Heather Lende

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Haines author Heather Lende's new book, "Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-town Obituary Writer," published by Algonquin Books.

The Good News

Recently, I was asked to write a short essay describing one piece of wisdom to live by. I thought about it but did not have a brief, easy answer. I have made enough mistakes in my life to fill a whole bookshelf of dos and don’ts. My friend John works as an investigator in the public defender’s office but is a poet. That is probably why he managed to distill all his fatherly hopes and dreams into two rules for his only child: “Be nice to the dog and don’t do meth.” His son turned out kind, clear-eyed, and he graduated from a good college...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I almost dyed my hair red a few weeks ago, to go with my new Irish accent. But in the way that family stories morph over time, it’s possible that even though I’m not Irish at all except by marriage (my husband’s grandmother was a Fitzpatrick), someday my grandchildren may recall that their “Mimi” spoke “Irish.”...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- Lifelong Alaskan Rosemary McGuire, 38, who grew up in a home here without electricity or running water, has commercially fished out of Cordova, paddled miles of wild Alaskan rivers (many of them with her dad, Tom), and now -- to no one’s surprise -- published a book of Alaska short stories. “Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea” comes out this month from the University of Alaska Press. “Everything I’ve ever written has been about Alaska in some way or another. It’s the place I know,” McGuire says...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I’ve been looking at the storefront windows displaying local artwork on Main Street, and thinking about how well they reflect the spirit of this town, in a way that reminds me of something some wise person once wrote about the eyes being windows to the soul.

Actually, it was Shakespeare. I didn’t have that ready reference in my soggy brain (it has been raining here for weeks) so I Googled it. Before the Internet, I would have run to the library to look that up. Also, thanks to my laptop and free shipping, I can buy dog food and laundry soap without going to the grocery store...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I try to see the bright side of things, so it may be no surprise that my year in review from Haines, this fishing and tourist town of about 2,500 people, is a (sort of) top 10 of 2014...

Heather Lende

The power went out at night earlier this week and I woke up when the low hum of the fridge stopped and the computer beeped, thinking I need to get it together for Thanksgiving and started making mental lists: Brine the turkey (at least it is thawed). Make that new wild rice and quinoa dish that cooks inside its own green pumpkin-like squash that I want to try because my friend Beth said it is really good, and I can make it a day ahead. Wash the napkins. Make sure there is a comfortable rocker for Eliza and baby James. (Yes, my daughter and her 1-month-old are coming from Juneau, so there will five children under four. Maybe I should just put a roll of paper towels on the table?)...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- When the Chilkat Valley News comes out on Thursdays, I read every word right through the “unclassified” ads section, and then re-read the best parts out loud to my husband.

Election results always make the front page. We have a new mayor. Jan Hill, who owns a bead shop, is active on lots of regional boards and has been mayor before, defeated incumbent Stephanie Scott, a retired teacher who has a flower farm, 551-473.

There were no headlines or commentaries about the significance of having two women vying for our top elected office, or that our new mayor is a Native woman. What’s more, the brides in Haines’ first same-sex marriage were bold-faced in the “Duly Noted” social column of the paper, just like any other wedding party. That’s progress...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I sat on the moss, watching my husband cup his hands and make the long nasal whine of a cow moose in heat, and though it is usually kind of funny, I hope he didn’t notice my tears. I can’t help it. Three months ago, Chip couldn’t take a deep breath...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- We never had those dog days of summer, although every day is a dog day in a town with 1,897 dogs and 2,400 people.

But we had plenty of duck days, breaking the summer rainfall record. While out walking with my retriever Pearl, I saw Paul Swift, who measures precipitation for the National Weather Service down in Juneau with his wife, Annie, and their old heeler Sissy. He said we had 16.87 inches in June, July and August. The wettest summer prior to this one was a half-century ago.

Paul and I are glass-half-full people, so I asked if this much rain is good for anything except slugs in the kale and he said, “The vegetation really took off.”...

Heather Lende

Is it a coincidence that I have walked down the same path nearly every day for 15 years or so, and have never seen the root holding the big rock, bigger than a bowling ball, skyward, just a few feet off the trail, until two days ago? And now I cannot miss it. Even odder, my dog-walking friend noticed it the same day -- and we even wondered if high tides could have tossed the log up. Or the wind. Or a bear. But when we investigated, it clearly has been on that spot a long, long time...

Heather Lende

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