Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


August 19, 2021

Karen Bertroch

Anita Raistakka holds Skyfixer, a new book of poetry by Gary V. Anderson, who lived in Naselle as a youngster.

Dear Readers: Last week's obituaries made me pause and reflect. Chuck Parker, Liz Goodfellow Sears, and Ken Kandoll. All meant so much to the area and all ended good, meaningful lives after doing so much for others. If you're looking for something to help you pause and reflect, may I suggest you get a copy of this poetry book, Skyfixer, or borrow it from the Appelo Archives Library? If you have not been to the second-floor library, how about spending an afternoon there? You'll find book collections on logging, Pacific NW history, WW II, Alaska, women's fiction, western fiction, and more. Membership ($15) gets you a year's worth of reading.

Photo of the Week: Anita Raistakka is holding up the book Skyfixer at the Archives Center. She has been the building block of the library there with passion especially for the Finnish and Scandinavian collections. There is a large collection of Scandinavian books translated into English. Finnish history is devastating. I finally realized when looking at a map that Finland is fully connected to Russia. Finland's history is full of war, heroism, strong people, and sacrifice. I am proud to share with you a review of Skyfixer by a man I have known for many years. He is one of the kindest people I know. He is fluent in Swedish, and sometimes at the Ballard Lutheran Church in Seattle, gives a guest sermon with some Swedish included. The Ballard Swedes and Norwegians love him. I gave him a subscription to The Eagle and yes, he likes the Sheriff's Report.

Guest Book Review of Gary V. Anderson's, Skyfixer: Poetry: Poet Gary Anderson and novelist Karl Marlantes have several things in common, among them these: Both are natives of the territory surrounding the Lower Columbia River, in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington; both are veterans of the Vietnam conflict; both have suffered the effects of PTSD as a result of their experiences in Vietnam; and both have sought healing from those effects in part through their respective literary efforts.

Marlantes's novels, especially his Matterhorn, are powerful, even devastating. Anderson's poetry is of a whole different cloth. The thirty-some entries range in length from just a few lines ("Do the Math," p. 39; "Breivik Norway," p. 48) to half-page "journal entries" (e.g., "Journal Entry #354-His Name was #4 Boy," p. 55), to poems filling one or two pages (e.g., "Ruoantähteet: Finnish for leftovers, scraps," pp. 53-54). "Filling" is not quite the right word, though; these lines of poetry, all double-spaced, are mostly very short, often no more than two to four words in each.

This makes the book an "easy read." But "easy" is also not the right word. Anderson's poetry is highly impressionistic and tightly metaphorical. In my case, much of it eluded my comprehension. I must admit, however, that I am not a skilled reader of modern poetry (give me Milton or Frost!). Nevertheless, Anderson's poems, so heavily characterized by brief, suggestive word-pictures, obviously translate his healing experiences out in the rawness of nature, whether in the Willapa Hills, along the Columbia, or even in his ancestral land in northern Scandinavia and elsewhere, carried out in tune with the spiritual practices of indigenous Sámi culture.

I found much of it difficult to follow or interpret. Still, there are places within certain entries that I found particularly moving. "Onkalo" (Finnish for hiding place; p. 6-7) appears to depict the yearning of a war-damaged soul to return to a more innocent time and place, to "find something once lost," to locate an old burned-out cedar stump in the woods and "dig for childish artifacts buried there." I can see it clearly, having myself once found years later lost "artifacts" from my own childhood. The poem ends with this compelling plea: "Cry, finally cry, for the boy." I don't know; it just got to me. Though I was old enough at the time, I never went to Vietnam, as many of my high school friends did; I can only try to imagine the horror of it, helped along in that now by Marlantes's Matterhorn. It can make me weep.

Fully two-thirds of the book (pp. 59-156) is devoted to the translations of selected poems from this collection into Northern Sámi, Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian. I can vouch for the careful verbal accuracy of the Swedish renderings and can bumble myself along through the Norwegian. Sámi and Finnish are fascinating to look at, but beyond my capacity to judge, not that I even need to judge them, of course. This is a book I will return to from time to time. It's not a massive tome that will turn me away by its sheer, overwhelming size, but it is deep in its own way. It's something to dip into now and then, in hopes that with growing acquaintance over time I will gradually understand it better.

Skyfixer: Poetry (Portland, Oregon; Shelter Bay Publishing, 2020). $20.00. Available at Appelo Archives in Naselle. Rich Erickson, Ph.D., Retired Professor, Fuller Seminary, Seattle

Grays River Diking District: Had a chance to talk with Poul Toftemark concerning the work of the diking district. For many years it was called an enhancement district, but the current temporary board of commissioners, Paul, Eddie Blaine and Brian Livingston, prefer to call it a diking district since they are primarily focused on maintaining the dikes along the Grays. All of them are volunteer commissioners who stepped in when previous commissioners were not able to continue. All three would be very happy to pass their work on to new folks who are younger and able to help landowners with their work on the dikes. They meet on the second Wednesday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at Johnson Park. They are working well with landowners and entities such as the Columbia Land Trust to help those who have concerns with the Grays River that require assistance and advisement.


Annual Loggers Reunion will be held on Saturday at the Appelo Archives Center.

Naselle Community Center Outdoor Market: Next market will be held Saturday, August 21 at the Center from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wahkiakum County Fair will be held on August 19, 20 and 21 at the Fairgrounds in Skamokawa.

Spelling Bee at Fair on Saturday at 1 p.m. with registration at noon. Sponsored by Grays River and Skamokawa Granges.

Timberland Library Book Sale at the Archives Center will be on August 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Carol Penttila's Celebration of Life will be on August 28 at 1 p.m. at the Naselle Community Center.

Naselle/Grays River School Starts September 2 before Labor Day weekend. Then students return on September 6 after Labor Day.

Bingo at Johnson Park: September 25 from 6 – 8 p.m. Plenty of food and prizes.

Covered Bridge Dinner: Set for October 4 at the Bridge in Grays River. A limited number of tickets will be available soon.

Senior Lunches: CAP box lunches (Community Action Program) are available on Thursdays at noon at Rosburg School. Order lunches by calling Denise at (360) 762-3111.

Menus for August are as follows: Today (Thursday), BBQ beef sandwich, French fries, pineapple coleslaw, melon. Thursday, August 26: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, mixed veggies, strawberry parfait. The next lunch for the senior lunch club will be on September 1 at noon at Rosburg Hall.

Word for the Week: Reflection.


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