Writing the Distance: Mary Odden

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today’s broadside was created by Mary Odden.

Broadside with Bulleit

The first winter we were alone together we broke the silence with a shooting contest to find out who would do the dishes. I lost. There was only one shooting contest. Snowed in unless the loggers came through, we played cribbage and Dirty Clubs. I washed, you dried. The snow fell. When our winters were busy as our summers, we remembered silence and thought it belonged to the trees. We wanted something from trees—what was it? Across the table from each other now, we are on the same side. The cards were scattered by children or eaten by puppies, or vice versa, and anyway we would rather read. I remember how your voice is reeds brushing against each other, stirred out of silence by the wind. Outside above the snow, the largest and the smallest owls are calling, and Venus is as bright as an approaching train. We remember trains, history, talk about it. We wanted something from history. In the ocean, whales can hear each other again. Can we stop wanting? We need something we cannot just stop having—even after the milk arrives in boxes. The relief in this backwards flowing eddy is the illusion of prolonged time. What game of chance is this? Beyond us silence raises the suffering of stockholders against our dead, against a coral reef – the mothering strangeness of the sea. Against the cooling trees. Of which thing are we a part? We go to bed unsure of who will do the dishes.

Boreal Books will publish Mary Odden’s book of memoir essays, Mostly Water, in June. It makes no mention of watered-down whiskey or cards, but does dwell a bit on dogs.

Scroll to Top