27 de octubre de 2023


It was an unusually sunny day in Homer, with the light bouncing off the sparkling bay, glistening in its full glory. The skies above stretched vast and clear, tinted with hues of blue that artists would dream of capturing on canvas. I was set to leave my beloved home the next day, and the thought itself evoked a mix of melancholy and anticipation over the reason for my travels. But today, I was intent on soaking in as much of Homer as I could, seeking something to ground me amidst the whirlwind of impending work through a little walk through my property. It was on this walk, I came across this felled log, home to a little patch of Cypress-leaved Plait-Moss.

Spread over the damp forest floor, these tiny, intricate mosses paint a carpet of green, exuding an aura of ancient wisdom and timelessness. Delicate and detailed, the moss seemed to have woven stories of the land in its dense, intricate mats. As I knelt closer to inspect, the moss's feathery leaves whispered secrets of the forest, holding tales of the earth and epochs gone by, I was struck by how many times I’ve breezed right by these tiny plants without a second thought.

Native Alaskans, deeply attuned to the land, have traditionally used mosses like these in multiple ways. From serving as insulation in their footwear and clothing to absorbing moisture in their homes, the moss played a pivotal role in their daily lives. In times of need, it also acted as a wound dressing, and menstrual pads thanks to its absorbent qualities (How Our Ancestors Used Moss). The symbiotic relationship between the indigenous people and moss, another testament to their profound respect for nature, left me awe-inspired.

Scientifically, the Cypress-leaved Plait-Moss, known as Hypnum cupressiforme, is fascinating. It thrives in various habitats, from woodland floors to rocky outcrops, adapting and finding its niche in diverse ecosystems. What's intriguing is its ability to survive in both extremely dry and wet conditions. The moss can lose a significant amount of its water content and remain dormant, only to rehydrate and rejuvenate when water becomes available (Hypnum Cupressiforme).

That day, amid the vastness of Homer's beauty, it was the modest Cypress-leaved Plait-Moss that offered me perspective and grounding. As I prepare to leave tomorrow, I carry with me not just my love for this magical place, but also the profound lessons from a tiny moss patch in the heart of my home.

Works Cited

"How Our Ancestors Used Moss." WabiMoss, 13 Apr. 2023, www.wabimoss.com/nature-immersion/practical-uses-mos.
"Hypnum Cupressiforme." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Apr. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnum_cupressiforme. Accessed 27 Oct. 2023.

Publicado el 27 de octubre de 2023 a las 10:25 PM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de octubre de 2023


On a bright early fall morning, the sunlight spread like golden syrup, its warmth cutting through the cool air. My yard, with its freshly fallen leaves, seemed to shimmer in the light. That's when I saw them— a group of sandhill cranes, their tall, regal frames standing out against the green. Their gray feathers, tinged with a rustic red, glistened as they pecked and pranced around, a surprising, yet welcome, sight in my own back yard.

For Native Alaskans, these birds are more than just a beautiful spectacle; they are deeply woven into their cultural fabric. Historically, they have been hunted for their meat, which is a delicacy, and their feathers, which are used in ceremonial attire (The Contributions of Wildlife Diversity to the Subsistence and Nutrition of Indigenous Cultures). Their migratory patterns, signaling the changing of seasons, have found resonance in many local myths and legends.

In contemporary times, while hunting still continues under regulated means ensuring the species' conservation, the sandhill crane has also become a symbol of ecological preservation and the delicate balance of nature. Many Native Alaskan communities engage in practices that respect and protect the habitats of these cranes, understanding that their well-being is intricately tied to the health of the environment.

In many Native Alaskan homes, the arrival of the cranes is celebrated, much like the return of a distant relative. Children are often regaled with bedtime stories where these birds play pivotal roles— tales of bravery, love, and the timeless dance of nature. Crafts inspired by the cranes often adorn homes, with their delicate feathers being used to make keepsakes and trinkets, handed down as family heirlooms (On the Trails: An Uncommon Encounter with Sandhill Cranes).

From my personal experience in Homer, in local gatherings, it's not uncommon to hear traditional songs that pay homage to the cranes. Their distinctive calls, echoing the rhythms of the land, become a part of the melodies that resonate in Homer and other communities like ours..

Works Cited

"On the Trails: An Uncommon Encounter with Sandhill Cranes." Juneau Empire.

"The Contributions of Wildlife Diversity to the Subsistence and Nutrition of Indigenous Cultures." Traditional Animal Foods, 20 Oct. 2023, traditionalanimalfoods.org/birds/other-birds/page.aspx?id=6491.

