I am excited that submissions are coming in for the 3 Nations Anthology! I have had a lot of computer troubles the last few weeks which has slowed down outreach and calls for submission. My computer was cleaned up, emails changed, and eventually I bought a new computer, and then had to have our router upgraded. Thankfully, everything is back and working now except for a couple of minor glitches synching some files.
Briefly, it felt like the universe was telling me not to do this project. The 3 Nations Anthology was conceived in a much more hopeful time. The increasingly nationalistic tone of the new administration makes this call for dialogue among neighboring nations all the more critical. We must keep communication open.
Last Sunday, the Portland Sun Journal published a poem I wrote after participating in a community project to build a birch bark canoe with Master Passamaquoddy artisan, David Moses Bridges. Over the course of two weeks, David coordinated a group of eager people at all skill levels to build an ocean-going birch bark canoe. It was a monumental undertaking as the cedar, birch bark, and spruce roots were fashioned using ancient methods into a canoe. David worked tirelessly and patiently taught everyone who needed instruction—this is how to form the bark, bend the ribs into place, how to join the pieces at the gunwales, carve the pegs to hold the pieces in place, lash them together with spruce roots, and seal the seams with a mix of pine pitch and bear fat.
The canoe, constructed in The Commons of the Cobscook Community Learning Center, slowly moved from a sheet of bark to a finished work as not just a vessel, but a work of art. It glowed in the center of the room with soft reflected light on the bark and the wood. The scent of spruce and the bark, and then the pine pitch and bear fat was intoxicating.
One day an expedition went out to gather more spruce roots, which became an opportunity to learn about gathering and prepping the roots. A lot of visitors stopped by during the two weeks. It was blueberry season, so someone dropped off a big bowl of wild Maine blueberries to snack on. One of the participants, a man from the Caribbean, made a batch of jerked porcupine stew. The locally renowned Grand Lake Stream style canoe builder Gump Miller checked in now and then and helped out.
When the canoe was finished, it was loaded onto a truck and driven to Sipayik where it would be launched. One of the builders said it was a strange feeling crossing so many streams along the way in a truck with a canoe on it. When the canoe arrived at Sipayik, it was blessed first at the Catholic Church in a dual ceremony with Elders and Catholic priests, and then at Split Rock by Passamaquoddy Chief Rick Doyle. The canoe was nudged into the waters of Passamaquoddy Bay where it made its maiden voyage. The canoe would be raffled off as a major fundraiser for the Save Passamaquoddy Bay organization, which works tirelessly to protect the bay.
A community was built in that room along with the canoe. This is what happens when people gather with purpose, when they are open, and when they work together. One of the builders said, “You could break this canoe in half and it would still float.” Though true, it is better to think of the canoe whole, to think of the people who built it, the people who shared the work of their hands to create it, and mostly David, for being the one who taught us so much and brought us all together.
We live in an area where we share many things. On either side of the border with Canada there are parks administered jointly by the US and Canada: Roosevelt-Campobello International Park (summer home of Franklin Roosevelt) and St. Croix Island (where Samuel Champlain landed and wintered in 1604). Both countries claim Machias Seal Island, whose most famous inhabitants are a breeding colony of Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and Guillemots. The borders here are more like filters than walls.
Please send your submissions to the 3 Nations Anthology. The deadline is March 15. For complete guidelines click here and to submit your work visit: https://offthecoast.submittable.com/submit/74805/3-nations-anthology.