Christmas Card 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 
from the 
SPLaws staff
Shannon, Brad, Vin, Chris, and Robert
L-R: Chris Pine, Brad Pitt, Shannon Laws,
Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel
Here, at the SPLaws offices, we had a slight change of staff since 2012. Abe retired and Tom, who has been with us since 2011, disappeared into another timeline. Both will be missed dearly and we wish them well. Thankfully Chris Pine has stepped in to fill the shoes of two people, no less.  In addition to being a great dancer, his research skills are out of this world!  He shows great promise in producing extraordinary work for 2014.
When I was growing up, my mom would type up a Christmas letter to friends and family.  A Christmas letter is like the families year in review designed to update distant relatives on the years accomplishments.  In that tradition I have composed a letter about the 2013 highlights for SPLaws, Inc.  It has been another electric year!
Read it, or don’t, perhaps you treat them like fruit cake.  Either way thanks for stopping by and helping to get our visitor numbers pass 30k this year! Please leave a comment, and keep it real for 2014.
Shannon Laws
President
SPLaws, Chickadee Productions
Bellingham, Washington USA

***

SPLaws Christmas LetterThis year I did not find much in the way of PAID jobs, but with the extra time on my hands my volunteer work excelled.  I was paid in love and new life experiences.  If only I could take it to the bank I’d be a millionaire!  Here are some highlights -with photos- from 2013:

BOOK RELEASE

My book on the shelf
at Village Books

In January 2013 I released my first poetry book “Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy”, Chickadee Productions, available at Village Books, Bellingham.  The book includes my original poems from 2010-2012.  During these two years I was divorced, reborn in my writing, moved off San Juan Island and was embraced by the city of Bellingham.  The poems are a real document to a personal journey I shall never forget.

my new writers photo

BELLINGHAM HERLAD ARTICLE
In July, MARGARET BIKMAN from the Bellingham Herald interviewed me to promote my book reading.

“Shannon P. Laws was born in Seattle and raised in Federal Way, where, she says, “as a teenager I learned that when a guy from Auburn asks you out on a date, he will most likely pick you up in a stolen car.” 

Jared and I at a joint book
reading event on SJI

In May I traveled with retired actor, novelist and children’s book author Jared McVay for a book reading on San Juan Island, and shared some poems at the Big Rock Garden Party for Mother’s Day.

 
Group photo of guest speakers
at the Tagore Festival
 
September I appeared as a guest speaker at the Tagore Festival in Richmond, British Columbia.  
A yearly event to honor India’s poet 
Rabindranath Tagore, (May 1861- Aug. 1941)  
I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore.
I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with
laughter. 
“Squabbling Ravens”
VBPG Signature photo
courtesy of SJI artist Dona Reed

HOSTING VBPG
Village Books Poetry Group, 29 members strong, continued to meet bi-monthly at the independent book store in Fairhaven this year. It is a group I enjoy tremendously.  Many of our regulars are folks who are sharing their poetry for the first time. VBPG is a diverse group from many different cultural and professional backgrounds, linked together with our love for words.

Dave at the start of
Downtown Sounds,
beer garden side, of course

DOWNTOWN SOUNDS/KMRE

I am a volunteer DJ at Spark Radio, KMRE 102.3.  The station is an extension of the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention, at 1312 Bay Street, in downtown Bellingham.  Dave the K (The Rockin’ Surfer) and I were the on-air host’s for the cities Downtown Sounds.  The free concert, food, beer garden and street entertainment event is held on Bay Street for five Wednesday evenings in a row, July-August.  Great fun!

Jon Winter and I at SPARK

NEW AMERICANA
The 13 radio programs I produced in 2013 “New Americana” developed a large following.  Brent, the station manager, has approved it for a full season, 26 shows, in 2014.  I co-host the show with the museum’s co-founder, Jonathan Winter, a real gem of Bellingham and a pleasure to work with.  The talk/music show brings in a local guest, usually a musician, who shares the top five songs that have influenced their life. You can hear the 2013 podcast of the show here:

Casey Sulkin, retired DJ and
jazz club owner, I co-hosted
with Casey on his jazz show
“The Swing Shift” for a
few months

Bellingham’s Fast Five, or BFF, rotating features on KMRE, debuted this summer.  I created the concept to provide more attention to our New Americana guest by producing a five minute musical promo.  Local musician and well loved hamster, Bert Monroe, worked with me as voice talent on these informative features.