Publicado el 21 de octubre de 2023 a las 01:43 AM por samsavage samsavage | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de octubre de 2023


Sea stars, celebrated for their resilience and regenerative abilities, have painted the coastal waters of Homer, Alaska, with their vibrant colors and striking patterns for millennia. An emblem of the rich marine biodiversity, they enliven the dock and tidal pools, contributing to the ecological balance by preying on mollusks, barnacles, snails, and other smaller organisms (Sea Star). We’re lucky here in Homer, renowned for its spectacular views and prolific marine life, that we see a tapestry of sea stars beneath the waves, a visual feast.

During low tide, the marine veil withdrew, revealing a biotic panorama beneath! The piers of the dock, once submerged became islands of life, inhabited by a myriad of organisms including these stunning sea stars. On this low tide day, locals and tourists alike found themselves drawn to the dock to explore these temporary landscapes, observing the life that usually remains hidden beneath the sea’s surface.

Historically, the indigenous people of Alaska, including the Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) and Dena'ina, manifested a deep-rooted connection with the marine environment, forging an existence intertwined with the sea and its creatures. The sea stars were not merely organisms to observe; they were entities entwined in stories, symbols, and occasionally, sustenance and utility. The durable skin of some sea star species was occasionally utilized in traditional practices, while others might become components in medicinal preparations. Sea stars and other marine life also find a place in native folklore and spiritual beliefs, symbolizing various elements like regeneration, mystery, and adaptability (Native American Starfish Mythology).

These marine entities thus represent more than their biological attributes; they are threads in a cultural tapestry that spans generations. The ebb and flow of the tides in Homer not only unveil the biotic wonders below but also symbolically reveal a window into the past, where nature and culture elegantly collide, entwining tales of survival, coexistence, and reverence between the indigenous peoples and the vibrant life beneath the Alaskan waves.

Works Cited

"Native American Starfish Mythology." Native Languages, 13 Oct. 2023, www.native-languages.org/legends-starfish.htm.

"Sea Star." Britannica, 13 Oct. 2023, www.britannica.com/animal/sea-star.

Publicado el 13 de octubre de 2023 a las 09:11 PM por samsavage samsavage | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de octubre de 2023


The discovery of the Sitka Alder on this blustery day in Homer, a place most Alaskans know for its rugged coastal beauty and abundant wildlife, gave me insight into the tenacity of native plant species in the face of challenging environmental conditions. Its multifaceted role in promoting biodiversity, stabilizing coastal ecosystems, and offering sustenance to wildlife (Sitka alder) underscores its ecological significance in our region.

The Sitka Alder, an integral part of Alaska's native flora, is a deciduous shrub belonging to the Alnus genus in the Betulaceae family. Typically ranging in height from 3 to 12 feet (1 to 4 meters), this shrub is instantly recognizable by its serrated leaves, small cones, and its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Frankia Alni.). These traits contribute to its remarkable resilience and adaptability.

Traditionally, Native Alaskans used the Sitka Alder for a number of things from availing themselves fo the tannins found in the bark as a tanning agent, to building sheters , band basketry, as a medicine to treat inflammation, and even a dye to produce shades of red and brown (Turner, Nancy).

As we continue to explore and appreciate the natural wonders around us, it is essential to recognize and protect species like the Sitka Alder. Their contribution to the resilience and beauty of our natural landscapes is a reminder of the intricate web of life that thrives even in the harshest of environments and I’m afraid with all the development around us, we are interfering with that perfect natural balance.

Works Cited
"Frankia Alni." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 May 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankia_alni#:~:text=Frankia%20alni%20is%20a%20Gram,the%20roots%20of%20alder%20trees. Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.
"Sitka Alder." Biodiversity of the ECentral Coast, 6 Oct. 2023, www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org/sitka-alder-bull-alnus-viridis-ssp-sinuata.html.
Turner, Nancy J. Plants Used by the Haida Indians of Alaska. University of Washington Press, 2005.

Publicado el 06 de octubre de 2023 a las 05:11 PM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de septiembre de 2023


The Common American Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). “Common”, a word with a tremendously negative connotation throughout my life, as in Britain, calling someone “common” is a horrible insult. As I learn more about this plant, those negative feelings don’t wane. While the word isn’t a slight to its poshness or lack thereof like it would be if used as an insult in Britain, this common hemp nettle deserves a negative connotation.

Known widely as “stinging nettle” owing to it’s ability to puncture flesh, this plant was in the throes of a slow death when I came across it on a sunny early fall day, but reading up on this plant considered a noxious weed in Alaska, I learned it will come back year after year as it spreads both by seed, and by rhizome fragments being moved from place to place through soil disturbances like plowing or ditch cleaning (Splitlip hempnettle). With each plant creating hundreds of seeds, it’s no wonder this plant is considered a noxious weed in Alaska.

