Alaska, home, kenkulluci, saying goodbye, Toksook Bay, Uncategorized, yupik

Sunset

There is so much beauty here in this little Yupik village-the bay, the water, the mountains and the snow; the fish, the northern lights, the ravens and seagulls and geese.
We had only lived in Alaska a short time before there was the first funeral. A child younger than my own who had died in a house fire. A few weeks later, an elder. Followed several weeks later by another child and a another elder and this week, another elder.
Sigh.
This is a small village. That is a lot of grief.
But here, there is even beauty in a sunset.
For several days after the death of a community member, the village stills. basketballs stop bouncing and the community center is quiet. When the funeral comes, everyone will come to say their goodbyes. When the funeral is over, there will be a feast. The family will pass out gifts to those who attend.
Let that sink in. the family will send guests away with gifts.
I find myself deep in heartfelt thought.
I am writing as an outsider. A guest here, nothing more and nothing less. I watch these things, feel these things with an open heart, gratitude and wonder.
Absolutely everything here seems by design a way to stay connected and in a spirit of caring for one another. Everything always centered on loving back and forth, around and around in a circle of connectedness. It is admirable, it is amazing. It is sacred, but empowering and humbling.
Today, please remember, you too have something to give.
Kenkulluci-love one another.

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Alaska, dance, home, Toksook Bay, Uncategorized, yupik

And they danced

yupik danceSitting in the gym one night this past week, one of the basketball players lifted a drum from the wall and started playing it. He shared with me that he knew how to sing, dance and drum. He told me had learned all this when he was five. “Tonight,” he said, “we are practicing at the multi. You can come.”
I tugged at Chad’s sweater sleeve. “Tonight we should go watch them dance.” He said he didn’t know if we could do that. The basketball player said, “You’re invited.”
So at nine o’clock, in the light of Alaskan night, we bundled up and walked to the multi. We were greeted by several people and found our seats off to the side.
A bit later, drums and singing began and dancers made their way to the floor.
And they were the Yup’ik. They were absolutely everything we have seen so far. They were the tundra grass that waves with wind. They were the waves that move gently in the bay, the movement of fish below the water and the wings of seabirds that glide overhead. They were the streams that connect all the ponds of water across the tundra. They were energy and they were time. They danced with quiet grace and they dance with fervor. They danced with reverence and they danced with playful humor. I’m not kidding. There was one particular dance that had me laughing the whole time from start to end!
We stayed for some time and when we left, our hearts were full. My favorites were when the three boys sang together their voices in unison but taking turns to rise or fall. Or maybe when one of the small children stood in the line and raised his arms to sway. Or maybe the laughing way one of the younger boys took on every single dance with his entire soul. Walking home felt very much like leaving church. Not the hell and damnation kind of church, the God is Love kind. The kind where you are refreshed and want for more. Every single person was real. And they danced.

*photo is not mine.  You can find out more about Yup’ik dancers at Toksook Bay here: http://archive.kyuk.org/toksook-bay-teen-creates-popular-videos-singing-in-his-traditional-language/

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