I’ve glimpsed something that those who don’t know, hope still exists.
[ Italics type was written June 19. Regular type was added since then]
This last Friday, and then again last night, I was invited to parties. Invited makes it sound more formal than it was, but it works ok having so qualified it.
Friday saw me at a co-workers house with other co-workers and their families. We grilled pizzas on the Bar-B-Que and balanced them with a cooked kale salad. We ate in the living room on couches, and we had ice cream afterwards – an infrequent treat way out here.
We burned the first pizza – people laughed and ate it. We did better with the second, and people smiled while eating it.
Myself and a like-aged co-worker sipped Pabst and hung out with the kids. We made origami frogs and played string games, the kind where one person holds the twine between their fingers while the other takes possession by pinching the right strands and creating a new pattern.
One of our pilots gave another a warm rousting for his little-league-aged son not carrying a knife.
1) Avoid apologizing for not brining food.
2) Bring food to any gathering after 6pm.
This was from a pot luck from the weekend after. First time I ever cooked with Rhubarb. It grows well up here.
Last night (6/18/16) was a larger but no less sincere meet-up, this time for a birthday. We ate sliced BBQ chicken straight from the cutting board and picked grilled garlic cloves out of tin foil.
I talked with our host about his half-constructed log cabin sauna which dominated the cleared area of his back yard. He was 29 or 33 and happy to hear my honest but unqualified compliments on the tightness its corner joints.
He said it was a side project – something he worked on when he had the time.
After settling in, I dumped the remaining beers from my backpack into the communal 5 gallon water bucket already stocked with low-floating aluminum icebergs. The mosquitos alone would have shut down practically every outdoor party I’ve ever been to. Instead folks shooed them from their faces and swatted them on each other. But most often we simply ignored their aimless annoyance. Near the fire they were more manageable.
It was a wide fire ring, maybe 10 feet (3 m) in diameter, with 40 lb (20 kg) river cobble stones lapped onto each other like dominoes all the way around. Whole unsplit logs lay low in the coal bed, their interiors half eaten by a quiet radiant flame. It offered more heat than light. Loose mounds of ash are softly drafted upwards whenever the fire is stirred, fed. or falls in on itself.
It’s high fire season here in the southern Wrangells. The fiberous soil around the fire ring was wetted, and a water hose lay intentionally piled nearby.
The boombox in the sauna picture above played trip hop and funk. I didn’t see anyones cell phone the whole night.
These past two days have been wholesome. I came to Alaska for the wilderness, but it’s McCarthy’s community that’s got me taking my deepest draws.
They know each other well and are happy to introduce me.
I am not the outsider. I am the uninitiated.
Their salmon is fresh.
Their avocados are old.
Their smiles are stretched,
by stories yet told.