Gratitude and Graciousness

In my last blog I mentioned how folks here have been holding their breath, waiting for the fall flooding to arrive – see Fall is Coming (the WIND is here) . The big flood came on Friday evening as a result of a new moon, strong winds, and driving rain, combined with a +11.25′ high tide. This made for many feet of water all over the place, up to chest high in places, sliding along on top of the previously frozen and only slightly thawed land. The school gym was opened for families who needed shelter during the height of the flood and we were able to graciously provide assistance for those in need.


(Above: Water outside our home – October 28)

The next morning we discovered up-ended boats where they are not usually found, loose dogs, missing boardwalks, overturned sewage dumpsters, and drifts of trash all through the village. The Tundra has returned to her regal fall beauty except for the addition of jelly-fish scattered through the grasses and in the ponds. These crystal-like plankton jewels dot the Tundra like gems in a crown – a testament to how far inland and how high the ocean rose. Today, the sea gulls are unceremoniously feasting on them.


(Above: After the flood – October 29)

As I write this there are many things for which I am grateful. I am grateful there were no severe injuries to any of the villagers – despite a couple of close calls. I am grateful for our dwelling which has withstood storms and floods before. And mostly, I am grateful to be witnessing the ferocity with which the seasons change and the stories they bring with them.

This fall’s flood is not the first one, nor is it the second. This fall’s flood is another in a long line of floods told about for the past 4,000 years. Living on a land which has experienced this recurring cycle for so many years is comforting, even though the weather and its upheavals is not. It is reassuring that people can say, “First comes the wind and rain. Then comes the freezing. Then the little thaw and then the flood. After the flood then comes winter.” After how many times this has happened, it is part of the story of the land, the story of the people. And really, that’s the part that many do not recognize; that the story of the land IS the story of the people. They are not separate and as a guest in this story, I am grateful to be able to play the part of witness to something which is much older and bigger than my lifetime.

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(Above: The freezing – October 22)


(Above: A little thawing – October 23)

There is the uncomfortable knowing that the drama has changed, and is continuing to change, in the past few years due to warming. The flood on Friday was, “The worst anyone has ever seen.” The cycle is changing and no one is really sure how that will affect the story or its outcome. Will it return to how it has been for the past 4000 years or will it be a mystery to discover? Perhaps the liturgy of the weather cycle and when winter comes will change, perhaps the knowing about what comes next will not be as sure, or as insightful. Perhaps, with the warming of the Tundra, people will not be able to live here the way they have always lived. I wonder if there is a construct for the new part of this story. I also wonder if we will have another flood this evening….


(Above: The Graves at sunset – October 24)

Currently the wind is blowing HARD! The rain is coming DOWN! And the tide is coming IN. This is the same story that just happened two nights ago, so we will see what happens next.

In the meantime, I am grateful for the generator which ensures we have heat and lights. I am grateful that our weekly baking is done so we will have bread to eat. I am grateful that my rain gear is ready and I am rested in case we’re called upon to assist in providing shelter at the school for those who are flooded out of their homes. I’m grateful to have renewed my first aid card before leaving Renton (Thank you, CD), and mostly I am grateful to bear witness to the changes in the land as it is happening.


(Above: Kipnik at Sunset October 13)

Next Time: Life and Its Surprises

Fall is Coming (the WIND is here)!

Fall is here! The lush grasses of the tundra have turned orange and gold, seemingly overnight. We are losing about an hour of daylight each week and are down to 10 hours of daylight today. The temperatures have dipped into the 20’s and 30’s on several occasions and the boardwalk is slippery both morning and evening. Isabella doesn’t care as she is happy to finally be able to put her heavy Akita coat to good use. She loves the colder weather and can’t wait for her daily walks even when we walk in the dark.

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(The tundra dressed in reds and golds that match Isabella’s heavy coat)

The highlight of September and October has been the wind. The wind is one of the defining factors of our lives. A few weeks ago I experienced my first side-ways landing due to high winds coming in from the West  (35-45 mph) and a N-S runway. The pilot brought us in  hot, perpendicular to the end of the runway, banked at the last moment and dropped onto the ground. There is a skill to this which bush pilots have mastered – performing this type of difficult landing, while simultaneously being calm so their passengers are less likely to panic and/or throw up. It was exciting and at least it wasn’t raining when we hit the ground.

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(In between storms — a brief interlude)

We are in between storms of pelting rain and 50+ mph winds and have been experiencing some beautiful clear days. However, during the storms our house felt like we were on a boat rocking back and forth as the rain pelted sideways into our home.  Due to the severe nature of the storms, the school generator has been going since last Friday afternoon to ensure we have lights and heat.

Here, when the wind changes direction and is blowing in from the Southwest, we can expect heavy flooding. Everyone seems to be holding their breath for the fall flood to come so that we can then move on to winter. During the storms the river and streams rose quite high and there was some flooding, but nothing so serious that we had to cancel school, or evacuate housing.

A few years back there was an unusual occurrence involving the wind.  One of the men I work with told us about the wind that knocked his house off the supports (stilts) a few years back. Of course Greg and I came home and looked under our house right away to verify it was attached to the posts. Whew! It really is. It just moves a lot!

With all the heavy rain and wind, internet had been down, cell service intermittent, and planes grounded.This made mail and supplies iffy on more than one occasion. Once the weather cleared, we had lots of planes of people and supplies come in. Folks are happy to be home to the village and to see supplies on the shelves at Corp and the other stores. A refueling barge made it’s way up-river to top off the tanks so that we can make it through the winter. It’s getting pretty late in the season to see barges on the river so it’s probably one of the last until spring. fall-collage

(Refueling barge, the full river with Turn Mountain in the distance)

About three weeks ago, Greg went hunting and got the smallest duck imaginable. It’s called a green-winged teal. We’ve nicknamed this type of duck, “Tiny but Tasty” as it’s the best duck we’ve ever eaten. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve had to pluck anything, fortunately I remembered how to do it pretty quickly. This was quickly followed by the gift of two geese (Dutes as opposed to Nukluks) which I was also able to manage to pluck while getting feathers ALL over the place.  While we would like to get a few more birds in the freezer before winter, it’s challenging because hunting and gathering on Sunday is frowned upon and it’s one of the best days we have available to do this.  But alas, winter is coming and our feathered friends will soon fly south to hang out in the lower 48 (aka America).

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(Full moon rising, the graves in the moonlight, layers of twilight)

Last night, while walking in the moonlight, we heard a flock of geese flying over us in the dark. Their calls and sounds were eerie in the stillness. We will miss them when they go. The tundra will echo with the subsequent silence and all that will be left is the wind through the grasses.

School is going really well. Always lots to do and learn. Friday was the end of the first quarter. Wow! Already 1/4 done. It’s going by too fast. And while I work long hours everyday, there is just work, home, and the tundra.  Greg is now the official FLL coach for team #516. He’s AWESOME and having a lot of fun as well! He is a natural with kids and computers and it’s nice that he gets the time and space to enjoy something different!

The simplicity of our existence FEELS relaxed and manageable. In general, it’s still the most amazing place we’ve ever lived and is perfect for this time in our lives!

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(Modeling our new Seal-skin slippers, the view from the front window of the school)


(A Sunday walk chasing the sun between the storms)

Next Time: Gratitude and graciousness