Saturday, June 28, 2008

What can one say?

Grace and greetings.

This morning I was woken up with a call that pastors hate to receive and is one of parents worst nightmare. While the community was getting ready for a celebration in response to a successful whaling season, three boys rode on one four wheeler having fun on the beach. Four wheelers are one of the main ways of getting around in town, year a round. Four wheelers are used by children, teenagers and adults alike. Since they are an off road vehicle, one does not need a drivers license to operate one. Very few people wear helmets, and kids who look as young as 8 or 9 are driving around town. The police will usually pull over those who have too many people on the four wheeler, or if they are driving in an unsafe manner.

But I guess this morning, two boys were heading to the beach, and picked up the third boy. Though I do not know all the details, my guess that the one boy was bounced from the vehicle and died from his injures. This is where I became involved. The Pastor is the one who has to give the news to parents/siblings/family of somebody passing away; regardless of where the person died.

I received the call from a family member, who came with me to look for the mother; she was preparing for the Nalukataq, (the Blanket Toss). It is a community wide celebration, as each crew that caught a whale shares with the community. It is an all day affair, and with 11 crews catching whales, the celebrations are spread over five days in a two week period. We could not find the mother, until after we searched several different places. Her sister found her and flagged us down. She was screaming at the sight of myself and the family member. We took her to the hospital, where she shook the boy to wake up, as the rest of the extended family made their way to the hospital. Soon we had twenty or more people in the room, wailing and screaming, hoping against hope that the news of the 12 year old boy was wrong. I stayed a while, praying with the family and trying to console people I had never met before this morning; as well as other people I knew. Death is always hard, but a 12 year old boy who was to turn 13 next Tuesday? What does one say? His death was the third in four days. There are two others who are near death, but until then, the families can only wait.

Later during the day, I took a walk over to the celebration, then walked up the beach towards home. As I continued to walk on, finally into the silence of the water and shore, I walked for another hour or so. It is a beautiful day, the sun is out, though cool, 38-40 degrees, it was a nice walk. At one point, I came upon a seal about five yards out in the water. It's head was just above the water line, it looked at me for a moment or so, then dived back underneath. That was my first seal I got to see up here in the wild.

The walk helped my mood some what, but the boy is still dead, and we get to continue on living.

Peace and blessings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Point Barrow

Grace and greetings.
Against my better judgment, I am posting a picture of the three of us on the web. We are out on "the Point"; Point Barrow, the farthest northern piece of land in the United States. It is about a six mile drive out to the Point, three miles of road, (I always thought it was farther out), then another three miles off road. The vehicles require four wheel drive, plus larger tires. The gravel/sand is very loose and very deep, and it is easy to get stuck out there. But for all of the family members who have been wanting a picture of us, here you go.

One of the joys of the trip out there is what we got to see. Usually when people go out to the Point, they are looking for Polar Bears, and usually they are very disappointed. In fact, most residents will tell you that you can go out there, but you will not get to see a bear. Fortunately, our tour guide for the five of us, (a couple from New York and ourselves), spotted something moving out on the ice. The people we were with was able to get a picture of the bear on the ice and sent us a copy of the picture; and I get to share with you the picture on the right. There are other pictures, but it probably not come out nearly as clearly as this picture did. Of course it was good that he has a zoom lens on his camera to be able to get the picture, otherwise it would just look like a part of the ice from where we were. While we watched the bear, he turned and watched/smelled us, even though he was a good way out on the ice. To tell you how rare it is to see a bear, our guide called another guide who was on his way out about the sighting.
Well it is time to head home. I hope you enjoy the pictures that are posted, giving you an idea of what Barrow is like.
Peace and blessings to all.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Solstice

Grace and greetings.

This morning we welcomed a couple from New York who came to experience his birthday in the land where the sun does not set. He is also an Episcopal priest and offered to do an Episcopal service while he was here. I had been advertising the service for the last several weeks; it ended up being four of us, the priest, his wife, the organist and myself. So instead of a service, we sat around and shared stories for a little while.