A federal noxious weed is one considered by the United States Secretary of Agriculture as requiring regulatory action to prevent their introduction in spread in the United States (Federal Noxious Weeds of Significance to Alaska). Learning this, I can’t help but call to mind the reading I’ve been doing recently on the topic of Native Alaskan culture and tradition being criminalized by the United States government.

Unsurprisingly, this plant that is commonly regarded as a blight to an otherwise beautiful garden, Native Alaskans used to its fullest potential. Known partly for its medicinal qualities, treating tuberculosis, pleurisy, infections, hemorrhaging, and cancer, Native Alaskans made tea from the leaves and roots and successfully treated these serious medical conditions (Nettle; Stinging Nettle).

Works Cited

Federal Noxious Weeds of Significance to Alaska.: "Federal Noxious Weeds of Significance to Alaska." Noxious Weeds of Alaska, 28 Sept. 2023, noxiousweeds.open.uaf.edu/module-1-introduction/. Accessed 28 Sept. 2023.

Nettle; Stinging Nettle.: "Nettle; Stinging Nettle." Alutiiq Museum, 28 Sept. 2023, alutiiqmuseum.org/medicinal-plants/nettle-stinging-nettle. Accessed 28 Sept. 2023.

Splitlip hempnettle: "Splitlip Hempnettle." Alaska Center for Conservation Science, 28 Sept. 2023, accs.uaa.alaska.edu/wp-content/uploads/Galeopsis_bifida_BIO_GABI3.pdf. Accessed 28 Sept. 2023.

Publicado el 29 de septiembre de 2023 a las 02:46 AM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de septiembre de 2023


The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a site to behold! On a clear and quiet evening in Homer, this massive bird came up from a thicket of raspberry bushes with the a silence that marveled me. A modern analogy might be when one steps out in a parking lot, only to nearly be hit by a silent electric vehicle! There was nothing, then there was this magnificent creature.

While the Northern Goshawk can be found throughout much of Alaska, a sighting such as this was a lucky break as their habitat is normal densely forested areas. (“Northern Goshawk”) The goshawk feeds primarily on birds and small mammals like grouse, snowshoe hares, rabbits, and even snakes. It is believed they mate for life, and the male provides most or all of its mate’s food while the female is preparing to lay eggs. When chicks are born, the male continues to bring food, and the female feeds the young. ("Northern Goshawk Accipiter Gentilis.")

I can’t help but grow excited, learning that in Native shamanic traditions, the Goshawk is seen as a messenger from the spirit world (“Goshawk Spiritual Meaning”). I had been considering where to place my late father’s ashes, and here comes this majestic being that in Native tradition, according to Kristin Hawkins (“Goshawk Spiritual Meaning”) is “believed to be a guide for souls on their journey to the afterlife”. Reading through the “Goshawk Spiritual Meaning”, I also learned that in Native culture, the goshawk symbolizes wisdom, strength, and power. After witnessing this magnificent creature, I am not surprised that these qualities are represented by such a bird.

Works Cited

Northern Goshawk: "Northern Goshawk." Alaska Department of FIsh & Tame, 22 Sept. 2023, www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=northerngoshawk.main.

Goshawk Spiritual Meaning: Hawkins, Kristen . "Goshawk Spiritual Meaning, Symbolism and Totem." Spirit Animals & Symbolism, 25 Sept. 2022, spiritanimalsandsymbolism.com/goshawk-spiritual-meaning-symbolism-and-totem/.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter Gentilis.: "Northern Goshawk Accipiter Gentilis." Audubon, 22 Sept. 2023, www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/northern-goshawk.

Publicado el 22 de septiembre de 2023 a las 08:35 PM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de septiembre de 2023


Title: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/183702677
As I walked along the Homer Spit, enjoying the unusually still and warm. I saw many clusters of American Dune Grass, and it reminded me of the perseverance we need to survive our own life difficulties. The grass grows from seemingly inhospitable places, much like we must grow from difficult situations in our lives.
This grass is found in sandy coastal regions of North America and Asia, particularly in sand dunes along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California (“Leymus mollis”).
Native Alaskans used the tough leaves to weave mats, baskets, ropes, and other items, while the thick roots were used as a sponge for washing (“Leymus mollis”). Having experienced how steadfast these little shrubs hold on to their sandy homes, I’m struck by how difficult it would have been to harvest these grasses for weaving. Those “tough leaves” we read about in scientific journals lead to tough roots!

