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Sunday, November 21, 2010

I forgot.....

Somewhere along the way I forgot that I take pictures....

We had a week where it was one long blizzard. When it cleared here and there I would peek out the window to check on the dogs. My hand would melt the ice covered glass.

One afternoon I looked out and saw what appeared to be a figure of light...dancing in a nearby valley.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

If we were only Japanese.....

I imagine if I wanted to go to Japan, I could find courses on how to behave without insult. I could learn how to bow just so, and just so many times. I could learn about the local foods, and how to pronounce their names. I could learn some of the language so that I could communicate a tad. I could even research the history of the people, and find out why in the world they have such crazy game shows. I imagine if I wanted to, I could find a million plus websites dedicated to just this singular culture.

I know if searched I could find only a minuscule amount of informational websites on my own culture. And usually they repeat what each other has said, like a phalanx of cookie cutter descriptions. Most of what is known about our culture and world is found in dusty history text books, and most of those are old, from the time when my mother was a child and further back. Why has the media ended one generation back?

The reason I write this though is not to contemplate the lack of media, as most people who know me know that I do help in my small way those paladins that are fighting to include Inupiaq media in our schools and in our lives. The reason I bring this up is to discuss the effects of having no access to, what I would think to be, critical information.

One of my family members was accused of being racist by a non-native. And it involved a very long hap-hazard conversation about why we can subsistence hunt and why he as a non-native could not subsistence hunt. He assumed it was the choice of the Natives around him. That it was type of conspiracy of monumental proportions, that we all met late at night and determined that he was unworthy of our favor.

Of course being native, my family member did what was culturally ingrained in him, he backed away from the conversation. Not because he was a racist and the non-native was right, but because we are taught from a very young age that confrontation is unwise and heated words are avoided, which stems from the fact that we will all live in a tiny village with these same people for most of our lives. Of course the non-native took this as admission that we were all racist.

The funny part is that if this non-native man had done any research (and found out that if he wanted to he could get a permit and hunt on certain lands), or had known how we differ culturally, no bad feelings would have come about. I imagine if his employer would have sent him a three page packet on the particular oddities about this place, and maybe a guide on activities to be enjoyed.....There would be no uncomfortable silences.

I always believed strongly that there should be a cultural orientation program of some sort for those that choose to work on the North Slope of Alaska. That this should be at least available for those that had interest in it. I'm betting the turnover would be reduced, and overall happiness increased. It would also make work to create a sense of respect for our culture, that it's differences are something to be enjoyed, and not something to be ground out with some tough elbow grease and sandpaper.

I always find it interesting that with all the money being tossed around for saving our culture in databases, and Big Oil trying to lube our grip on our lands with cash that no one has yet contemplated creating a guide for those to be thrown into a rich and wonderful culture.

What would it take to write a few pages on each village, to create a list of activities and how to go about doing them? to have available a guide that bridges the two worlds? When I was in college I spent 7 months in California and 5 months in the village each year for seven years straight, and believe me when I tell you that to succeed in either culture the tiny things matter and bring comfort, so that you may in fact enjoy the experience.

But some of you are saying..."but this is America."...and that we are all the same?

When I went to my best friends wedding in Louisiana, we had many conversations about what cultural differences I would encounter. Why? Well so I would not feel the fool of course! I was introduced to Southern sayings, and Cajun food etiquette (the things you did to a mud bug), that I would almost always be addressed as 'Miss Rainey', and told what to expect when they talked about a 'fish camp'. It is also some sort of competition on how hospitable you can be to your guests, and even though I thought they did way too much for little ol' me, I kept my mouth shut and just enjoyed it. I loved every single moment of that trip but I think if I went in cold, it would have been a much less enjoyable experience.

America is not ONE culture, it's a mash of hundreds of cultures. Yes we all can buy rice at the store, but I can imagine that some cultures don't eat it or they use it totally different than you would. Our places and people are more isolated than some, more rich than some, more engrained than some, which should be a good thing, an exciting thing.

Personally I think rice is pretty much the best thing for caribou soup......

Monday, November 1, 2010

The drunk.

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.

an older piece I wrote. One I think about a lot. I always wonder what happened to him. Where he ended up. Just thought I would share. I apologize for the swear words but when I put 'clean' words in there it never seems right.