Spirit Things (The Alaska Literary Series) (Paperback)
“Spirit things” are those mundane objects that offer new insights into the world on closer consideration—fishing nets, a favorite knife, and the bioluminescent gleam of seawater in a twilight that never truly grows dark. Spirit Things recounts stories of fishing, family, synesthesia, storytelling, gender, violence, and meaning. Each essay takes an object and follows it through histories: personal, material, and scientific, drawing together the delicate lines that link things through their making and use, their genesis and evolution, and the ways they gain significance in an individual’s life.
A contemplative take on everything from childcare to neurodivergence, comfort foods to outlaws, Spirit Things uses experiences from the human world and locates them on the edges of nature. Contact with wilderness, with wildness, be it twenty-foot seas in the ocean off Alaska’s coast or chairs flying through windows of a Kodiak bar, provides an entry point for meditations on the ways in which patterns, magic, and wonder overlap.
Lara Messersmith-Glavin is a writer, educator, and performer based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Across the Margin, Still Point Arts Quarterly, MaLa Literary Journal, Anchored in Deep Water: The Fisherpoets Anthology, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Selkie, Radiant Voices: Twenty-One Feminist Essays for Rising Up, and elsewhere. She was awarded the ATM 2018 Best Nonfiction Award, a writing residency from the Sou’Wester in 2017, and the Chinalyst Award for Best Travel Writing in 2008.
“Many fishing memoirs are filled with high seas drama, but Messersmith-Glavin focuses instead on what Blake called the 'luminous details' as revealed in the 'spirit things' she chooses to carry her story, objects as seemingly mundane as a glove and as complex as a wave. Spirit Things will appeal to anyone who’s fallen hard for Alaska and wants to be reminded what they love—and miss—about wilderness, fishing, and those who are drawn to the far North.”
—Holly J. Hughes, author of Hold Fast, Passings, and Sailing by Ravens
“Lara Messersmith-Glavin’s essays are simultaneously thrilling and insightful as she solemnizes the objects from her youth on an Alaskan fishing boat. She masterfully illuminates the sacred in nets and winches, in salmon, skiffs and waves in this beautifully crafted collection. I was awe struck.”
—Liz Prato, author of Volcanoes, Palm Trees, and Privilege: Essays on Hawai’i
"Spirit Things takes readers into the depths of a life growing up on the ocean among deckhands and danger on an Alaskan commercial fishing vessel. With a framework of “spirit things”—a buoy, a winch, salmon and more, an ever-shifting life is pursed up with narratives that shape an unusual upbringing. Lara Messersmith-Glavin is indeed a child of the sea!"
—Vivian Faith Prescott, author of Old Woman with Berries in Her Lap
“‘How do we tell our own stories when no framework has been given for deeper meanings? How do we create a cosmology of our own? Why is vastness so frightening?’ These questions vibrate at the heart of Spirit Things. The sensual pleasure of Messersmith-Glavin's language interweaves with her capacious spiritual inquiry; her lithe prose is an absolute delight. This luminous, magnificent project is a gift Messersmith-Glavin has brought us from the ocean, full of awe and beauty, salt and light.”
—Alicia Jo Rabins, author of Divinity School
"A cathartic dose of poetic prose that is both an immersive yet a fly-on-the-wall perspective on what it's like to grow up and work on a commercial fishing boat as a child, teen, woman, and fisherman.”
"Messersmith-Glavin has been away from fishing now for longer than she lived its life, and yet, in "Spirit Things", the experience of that time is captured, like a net full of salmon, in sparkling, nourishing detail. This is a book to love and cherish."
—Anchorage Daily News
Named as a "Favorite Book of the North from 2022" by Anchorage Daily News