Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ross meets the Klamath tribe

Lahoma Schonchin of the Klamath tribe and Ross Wood Studlar of the white men,
Ross having presented his book The Raven and The Crayfish, which is inspired by Klamath legends.
Photo by Ranger Dave Harrison, used with permission.

The Crater Lake Trust hosted a special Family Fun Day on September 25th, 2010, which featured drummers, dancers, and storytellers from the Klamath tribe. It took place at the rim of Crater Lake.

The Trust hailed the NPS to recruit a Ranger to give a short presentation on the lake's geology and scientific significance, to complement the Klamath perspective. By the luck of schedule, that honor was assigned to me. I welcomed the opportunity to meet the first denizens of the Crater Lake region, and to share with them my Raven and Crayfish, which is so inspired by their stories. (I have met Klamath folks a few times before and listened to their perspective, but have never been brave enough to share my artistic interpretations with them... until now.)

I introduced myself to the public as follows....

“Hello I'm Ranger Ross, and before I begin my talk I must say that I am honored to have members of the Klamath tribe here. They are the true discoverers of Crater Lake, and the first people to inhabit this area. Although their perception of Crater Lake and that of most members of the National Park Service may not be the same in every detail, there is an underlying theme in common. Both parties see Crater Lake as a very special place. I would even go so far as to say that we, like the Klamath, see Crater Lake as a sacred place. I have long been fascinated by the Klamath stories about this landscape, just as much as I am with its geology and biology. I share their stories with visitors wherever I can. I have even drawn illustrations to their stories. I even wrote a book, my story about Crater Lake, which borrows elements from some of theirs. Ordinarily, when I do my presentation about the origins of Crater Lake, I give the Klamath perspective as well as the geology. But today, since the Klamath people are here to speak for themselves, I will omit the former. And without further ado, I present the origin of Crater Lake, according to geologists....”

I told the tale of how Mt Mazama became Crater Lake, and then turned things over to the Klamath. Lahoma Schonchin commented on the special significance of Crater Lake to the Klamath tribe, and introduced the performers. Then commenced the drumming and dancing. The ages of the Klamath people involved in the festivities ranged from three to senior citizens. The dancers wore their traditional regalia.

During the intermission of the dancing and drumming, Lynn Schonchin, a senior member of the tribe and father of Lahoma, took the stage and noted that he appreciated my presentation and it was interesting, but that he would tell the real story of how Crater Lake formed. His story was a version of “Coyote in Love with a Star.” He also commented on the sacredness of Crater Lake's water, and his people's traditions of drinking it for strength.

I have not yet heard any two Klamath people tell exactly the same story about the formation of Crater Lake. My favorite Klamath legend is “The Origin of Crater Lake” as it appears in Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest by Ella Clark. This story was originally recounted by the Klamath Chief Lalek to the young white soldier Willam Colvig in 1865. It tells of the battle of the ages between the Chief of the Below World and the Chief of the Above World... and has AMAZING parallels to the geologic explanation for how Crater Lake formed. Not all Klamath stories are as close to the geology, but most have one notable thing in common... they describe a high mountain, which collapsed into the ground to create a gaping hole, which filled with water to become Crater Lake. Geologists long debated whether Mt Mazama blew apart or fell into the ground, and finally concluded that the mountain “fell in”--just as in the legends.

After the ceremonies, I presented one of my Raven and Crayfish to the Klamath folks. They were enthusiastic to receive it. I shall find out if they have any especial comments.

Notably, my book now has an ISBN number. It is 978-0-615-38888-5

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Rime of the Phantom Ship

Phantom Ship photo © 1999 Benjamin Zingg of Switzerland, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

If ever you visit Crater Lake National Park in the summer, a boat tour is highly recommended; it provides a unique perspective on the lake. I know firsthand, having guided a few hundred tours.

The Phantom Ship is among the lake's most spectacular features when viewed from the water.

Inspired by the Phantom Ship and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I have composed the poem below. I share this poem on my tours, when we visit the Ship.

The Rime of the Phantom Ship

Looking forward, I behold a something in the lake.
At first it seems a little speck,
and then it seems a mist.
It vanishes, returns and takes at last
A certain shaped I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape I wist.
And still we neared and neared.
Like moths to flame, we are drawn to see,
the mysterious phantom ship.

Spires like sails, the ship prevails
over the deep blue lake
Without a breeze, without a sail
its shadow makes the heart shake

400,000 years old,
the eldest in the caldera,
these rocks do tower,
At the base of Mazama they did stand
in the mountain's final hour.

One after one, by the smoke-filled sky
Too quick for groan or sigh,
The surrounding rocks crumbled and cracked,
and cursed me with their cry.

In two great landslides, the surrounding rocks,
too loud for sigh or groan,
with deafening crash, into the ground,
They dropped down all at once.

The Phantom Ship, betwixt the landslides
Survived the boom.
In subsequent epochs,
the wind and rain have shaped its craggy loom.

Its walls are steep, and hot and dry
And yet, life persists
Growing upon these grand spires
seven species of tree exist
A point of fascination, to any botanist.

Lichens and penstemons also grow,
the pink flowers they do thrive
Upon the Phantom Ship, between the lake and sky.

Gramercy! I cry! Violet green swallows
on ­the spires!
They fly and dive, in green and glossy black,
They coil and turn, and ever track
is a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! No tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushes from my heart
And I bless them unaware.
Sure my kind saint takes pity on me,
for I bless them unaware.

the mariner and the water snakes, one of Gustave Doré's illustrations to Coleridge's
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The poem and the illos are now in the public domain.