We Alaskans

Haines - Shared roots

Editors' note: We asked 14 of Alaska's best writers spread across the state — from Tenakee Springs to Dutch Harbor to Utqiagvik — to grapple with a question we all face in our lives: Why do I live where I live? This piece is part of that collection.

Thirty years ago if you asked me why I live where I do, I would have replied the people and this place. The same is true today.

Driving through the Chilkat Pass to tidewater in early 1984, it was love at first sight. The mountains, Sitka spruce trees, the sparkling snow, the glaciers, the blue-green fjord and this tiny jewel of a town so out of time, it seemed, were where I was meant to be.

Then I met my neighbors. Our first landlord was an artist and bon vivant who invited us next door for cocktails at his home's foyer bar, complete with a portrait he painted of a reclining nude. My second landlord built the sawmill. His son was a logger about our age.

They invited us across the yard on Sunday mornings with a dozen other folks for camp-style breakfasts. Back then, declaring that my new Alaska friends were like family began with shared holiday dinners. Now, we have celebrated weddings and births, endured divorces and deaths and stuck together through sickness and health, for better and worse.

I raised five children in Haines and have four local grandchildren. We are now a real Alaska family, whatever that means, because my roots are all intertwined. That young logger is the godfather of my daughter. The son of that artist is my colleague on the borough Assembly. I fell in love with Haines because of the people and the place. I live here because it's home.

Haines author Heather Lende writes regularly for We Alaskans. Her third book is "Find the Good."

Heather Lende

Heather Lende is the author of "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News From Small-Town Alaska." To contact Heather or read her new blog, The News From Small-Town Alaska, visit