Saturday, October 3, 2009
Quinhagak's True Beauty (Posting Written By Mike)
"The simplest things are often the truest." ~Richard Bach Words such as tundra, Bering Sea, remote village, distant mountains, grizzly bear, caribou, salmon, bush planes, Yup'ik evoke such vivid images of adventure and grandeur in faraway, remote places that to actually see and experience this way of life in person is beyond my ability to absorb in the brief 3 week time that I am here in Alaska. So many times I have stood in awe of the beauty in front of me...whether it be the rich golds and reds of the autumn tundra, the panoramic views unimpeded by trees across the landscape, the vast expanse of the sea and its tidal shores, the surrounding mountains suddenly one morning shrouded in snow, the bright crimson of the salmon on their spawning run up river, the massive footprint of the brown bear, the ribbons of snakelike rivers and multitude of lakes as viewed from the air in a six-seater, the sunsets on the horizon of the Bering Sea...and I want to just continue standing there until I can somehow take it all in and make it a part of me, for I know I will be leaving this special place before long. As stunning and memorable as the sights are, it is the spirit of the people here that is the true beauty of the tundra...a gift that will continue to touch and teach me about what is the real meaning in life--that connection we have to each other...the opportunity to reach out to one another in gentle, supportive, loving ways and and realize that it is in giving that we receive and are blessed. Seeing this subsistence way of life in a village isolated on the Bering sea where river, ocean, and tundra are its lifeblood, and has been for generations, exhorts me to simplify my own life and appreciate my connection to the natural world and especially to the people closest to me--my family and friends. The children of this village are such a joy...they elicit my playful spirit as we walk down the road or share stories and healthy snacks at Rachel's when they come knocking at her door. And they are why Rachel is here in Quinhagak....I honor her for the leap of faith she has taken in coming here and am glad to see and feel the community of support she has found in her colleagues and the families who live here. She is making a difference in the lives of those she touches through her own skills as a teacher and as a caring individual. I have her to thank for the opportunity to experience living in this community, as well as the members of Quinhagak and the school for allowing me to share in their daily lives. Hiking with Rachel and her dog, Ani, to the sea, watching Northern Exposure together, eating bear and caribou for dinner, emptying the honey bucket, traveling up river with Jim and Steph, running in the Salmon Run and with Eric, spending time in Bethel with Anya and Rachel's cross country team, flying to Dillingham are just a few of the many special memories I will carry with me. It is the people of Quinhagak who will truly remain in my thoughts and prayers. I look forward to coming back someday and reconnecting with the true beauty of this tundra.
"A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough." ~1 Timothy 6:6