As we have learned more each day and watched the impacts and spread of COVID-19, it has become apparent that we all need to take action now to protect our communities.
We have made the difficult decision to postpone the Celebration of Life for Richard Nelson.
We are planning to reschedule, but are waiting to evaluate how the situation changes before we set dates. We will keep you updated as soon as we have plans. We all were looking forward to celebrating and remembering Nels, but we believe that he would not want anyone to compromise community health or well-being.
In the midst of this stressful moment for human society, life is jubilantly returning to Sitka Sound. Humpback whales are playing in Silver Bay and young sea lions can be spotted along the shoreline. We're fully in herring weather, as Nels described in an Encounters episode:
It's a spring afternoon, one of those days when the weather makes itself a character in every story. It’s clear right now with sunshine pouring down but just through a blue hole in the clouds. There are squalls running around—sometimes rain, sometimes snow, sometimes hail, sometimes blustery winds.
In this season we are constantly reminded of Nels' joy and spark for life, as well as his understanding that we are not separate from the natural world but rather a part of it like every other creature. We are striving to approach every day with the kindness he always demonstrated, despite the challenges we face.
If you have any questions, please email Ellie at [email protected]. For the next few weeks, the Sitka Conservation Society will be working remotely as much as possible to attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Please contact us through email rather than phone calls.
Photo by Lione Clare Photography
Photo by Andrew Thoms.
“No scientist, no shaman, no stalker, no sentimentalist will ever understand the deer… and for this I am truly grateful. I am possessed by a powerful curiosity about this animal, but what I desire most is to experience and acclaim its mysteries. In our explorations of scientific and practical information about deer, we should always keep in mind what the elders and philosophers teach: that while knowledge dispels some mysteries, it deepens others.” — Richard Nelson in “Heart and Blood”, his book on living with deer in America.
The following is written by Andrew Thoms, Sitka Conservation Society Executive Director:
I struggle to express the full gratitude I have for Richard Nelson and all he has done for Alaska.
Richard Nelson built himself a vast and profound knowledge of Alaska through learning from elders, studying the science, and living in Alaska and its environment firsthand. He shared the wisdom that he built with the rest of us through his gifts as a storyteller. Since the dawn of our existence, storytelling has been how our species learned to be a part of the environment by using, depending on, and caring for its resources. Nels carried on this legacy by continuing the age-old human tradition of passing down environmental knowledge through stories. He did this in both traditional and very modern ways.
Nels’ stories connect us with one another by assigning words to the elements of the natural world that amaze us, that we admire, fear, or are comforted by. He was able to articulate the phenomena we want to know more about, as well as the elements of nature that we simply don’t understand. His words help us to better see and understand the world around us—while also embracing its mystery. He nurtured our connection to place through emotion, science, transcendental spirituality, and art.
In his stories about deer, Nels passed along those core values and ideals of what it means to be part of the natural world. He taught us to understand how animals live, how to think about the animal with respect and reverence, and how to “see” the animal and understand its relationship to the habitat it lives in. He taught us how we should think and relate to the animal when we hunt it and how to make the taking of that animal like a communion with the natural world.
Photo by Andrew Thoms.Read more
The inspiration, guidance, wisdom, and “ways of seeing” that you have given us will live on forever.
Long-time Sitka Conservation Society Board Emeritus Richard “Nels” Nelson passed away on November 4th, 2019. Nels served on our board of directors for close to 40 years, and he has enormously influenced our organization.
Photo by Ben Hamilton.Read more