Bear Witness Circle , Near Homer, Alaska
by Daniel Dancer


Twelve Children and eight adults gathered in an immense clearcut near Homer to complete this circle. In light rain they wrote blessing words on prayer flags torn from old sheets found in the abandoned cabin at the edge of the ravaged forest. The children planted baby spruce trees inside the circle formed by fern leaves and blackened, splintered shards of wood. At the center of the circle was a life-size bear mounded from living moss and lichen. We planted the "tree of life" in the center of the red-cloth heart at the bear's center and buried meaningful objects in the body of the animal. We set fire to the spruce pitch in the bear's glass eye and each spoke aloud a word of hope in simple ceremony around our creation: Resurrection, Transformation, Faith, Earth, Sun, Endurance, etc. The forest will rise again. Never again will it be cut here. The spruce-hemlock forests on the Kenai Peninsula represent the northernmost temperate rainforests in the world. At Alaskan latitudes, low solar insolation, long winters, and poor, unstable soils make forest regeneration a very slow process. Clearcuts, like this one near Homer, take an exceptionally long time to heal. Cutting is rampant on native, private, and National Forest lands in Alaska. To join efforts to protect Alaska's forests contact: Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, 419 6th St., Juneau, Alaska 99802.

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