Each year on the first day of spring, in the tiny fishing village of Seldovia, a festival is held. It is known to the locals as the FLOUNDER FESTIVAL. It is a time of great joy and expectations. A time when the Russian Orthodox priest blesses the small fleet of fishing boats and their crews. A time when the abundant wildflowers that dot the area have begun to bloom and all the villagers have happily put the long cold winter behind them.
The festival begins in the boat harbor and after the blessing of the fleet, all the villagers parade on foot to the beach at Sunny Cove. A large wooden pavilion has been built at the back of the beach above the high tide line. The pavilion has been built to shelter the villagers that frequent Sunny Cove from the frequent rains that pelt the area in late spring and early fall. The outdoor pavilion covers enough wooden benches and tables for the entire village to sit at during family picnics, or in this case, THE FLOUNDER FESTIVAL.
Sunny Cove is part of the Alaskan coastline that looks out on beautiful Kachemak Bay. The pavilion was built to face the bay that separates Seldovia from her nearest neighbor to the north, Halibut Cove and Homer which is across the channel to the west.
Between the pavilion and the sea is a large rock fire circle. Grandfather has told the village children many times about how the fire circle had been lit when the fishing fleet did not return to the harbor on time. This happened in olden times before the small lighthouse at beacon rock had been built. Some of the village wives would come down to Sunny Cove and light a large fire from the dry wood they always kept in the pavilion. The fire would light the way home for their men. Like a beacon from heaven, the flames would lick high into the night sky even in the worst of weather.
The fire circle is also where the village elder, a mysterious old man known as the TELLER of TALES, closes the festival by telling all of the children a story. It was just such a story that he told to me as my eyes became heavy on that spring night back in '89.
My name is Jason Hanson and I am ten years old. Seldovia has always been my home. My dad is a fisherman and my mom stays with my sister and me when dad is out with the fishing fleet. There is always plenty of chores to do around the cabin that we call home. My younger sister is a pest of a girl my folks named Angela. Lord knows why she was named after an angel. To me, she is a devilish thorn in my side. She always finds a way to tag along uninvited when I'm riding my bicycle or playing with the other boys.
The Teller of Tales, known affectionately as Grandfather to us children, had begun his story slowly on this night. Not that it was unusual for him to tell his tales slowly, but on this night....... He spoke even slower and more deliberately than he usually did. The story he was weaving for us with his twinkling wizardly eyes and his golden tongue was like no other yarn he had ever spun. "Like Rumpelstiltskin," he promised, "this is a story I have never told before and it will be pure gold to your ears."
My eyelids got heavier and heavier but I heard each word and syllable that came from the mouth of the Wizard of Words.....Grandfather. "Seldovia was discovered in 1891 by a Russian fisherman who had been blown off course during a storm. His boat had begun to sink from the battering it had taken by the cruel currents of Kachemak Bay. Suddenly his tired eyes saw a sheltered cove through the torrential rains that pelted his boat threatening to sink her. He made for the cove, turning his boat sharply into the battering waves. He had no sooner gotten there when his boat broke up in the pounding surf. He was able to save his wife and his possessions and make it to shore."
"It was late fall. The fisherman, after seeing that there was no hope of repairing his boat, decided that in order for him and his wife to survive he must build them a shelter and prepare to stay the winter. With great resolve, he hauled what was left of his boat onshore and used the wood to build a small cabin. While his wife prepared the inside of the cabin the fisherman cut enough firewood to last them through the harsh winter."
Grandfather paused and looked at his enthralled audience. They may have been fisherman but this time, they had been hooked by the ancient storyteller. My tired eyes popped open as the townspeople laughed. "In the spring of 1892, the fisherman's wife gave birth to her first child. It was a boy child that wailed loudly when he was born and has wailed loudly ever since."
"That baby," he continued, "became the man your children call Grandfather, and you call the Teller of Tales."
I could swear, as my eyes slowly closed again, that Grandfather winked at me. There was something special about this story. Something that he wanted only me and the children to know. My eyes may have been closed but he had lit the fire of my imagination as his words filled my head.
"Tonight children," his voice soothingly droned into my head, "you will discover the secret of the TOTEMS OF SELDOVIA."