So, I've been meaning to write this blog for some time. Ever since I found the mallards back near our house and people were out seagull egg hunting for the salty sea-tasting flesh of the hard boiled eggs we grew up with.
Many things have happened since I thought about this post. Probably because I had already thought about it and now noticed the small-town-ish-ness of Kotzebue and my mental being was already writing it in my head.
So, I get plenty of questions from people who read this blog. Locals who want to know where the Caribou are, State Troopers investigating claims that me or my husband do things illegally (yes, I know who you are...), whether we live in igloos, and why I live still live here.
I recently read a book about an Amish family. Throughout the entire book I was drawn to the fact that they are so similar to the Inupiaq people. Simple, not a lot of Hoo-haw, and pretty much content on how they've been taught for thousands of years. They took it upon themselves to stay Simple. Plain.
Yesterday one of the camps up river caught fire in the main house and according to the BLM, the fire spread about 100 acres from that point toward the valley. Smoke jumpers from Galena were dispatched, but even before that, our town and the people who have camps on the river stopped what they were doing, and rushed out there. Never mind that gas costs us $6.70 a gallon and it would be probably $100 to go out there. Never mind that they had family commitments, work commitments, and the such. They went out there with hoses, buckets and pumps to try to save the camp and the land behind it.
Because that's what we do.
I attended a funeral on Saturday in Buckland and the entire region was mourning the passing. Everyone who was physically capable of going to the funeral went. Regardless of money, or time off, or family. Or political commitments.
Dean has been reading several historical books and periodicals about the Kobuk River Valley and even then, sixty years ago, one of the books states, "when someone dies, everyone in the village stops. Helps the family. They don't stop working for the family until well past the burial."
My grandfather gave that to my mom, through his actions when a community member passed. My mom showed me, and I am showing my children. When we plan something and I tell them that someone passed away, they know why I am at work long hours into the night. They understand. They want to help too.
When someone's house burns down, we stop what we're doing and helps that family. Donations from villages come of clothing, household supplies, furniture, etc. We look into our homes and see what they need and give it to them.
When kids have nothing to do on the weekends, we as parents gather together for impromptu softball tournaments, basketball games, ice fishing trips, hunting trips, sewing nights, dances, etc.
When elders have no meat, we give them what we have, because we are able bodied and can go and get more. Or if we can't get more at that time, we can at least afford to purchase some from the grocery store.
When community events go on, no child is turned away because of age or grade. When the rules are age 8-15, its really more like, age, whoever-can-come-and-have-fun-with-us. (Like Kaisa, who had her first softball game last night and was welcomed to the team, even though she's technically too young to play.)
When I didn't work for three months because of illness, my friends, my friends friends and their friends I didn't know came to my house to keep it going. Cooking, cleaning, taking photos of my kids at school, helping with homework, and giving us money to pay for bills. Some people I didn't even know.
When there is a child missing, our entire town stops working, goes home, and checks our homes, the homes around us and question our children about the whereabouts.
When my children are gone for two weeks of summer vacation/visits/camping, we still have three or four kids at our house at any given time, jumping on the trampoline, eating our food, playing with our kids toys.
And just like the ducks who migrate home every year to have their families, I always migrated back home to be with my family. Because no were I've ever lived has been like this. Orlando, Winter Park, La Grande, Anchorage, there is no such thing as a community in a big city. You'll never find what we have up here, down there. Sure, you may have a great circle of friends, or great church group. But no where in the world will you find a place like our region. Diverse in it's ethnicity, languages, colors, jobs, etc. But all family. Family who sometimes hate each other, but as soon as something happens, its water under the bridge, and we rebuild those relationships because we all come from the same place. A place where everyone helps everyone.
And I wouldn't have it any other way!
Jeremiah Berlin and Brysen Lee. A couple of normal teenaged boys singing, playing the guitar and piano. Except that Jerry is blind and Ray Charles has nothing on him. :)
*While the family was burying their father/grandfather/husband, we stayed in the gym to clean up. The most awesome sound came out of a corner of the gym, so we all stopped and stared. It was our own heaven right there.