One of the most delightful aspects of Orcas Island is the wealth of talented folk who call the island home.
From sculptors to painters, quilters to felters to woodworkers, writers and poets, the beauty and tranquility of this island provide a powerful muse for those willing to embrace it.
Jens Kruse is one of those islanders who enthusiastically embrace the muse of the written word and, in so doing, offer us a view of life that is at once profound, sensitive, and historical.
His recently published “Observations from Orcas Island” is a collection of poetry, essay, book review, and memoir and, in just over 280 pages, Kruse shines a keen eye on nature, family history, national politics, and worthwhile reads.
Presented over three years, from 2017 through 2020, the book addresses the election of Donald Trump, the arrival of COVID-19, nature’s mysteries viewed from his island home and stories from his past. In one particular reflective poem Kruse observes two birds — a flicker and a hummingbird — flying in one of the island’s heavy wind storms:
caught in a gust,
ricochets off the pane,
leaving a faint imprint
zooms through the wind
to the feeder,
and flies off
straight through the rain.
The writer then ponders:
Which bird should be my guide?
The one that steers steady
through wind and rain?
Or the one that learns
that the storm might destroy it?
A college professor of German Language and Literature for more than 30 years, Kruse’s skill with descriptive phrasing is a delight. Anecdotes from his teaching experience are full of humor. Recollections of growing up in Germany are peppered with old-world charm, pathos, and detailed memories that often touch on the harrowing toll Hitler’s reign of power took on families.
In the essay “My Father Before Me,” Kruse presents a photograph of his father in a German military uniform and offers the reader a brief history of his family’s military service. That essay, and others in his Memoir offerings, provide a post-WWII perspective that is a sobering reflection to those whose parents fought against Germany.
Each memoir selection offers the reader a glimpse of a life filled with purpose, and a personal history that is both familiar and foreign. Every selection is well worth the read.
“Observations from Orcas Island” includes an offering of book titles Kruse believes is vitally important in understanding our country’s political atmosphere; and a delightful alphabetical autobiography from A to Z.
Erudite, thought-provoking, sensitive, poignant, and well-written, “Observations from Orcas Island” is a delightful compilation from one of the island’s own. Read it. You won’t be sorry.
“Observations from Orcas Island: Poetry, Memoir, Book Reviews, Essays,” by Jens Kruse, Published by Butler Books, is available at Darvill’s Bookstore in Eastsound.