Friday, June 20, 2014

The Edges of Understandings

I'm celebrating a month as an Alaskan this week.  It's been a sprint; it's been a wander; it's been exhaustion; it's been exhilaration; it's included moments of feeling stunned, and moments of feeling settled; it's been life.

Those of you who know me well, know my tipping point when it comes to being homeless…I'm a fabulous gypsy, but there comes a time when I need to lay it all down and settle into a space.  I've hit that place this week.   I'm scared to do an analysis of the ratio between "time spent in flux waiting for a home" and "time settled into a home" in my life. [Hell, maybe I should go ahead and do it; I might be surprised].  Well, I've hit the proverbial wall with my current instantiation of homelessness, but, there is light, yes.  There is mooring on the horizon.  And, being a woman of action, I am a squeaky wheel.   Response to the squeakiness has thus far been well-received, and things are moving forward.

So, amidst the unsettled-ness of my current world, I continue to walk through moments of awe and wow, and moments that remind me that I am on the edge of my understandings of the world around me here.

Some more observations:
1)  I asked students to share "interesting observations" from their weekends.  I got:  "I was having dinner at my fiancé's parents' house and we saw ten eagles descend on a bait ball and tear it to shreds"; "My daughter went out to our net-fishing camp with my sister's family for the next two weeks"; "we caught more king salmon this weekend than we ever have before;" "There's a construction crew in our village that is raising each of the houses eight feet off the ground…"  And I thought, shit, I've got some googling to do.  

2)  I have been running into these little mossy creatures who live in the woods--they are tree stumps (well, that fact has been wholly obscured by their full green regalia, but that's my assumption) --and I can't shake the fact that they are watching me from beneath the moss--I feel like they are nature's Ewoks.  

3)  The whales I am seeing are humpbacks (apparently--I've got a new "marine creatures handbook" that is helping me identify all of my new friends).  Their presence makes me feel tiny and huge at the same time (just as it is possible for me to feel utterly unsettled and completely at home at the same time.)  

4)  Tlingit people have two distinct moieties ("each of two parts into which a thing can be divided"):  the Eagle and the Raven.  These moieties are "love birds" apparently--and woo each other since you can only marry outside of your own moiety.  Within each moiety, there are different clans (all gloriously based on the animals of the region).  The Eagle and the Raven are each represented in totems throughout the region (including the front of the local Fred Meyer).  I appreciate the presence of each.

5)  That being said, I've also learned that the Raven's call can take multiple forms--almost like a mocking jay (Hunger Games nod).  The eagle, on the other hand, has a chirp that is seemingly at odds with its sheer physical strength--it's lilting and high pitched.  One of my coworkers came back in to the office after having said goodbye for the day.  Apparently, a raven told him to go back.  He returned for a time, but couldn't figure out why the raven had told him to, so he left again.  

6) It rains.  And people wear "XTRATUFS" (aka TUFS)--these brown rubber boots that are a staple in a Juneau wardrobe.  I have no Tufs (yet), but I am getting some good mileage out of my Bogs.   "Is it waterproof?" is a question I'm getting used to asking.

7)  My schedule is opening back up next week after three-weeks of intensive teaching and feeling as if I've built one too many planes while flying.  I have a lot to learn.

8)  Speaking of planes, Alaska Airlines throws "Thank you" parties for its loyal customers (which is funny, since in Juneau you don't have another choice--except in summer, when Delta also flies in and out).  I attended one as a guest this evening with a colleague and his wife who are in the Million mile cohort--since the choices are only air or water in and out of this place, the airline has a good thing going.

9)  When I do unpack my car and move into my new house, you can bet it's going to be a darn long time before I decide to pack it back up again.  I've got enough to learn here to last me at least a decade (at least).

10)  It rains.  Thank goodness...  Or the 20,000 people who pass by here in cruise ships (um, 1500 crew + approximately 2500 passengers per boat…with 3-5 pulling in each day…) might decide to stay….and I am awfully fond of low population density...  That being said, standing in line at the grocery, or walking around downtown, I'm constantly in a swirl of languages from around the world…interesting sub-culture this cruise ship world.

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