I had arranged for a tour out to Point Barrow with one of the several tour groups here, going with a tour guide that was a member of the congregation. It is the farthest northern point in the United States. I had never been out there since one could not just drive out there in a normal truck. So I arranged for the couple from New York, my wife, son and myself to go. The morning started out overcast, so things were not starting out as I had hoped.

During the night, I remembered my camera, that I had not used at all since we have moved up here, mostly because it was a 35 mm camera and everything is going digital. Well, I ran over to the store to pick up some film and was told that the store does not care 35 mm film anymore. Bummer. Again, everything has gone digital. Well, I knew that my cell phone camera would not be that useful but I brought it along anyway; along with my 35 mm camera because I had telephoto lens that I could use.

After we were picked up and the tour was underway, the blue skies from over the Arctic Ocean came our way, and it was a wonderful sunny day after all. I picked up more history that I did not know.

We drove out the three miles to end of the road, then he drove off into the soft sand for the final three miles to the actual Point Barrow. It was a beautiful sight, then the miracle of miracles happened. We spotted a Polar Bear. It is very unusual to spot a bear out there, but our guide was able to see the bear out on the ice. We had a couple of binoculars to share between the six of us. We all had out time checking out the bear; as the bear checked us out, though at a very safe distance. Fortunately, the camera that our guest possessed had to ability to zoom, and got some wonderful shots of the bear. He promised to send us a copy of the pictures, as well as other pictures of the day to us after he got back home. One would think that bear sightings happened all the time, but they didn't. In fact, the guide quickly called his cousin who was guiding another tour following ours, and told him where to look if the bear was still around by the time the other tour van got out there.

Well our tour guide had to head back into town to pick up his next group, so we headed back with him, as he had the vehicle, and we were given certificates stating that we had been out to the Point, but also had the certificates embossed with a seal that we had seen a bear while we were out there. Cool.

After watching the Angels/Philly's game for a while, (the Angels won after I turned off the game), we went out to see some of this season's first Nalunaq, also known as the celebration after a successful whale hunt and blanket toss. Since the blanket toss was not going to be until later, we went out to eat at Pepe's for dinner, then returned to the Nalunaq. The kids were doing the blanket toss, we watched for a little bit, but decided not to wait for the adults to do the "real" blanket toss. So I dropped our guest off at their hotel, came home, wrote my blog, and will head for bed soon. Man, I am not as young as I used to be...

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Checking in and speaking out

Grace and greetings.

For the last couple of days, I have been wanting to post some more pictures of around the area, and in Barrow. But the software stopped working between my cell phone and the computer. I kept waiting for the program to kick in, so I would put off making a statement, and continue to wait.

As I sit here listening to Dixie Chicks: Taking the Long Way, in particularly the track, "Not ready to make nice", "...I am mad as hell, and don't have the time to go around and around..." So I am posting this without any pictures...

I have been keeping aware of what is happening outside of the North Slope, the flooding of Iowa, including the community that I served, Columbus Junction, and as the waters rise and eventually will fall, what is the damage left behind. I guess President Bush was in the State and telling them help is on the way, I pray so. (Isn't that what he said to New Orleans?)

One of the things I seem to be so far away from during my time in Barrow is the presidential election. First I guess it started with the candidates themselves, thinking that the three electoral votes do not matter that much to the rest of the world as far as the election is concerned. Then in the next breath, Washington D.C., deems that they are the only people to tell how Alaskans are to take care of the land that is put into the trust of the US Government and the State of Alaska. I fear the search for oil in the Arctic Ocean that I can see out my office window; that I can walk to from here in a matter of minutes. The government gives us the assurance that all is safe now, and oil is now needed more than ever before. Has everybody forgotten about the Exxon Valdez and the devastation it brought upon Prince William Sound. The Supreme Court is suppose to return a decision sometime soon. The people who lost their lively hood have been waiting for fourteen years now, I guess what is another couple of months? The longer the wait, my greatest fear is that the administration will be once again telling the court how to decide in favor of the oil companies, so they can come and rape Alaska again and again for the sake of the rich.

