UNALAKLEET — Today I am defying the -51 temperature that exists six feet from me, on the other side of that six-inch wall. This morning I covered my body with wool. I wrapped a soft, caring bubblegum pink scarf around my neck. I put on some pink and fuchsia earrings made by my daughter — and the caribou antler earrings I received from a sister who lives on the other side of the continent. I'm a woman. I am an Inuit woman.
And then, without plan, intention or agenda — but with freedom, strength and a smile, I got ready.
It started with the sparkly purple bracelet made by elder friend Betsy Pikoganna in Nome. I immediately felt power. I felt womanly. Soft. Strong. Beautiful.
Smiling, I grabbed the ivory bracelet I gifted myself. More power. More strength. I am accomplished. And I kept going. I put on the baleen bracelet from my father. The one he picked and gave when I finished school. Loved. I am wrapped in love. I am supported.
Next came the stone bracelet from my late grandmother Paniisaq. I have the strength of the strongest of women inside of me. Behind me. Before me.
Then there's the bracelet from my friend Mori, who is a whole lotta woman and then some. With five kids, including twin boys, Mori is wholly herself. She empowers her children to be who they are. She bakes melt-in-your mouth blueberry rolls. She creates furniture out of garbage. She sews kuspuks, making women throughout the state feel beautiful. She has no fear in competition, unapologetically placing fear in those who come up against her. The bracelet she gave me isn't even pretty, but I wear it. I'm a nurturer. I create beauty. I am strong. I am beautiful yet fierce.
Then I strap on a green fern bracelet from my sister-in-law Yanni. Acceptance. Just. Knowing. Intuitive. Giving.
I place a bangle on my right wrist. From the woman who taught me how to be a friend, I embrace my body, feel a readying cough, preparing my voice. From my throat. From my mouth. I am sexy. I am a woman.
And finally, a beaded bracelet made by my daughter. A peace sign centers this bracelet and I remember how love comes full circle. Life comes full circle. My daughter Sidney will receive these bracelets someday. And I pray with determination all the way to my marrow that she receives all that I have and more. We are women.
More than ever, I feel all good things. I am a woman. I am a woman. My body is a creation. And dang, my hair is perfect today. I move with purpose and grace and assuredness in the steps I take forward. My thighs are soft. And they're as strong as the birch trees. I stand. In the cold I will stand. And walk.
I am ready.
I will grab my pink hat and head out the door. We're marching in Unalakleet today.
Laureli Ivanoff lives in Unalakleet where she's raising her two children, Joe and Sidney. They eat a lot of fish and are very proud of their Yorkiepoo named Pushkin.