HAINES -- Joanie is volunteering on the radio this morning. "Playing music that I like, and I hope you do too" is how she puts it. I'm singing along, loudly, with Nanci Griffith as she promises to travel back to Georgia and take me with her.
I've also been singing "Dona nobis pacem" when the radio isn't on. That's Latin for "give us peace." We sang it at choir practice this week, where I learned that our director, Nancy Nash, has something in common with Barack Obama. She showed us an old black-and-white photo of her much-younger self singing with Bill Ayers, the anti-Vietnam War radical turned college professor with ties to Obama who Sarah Palin keeps talking about.
All of us were suddenly aware that even something as simple as this association in Nancy's youth could be used by our governor to argue that she's a terrorist. Nancy is my children's beloved piano teacher. She's our church music director and plays and sings the Alaska flag song at community events. It was almost funny to think about the weird connection. But it really isn't, considering what kind of campaign our governor is running and how it reflects on other Alaska small-town moms. I'm so upset I've got hives.
There's that, and the grocery store is plastered with Republican candidate signs. I like to tease the owner that my vote will cancel his out. The way he laughs makes me hope he's having second thoughts about the top of the ticket. Over coffee with women friends, we strategize about making deals with our more conservative husbands, like if they vote blue for president we'll vote red in lesser races. One red friend said this week he'll never vote blue but he can't vote for this red presidential pair either, so he's just not going to vote. That's what it has come to.
I was trying not to think about all that and was looking for more calamine lotion when Joanie played the Beatles tune about fixing a hole where the rain gets in. It's raining hard again, but my house is warm and dry.
It is also cleaner than it has been in months, thanks to the annual Hospice of Haines volunteer appreciation dinner we hosted Sunday afternoon. About 35 volunteers showed up for halibut, salads and side dishes made by the board, which I'm also on. Shannon, who coordinates our all-volunteer hospice and its "bridge" program that assists older folks with errands and chores or just provides company, made chocolate truffles "to die for," someone -- definitely not sweet Shannon -- joked. Shannon is so nice that she says "They passed" when a hospice client dies. She even baked an angel food cake for non-chocolate eaters.
All I did was make the coffee and clean like crazy. I picked up, dusted, washed the floor and trimmed up the last of the blooming geraniums and set them about artfully. I even threw all the coats and shoes out of the entryway down to the cellar for the day.
I would have made deviled eggs, but my new hens haven't laid any yet. The chickens look big and beautiful and appear healthy. It's been about six months since they were chicks, but there are no eggs.
I blame the bear, the big brown one that keeps breaking into the coop. He has scared them eggless. He broke through the boards that make up the Dutch door a month ago, but we caught him and he ran away. After that we strung up an electric fence, which, combined with a large barking dog, has kept him at least from killing the chickens, although the emotional trauma is apparently taking its toll.
After cleaning my house for the hospice party, I cleaned theirs, shoveling out soiled sawdust and replacing it with bright-smelling spruce shavings from the small sawmill near the fairgrounds. I didn't hook the fence back up because I figured our bear had gone fishing with the rest of them. That night he returned and bashed in the bottom of the door again but thankfully didn't harm one feathered head. He took off when the dog barked and my husband yelled out the window.
Which gave me something to talk about at the party and a lot more to think about afterward. Worrying about a bad thing that might happen does affect you physically. Witness my hives and the hens' empty egg box. Singing about anything makes your heart lighter, and doing good things for your neighbors, like being a hospice volunteer, changes the whole world for the better. It has got to. As Margaret Mead said, it is the only thing that really can.
So I'm going to be much more selective about how much I read and watch the news until the election is over, but I'll still listen to Joanie on the radio. Did I tell you she is also a hospice volunteer? She's signing off now with her theme song -- "It's a good day for singing a song, a good day for moving along ..." -- which works better on my hives than an antihistamine. I may sing it to my chickens too. I think I'll even keep humming it as I pin an Obama button to my raincoat and shop at my favorite McCain-Palin grocery store.
Heather Lende lives and writes in Haines and is the author of "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.