What happened to the idea of alternative modes of transportation, energy and other possibilities? Here in the North Slope, is fairly level throughout the size of Minnesota or larger. I am told that a wind farm, much like in throughout California and other places in the world, would be too expensive to set up here. But we can afford to explore and drill for oil? Is it that we can not tax the wind or make a profit off the sun? Is this the only source of energy that the people in Washington can consider? When will there be enough raping of the Planet Earth before the people stand up and speak out?

I was originally not planning to go anywhere near the comments I just made, but I guess they came out, and I am going to stand by them. I may be in the minority here. What I hear is that some people do want to open up the waters for the oil companies to come in. But almost everybody is concerned on how it will effect the source of life here, the whales, walrus, seals, polar bears? How many more Exxon Valdez have to happen before the rest of the world wakes up to realize that they screwed up that may effect the North Slope for decades to come?

It is time to go home and think of something else.

With prayers that God continues to give us the strength to do what is right with what God has given us to be stewards of, planet Earth and each other.

Peace and blessings.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bouncing Barney

Grace and greetings.

This evening we were suppose to have a Bible Study, but nobody else showed up, so I am taking the time to give a quick comment.

The picture on the right is a playground down the street from our house. I am disappointed as to how the picture came out, I was hoping for a little better idea of the playground. There are several playgrounds throughout the greater Barrow area for kids to gather and play. They all have similar swings and slides; and I believe that they all have gravel instead of sand or grass to play on. A couple of times there will be a child running home because they scraped their knee or elbow.

What I wanted to write about is the spring creature in the middle of this picture. You can almost make it out, a Barney the Bouncing Purple Dinosaur between the two slides. During the fall and winter, the dinosaur would bounce back and forth, even when there was nobody around; it was as if the dinosaur had a life of its own.

Well, since I started writing, somebody did show up for the Bible Study, and was sitting out of sight when I went out to check up on the room. So I had a one on one time with the woman who showed up.

Though this next comment has NOTHING to do with Barrow; the Lakers just blew a twenty plus lead to lose the fourth game of the championships. Of course growing up in LA, if one followed basketball, the Lakers were the team to cheer on and the Celtics were the team to always beat. Anyway, I stopped watching or caring about National basketball soon after I graduated from College, but still look on to the Lakers every now and then. Now back to real life, Angels baseball as the Atlanta Braves come to town, (Anaheim) tomorrow night. :-)

Peace and blessings to all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fatigue covers me like a blanket

Grace and greetings.

I have been meaning to write for the last couple of days, but I have just been too tired. It seems as though I have over extended myself in these past few weeks and it caught up with me.

A few months ago I had to go to the hospital for a medication change. Here in Barrow, we do not have doctors in private practice, most are on a rotating basis out of the hospital. During the week day afternoons, they have open hours for the "Clinic"; of course the clinic being different from the emergency room is probably cost; but since this is basically a Native Hospital, the Native Corporation pays for it all anyway. After you go to the clinic, you can be given an appointment with a particular doctor during the week day mornings. Of course, this is all happening in and out of the emergency room, so you may have to wait several hours, even for an appointment. There are people in town who do not trust the hospital here, for they really cannot do too much other than look you over and decide if you need to be sent to Anchorage via Medi Vac. Some think that if there is anything really wrong with you, just head for Anchorage anyway, taking the Alaska Airline flights will save you several thousands of dollars over the Medi Vac.

I started that last paragraph to say that I had gained weight and was now over two hundred pounds. The last time that happened was when I was working out via Tae Kwon Do. But this time, I noticed that my pants were not fitting quite right anymore. Pretty soon, I had gained over four inches around my waist, so it was time to do something about it.