I learned while reading through Alaska Ethnobotony, that in the early 1900s, the baskets made by Native Alaskans became popular in trade. The Yup'ik people of of western, southwestern, and southcentral Alaska began trading baskets as a commodity in the late 19th century, coinciding with what Lee refers to as "the North American Indian basket craze of 1900-1910." The sales of baskets also increased during the gold rush of the 1890s when outsiders started coming in. Despite being isolated, records show that baskets made by the Yup'ik were shipped to Nome and other seaports during the late 1800s and early 1900s (“Alaska Ethnobotony”). We were far from using FedEx during that time, but it demonstrates the usefulness of baskets made from this sturdy grass!


Leymus mollis: (n.d.). Leymus mollis american dune grass. Seven Oaks Native Nursery. Retrieved September 14, 2023, from https://www.sevenoaksnativenursery.com/native-plants/grasses-rushes-and-sedges/leymus-mollis

Alaska Ethnobotony: "Beachgrass Basket." Alaska Ethnobotony, 14 Sept. 2023, alaskaethnobotany.community.uaf.edu/beachgrass-basket-rachel-liester/. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.

Publicado el 17 de septiembre de 2023 a las 06:09 PM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario


Sitka Spruce are common in Southcentral Alaska (within Alaska, Sitka Spruce can be found in a narrow strip along the Pacific coast), but not so common in the lower 48 (“Sitka Spruce”), in coming across this magnificent tree, I was struck by how something that is common where I live, and uncommon in places many other Americans live bolstered my sense of place and pride in where I am. It lends, surprisingly, to a sense of belonging.

The Sitka Spruce is the Alaska state tree, apart from its modern-day uses for lumber and pulpwood, it was used by Natives historically as a source of vitamin C, with the inner bark being used as a laxative. The roots were used for ropes, fishing lines, and twine to sew boxes and baskets (“Tree Book”).

On this blustery, wet day, I’m struck by how well Native Alaskans used every portion of flora and fauna they harvested from the land, including this beautiful spruce. While it seems obvious they would determine they could use the wood to make fires and build structures, determining the tree had a medicinal purpose, AND deciding they could also use the roots for basket weaving is, in my opinion, one of the many remarkable things that separate Native Alaskans from the colonizers. As I develop my sense of place, I hope to aspire to carry this ethos through my own days, to consider how I am using the resources that are so plentiful here in the interest of conservation and waste avoidance.


Sitka Spruce: Harris, A. (n.d.). Sitka Spruce. US Dept of Agriculture Forest Service. Retrieved September 15, 2023, from https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/ag_654/volume_1/picea/sitchensis.htm#:~:text=Native%20Range,in%20northern%20California.

Tree Book: Parish, R. (1994). Tree book: Learning to recognize trees of British Columbia. Canadian Forest Service.

Publicado el 17 de septiembre de 2023 a las 05:35 PM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de septiembre de 2023


During the week, I went on a quick walk and stumbled upon a stunning common lilac in Homer, Alaska. It was fairly easy to find, as it lives on my little property here in Homer. It was a sunny day with a gentle wind, around 54 degrees.

Scientifically known as “Syringa Vulgaris," this lilac was originally native to the Balkan Peninsula (1), but now it flourishes throughout Alaska due to our cold temperatures and coastal areas. If you’re lucky enough to be near a lilac, you will enjoy its magnificent blooms in late spring, where assuming there are not too many frosts, it will continue to flower through early summer (2). This particular lilac is massive, standing at 11 feet tall and at least 22 feet in diameter. Although it has no buds left now that summer is coming to an end, I can still imagine how grand it looked with them, and the scent was simply heavenly!

This gigantic lilac is a great resource for bees and adds to the beauty of the landscape. In the past, people have used lilac leaves as an astringent or face wash, and even taken them internally as a de-wormer(3)! Presently, man continues to use lilac in some natural beauty products, and also to flavor honey, sugars, food, and other sweets (1).

Since the lilac was such a familiar sight from my childhood in Belgium and England, it reminds me of my fondest childhood memories. Back then, the buds signaled the excitement of the upcoming summer. This enormous lilac provides a sense of belonging for me in this wonderful little town of Homer, Alaska.

(1) "Syringa Vulgaris." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Aug. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syringa_vulgaris. Accessed 8 Sept. 2023.
(2) "Lilacs in the Alaskan Landscape." Alaska Master Gardeners, unknown revision date, www.alaskamastergardeners.org/lilacs.html#:~:text=Lilacs%20can%20be%20a%20wonderful,available%20in%20local%20Alaskan%20nurseries. Accessed 8 Sept. 2023.
(3) "History, Culture and Uses of the Lilac: Syringa Vulgaris." Dave's Garden, unknown revision date, davesgarden.com/guides/articles/history-culture-and-uses-of-the-lilac-syringa-vulgaris. Accessed 8 Sept. 2023.

Publicado el 11 de septiembre de 2023 a las 04:11 AM por samsavage samsavage | 1 observación | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario