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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."...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I really should have shared "Happy Holiday Greetings" when everything was going so well, after I had such fun shopping locally for my gifts -- we are doing an all-Haines Christmas this year -- and finding everything from wool socks to handmade earrings, or right after the defending state championship Glacier Bear boys won their first game of the season and we all cheered...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- The rain turned to snow by the time the lighting of the historic Fort Seward neighborhood began Saturday night. Our fledgling women's a cappella singing group had practiced "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" just for the event. Instead of choir caps we wore knit ski hats and headlamps...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- We were skiing on Halloween and ice skating on ponds at the golf course the first week in November, but a warm front changed all that. The windy rain was good news for the Friends of the Library, because it is easier to get volunteers to make decorations and hang lights indoors when a trip to the woodshed requires full rubber rain gear.

The sixth annual Lighting of the Library took place, as it always has, (always ever since the new library was built) the Friday night after Thanksgiving. In the past, the mayor's wife has lit the star at the top of the giant Sitka spruce tree that fills the two-story hall. But the new mayor, Jan Hill, is a woman, so she did it herself...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I think it was John McPhee who said Anchorage looks like it blew in on the wind, like a spore, from Trenton.

We've all been hearing a lot about the strip-mall center of Wasilla. I would like to say that Haines has a more photogenic and traditional Main Street, I really would. I've been looking closely ever since a friend gave me a newspaper article bemoaning the ugly Alaska infrastructure and calling for photos of a pretty Alaska town, if there is one.

Everyone knows how nice I think Haines is. But while the right angle and good lighting may help, aside from historic Fort Seward, I'm sorry to report none of our developed streets are picturesque small-town American calendar material...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- We sang my favorite hymn in church again recently, the one about the saints of God.

"I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew, and one was a doctor and one was a queen and one was a shepherdess on the green..."

I nudged my husband during the next verse as we sang "...and one was a soldier and one was a priest and one was slain by a fierce wild beast ..."

He had spent a cold night out on the Chilkat River flats looking for bears. He sits very still and watches the bears, or the shadows of bears, moving along the few open streams. He says all you have to do is really look for them, and you'll see bears everywhere. They are all over the place...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- It seems the whole world is changing the way it views race and culture. That is true in the Chilkat Valley communities of Haines and Klukwan too. Haines is about a quarter Alaska Native, mostly Tlingit Indian. The rest of us, except for about a dozen people, are white.

When Tlingit elder Paul Wilson died they had a viewing in the old Raven House, to which he belonged, down on Front Street, a block off Main. It is a weathered gray frame place close to the road with a yard on the other side that overlooks a tin roofed smokehouse, rocky beach, Lynn Canal and the mountains beyond. The only way you might guess its tribal significance is by the totemic black raven carving on the front...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I would like to hear less about Joe the Plumber and more about Ralph the Big Brother. I don't think I'm alone, if the turnout for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Dream Big Luncheon in Haines last Thursday is any indication. A third of all Haines and Klukwan elementary students now have what we call "Bigs" -- adult or teen mentors who meet with them once a week or more.

Ralph Borders is one of them, and he spoke to encourage others to try it. Ralph works for the Borough Public Works Department. He's driving the snowplow this week. He lives in a tidy home at the base of Mt. Ripinsky and he hikes or runs one of the mountain's trails just about every day. In the winter, I see him up there on snowshoes...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- I missed the Orionid meteor showers. It was raining and blowing so hard I couldn't see the rocks on the beach, much less any shooting stars. I know it is not technically correct to say shooting star, but I still do. With all its zip and sparkle, shooting star has a much lighter step than clunky old Orionid meteor shower.

I'm taking a creative writing class, so I've been thinking a lot about words and art these days.

Have you ever read Billy Collins' poem about angels, the one where he wonders why all we ever ask about them is how many can dance on the head of a pin? He wants to know more, like if an angel fell off a cloud would he make a hole in a river? A person could think about that all night. I know, because I have...

Heather Lende

HAINES -- There's a blanket of fog on the river, fresh snow on the mountains and a bluebird October sky above it all. It's the last week of moose hunting season. Almost 30 bulls have been taken, and fresh shrimp are in at the dock. The summer pizza place is closed, the last cruise ship is gone and it smells like wood smoke. It's the time of year I used to get homesick, and I still sometimes get that feeling, a kind of irrational yearning for when my parents were still responsible for my well-being...

Heather Lende

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