The Beauty of Barrow

I’ve dreaded this trip to Barrow.

A month ago, I volunteered to work here. This is completely my doing.

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But in the interim weeks, I’ve been barraged by memories of my last trip. The tales of recent suicides. The scarcity of trees and greenery. The abundance of intoxicated people walking around in this dry town. The $4.00 apple.

And then I read a couple of current articles in the paper about Barrow. About the nice district attorney I’d worked with who was murdered a few months ago in a domestic violence incident. And the skyrocketing amount of violent crime like rapes and domestic violence, fueled by insane amounts of bootlegged alcohol and drugs.

Seriously? What was I thinking?

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, and when I finally drifted off, I had a nightmare about bedbugs biting me over and over again.

I didn’t unwind my curls until I took my seat on the plane and buckled up for the long flight.

Then I sat behind an Alaska Native youth who’d just finished high school, and was on his way home after his graduation trip in Hawaii. His sweet smile could melt the thick ice. He had a red baseball cap, red tennis shoes, and a ukulele that he played for the passengers’ enjoyment.

Other passengers asked him questions:

QUESTIONS

  • What does whale blubber taste like?
  • What will you do for fun later?
  • When was the last time you saw polar bears?
ANSWERS

  • “A great texture, and tastier than steak.”
  • “Today, I’ll get on my three -wheeler and hunt geese.”
  • “The weekend we got a whale. They come in to share.”

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He didn’t say too much, but he represented well. And then there was Anne Morrow Lindberg, the fabulous writer who detailed her trip to Barrow in 1931 in her first book North to the Orient. In Barrow, met a family who proudly displayed a tomato plant, acknowledging the plant would never grow in Barrow since there wasn’t enough sun and the tomato was rooted mostly in sand, “but the leaves grow and we can smell it.  Even the smell of growing vegetables is good to us,” she explained at the time.

It’s all perspective.

I’m grateful to be back in Barrow. To be back to old friends and gorgeous sites and the possibility of polar bears, but mostly to be among people who know the value of looking at the glass half-full.

What are you grateful for lately?