg nest in a gravel stream is a redd). Bette's husband was a fisherman also. My grandfather eventually married Bette and they lived many happy years together.