Shantih Journal 3.1 - Page 114

Fathoms vivian faith prescott For Alex and other activist teens living in small Alaskan towns. 114 This is a girl among icebergs, on a school trip in the bay of Big Thunder, when the glacier caught rifle shots from Florida, from Connecticut, from Virginia, and the ice fractured and calved, came crashing down like a breach- ing whale. This is a girl who is never far from where rifles are kept in cor- ners, on bookcases, in closets. Last weekend she went moose hunting and today, with her iPhone, she filmed a kid in her class, yelling: I’ll shoot up the school. He’ll do it. He will. The teachers tell her: Be quiet, don’t show that clip to anyone. He has the right to privacy—the school didn’t expel him. This is a girl accustomed to the sound of rifle shots. She’s harvested deer before she even turned sixteen. She’s pounded deer skin drums, ate deer jerky, smoked and jarred meat, shot a large halibut, even. This is a girl who rests her head on her desk at school and tries to understand, to fathom, to witness. She wonders about being alone while not being alone. She listens for the echolocation, passes a note to another student—Walk out. Speak out. Do something, this girl. She circles the note through the class like a bubble net. She knows whales feed in groups, this girl does. And when she decides to sound, her fluked tail rises, trailing seawater, and she takes the hand of another girl beside her, and that girl takes another’s hand and another and another. This is a girl who doesn’t know how long they should stay beneath the surface, but this is a girl who can fathom depth, a measure of length beneath her family’s fishing boat. A fathom is six feet down into her cousin’s fresh grave—his wounds upwelled to drown him. This is a girl who can hold all of their breaths for as long as it takes. There’s an ancient sea within her and she’s seen her grandfather measure his halibut skate, a line running the length of a gravel driveway. This is a girl who rides fathoms in spiral paths, the evening light on the green sea; a girl who knows the humpback whale dives a hundred feet down into the dark calm—a girl who still believes a sin- gle fathom is the span of her outstretched arms.