By Miranda Weiss
After college, Miranda Weiss leaves the East Coast, following her boyfriend and his dream to Homer, Alaska. What seems like a typical girl-meets-world memoir quickly veers away from cliche. For Weiss, Alaska is a welcome change in scenery, one in which she can study her environment as a naturalist, be a part of the land, and as in any adventure, learn both independence and interdependence.
Reminiscent of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska reveals Weiss as an expert at nature writing and self-reflection, as she observes the outside world, while assessing her own place in it.
Her poetic descriptions of everything from seaweed and birdcalls to tides and weather patterns create an allure of Alaska, showing how the author immediately feels at home in this new environment. Relationships with her human counterparts the local population and her boyfriend pose more of a challenge, but are countered by her constantly seeking new experiences: dip netting salmon in the Kenai River, kayaking across the bay in advance of an imminent storm, researching red-throated loons migration patterns on the Delta.
She learns to trust her fear and rely on herself as she navigates her new life: To live in this place is, in part, to destroy it; that is the paradox and the responsibility we live with every day. Weiss idealized view of the simple life is tempered by unanticipated complexity and the reality of being an outsider amidst a volatile environment where the land and sea are the beauty that roots the community, but also the biggest threat.
In a time when sensationalism too often trumps truth and good writing, it’s refreshing to read a memoir that proves satisfying for its subtlety. Weiss admits early on that, in Homer You would tell people about the spot where you d had good fishing luck but not about the wild blueberry patch you d found on a hike.
Lucky for us, Tide, Feather, Snow is the literary equivalent of the plentiful fishing spot, which Weiss willingly shares with honesty and humor. Yet at the same time, she doesn’t ruin the wild blueberry patch that is Alaska, helping to temporarily preserve a land that will eventually be over-picked.
~ Tara Kusumoto