POETIC MOMENTS
This is an end of the year project for me.  There are so many wonderful poets in Bellingham.  I want to share them with the world! Poetic Moments are short features, under 2 minutes in length, that started to rotate on KMRE 102.3 in December.  My goal was to record 60 poems.  Over 25 poets came out to donate their words, and 93 poems were recorded!  More poems will be added in February, 2014.  Catch a taste of these amazing poets here:



FAIRHAVEN ART BLOCK
In September Carla and I, representing the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers Theater, had the privilege of working with the Bellingham Repertory Dance group, the Firehouse Performing Arts Center, and Lucia Douglas Art Gallery on a group project. We organized the street festival Fairhaven Art Block party, or FAB.   This event was designed to share the artist community of Fairhaven with it’s residences.  Folks were encouraged to walk from the art gallery to the Firehouse, just a block over, along a path littered with poets reading live poetry for any passersby.  Music and dance intermingled with the guests.  It will return for 2014.

Poets for Peace l/r Carla, Betty,
C.J. and good friend Denise


November worked with three local poets to organize and launch the first POETS FOR PEACE Read-In Write-On International poetry event, held in Bellingham’s South Hill neighborhood. Poets from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. shared poems about peace from 2-8:30 p.m., ’till the last poet spoke. The event was a great success! Plans for another in 2014 is in the works.

What a fun year.  My mom asked me a few months ago, over coffee of course, how I got into poetry.  It was hard for me to answer her at the time, had to think about it a bit.  I love writing short stories, blogging and working on my novels. However, poetry, I find, is much like gardening. When I use to have dirt to dig in, I would flower garden.  A few hours a week, or month depending on the year, of work produced immediate gratification = a clean and beautiful yard.  Poetry is quick work, one or two pages, and once edited and polished, gives me a great deal of satisfaction, like freshly cut tulips in a crystal vase on my kitchen table.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
~Helen Keller 
***
Wars on Kinkade series by
Jeff Bennett

Spawning

Spawning Coho Salmon are one of the most attractive fish.  This is a BIG fish with an average length of 28 inches, occasionally reaching 36 pounds.  This fish is currently “in season” at the processing plants on the docks of Bellingham Bay.  I know this first hand because I am a fish flinger.

Coho’s Looking For Love

The Coho pre-spawning colors are silver with some black dots on the back.  When the hormones activate and send the fish into “spawn mode”, it transforms into a monster fish! Vibrant shades of pink, burgundy, neon green and black grow over the silver scales.  The males mouth jets out, teeth blaring like an old lady’s stubborn poodle.  The females grow eggs, 2500-3000, on either side of their organs in sacks that start just under the jaw and run down the length of their bodies.  These fish are ready to get it ON!

BAM! Who’s Your Daddy?

There is something beautiful about watching this fish fly by me on the line.  Not sure why. The males swoosh by nose first.  Those teeth will destroy my rubber glove if I’m not careful.  A hole in the glove means a cold finger till break time.  Shoot-slime and ice cold blood will absorb into the cotton of my under-glove. Seems that Dr. Hyde of a fish wants to take a bite out of something, even after death.

Spawning Coho: Male – top, Female – bottom

When the shoot is full, and the fish are stopped up in front of me, a sea of clear dead eyes stare upward looking for a fight.  After the line ahead opens up I stretch an arm out and push them along to the left, forward, to be filleted. Their challenge ignored.

 

 

MY JOB
Eggs Photo credit: NWFSC and NOAA by Jen-McIntyre

This is my first week here.  My job is egg removal.  As the males zip past, needing no attention except to keep it moving, the females have their bellies opened by the dorsal-fin-cutter person, then slid into the egg gutter lane in front of me.  The average Coho holds 2500 eggs.  All the eggs are collected into a gutter that drains into a bucket.  The buckets are filled quickly enough to have a dedicated  “bucket guy” whose only job is to bring us empty buckets and dump the full ones into a large holding crate.

To remove the eggs from the fish I reach my hand into the body and rake ‘em out.  If I’m lucky the eggs will still be in the thin membrane.  With two gentle tugs at the top of the sack I can pull out all the eggs with two moves. (see photo)  Otherwise you just rake and rake with your fingers until you get them all.  But you really can’t get them all.

eggs in the membrane

The fish slide in front of me all day on a long steel table covered in this cosmic mix of melting ice, fish slime and blood, fish sperm and loose eggs.  Everything runs smoothly if all the fish are pointed nose first.  Sometimes a fish turns sideways and stumps them all up like a scene from Keystone Cops.

