Just finished a fantastic book about living in remoter parts of Alaska called If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende. I’ve crossed paths with Heather before when she received an award from the Alaska Communications Professionals in Anchorage but at the time, didn’t know who she was. Not that I didn’t read the Anchorage Daily News, but her column was being carried less and less frequently. And then I moved to Tok.
Reading about Haines, Alaska through Lende’s essays was incredibly satisfying. I love her perspective on human beings, on life, on relationships, and on life in a small town. I love the way she portrays thorny situations and real-life dramas with quiet respect and reflection. What a great essayist!
I’d love to have a modicum of Lende’s talent for conveying small town politics without getting too controversial or political. Her sensitivity is honorable and enviable. She reveals so much while still “protecting the guilty.” And you really come away from reading this book feeling like you know the people of Haines, even just a glimpse of them, and you know what it is to live in a place like Haines.
How can I tell you what it is like to live in a place like Tok? I come at this place from an entirely different place than Lende in Haines because although a transplant to her area, she has lived there for years, had children there, had a career writing obituaries for the local paper, all things to tie her more closely to a community.
I’ve arrived from “the city.” I had my only child in the city and have brought her here and hope she will grow and thrive. My career is the business I own that I run from my home which is isolating in many ways. I try to contribute to my community through this blog. I also try to tangibly contribute by making donations – monetary and in-kind – to meaningful local causes and organizations such as the Tok Tanacross Imagination Library and Duct Tape Radio and Humanities Forum. Doing the best I can.
Heather Lende’s book reminds me of the complexity of people who come to live in very small communities and who like it just the way it is. This place, like Haines, has history and layers. Nothing is like it looks on the surface. Nothing is as simple as it might seem.
You can order If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name online.
What are your thoughts of/experiences with living in a small community?