Shores of Sound: On Maren


“Music is a part of us and grows from within us, like our breath, our hair…especially when we give it light and fresh air. Sit alongside a natural feature, outside your everyday walls, like a sea cliff, and listen to “nature’s” sounds, then join with them. First listen quietly to them, and then take out an instrument–be it your guitar, your voice, a recorder, or a drum–and see what happens. Have you ever heard the sound of your music reverberate against a sandstone cliff? Or blend with the laps of a lake’s edge? Or intermingle with the sounds of gulls?

Rosario Straight. Photo by Maren Van Nostrand

In 1996, Byron and I paddled in two single kayaks for five months from Alaska to Puget Sound. You can read about this journey, and see my illustrations, in Homelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage (New York: Bard/Avon). I experienced the joys of remote wilderness music as I sang or played my recorder alongside glaciers, tree trunks, ocean surf … and fell in love once again with nature’s symphony of echoes and calls.

Come see us in concert this summer when we explore sounds in a shoreline concert, or email me at if you’d like to have us host an outdoor concert for you. We also host canoe trips down the Snoqualmie River while serenading you with song, dulcimer, accordion, flute, or drum. Don’t be shy. Live a little. Some like to end this tour at the take out location with a stay at the Carnation Tree Farm’s Loft and/or enjoy a walk through quaint Carnation! We have even created this trip for wedding shower events! Just let us know what you have in mind.”


Maren: “I believe that our society is at the risk of losing its healthy living traditions. These traditions include not only the live performance of telling stories and singing songs, and ceremonies, but also human powered travel, such as canoeing, kayaking, biking, camping, trail making and walking. These traditions are threatened by computerization and automation, which is causing us to become detached from the actual world, from the visceral world, the living world. It seems that maintaining a knowledge of these traditions will require more people living intentional lives, and more people working to make traditions publicly accessible.”


Maren Van Nostrand padding in currents inside Deception Pass, WA.

Northwest Women in Boating invited Maren to speak on a panel of women adventurer boaters (Jan. 2014), and here’s what they have to say: “Maren Van Nostrand has paddled thousands of miles in her lifetime, including 1,300 miles from Glacier Bay to Puget Sound and many other trips as guide and adventurer. Her career has focused on documenting and preserving these shorelines and the living traditions that take place along them….

…Maren Van Nostrand is a woman of the water. She grew up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes where she flourished in the outdoors as canoeist and guide. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Grinnell College, she continued her adventures by working as a community organizer in Southwest Chicago, circumnavigating Nova Scotia’s entire shoreline by bicycle, and assisting young women in building a log cabin in her home state of Minnesota. She moved to Seattle in 1990 and earned a Master of Urban Planning at the University of Washington where she also won a Faculty Medal Award for her writing on the impact of hydroelectric projects on northwest river tribes. This jump-started her 25-year career as an environmental impact specialist. During that time she took mini expeditions to climb Mount Rainer and Adams, and to canoe Canada’s Bowren Lakes and Stikine River. She took a five-month expedition in 1996 when she and her husband, Byron Ricks, gave up their apartment and paddled from Alaska to Seattle in two single kayaks. (You can see her illustrations in their book, Homelands, Kayaking the Inside Passage.) Having powered herself along thousands of miles of shoreline, Maren became a shoreline culture specialist throughout the Northwest. This included a three-month assignment as disaster responder for FEMA in typhoon-swept Saipan and Guam.”