Where Heaven is a local call.

Front Beach, Unalaska, Alaska.
Front Beach, Unalaska, Alaska.

In the throes of summer, where temps range from the low 40’s to the mid 60’s, time flies by.  It is a perfect time when the seas are just right, the clouds are high and scattered, the sun is shining, and the fish are running.  The grass is lush and green and wildflowers are full of bumblebees.  A spellbinding moment in time when the “other half” is patient and peaceful.  These are the times that I think of how my friend Tiny remarks on Unalaska’s spectacular beauty and how he believes that heaven is a local call.  He is so absolutely correct.

Nature has it right

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I am in awe of myself.  Not because of anything I am doing at the moment, but because of the amazing things I did in my twenties, thirties, and forties.  When my oldest child was 4 1/2, I gave birth to my third child.  It is true that once you have one child, adding to the mix is a piece of cake.  But…I stayed home for 6 years, (which has its own unique problems for a woman) until number three was 2 years old.  From that point on, I worked full-time, paying exorbitant amounts for daycare, and juggling our lives between traffic, school, homework, housework, and sanity.

Having experienced those now familiar institutions called separation and divorce, I did this juggling act pretty much on my own.  When number 3 was 4 years old, I took a look at myself, and the life I was going to be able to provide for my children and beat feet back to my home town in the Aleutians so that the kids could be raised near my family.  Wow!  What a difference.  No more daycare.  No traffic.  The kids walked to school.  Extended family was there.  The community was there.  Of course I added things to the mix, so instead of just working and raising 3 children, I also was on numerous boards and was very involved in revitalizing culture.  But I raised 3 kids who went to college, none of whom are in jail, and each is self-supporting.  Wow.

So I am feeling a little bit embarrassed about the fact that I am rooting for this horrendous storm that we are in the midst of to continue….at least until late tomorrow.  Why?  Because my number 2 daughter was just out of town for a week, leaving me in charge of her one and only 11 year old.  The plan was for her to come back on Friday, and then leave again on Monday for another week long business trip.  Well, this being the Aleutians, her flight was cancelled on Friday.  And on Saturday.  Now, any normal person would have just hung it up and continued on their way to Portland.  But this Aleutian woman that I raised finally made it home yesterday at about 2:40 in the afternoon.  And is schedule to leave sometime today.  I don’t know when.  She flies so much, she never knows her flight numbers and packs the day of her flights.  But after a week of being totally responsible for one child’s life, including feeding, homework, social activity, cleanliness, music lessons, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera….I really need a nap.  And a lazy day.  I want to throw in the towel.

I am really in awe of all those poor grandparents who have had to take on the role of parents in our society.  I have never been more aware of nature’s limitations on energy and patience.  The deja vu moments when you think, “Hey!  I’ve already done this!”  Yes, nature is right in making it more natural to have young when we are young.  I can manage to be an excellent caretaker for a while, but, yeah…..I’m ready for simply being there after school for 2 hours until mom gets off work.  That’s what I’m talking about.

Update:  The weather cleared up.  The planes flew.  My whining did no good.  But…I’m okay, lol, and SP is fine.

Words

Charles Henry Hope writes to his daughter in 1940.

Words can be the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal.  We saw this with great clarity during the last election cycle.  With our instantaneously connected social networks, we saw words used as both a way to lift up our spirits, hopes, and dreams, and in the next instant, as a pointed jousting lance, with the purpose of neatly disposing of an opponent.  I must admit, I’ve done both; but the feeling of content lasts much longer when I’ve used my words in a positive way.

My 83 year old mother recently brought over a copy of a letter that her father had written to one of her older sisters who was away at boarding school.  These words from 73 years ago were precious to my mother, so much so that she sent a copy to each of her four daughters.  She loved the way that her father captured the essence of each of his children in a few succinct words or phrases. It brought back memories of things she had forgotten, or things that were skirting on the edges of her mind; the precious memories of a time before her life was indelibly changed by a forced evacuation during WWII.  But those are words for another story.

I am in awe of my two daughters who have taken their words into song.  They can turn a phrase that will make you think deeply, or in another direction that will absolutely YANK at your heartstrings.  Their words will make you nod in agreement, or sigh with the feelings of love you didn’t know you were harboring.  Alena (Syverson) once wrote a song about the Bosnian conflict called Beautiful Blind Followers.  It was the song that Laresa (Syverson) later sang, noting that it was the song that sparked her interest to write her own songs.  Beautiful blind followers with crowded thoughts and frightened minds – took their chances on twisted lives; wasted their time.  Occupied dead souls keep their silence of thousands, of millions disappearing into the void…

I love that you can put down words, let them sit awhile, and think of better ways of putting them together to better convey what you are thinking or feeling.  My esteemed friend Jerah Chadwick is a wonderful poet, who after living in the Aleutians for 26 years, was well known for the way he integrated local culture and environment into his writing.  In After the Aleut, Jerah turns a phrase that comes back to me time and time again.  Say a woman once stepped from volcano steam, or a man from the sea, desiring to live among us.  I appreciate his ability to take pieces of oral storytelling and integrate those pieces into a contemporary conglomeration of great depth and feeling that speaks to me in ways that it doesn’t speak to other readers.  A true gift.

Words, so personal but so public.  Words, that for good or bad, shape lives.  As I get older I find that I choose my words much more carefully than I used to do.  But once I have chosen those words, I use them with abandon – without fear of outside opinions.  I find as I get older that I prefer listening to words that have been chosen well; those that can bring harmony to conflict.  Those words that give purpose to a life well lived.  Much like when Laresa sings in Light – as the years go rolling by we’ll stand beside this rising tide, we’ll plant our seeds so they won’t die and sail into the afterlife. Where maybe things won’t seem so bad, we won’t regret the lives we’ve had, and maybe that’s where I’ll see you the way I’ve always wanted to.