Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
This is the time of year when college students come home for the holidays. They board metal planes that take them back to the 'tiny' villages.
I can remember vividly what it was like. My brain would be in shock for a few days as I exchanged one world for another. I would be uncomfortable as I greeted people that felt a bit like strangers, almost as if we were separated by the books that I read for my courses. It was never a simple enjoyable homecoming to family and friends that you saw on the movies. It was always something I had to brace myself for, to push through the waves of different reactions that bloomed around me. You never knew how some people were going to react, what uncomfortable words would come out of their mouths.
The holidays always left me emotionally exhausted. I was greeted one moment with a hug and a handshake, words of awkward encouragement in the air, and the next with belittling words whispered just loud enough for me to hear as they passed by. Usually it was something about being 'better than' or 'stuck up', followed by giggles or grins. These words were spoken by adults and young people alike, though I suspect the younger ones were only mimicking the adults.
To me it was worth it, to find a few tiny gems of acceptance and love in the crowd of confusion, like pearls of Faith.
It always made me wonder where it all came from. What did they see in me that prompted such words and reactions. Some people would say it was jealousy, but jealousy is wanting what someone else has and I never sensed that they wanted my experience.
I think part of it is also that people do not talk of what their experiences are away from home. What they went through to get an education . What the cost was. It is assumed that if you are being successful in college than you are enjoying yourself, being bathed in city lights and dancing in paved streets. But of course none of that is true.
Everything worth it requires sacrifice.
My degree was paid for in tears. In long nights wishing I had less courage and determination. It was paid for in dreams of being just a tad less smart, and confusion about what my purpose would be. It was paid for in battle, between two worlds trying to fit like a puzzle made of ever changing clay. It was paid for by learning utter loneliness, or what felt like it compared to the strength and bonds I felt from my culture and people before I left.
In our new world we have need of Guardians. Guardians to fend off the worst of the storm that is the modern world, threatening to erode our Uniqueness and Difference. But these Guardians are few, and these Guardians bear a heavy weight and will earn many many scars.
In this Holiday season, I would hope if you know one, you will lessen their scars, lessen their wounds by not adding to them. By realizing that without them there would be nothing but uncertain blackness as a future. By understanding the Price.
And when, or if, they return to fight on the Home turf, that you are willing to greet them with Understanding and Acceptance. And let that be your sacrifice.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Somewhere along the way I forgot that I take pictures....
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
The man sits on splintery wood, painted long ago but now abused to the color of week old bruises. The steps behind him lead to nowhere and the staircase railing tower on each side of him, creating a sad throne of sorts. The smell of alcohol surrounds him, like a coiling dragon, purring sweet lies to his body and his soul. His once carefully groomed hair is in disarray, like the mind beneath it. For a second he glances up in response to the noise of a car passing by, his head lolls to the side and a single gleaming trail of drool wets his chin. For a moment you can see his eyes as they darted about in panic, normally brown and clear, they held focus on nothing as the whites of his eyes gleamed in the coming dark. Like an animal of sort, he was lost in the darkness of the unaware.
He felt as he should feel some inkling of shame, and yet he felt none.
A whisper of danger coming, was quickly snapped up by the dragons claws.
He let his gaze wonder in front of him, and fought down the bile that was the dragon's payment. In front of him stood an old woman, her hair neatly braided on each side of her weathered face, it gleamed silver in the waning light. Her clothes were made of caribou skin, and seemed odd to the man. Her voice was patient and warm, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here when the geese are flying, and the caribou walk?"
The man gargles on the spittle in his mouth for a moment and then replies in a slurred and whining voice, "My life is too complicated old fool, I have too much to think about, too many problems." And with that he flung a hand in front of him and she disappeared like fog.
And in her place stood a child, boy or girl you could not tell. The child's hair was a black as a raven's wing, and small brown hands were shoved into dirty jeans. Its face was smooth and rounded, and wide brown eyes stared at the man. The child's voice was sweet like the singing of the snowbirds in the spring, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and not make a place for me to live, so that I can love what is around me? Who will teach me to care?"
The man grew angry and his voice growled into the night, "Go home fucken kid, I don't care and neither should you!" And again his hand clumsily waved the child away, and it disappeared like fog.
And in the child's place arose a beautiful woman. Her long black hair smelled of the tundra and snow, and her arms promised warmth from cold nights and harsh words. Her voice was soft and concerned, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and not create a place for us to be proud? What mark will we place in this world?" The man blinked and his hands flexed, "If you want to party you can stay," he laughed a little at this, "Don' expect me to keep any promises though." And he laughed a laugh filled with phlegm, and the woman turned her face from him and disappeared.
And in her place stood an old man, his face worn from sunlight and lined from laughter. His body was still well muscled and he carried himself with pride and knowledge. His voice held strength and courage, and challenged the man like a crouched wolf, "Why does an Inupiaq man sit here and shame our ancestors? Why does he become less than man and more like beast?"
The man's face became red with drunken fury and he lashed out with awkward blows and grunted his reply, "Get away! Don't care about me! Fucken don't even know what I go through!" But the old man had disappeared long ago into the fog.
No more visions appeared for a moment, and the drunk settled himself against one of the railings, sloppily wiping drool from his chin. He waited for friends that would not come, because they had already used him for what money he had. But he did not know this and so he waited. People walking the street avoided him and walked on the other side of the street, teenagers snickered behind hands and yet they feared they too would become him one day.
And yet the man waited.
