Fort Ross

for Judith Bishop

We have changed in a hundred and seventy years. How can I tell what it was like to miss the Aleutian Islands in this place? How did we feel when the Russians enslaved our people, and brought our hunters to this stockade, caught, to catch seal and otter on the California coast? These hedged-in, jagged stockade walls don't make me feel safe; we were intruders here against our will. These bare rooms, clean and splintery, betray poverty of spirit and waste of material. We gathered the only wood we had at home at the shore, but our lives were richer in ceremony, design, and respect. The world has been mixed up since. Am I thankful to have in me more Aleut than Russian?

18 April 1986