I have been "skiing" on my Nordic Trac for the last several weeks, three to five days a week, twenty to thirty five minutes at a time. My last time skiing was for forty minutes, last Friday. Some days I just try and keep moving, other days I try to ski a little harder. I remember the philosophy of my college cross country/track coach, easy day, hard day, easy day. Of course some of my "easy days" would be no skiing at all. Saturday was the "Healthy Communities" walk, and I figured I could walk a couple of miles without too much trouble... or so I thought.

Since then, my entire body just seemed to tired to do anything. Fatigue throughout my whole body had caught up to me. Though I thought I was getting enough sleep, something was not right. So I have been trying to rest more these last couple of days; but still feel tired. This morning I woke up with a very sore throat and slight fever, so I thought I would call it a day, and stay home, knowing that I will be working throughout the rest of the week at church with a Youth Rally on Friday the 13th, a wedding on Saturday, and then a congregational meeting on Sunday, along with the normal Sunday activities.

I am staying quite this morning and hopefully I will be back on track later today or tomorrow. If I am still feeling bad later this afternoon, I will go to the clinic, not that they can do that much anyway. They will tell me that I have a sore throat, give me some antibiotics and sent me on my way.

Getting back to the exercising, I have lost some inches, not sure about weight, but still have a couple more inches to go....

Just writing out loud.

Peace and blessings to all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Walk for Healthy Communities

Grace and greetings.

Yesterday, we walked throughout Barrow and Browersville in protesting the drug and alcohol bootleggers causing so much pain and death in our communities.

The drug and alcohol issue is so bad here, that as a pastor in the community, I do not drink my occasional beer or wine in support of the people trying to bring a sense of wholeness in the communities. Too many people had died because of drug and alcohol related deaths, that it hits the families very hard. Of course, for some, this just brings on more drinking to get over the death of a family member who died due to overdoses or freezing to death outside because they were too drunk to get back inside.

Here is a picture of couple of our high school youth during the walk. The weather cooperated very nicely for the walk; as you can see it was clear and sunny. The day before the walk, (which was it was originally scheduled), was overcast, as it is today. Even though there was a steady breeze to keep the wind chill around 20 degrees, it was still a beautiful day to dress up warm and have a good walk. Even with the cool breeze, some of the people walked in shorts and tee shirts. I walked wearing a hooded sweat shirt, jacket, long pants, knit hat and gloves. That way, I know I was going to be nice and warm.

Last year, I guess only about twenty people showed up for the walk, but this year it was large enough to split up into two different groups of about thirty or so to walk the different parts of town. Each group finished up the walk in front of the AC store, (main grocery store in town) and then continued the walk to the beginning place for a barbecue and rest after the two mile walk, giver or take.
Of course, I am not sure how well you can see the poster in the middle of the picture. The caption reads, "Was that $100 worth his life?" He was the son of members of the church, when he died due to a drug related death.

I realize that most of the people can drink responsibly, but sometimes, in support of those who cannot, it is better not to drink alcohol at all.

Peace and blessings to all.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Flossie passes on

Grace and greetings.

Earlier this week I received a call from my mother stating that my grandmother was probably on her last days now. I remember when my mother said that when we gathered for my grandmother's 90th birthday, twelve years ago. But I figured this time was the real time.

My younger brother called me the next day, stating that he happened to be in Southern California, (travels back and forth from his home in Portland, OR. to Irvine, CA for work), he had canceled his business meetings and drove up to Pasadena to see Grandma. She was sleeping, shallow breath, low blood pressure, and non responsive to his holding her hand for the time he was there. He just happened to be with our Grandfather when he died in 1993. Fortunately, for my Grandmother, she was without pain, unlike my grandfather who died as a result of the worst of melanoma cancer.

Since my Grandfather died, my mother would fly from Anchorage to LA about every three months, and her brother would fly from New Jersey during the the other months, so that grandma had somebody visiting her every six weeks or so. My uncle was the last to see grandma, flew out this week, two weeks before he was to fly out anyway, and was able to say good-bye. Nothing much else to do but wait.