When the street cleared a young man appeared in front of the drunk. His body was lean and filled with the confidence of youth. Laughter sparkled in his eyes and his voice held the excitement of the first hunt, "What's up man? Why does an Inupiaq man sit here drunk?" The man frowned at the youth, his muddled mind confused, was this one of his friends? The youth sat down next to the man, swift as a cat. Again the sparkling voice asked, "Why you get drunk man?"
The man snorted and giggled a little, "A man's gotta relax, get away from life you know. Fucken stress tomorrow though." And thinking this was funny he laughed again.
"Why you stressed?" The youth asked quietly.
"Why? Cause' I got no life, no job, no nothin'. Jus' bills and stress, fucken everybody looking down on me like I'm a loser. Gotta' relax and let it just go away you know?"
The young man stood up so fast the drunk couldn't focus his eyes on the lean figure. His back was taut with anger. His voice sparkled with regret this time and his next words were said slowly, as if he was speaking to an infant,"You ain't got nothing cause no one gives anything to a drunk, and you need others to be me. You drink cause you have nothing, and yet you get nothing if you drink. Sad, sad man will never be me." And before the drunk could reply the youth was gone.
Alone and sobering up the drunk paused and blinked. That Western dragon called to him in a slow welcoming voice. The dragon was quieting and this made him worried. In his head he heard the voices, felt their need in his bones, and yet he was afraid. The dragon got rid of fear.
Alone… he wanted.
Monday, October 4, 2010
We entered a small valley called "Big contact", not expecting the show put on by nature. The mountain to our right glowed a unusual blue. An intense blue.
The mountain had gathered the fog amongst it's peak, and the blue sky above it was reflected in the bulk of moisture droplets.
Farther in the valley we were greeted by a beam of light cresting over the mountain. I commented to my husband that it wouldn't be weird if a mythical beast arose out of this beam of light. Maybe the Dall Sheep Umailik (chief), or the Old Eagle Mother....or maybe even a ice gilded dragon.
We stopped frequently to look far down the valley with binoculars. This let the pups rest and play, and gave us some time to make sure that a brown bear wasn't up ahead, and to make sure if there were caribou in our trail we wouldn't scare them.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Some nights in the village. Some nights we make sure the doors are closed and locked tight. We take the keys from our vehicles in our front yard. Things that take a minute or two. Nothing drastic.
But some nights are different than others. Some nights while chatting with family we hear about how someone has brought burning coals to the village, to set fires of destruction. So we lock our doors to make sure the fire does not spread, so that it does not burn what we love.
Such small things that we do. Small things are all that you can do sometimes.
We must become willing learners and willing teachers.
My parents taught me a few things, these things I hold close to my forever life. They loved me so much that they taught me to be sad. Sounds weird, and obvious, I know. My parents taught me to mourn. They taught me how to cry. They taught me that it is a special thing that I can do, one that is almost uniquely human, a gift from every God and Deity. When the first dog I ever loved died when I was very young, my father shed heavy tears, and held me close. He showed me it was okay to express sadness, he showed me how to make it paint my world. He showed me it was okay for these painful things to exist. And when my mother died, she showed me that I could survive even the most painful things. The things I thought no one should survive. She taught me that pain can be used to fuel brighter things, better things, and that death can leave behind seeds of hope and wonder. That we are but what is left behind in the hearts and actions of those that loved us.
How can some people burn these gifts from their parents in a haze of numbness and alcohol?
My friends taught me a few things, these things I hold close to my forever laugh. They loved me so much that they taught me how to have fun. Sounds plain and silly, I know. My friends taught me how to enjoy this world. They taught me what it was like to laugh so hard I cried. They taught me that it was a special thing, a gift from every God and Deity. Something unique and wonderful and ME. When the summer days were long they came and showed me that fun was exploring old buildings, trapping ground squirrels, and laughing at the silliest of words and gestures. They showed me it was okay to find fun in things that some people thought were boring or empty. And when I left and they moved they also taught me that I could make new friends, and find new things that were fun, if only I was brave enough and unafraid. They taught me that fun and excitement could exist without hurting others or myself, and that it could last forever, like those long summer days.
How can some people burn these gifts from their friends, in the acid lake of unhappiness?
My Love taught me a few things, these things I hold close to my forever Happy. He loved me so much that he taught me how to be Happy. Sounds small and weak, I know. My Love taught me how to be at peace with my life. He taught me how to find actions that added a drop of Happiness to my soul, so that these drops could become a lake. He taught me that it was a special thing, this ability and opportunity to be Happy, a gift to myself, from myself. Something that had no keys, no locks, no codes. When I wrapped all the bad things in my life around me like a sodden blanket, he showed me that I was the one holding that blanket, with clawed fingers. And that it didn’t make me a bad person to let it fall to the ground. He showed me that my happiness was hard work, and needed to be tended to like a fragile plant, and that if I fed it anger and hate and confusion, it would shrivel and blacken. He showed me that happiness was real, and not some fairy tale.
How can some people burn these gifts from the people that love them, in the coals of bootleggers and pimps of self destruction?
We must become willing learners and willing teachers.
We must teach each other how to mourn, how to have fun, how to be happy, without drugs. Without booze. We must teach each other that we can have these things, without running the risk of causing pain on each other.
Our Inupiat ancestors knew these ways, knew them and rejoiced in their ability to experience them. We need to stop trying to be something other than Inupiaq, something other than brown skinned, arctic legends ...in self made prisons.