Holding the Space
Sometimes I wonder how so much good and bad can happen in such a short time. Friday night we watched the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. It was part of a fundraiser for the fair and the watershed council held at the fairgrounds. The first film drew applause because it was shot right here, in Haines. It was a group of extreme skiers dropping down impossibly steep mountains, more snow padded cliff than ski slope, it seemed. It was the beginning of the second weekend of the local heli-ski season and you could feel the excitement in the crowd of guides, locals, and visitors. The movies were thrilling. Many of the people around us had done this kind of thing themselves-- they know the on-screen guides and the filmmakers. Most of us who have lived in Haines a long time have never experienced anything like that. We were amazed at the daring-do of them all. Ski? Up there? Down what? Seriously? My daughter and her boyfriend were here from Juneau for the weekend. He to heli-ski, she to see her three year-old niece Caroline's first ballet recital and celebrate another niece's first birthday. Saturday morning at the theater we shed tears of joy with full hearts leaping right along with those pirouetting tu-tued darlings (or not, the little ones kind of did their own thing). The ballet teacher, so sweet and patient, is married to a heli-ski guide and an adventure business owner. Saturday afternoon, it was baby Lani's birthday party with all the family, us of course, but her other local grandma and a heli-ski company dispatcher, and a lot of the aunts and uncles-- we are a bigger clan by marriage these days than we were before. (There's a joke that if you live in Haines long enough you will be related to just about everyone.) Saturday evening, the happy boyfriend came home from a day skiing that was better than the movies. Sunday dawned sunny and blue. The sisters and babies were all visiting together when just after lunch there was a phone call and everything changed. The boyfriend was okay, he was at the airport, there was an accident, the other guys were not as lucky. It was some kind of an avalanche. His airbag and helmet helped save him. One man died, two more were badly hurt. Later, on the radio news, we learned that the chunk of snow that dropped underneath them and apparently slid with or tossed my daughter's boyfriend and three other skiers down a cliffy slope is properly called a "cornice failure."
Tuesday night at yoga the instructor encouraged us to "press the refresh button" on our bodies, minds, and souls. In that room were people directly affected by the accident, indirectly sideswiped by it, and some who only heard the news and didn't know the guide who died or anyone involved, but who live here, in this small-town in the shadow of big mountains. As our instructor asked us to do, we held the space for each other to feel what needed to be felt. It was good to give and to receive so silently, you know? Wednesday morning on the radio Fireman Al delivered his weekly Safety Report. He never mentioned the accident, but we knew what he meant when he told us to be safe. To think, to plan, to be prepared. To balance the risks we take with the benefits. He spoke carefully and respectfully. Afterward, the volunteer DJ, a former river rafting guide himself, played gentle music. Like at yoga, they had held the space for us.
I can't remember if it was Tuesday or Monday now, it's been a difficult week, but before one big pancake family breakfast, I showed ballerina Caroline the surprise in our coop-- there is a new little rooster and an exotic fluffy white bantam hen. I guess you could say I'm holding the space for them. A friend found the fancy pair running scared way out on Mud Bay Road by the spring early Sunday morning, perhaps while the guys were all still skiing. He picked those chickens up and drove them to town. They will stay in my coop until they are claimed, or forever, if they are not. Chickens don't live alone, or even in pairs. You should always have at least three. The presence of other chickens makes them secure and content. When another member of the flock is out of sorts, they all are. Kind of like people in small communities. I'm grateful that I can comfort and shelter these small birds so easily from the storms of life. It's not much, I know, but I like to think that maybe it will help bring our world back into balance. Especially this week, especially on another perfect day for heli-skiing in Haines.