 

 

I AM A WILD FISH

We stand, all day in a cooler, geared up with gloves, long plastic sleeve protectors, rubber boots, a body length stiff plastic apron, long underwear under the clothes and a hat for the head.  In this place I am not cute.  There is no need for me to comb my hair; it is under a hat all day.  Make-up is unnecessary and perfume is not strong enough to rise above the stench of fish.  All day a grey spotted sea gull laughs at me from the back gate, as it stands on a crate outside hoping for some fish to drop.

Picture 236
My apron back on it’s nail at the end of the day

There is still much to learn about this operation and my part to play in it.   I expect all next week I will stay on the egg gutter.  Haven’t asked too many questions, nor received any feedback, but the boss did ask if I was coming back.  The season ends in January.  Wondering if I can make it that long.  I took this job because they hired me right away.  After the lay off in September I needed work fast.

Coho smelling their way home

Since I returned to my state of birth, five years ago, I have been laid off three times.  While my professional life suffers, my volunteer work is prospering.  In the last two years I started hosting a successful poetry group, producing radio shows on a community station, and my first poetry book was published, February 13′. Like the Coho I have mutated to spawn, out of a primal urge to survive and pass on my traits.

Slowly I step on this human ladder… I climb, and climb and climb, with hopes of reaching the final destination: to plant my eggs, my ideas, my hopes.  Will good fortune find them at the bottom of the river nestled among the rocks and multiply my efforts?  I hope so.  Spawning takes the life right out of ya.

 

 Isn’t there a little fish is all of us?

 

 

***

 

 

Artist Profile/B’ham Herald


Shannon P. Laws was born in Seattle and raised in Federal Way, where, she says, “as a teenager I learned that when a guy from Auburn asks you out on a date, he will most likely pick you up in a stolen car.”

Laws reads from her debut poetry collection, “Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy,” at 7 p.m. Friday, July 19, at Village Books. She is the host for the Village Books Poetry Group, which meets twice monthly at the bookstore.

She can be heard on KMRE 102.3, SPARK Radio, in downtown Bellingham, hosting two music programs, “Classic Blues” and “New Americana.”
For more about her writing and her radio shows, go to https://shannonplawswriter.com/, newamericanahour.wordpress.com and boosiesplayhouse.wordpress.com.

Question: What brought you to Bellingham?

Answer: In 2010 a major life event produced the momentum for a move. Family and work located in Bellingham made it an easy choice for relocation; my mom and brother live here. It’s great to visit them when our schedules allow.

Q: What’s your job and volunteer history?

A: I occasionally host the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers open mic, which meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Firehouse Café. I am a volunteer radio producer/editor at KMRE 102.3, a nonprofit community station that broadcasts from the SPARK Museum. Also, I am a member of the writers group Artistic License and Whatcom Writers and Publishers.

Q: What do you enjoy about what you do?

A: After working in television for many years, radio seemed like a fun project, especially at a station as unique as KMRE. Jonathan Winter and Brent Davis are encouraging people to work with. The museum, in general, is a warm and quirky place to donate time. It feels like a second home.

My pet project is “Boosie’s Playhouse Classic Blues.” The show’s focus is on the classic blues era, which I bracket, 1920-1970s, the first 50 years of the recorded blues. I created a character persona Boosie Vox, the Voice Vixen, to host the show.

One day Jonathan approached me about an idea he had for a new show that discussed the way music influences our lives. The program “New Americana” was born. In January of this year we started to bring in local musicians to share the five songs that influenced their lives. Jon and I sent out the invitations for guests and we are amazed at the positive returns that show has created.

Q: How did “Madrona Grove” come about?

A: An idea is a nagging, a tug at the heart, that demands to be heard. It wants to be recorded, as if my simple notebook is an official document linked directly into the planet’s psyche. I constantly get visions and inspiration, whether I am lying in bed contemplating a dream, or notice a crow staring at me on my walk as if it remembers me.

Q: What do you write?

A: I primarily write short stories, memoirs, an article or two, and there’s a novel in the works. My blog, Madrona Grove, started in 2010, and, at first, was my only creative outlet. My first book of poetry, named after my blog, was published in January.

I do not edit work that is over a year old. I like to respect who I was at that time. The voice of the work is as important as the words themselves. Ten years from now I want to pull that book off the shelf to read it and say, “Yes, I remember that woman.”

Q: What’s fun for you outside of the world of radio and literature?

A: I love the outdoors. A walk, hike or a day at the beach are perfect moments for me. A double-tall mocha at the Black Drop is a guilty pleasure I do not mind satisfying from time to time.  


