I hadn’t thought much about Alaska until recently with my 101 Things and the photo of me and my housemates Tahitian dancing at the Moose Lodge Luau. It was an incredible time in my life. Never have I lived with such beauty and such sadness. Alaska had, and may still have, the highest rate of domestic violence, child abuse, child sexual abuse, sexual assault and suicide among youth.
I lived in a town called Sitka, on Baranof Island. With a population of less than 9,000 and less than 14 miles of paved road–Sitka is pretty isolated. My housemates and I, four white kids from "down south", stuck out. We received room and board and a monthly stipend of about $30. As there wasn’t a lot to do, I saved my money and bought a bike when I got back to NY.
I worked as a Woman’s Advocate and Coordinator of Education and Outreach. In many ways it was a difficult job. For obvious reasons, of course but in more subtle ways too. I had never been married. I was white. I was young and privileged. The director even had a problem with me–which isn’t unusual–I can definately rub people the wrong way.
I enjoyed my job though. I loved the children. Their strength and their willingness to love and be loved in a world of violence and hate inspired and moved me. I wanted to adopt them all. Thus the desire for 7 kids in my 101 things! One little boy was brain damaged after his stepfather put his head through the bathroom wall. He said he felt his brains move. He was a cuddler and I adored him. One little girl had iron marks on her back and her upper arms from her mother–you could even see the circles where the steam comes out of the iron.
Amidst such sadness there was beauty. The beauty of the eyes of a child and a woman finding her inner strength and courage. And there was the beauty of the land. Never have I lived in such splendor. The skies were clear, the moutains high. Eagles soared. It was lush and green. It rained almost everyday. It was refreshing.
I was out running errands today and as I walked out of the grocery store, a woman was walking in. She looked like a former resident of the shelter, a woman who didn’t like white people. She and the director were good friends and the director said the woman would never like me. She and I became friends and she would visit me on my evening shift and have dinner with me. I was so thrilled that a woman as strong and proud as she would call me a friend.
I went back to Sitka with Gracie when she was about a year old. My dear friend, the former Children’s Program Coordinator lived there still. She taught me how to diaper and answer a crisis call. She is gone now and we have lost touch once again. Perhaps I will look her up. She has been on my mind since reading Margene’s 100 Things. My friend is a recovering Mormon.
It appears I have rambled on with no knitting content. I guess I needed to clear my soul and my head. I am just knitting Christmas scarves. I surfed around looking up St. Brigid knitters and see they are all busy doing other things as well. Perhaps after the holidays…