After an evening of people, I spontaneously throw on my tennis shoes, and hit the mud roads outside around 10:30 pm.
I jog down to the high school, and it’s starting to rain. It’s super cloudy and ominous out, and has the makings for a dramatic stormy night. It’s the darkest outside that I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here, and I revel in the atmosphere of it all.
I’m the only person outside, and I feel brave.
Acceptance of the mess that is life. Accepting my place in it all. Accepting that I have mine.
As it begins to rain, I realize that this is not the smartest decision I’ve ever made in my life. We have been told that polar bears are not a problem in the city, at least not during the day. They are shy and stay away when people are around, but come out during the night.
I take a shortcut, and wind my way around the neighborhood to the left of the airport. And I see a big caribou leg laying on the side of the road. It looks fresh, the fur still intact, but the big leg bone shining out the end of it.
They’ve told us that the most dangerous places to be in the city are butcher sites, as this does attract bears. I decide, at this moment, that I need to head back to the apartment.
Probably no more night jogs. Try and get some morning jogs in place.
Making it back to my apartment, I sit on the stairs outside and let the rain fall on me. Staring out at the world around me, I realize I don’t do this often enough. Just sit, and take the world in.
I’m not writing, and I have no direction for my thoughts except peace.
I sit and listen to the rain. And I look at the colorful, fading houses on stilts around me in the fog.
I’m living on a corporation in Alaska. This is real life, this is what people’s real lives look like. And I have the opportunity to be here. And I have the opportunity to enjoy silence right now.
I walk in from my jog, and it’s dark in our living room from the rain storm outside. Jess, Dre, Tony, Alyssa and Carinne are all sitting in a circle on the ground around a sleeping D, playing “Things.”
I sit down, and take them all in.
Looking at their faces. Trying to forget all of the politics. Trying to just take us all in as people. No expectations. No pressure. No goals. Just people.
I play a round of “Things”, and then we all start talking about our project.
We learned today that the program that we are in is possibly going to be defunded in the next year. I would say that this only heightens the idea in our minds that we were all here at the time we were supposed to be here. The exact right time. With the exact right people. And isn’t that the same for everything? If there is no other time, then every time is the right time.
The defunding of the program leads us to talking about our current project, and man, there are a lot of ghosts in the closet of this one. I don’t really want to get into it, and will probably write extensively on the politics of this mind fuck whenever I am free of all of this. But, to put it simply, we are not the only ones that believe the project is not being approached in the most culturally sensitive way. A lot of people who have known the person leading the project previously and who understand the historical politics of the corporation (reservation) land that Barrow is built upon are not exactly smiling faces in light of this project.
And they just seem to be multiplying.
There was one Inupiat family that showed up at the “garden opening” on Friday, and the person in charge of the project, whose house the garden was at, didn’t even speak to the family. They only spoke to the 20 other people there, who were all white friends of hers that had previously been at events she’d put on.
“We have our circles here in Barrow,” she told us when we first questioned the fact that the Inupiat community did not seem to be integrated into the tundra garden movement. “We’re not trying to reach out to the Inupiat people, we’re trying to build a movement of like minded people who run in the same circles.”
I swear to god.
Whenever I meet Inupiat people, and they ask what I am doing here, I never know how to answer them. I think I’m going to just start telling them that I am a writer.
Would you be interested in an interview?
We pile covers onto our living room floor, and Tony and Dre post up next to D on our floor, and they all fall asleep together. Full house. I love full houses. Especially on stormy nights.
Flashforward to earlier in the evening, D is over for cookies and tea.
“Savut,” he’s teaching us how to say hello.
“You’ve got to lower your voice a little more.”
We’re laughing, and it’s fun. He fits in really well, and he’s got a lot of spunk to even make it over here in the first place.
Alyssa and Carinne have made chocolate chip scones, and I’m grabbing handfuls of them to haul back to my room and devour while I write.
From my hideout in my room, I hear D and the rest of my teammates yelling at me to come back out.
“Obama can wait for the evening, Annie,” they shout, continuing the yearlong joke.
I come out to grab more scones, and they’ve started talking about Obama. And D is not a fan, as Obama is trying to take guns away from Alaskans. Carinne asks D, what would you say to Obama if you could call him right now?
And then a word was uttered that is not supposed to be used.
I wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation and was in the other room, but this word perked up my ears. Still, I thought maybe I heard it wrong. I was ready to write it off hearing a word wrong. I didn’t want to deal with this.
Thankfully, Jess was fully in the conversation, and was not afraid of the awkwardness that would follow. Never afraid of the awkward, Jess bathes in it and sprinkles painful but necessary confrontation into her eggs for breakfast.
“That’s not okay.”
“What?” asks D, trying to make lighthearted of it. “I didn’t mean it that way. I didn’t mean it toward you,” he says, looking at our teammate.
Jess continues to repeat, in her strong, give-no-fucks-how-uncomfortable-I-make-you-feel voice, “That’s NOT okay.”
Dre puts on his coat, and walks out the door.
Alyssa is in the kitchen with me, and I ask her what just happened, for confirmation.
She confirms it.
Everyone is super uncomfortable, and wants D to leave.
Jess walks out the door after Dre.
Carinne and Alyssa come over to me, and tell me that they want him to leave.
And I want to stay hidden in my room, I don’t want to deal with real life tonight. But just then, Jess walks back in the door. And says something along the lines of, “If you want to stay in this apartment, you need to come back in my room and talk with me for awhile.”
D follows, and they spend the next half hour in her room, quietly discussing life.
Jess is absolutely magnificent. And when I say that these ladies complete me, I mean it in full. I don’t know what it’s going to be like when we’re not all together anymore in one short month. We’re just going to have to become a collection of the strengths that each one of us brings to the table. Individually.
Learn from these women. We are not the type to be stuck like glue to one another for the rest of our lives, but this is truly a gift to be so close together right now and figure out how to navigate the complicated waters of the world together.
I hope that whenever people meet me in the future, they can see a little bit of Jess, Carinne, Alyssa and Sydney shining brightly through my actions.
D and Jess emerge from her room, and everything seems to be better. D plops down on the floor next to me, and Jess starts giving him shit about something in the lighthearted way that we’re used to.
I walk back to the kitchen to make coffee, and Jess is shouting about my booty. She’s been hitting on me hard core for the past three weeks. Everyone else turns around to stare at my butt in my long johns, and then Jess is inviting me to sit on her lap.
I walk over with a plate of scones, sit on her lap, and Tony takes marriage pictures of us.