I typically enjoy any type of live music. Also, I’m a big movie nut who just recently discovered the joy of watching local theater. I am a season ticket-holder to the Idiom Theater and Pickford Film Center. It’s the ideal form of time travel outside of my own imagination.


Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Follow Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.

Seagulls- 1, Crows- 0

Bellingham is an interesting place to live.  If you do not agree, I recommend an early walk around the neighborhood.  Remnants of our lively nightlife are evident in the early hours.  Left overs like a cigarette butt nest of empty beer bottles near the last step of an apartment building, and used rubbers, hint to a friendly exchange.  As a writer I wonder about a scene like that.  I mean HOW does THAT happen?  Was the cheap beer and loose conversation so titillating that it climaxed into a midnight, sidewalk escapade?  Hmmmm…. how many licks does it take to get to the center of it?  We may never know.

The Walk: Part 1
This morning I noticed some clouds were sleepy, clinging to the Earth like a warm blanket.  Ground fog rests silently in the hills around my neighborhood.
A van full of everything someone owns, even the owner.  Slumped over, fast asleep, no blanket for him, two coats of insulation.
Dew still on the grass, and the crows and seagulls are talking to each other.  Caws versus shrieks; calls of our hilltops wrestle with the sound of the sea.  Turning the corner a large black garbage bag from the baseball stadium rips open; guts of popcorn and half eaten hot dogs spill out.  Five seagulls watch guard over it.  With those regal heads and crisp beaks, like soldiers guarding a fort.
On the next corner, a cherry tree shows off its early fruit.  Yellow, blending to orange, by fall cherry red will be visually defined.
Next block over, I tip toe by another man asleep in his car.  Blue Ford Escort Wagon is his address.  Two in one morning, and just a rock toss from a homeless tent camp a few evergreens over.
Signs For Rent.  For Rent.  For Rent.
The morning birds tweet it up above me, reminding me of the proverb to be more like them.

The Walk: Part II
At the trail head two police cars mark the entrance.  What’s happened, I wonder…  but continue on.
Is this trail closed?
Well, we believe there to be a group of people held up in one of these warehouses.  We’re bringing in the dogs here in a bit.  Might be better for you to walk someplace else.
Yep-
Turning around up towards the stadium.  Trekking over a silent creek.  Full of water, the surface so still you could dance on it.  More birds tweeting, reminding me again to be happy and content.
The Walk: Part III
I continue my walk. Up hill towards home, my legs appreciate the work out, blood moves, waking me up.  There’s a Bike Ride for Cancer event happening this weekend.  Arrow signs point the route, matches my own, although I suppose I am walking only for myself this morning.
As I cross the final stretch an empty box of tomatoes is sitting in the middle of a large parking lot.  It’s contents smashed up around it.  Not the first time I saw this.  It takes weeks for tomatoes to disappear from blacktop.  I imagine that a troupe of Midnight Tomato Fighters meets here for a monthly la Tomatina smashing!  Do they wear team colors or is it one for all?  So many questions.  So many issues.
Towns are complex, fun, strange, quiet, loud and beautiful.
What a walk.  What a town.

Poetry: Refugio’s Hair

 One of my favorite poems…

Refugio’s Hair
In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera– The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carols lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrin
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the alamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep.

 

by Alberto Rios

Poetry: Moon Dial

MOON DIAL


The moon speaks to me through my window slit,
curtain and blinds open just enough for fresh air
to relieve me in the night

     The moon speaks to me announcing it is 3 o’clock
     it chatters away for 20 minutes about plans, loves, problems, recipes
     Please be quiet and let me sleep, I say in moon-speak
     Wake up and love me, it replies

Meanwhile, car headlights in the drive below
mark the return of my car-pooling bar tending neighbor
she is tired at the end of her shift, dinner and bed will come quickly

She tossed drinks and mixed spirits all night 
for others, now the stars put her to sleep

     I toss and turn awaken by the commotion of conversation
     between heavenly bodies and earthly

Please do me a favor moon, put me to bed, send me to sleep
till the sun rises, tuck me up in sheets of silver beams, warm 
me in your glow, watch over my spirit when it jumps out 
to dream, be my Guardian tonight and…
just shut your mouth!

Moonlight Through Window,
watercolor by Vinderburger
For more information about Vinderburger:


     


Shut Ins

There is a growing concern on my mind about the condition and mentality of our elderly that I must address: Shut-ins.

