Heather Lende

HAINES -- My daughter and I are skiing out on the golf course where volunteers have set a track all winter, when she asks what I'm thinking about. It is almost sunny and very bright, the way it gets in March when spring light returns. I could tell her I'm remembering my own freshman year at college, which wasn't much fun, and how homesick I was too. But we've talked enough about that. So I tell her about the short story I'm writing for my creative writing class. The main characters are at a one-room airport office just like the one in Haines and have the opportunity to talk because the plane they are both waiting for is stuck in Juneau on a weather hold. I have a feeling she hopes that her plane back to school gets canceled and that all planes out of here are grounded and that the ferries...Heather Lende
HAINES -- Mayor Bruce Botelho is reason enough for the capital to stay in Juneau. He should be declared Mayor for Life. I'm half kidding, since I don't know a thing about the man's politics, except that he stays out of the headlines and the punch lines. I am a fan based solely on the welcome speech he gave Monday at the 2009 Poetry Out Loud Statewide Finals held at the old armory that is now the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. I assumed he would recognize the sponsors of this nationwide poetry recitation contest for high school students -- the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Foundation, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Alaska State Writing Consortium and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council -- and then mumble something about poetry being a good thing and "God Bless...Heather Lende
HAINES -- I'm still hearing the drone of the crowd and an occasional whistle after four days and nights of high school basketball games. During the 3A/4A Southeast Alaska high school basketball tournament last week the Ketchikan gym was full every night, and most afternoons, and it holds 2,500 fans. That's more people than live in Haines. The school also housed out about 600 more from Tuesday night thru Sunday morning. All of the students arrived on this little island city in the Tongass rainforest by boat or plane, hauling duffels, sleeping bags, and if they are in a pep band (each school sends one), musical instruments. The Juneau cheer and dance squad even brought a U-Haul for props. Many of the athletes and entertainers arrived with their parents, grandparents and a sibling or two,...Heather Lende
HAINES -- My friend Joanne called Saturday night to ask if I saw what she saw in the sky. I was at the table, just finishing a moose stew dinner with the family and listening to the play-by-play on KHNS of the girls' high school basketball game down in Craig, on Prince of Wales Island. I hadn't been outside since an afternoon ski along the beach around Jones Point to the set tracks on the golf course and back. Then, the sun had been shining on white snow and it felt like spring, especially with the wind at my back. Now, I took the phone out on the back porch and looked up. "See it?" Joanne said. "No," I replied. "You've got to, it's the brightest thing out there," she said. Then I went back in and got a coat and my glasses and binoculars. With the phone in one hand and the binocs in the...Heather Lende
HAINES -- Tuesday morning we were working on the logistics of another school day that revolves around a senior in high school's schedule of school, basketball practice and homework, when my husband sighed, "We should be in New Orleans. We could be on Bourbon Street listening to jazz tonight." I said, "Let's go." He said, "We're too late now." The next day was the start of Lent and the end of the Mardi Gras party. Besides we spent the dream trip airfare money on vet bills for a cheerful big black dog who should be landing at our airport any minute now with a fresh bandage and more antibiotics from the animal hospital in Juneau. The last time, the vet took off the end of his toe; now it has been removed to the knuckle. At this rate, by May we'll have a three-legged dog and the homesick...Heather Lende
HAINES -- There is so much to do in Haines that it is hard to choose, especially when the sun comes out and a head cold moves in. I should have been in bed, but I took a gentle ski under the bright blue sky at the golf course. After a nap, I went to the high school boys' basketball game. I missed the fourth grade's pancake breakfast, but I did attend the Arts Council's Northern Lights Showcase, an all-star night of local talent. I have heard, and have no reason to believe it is not true, that Haines has more artists per capita than any town in America. If this evening is any indication, the Haines Borough is among the largest employers of artsy types, with the lounge-singing borough clerk Julie Cozzi; poet Pizza Joe, the assistant harbormaster; and pianist and borough project coordinator...Heather Lende
HAINES -- The other night when the power went out I thought of the Emily Dickinson poem, "We grow accustomed to the dark -- When light is put away," because that is exactly what happened. Our women's choir was upstairs in the Sheldon Museum, surrounded by Chilkat Blankets, the original lens from the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, bear skin rugs and Haines' first snowmachine (it had an airplane propeller on the front). We were just about to learn a new song when the lights went out. Nancy, our director, who also works at the museum, ran to the basement to be sure the fire suppression system didn't go off. There was some stumbling in the dark until Nancy's daughter found a headlamp in her pack to light her way. Other headlamps, cell phones, and flashlights soon glowed. When Nancy returned and said...Heather Lende
HAINES -- Writing obituaries is hard on the heart. We had what may be a record of four to do for this week's Chilkat Valley News. The subjects died in a plane crash, from the effects of too much alcohol and kidney failure. We knew them all pretty well. The editor and I split them, spending hours talking with grieving friends and family. It really didn't help that we were in the middle of another snowstorm and my water heater was broken. The biggest shock was the plane crash, which didn't happen here, but in Flagstaff, Ariz., taking the life of a popular 57-year-old river runner and engineer who was involved in the borough's energy and sustainability commission. The man fixing my plumbing is on the commission too. I was looking down the cellar steps at him and all the parts of the boiler...Heather Lende
HAINES -- My daughters said I had to tan before I went to Mexico. They said if I played at the beach all day and didn't, that I'd burn and then shed my skin like a lizard. Instead of wearing a sleeveless dress at dinner, I'd be plastered with Noxzema and wrapped in gauze like a mummy. Then they said that I would look even worse in a bathing suit than I thought I was going to. That convinced me. It has been four years since I was in a warm place walking around in public in the moral equivalent of my underwear. (Well, summer underwear.) It was as cold as it gets in Haines (minus 7, snowing, with a northerly gale) When we made our way to the beauty parlor on a dark January afternoon. When we arrived, Lori was at the front desk knitting while her partner shampooed the only other customer. She...Heather Lende
HAINES -- I am having a heck of a time writing Mimi Gregg's obituary. Mimi was the First Lady of the Arts in Haines. She was 92 when she died of old age. Dying peacefully in the 10th decade of an extraordinary life is not tragic. What I'm missing most about Mimi is the way she was when I met her, and the way we both were when we were younger, she in her 60s, me in my 20s. I laugh now at how Mimi convinced me to direct "Carousel" when I had three children under 6 and was pregnant. When I said I couldn't, she said, "Oh piffle." Mimi's story is wacky and typical of Alaska pioneers. She didn't fit any mold. Mimi arrived in Haines on a steamship in 1947 with two small children -- two more and a foster child would complete the family -- and her mother, Regina Viccarino, an opera singer of...Heather Lende