Skull: a bowl, or swelling, that cups the brain, the way the seedpod of a flower cups its seed or the bole of a tree its trunk. Brain bowls and seed pods turn white with age and sun, then break open and rattle, like knuckle bones in a bone cup. A bole opens into a trunk, which opens into branches, which drop their leaves in fall and, bare, rake at the clouds like men. In Scandinavia, it is traditional to toast a drink of the water of life, or Akvavit, with the exclamation “Skull!” (Skol!) A skull is a magical vessel that does not lose its power to concentrate and cup life, even though the life that gave it shape and which it shaped itself around has blown off in the autumn winds. Traditionally, each person had two, or perhaps three, bowls: a bowl carved from the bole of a tree, that he or she ate from lifelong, a cup for drinking, and the bowl that held their life high on its stem, their skull, but any person can make a skull at any time with their hands, lift water from a stream or a bucket drawn from a well, and drink life from it.

P1290574Skull at the Lone Pine Replacement Fishery, The Dalles, Oregon

Not here by accident. The Dalles Dam in the background has flooded the 10,000-year-old fishing site at the narrows below Celilo Falls.


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