Sparked by a recent incident, the following rant is an attempt by me to process the barbarian social cycle Americans have created.  A cycle that involves the elements of the high cost of health care, our strong need for independence, and the elderly: our grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors.

Shut ins are defined as:
n. A person confined indoors by illness or disability. adj. 1. Confined to a home or hospital, as by illness. or 2. Disposed to avoid social contact; excessively withdrawn or introverted.

Yesterday, early Monday morning, I discovered that a shut-in lived directly below me in my condo complex.  I have lived here for over a year and never laid eyes on the guy until yesterday when the paramedics rolled him off to the hospital.

From about 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. my roommates and I started to hear a knocking or hammering sound reverberating throughout the building.  Monday morning is busy for all of us, people take showers, make breakfast, check e-mail, etc., so none of us gave it much thought.  At first the reoccurring thumps sounded like someone was hammering.  About an hour later I heard what I thought was a woman crying; this is when I called the police asking for them to investigate.  I live in that kind of neighborhood.  Perhaps someone was locked out of their home, building a shelf, hanging pictures, or a guy was trying to get at his ex-girlfriend threw a locked door… never in my mind did I think it was someone who was seriously injured and needed help.
When the police officer checked in with me 20 minutes later, we both tried to locate where the sound was coming from.  Then he asked me, “Are there any elderly people living in your building.”

Oh shit!  Right at that time the knocking was louder and I could hear through the floor the voice of a man yelling, “Help me!”

Sitting on the side of my bed watching the paramedics do their job from my second story window, I started to think about all the elderly family members, and friends I’ve had over the years who are shut-ins.  Many different stories but all the same results: a person who is too weak to even push a vacuum cleaner or bathe themselves is living alone.  What the hell has happen to us?

I remember when my Grandma was getting “needy”.  A common factor, or line in the sand, is almost always one of two things:  a car accident or a fall that results in a broken hip.  These are signals  family and friends should not blow off.

When my grandma broke her hip, my dad and his two sisters thought about putting her in “a home”.  Grandma wanted none of that, AND she wasn’t going to give up her drivers license either.  It drove my dad and aunts crazy.  Grandma lived in a four bedroom, two bath home with a yard.  WHO was going to take care of her, while she screams “I can take care of myself!”  No one had the guts to tell her, “No Grandma, you can’t”

They had to wait until, a year later, my aunt stopped by for a visit unannounced.  Grandma looked awful.  My aunt learned grandma hadn’t had a bath all week because her leg hurt, that she hadn’t eaten because she was too sore to drive to the grocery store, but was too prideful to ask for help.  It wasn’t until   another fall, that grandma learned the hard way to ask for help.  Where does this stubbornness come from and why is it so difficult for the kids to take up the role of parent for their parent?

As a former auto insurance agent I can not tell you how many calls I received from a disoriented elderly person who was confused about why their premium went up or why the policy was cancelled.  “It was just a simple mistake, pressing the gas pedal and not the break”  or, “The guy came out of nowhere!  It was not my fault!”  It is a fact that after the age of 75, the majority of drivers drive with the  reflexes of a drunk driver.  Many older people are unable to turn their head from left to right, or look over their shoulders to check behind them when they are driving.  These are needed physical abilities for the simple actions of merging, or changing lanes.  Personally, I feel all drivers over 75, should have to take a drivers test yearly.

Four Generations
Outside of the physical issue of getting older, my mind also meditated on the social issues.  So many elderly are alone.  They retired with a loved one to a remote area, one of them dies, then they are alone.  Or, another story I hear often involves a family fight.  Some sort of an event breaks up the family, and they stop seeing each other, often many years prior to those “needy” years, say when the kids are in their 30’s and the parents in their 50’s.  Both sides, children and parent, have a “F You” attitude and hold a grudge for decades.  It is so sad.  Often around the holidays I’ll hear friends tell me they haven’t seen their parents for 10, 20 years.
My mom turns 70 this year.  She lives by herself, about two and half hours from me.  I am the only daughter. Perhaps in 4-5 years, I will need to live close to her and help her, EVEN THOUGH that stubborn woman says she will not need it.  She has been saying this since her 40’s.

