Being Spoiled by Family, at least the first night

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It’s been two years since I flew home to Alaska for a visit.

Photos from the Airport

So much about this state makes me laugh for its intensity. Visitors are greeted immediately upon arrival by giant taxidermy polar bear dioramas.

The entire airport is covered in taxidermy animals “in their natural settings.” At baggage claim a dall sheep, white beaver, brown bear (and at the furthest end) black bear remind those unable to find their luggage not to be too casual in the wide open spaces.

My Parents’ Home

My mom greeted me with caribou soup (that’s a knee bone there) upon arrival to their home. I grew up on this food. The leg bones are boiled down for most of the day, then in the last few hours cut vegetables are added to boil down in the broth as well. In the last half hour cut caribou meat is added too. “Bukkuk bone soup” so named because of gnawing the bone–‘bukkuk’ describes the teeth on bone action the nutrients of the soup depend upon. We eat the buttuq (the marrow) from inside the bone, chew the tendons and ligaments from off the joints, and suck the juice off the bone ends. My favorite.

The house is covered in family pictures. My Aleut Great Grandparents lived into my early 20s. These photos show them in their 80s.

My great grandfather fished into his mid-80s. We’re lucky enough to have photos of him working the net in Naknek.

On my father’s side my great grandfather and his siblings were Inupiat and Russian–the father having crossed Siberia to Alaska originally from St Petersburg. I love this photo. My great grandfather sits in front with his siblings behind.

My parents are good to me. They showcase awards won by various family members about the house too. This one of mine rests directly above a picture of my grandmother (my father’s mother) being awarded Alaskan of the year.

After having caribou soup I went to my room to sleep and my mom had placed a book of Neruda poems on my bed for me as a gift.

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Everything slows down here. The earth is a rich silence this far north. Winter has mostly left–record snow falls this year have not yet entirely melted now at the start of May, but mostly they are gone. The ground is still frozen and wet, and the air not yet warm enough to spark Spring budding. As a result, everything is a deep orange-yellow from the winter’s dead ground. The mountains are streaked in white, but browning as the snow melts to reveal the old tundra plants below.

My voice gets slower here, and I heard my accent change by the end of my first night.

Tomorrow my niece graduates from high school–the reason for our visit.

Cheers from the Northern places!

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