*Names and identifying details have been altered to protect the innocent people who could sue me.

April 6, 2011

Day 96

Dear all,

"Break-up" is Alaskan for what other people call "spring" (and New Englanders call "mud season"). I call it the “I can’t get to sleep anymore because the sun doesn’t even start to go down until 9pm and where the heck did all this daylight even come from anyway” season. The snow is still falling lightly, the boyfriend remains clean-shaven, and the (pre-Pevensie) Narnian layer of snow and ice covering everything is starting to break-up. New features of the landscape begin to emerge: people's yards, lines telling you where the road actually starts, bears ...

We think the bears are awake because a few dogs have gone missing from the neighborhood (sorry, but it’s true). If/when I actually see them, I want to know how to shoot a gun. I don’t plan on carrying it – that’s the boyfriend’s job – but I do want to know how to use it. You know, just in case the bear gets to him first. So for the moment, all outdoors adventuring has been put on hold until I can bring to you the second part of the Alaska-grams Playwriting Series, this one to be titled: “How to Shoot a Gun: A Play in (hopefully no more than) Three Acts.” In the meantime, we’ve been playing a lot of Monopoly. And while it will come as no surprise to anyone that I make a horrible capitalist, I was pleased to discover that I do sort of enjoy playing the game.

In keeping with my “A” series (Austen and Achebe already under the belt), I’m reading Jane Addams’ “Twenty Years at Hull House.” I picked it up because the blurb on the back bore a strong resemblance to “The Long Loneliness,” an autobiography by Dorothy Day that I have read many, many times. I haven’t actually gotten to the part yet where she moves to Chicago, founds Hull House, and changes the pattern of American engagement with the working class, but I have been struck by her discussion of the “snare of preparation” that Tolstoy claimed both engaged and ruined our young adulthood. In the very years when we are best suited to go out and actually do, we find ourselves caught instead in “curious inactivity.” (And let’s not pretend that playing Monopoly counts, either.)

Last weekend we did go out – way out – to the northern end of the peninsula where friends’ family has a homestead, and a sauna. This was not a “sahna,” fyi. That’s the sissy kind of steam bath. This was the Finnish word, which I can’t reproduce for you here because I honestly wasn’t too preoccupied with pronunciation while I was sitting in the 200 degree temperature. The family chose and settled on this homestead a long while ago – long for Alaska being anytime fifty years ago, of course – and now much of the family has portioned off land and built their own houses around the lake. The main road out holds their last name – for privacy’s sake, let’s call it “Doe Trail.” The smaller roads carry first names: Sue’s Lane, Jack’s Drive. So Mary Doe lives, basically, at the intersection of Mary and Doe. There’s only one sauna, though – and that’s where everyone congregated at noon on Sunday, to sit and sweat and catch up. Being half-naked and sweaty is the best way to really bond with your family, I think. And it was fun, even if I skipped the part where you emerge from the sauna, skin steaming and face red, and walk through the snow down to the lake where a garden hose neatly transfers water through a hole in the ice and onto you. I opted for the slightly less abrupt “sit outside in your bathing suit and slowly lose all your body heat until you are cold and want to go back into the sauna.” Maybe next time.

In the meantime, I continue to search for a job that doesn’t involve making other people coffee, to contemplate both the strength of the familial unit and the snare of preparation, and to look around -- very carefully -- before I walk out of the house.

Much love to you all,


  1. Hopefully the new play won't be a tragedy...

  2. I am all in favor of learning how to shoot the gun. Quickly. And hit the target.

  3. just wanted to say hi and that i'm enjoying reading :)