This really upsets me.  In my mind I want to say, “Alright old lady, die in your own vomit a slow painful death, alone, on the floor in pain. Perhaps, in a week someone will notice you are missing and knock on the door.  Perhaps, another week later someone may notice a smell and call 911.  Perhaps.”   I love my mom, I really do.  Looks like I need to educate myself on what to expect.  Regardless, the more we know, the more we talk, the more we keep calm, the more we love… the happier her golden years will be, for everyone.  The questions remain: How can we fix this system?  It is important to live well, but how important is it to us to die well?
Johnny Appleseed, died a good death.  When he felt the time coming, he moved back to his simple home he built on his land.  He asked his son to move his bed outside under a tree in the backyard.

 What a great way to go.

Whatcom Creek Fire

On June 10, 1999 around 3:25 P.M., a 16 inch fuel line owned by the Olympic Pipe Line Company ruptures spilling over 277,000 gallons of gasoline into Whatcom Creek.  The volatile fuel explodes killing three people.  The massive fireball sent smoke 30,000 feet into the air, visible from Anacortes to Vancouver!

One and a half miles of earth was scorched, and 25 acres destroyed in the explosion.  It was witnessed that the river was so full of gasoline, it had turned pink.
Residents nearby called into 911 complaining of an overwhelming smell of fuel, but by this time it was too late.  At 4:55 P.M., approximately and hour and a half after the estimated time of the pipe rupture, the river was set on fire!
Map of Whatcom Creek’s path (in red) that flows
through downtown Bellingham, and into the bay.
The fire ignited half a mile before the I-5 underpass
just to the east of downtown.

Two young boys, lighting off firecrackers nearby, as it was close to the Fourth of July, were playing near the river.  These innocent children are heroes!  If they had not accidentally set the fire off when they did, the gas would of continued under an interstate highway, directly into downtown, spilling into the busy Bellingham Bay and marina, with potential deaths and injuries in the thousands. (see map, above)

On June 18, 1999, Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmendson said, “The cause of the fire was the fuel released from the Olympic pipeline. The fact that it was ignited was inevitable. With the thousands and thousands of gallons of fuel that were proceeding down Whatcom Creek, had the ignition not taken place where it did and at the time it did, the damage to this community and the loss of life would have been far greater. These boys completely, without notice or any awareness, were involved in an action that ended up being heroic for the city of Bellingham.”

FOURTEEN YEARS LATER
Hiking the Whatcom Creek trail today, it’s hard to believe that such a hellacious event happened here.  If you look for it, you can find burn scars on the trees and see the restoration efforts by the city to bring back salmon and other species to this precious stretch of land.
Nature finds a way to heal and recover.
Smoke Rising from the Creek

The creek is a special place for me, as are most rivers, and woodland areas.  I find the forest such a peaceful location for a “technical detox”; a place to clear my mind and sort things out.  I feel fortunate to live in a city that makes nature trails such a priority.  Thanks to this trail system I am an easy walk to Whatcom Creek.  Although I have only lived near the creek for a year, I am encouraged by the recovery efforts the city has made.

This last Saturday at the Writers International Network Literary Festival in Richmond, B.C., I read my poem “River Ink” inspired by Whatcom Creek.  The Festival’s theme this year is “Peace”.  I shared this history of the creek with the audience.

before/after

William Wordsworth, a Romantic poet, said it best, “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.”

 The creek is green, luscious with all types of trees, bushes, wildlife, and fish. Nature recovers, finds a way.
Now, simple folk like myself, who just want to recover from a hectic day can stroll along this peaceful river
with the encouraging visual reminder that life continues, even after it seems all is lost.
***
My thoughts today are with the family members of those three lives,
lost on that fateful day, in June 1999.
May your hearts recover from the lost of such young life.
Rest in Peace

Liam Wood, 18, and Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas, both age 10.

***
A Falls Along the Upper Portion of Whatcom Creek

City of Bellingham restoration update:

http://www.cob.org/services/environment/restoration/cemetery-creek.aspx

History Link Sequence of Events:

http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5468

#

Poetry: River Ink

 
 
River Ink
Went to the river looking for a poem
I found my familiar trail
Winding woods that hug the bank
Whatcom Creek in August
Bushes high and
Full of berries,
Birds and spider’s webs.
Grass sways underwater
Moving in sync with the river
This what peace looks like,
Melted into movement
Tree branch dips over the drink
Desiring more of plenty
Is water from the root not good enough
Do you cool your leaves in the noon sun
Down by the edge there’s a place to sit
Two dead trees have slumped across
I dip a stick into the stream
Like pen into ink
To write my name on the
sun bleached wood.
The sun grabs my letters
Throws them in the air
Birds ride the upward current
Did I just disappear?
This poem and others by Shannon P Laws
are available in a paperback book
Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy
published by Chickadee Productions
***