Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Mouse Mother

H. gave me another story. He told this one to all his kids. It is winter. A mouse asks her child to help with the work. The mouse child says he doesn’t want to. He runs off to play. He slides down a hill and loses his arm. He slides down again and loses his other arm. He keeps sliding and loses first one leg and then the other. Finally he loses his head. Sit awhile with this story.

H., who has visited all over the country, says that the lower 48 is just full of legends, too. Only thing is, nobody tells them. Perhaps that's because we're not ready to hear them.

Turns out that the drop in house prices is a California thing. The statistics are not by state, but by region, and California's housing drop has brought down Oregon, Washington and Alaska, too. What did you expect?

I’ve now been one full week in Grayling. The weather turned hot today. I don’t know if any moose flies came out, but the local yellow jacket did. I can now officially swear to you that they aren’t telling tall tales about the size of Alaska insects. Honest – he’s the size of a grasshopper. No buzz, either. He flies silent on huge burgundy wings, a dark thing with yellow stripes. Yes, he could make a moose jump. And he certainly did me.

One of my little girls discovered a weasel in the family smokehouse this morning, feasting on a fish that had “fallen” from the drying rack. She lives practically next door, and I thought I heard something sniffing around last night. In other magic moments with creatures, a little brown thrush led me through a path in the woods, flapping ahead, waiting for me to catch up, flapping ahead, waiting and so on, until we arrived at the main road. I seem to recall such little birds in fairy tales acting as helpers to the lost finding their way. According to local lore, when the little birds are all singing, it means the river is full of fish. The birds have been very quiet today. But then, so have the fish. In yet another feat of engineering, a crew came in and improved the airport road. This involved rerouting the creek and building a new bridge. In rerouting the creek, they made it much shallower. What was once a deep river filled with hundreds of fish is now a shallow river with very few fish. Humpies (so called because of a hump on their shoulders) come up the creek, spawn and die. You can see them down on the bottom, the current gently covering them with silt. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

Last night, Susan was so kind as to make extra fish balls and fried rice for my supper. She told me that here eleven year old granddaughter likes them because they look like junk food, but, since they are really fresh caught, it’s stealth health. Tonight I feasted on Bel's ribs, macaroni and cheese and a fresh biscuit. I’m not sure I ever fully appreciated the gift of fresh food quite this much.

Since Kathleen was so kind as to give me her number, I finally called up Judith Lethene. Before moving down to Seldovia with her husband, Judith served as priest for the Lower Yukon: Grayling, Anvik and Shageluk. Like many people, she wondered what I as a Californian was doing in Alaska. I told her what you have all heard, that I love this place and its people. She said she wished that more people could share this love. H., who sees through me, says that I’m really here to receive a gift. I think so, too.

I’m going to bed early. Feels like the expected head cold has at last found me. Blessings.

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