Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sea Fever: In Memory of My Dad




Sea Fever

"I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over."

By John Masefield (1878-1967)
English Poet Laureate (1930-1967)


One of my father's favorite poems. My dad and his entire Finnish family loved, memorized, recited and even wrote their own poetry. My dad loved the poetry of Robert Service and poetry about the wild lands of early Alaska-Canadian poets and all of the well known and beloved poems about the sea.

He was taught as a very young boy not only how to help build and repair his family's fishing boat but to steer by the stars, to navigate the channels that led from his Douglas Island home across to Juneau but to other nearby islands where they fished and hunted.

By the time he and his brothers were grown and 5 of them joined the Armed Services from Territorial Alaska, they received duties which included their knowledge of the Alaskan waters.

My dad Bernhart (Ben) Savikko was made a Lieutenant Colonel and skippered supply ships along the coastline of Alaska. As recognized members of a "Five Star Family" where five Savikko members from the same family all fought to preserve the safety of Alaska. Their deep love of family, home, their U.S. Territory of Alaska and this great land where they were all born and raised.  They were intensely hard working, knowledgeable and deeply patriotic members of the Territory of Alaska and therefore The United States of America.

Their love of the "sea", the land and the waters on which they subsistence hunted and fished, and the sky they navigated and told time by, were all part of a deep heritage passed on by their Finnish parents.

My dad recited the the poem "Sea Fever" by John Masefield  throughout my, and my four younger brothers' lives. His love of the sea was part of his spirit, his memories, and the very soul of his Finnish DNA.

The memories of the sea, of my brothers fishing with our dad, and our boating to nearby shores and islands was an absolute constant as we all grew up to adulthood. So the love of the ocean, and the of rivers and channels that fed it just as it provided for and fed us runs in our blood, our spirits, and our souls as well.

In honor and in memory of my father, Bernhart Savikko's January 15th birthday, I write and share this poem, this post,
Love and miss you so much Dad and I miss the ocean waters of Alaska too. Can't wait to return to the home of my heart again.

Of note:
My dad was born in 1917 and raised in a pioneer Alaskan family on Douglas Island, Alaska. He died at age 93, the oldest person at the time of his death on the island. He grew up fishing the seas, as did all of his brothers and his father who built their own fishing boats from scratch and used them for inter-island travel while trying to homestead in early Alaska and for  both subsistence and commercial fishing to feed our families.

During WWII he was a skipper in the Aleutian Islands while 4 four brothers served in the military in other capacities. His death and our family sharing his ashes along the Gastineau Channel and Taku Inlet, left a tiny ripple in the ocean waters all along the coast, islands and inlets of Alaska, but a deep forever wave in our hearts.

Shown above:
A simple wallhanging made by using wildcrafted materials: a starfish, two sea shells and a piece of diftwood from my beloved home state of Alaska.




 Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting from my heart and with my hands.

2 comments:

  1. Such a loving tribute! I have loved that poem from childhood too, even though I grew up on the Great Lakes.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment Sue! I love knowing we share this meaningful poem in our lives. The Great Lakes are beautiful. My grandfather initially settled in the Upper Peninsula of Mchigan because of the attraction of being with so many Finnish immigrants. He was only there for a few years before the Gold Mines of Juneau and word of the riches of Douglas Island's Treadwell Gold Mine created "gold fever" on top of his innate need to live near the water!

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