My mother called me at 7:20 this morning to let me know that she had died during the early morning, about 1:20 PDT. What surprised my mother is that the Chaplin was with my grandmother at the time of her death. My grandmother will be cremated and there will be a very small Memorial sometime in August or September, when both my mother and her brother can get there.

My Grandmother was always trying to be somebody that she wasn't, mostly trying to be the "perfect pastor's wife" throughout her life and marriage to my grandfather. I am guessing the she resented having to be the pastor's wife, hopefully it was not all resentment. I am sure there were times she wanted to leave, in fact at one point left with my 2 year old mother back to Prince Edward Island for a year or so before returning.

My grandmother rarely, if every, talked about her past, about her family and parents. We can guess at some parts, but that is mostly what they are, guesses. During the last several years of her life, she would talk about her father or mother, and then in the next breath stated that she needed to go back to work, so we never really knew which was real and what was not. This I can say, regardless of how my grandparents marriage might have been, rocky or otherwise, after my grandfather died, she grieved for him until her own death this morning.

I believe my mother summed it up best this morning on the phone, "Another era is over. Grandma had lived a long life, do not know how good it was, for she died with her secrets." Florence "Flossie" MacInnes would have been 102 years old come September.

Peace and blessings to all.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Winter leaving slowly

Grace and greetings.

To the left, you can see our Million Dollar football field that I wrote about last fall. What you can not see in this picture, is that the playing field is blue, and the yellow/gold circle in the middle of the field is the Barrow High School Whaler. Of course the school colors are blue and gold, hence the colors of the field. The side lines are green, like you would find in any artificial grass. The field was the idea of a Florida woman who raised the money for the field after seeing an article on ESPN. She raised the money and found a way to get the field transported up here, several different companies were involved from Florida, Pennsylvania and other parts of the United States. After preparing the land, to getting everything ready to play on, it cost over a Million Dollars to put in place. Do not get me wrong, I am glad that the village of Barrow has a football field to play on, but a million dollars? Hopefully the other villages in the North Slope will not be pressured in getting their own field.

As you can see in the picture as well, just when we thought summer was on its way, the clouds and cold wind returned. We had a wonder week or so of sunny weather, but the last week or so has been overcast and cold winds. At least the air temperature has remained above freezing for the most part. I saw the field while I was driving out to the end of the road last week, and noticed that it was poking through the melting snow so I stopped and took these two pictures of it. I was wondering how it faired over its first winter, I guess we will find out when football season returns to Barrow.

Peace and blessings.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Palm Trees in the North

Grace and greetings.

It is now the beginning of June, and the whaling season is over, even though not all twenty two strikes were used. People are starting to leave for their summer fishing and hunting camps. Some will come and go from their camps on a weekly basis, others will stay in the camps through July or August. But it looks like my family and I will be here until the end of July when I will start my vacation after being up here for the year.

As one gets to know the area in the North Slope, one notices the lack of trees. The nearest tree is over a hundred miles away to the south in the Brooks Range. But outside of Barrow, about ten miles or so, on the far edge of the summer fishing "town", we have Palm Trees, year around, just like in the south.

Well, okay they are not exactly Palm trees in the truest of forms; they are driftwood that are planted standing up, with strips of baleen fastened to the top of the wood, giving the appearance of Palm trees. They must be fastened quite well, for they have survived many winters as well as summers here in the North Slope.

But the trees are not the only representations of the south here; we have a restaurant, Pepe's North of the Border Mexican Restaurant. It is run by Fran Tate, she has been here almost thirty years as I understand it. She has also journeyed throughout the world on account of her celebrity status; including a guest on the Tonight Show, when Johnny Carson was host. Since there are only seven or eight restaurants in town, and Pepe's is connected with the Top of the World hotel, she still gets a lot of attention.

Peace and blessings to All.