On the radio Jerry Lee Lewis is singing “You Are My Sunshine” and Tom, the volunteer DJ just said, we have to “make our own sunshine” until that “golden orb” that’s up there somewhere returns. April was so warm and sunny, that I guess May decided to make up for it. Still, the days are long, everything is so green, and when the cold wind that has been blowing like it does in the Aleutians shoves the clouds aside it makes my heart sing— as if the weather is personal.
My friend Betty’s death hit me harder than I expected. It was not a surprise, she would even agree that she’d rather be anywhere than in her tired body. But still, I drive by Haines Assisted Living and look toward her window to see if the shades are up. I start to dial her number, but she is never going to answer and I can’t leave a message can I?
Whistling and humming are solace and I do it all the time, driving Papa Bob nuts. (Having him near, and aging as he is, may be part of my strong response to losing Betty, I get that. Covid too, has left a lingering kind of weight on us all, and it’s continuing. India. Nepal.) “What’s with the whistling? Since when did you whistle?” Papa Bob just said from the couch. I thought I was doing a darn good rendition of “You are my Sunshine.”
Also, I have been listening to the-meaning-of-life type podcasts, and found this bit of weird information in one with Jesuit priest Richard Rohr, inspiring. They were all chatting about about something like God and faith and how to live well, and out of the blue one of the hosts shared the origin of humming.
Monkeys picked lice off each other as a way to create community, friendships, and as a physical act of kindness and intimacy among friends or family members, he said. But only so many well-meaning groomers can pick nits at one time, so the ones left out would watch the others, stay near and, yes, hum! That humming, one theory has it, evolved into singing, the most human (and animal, think birds and whales) of breath and heartbeat collaborations.
I’m still thinking about that after attending a Shabbat dinner with my Rabbi neighbor, where the others knew the prayers and sang them all together, and about how in church on Sunday we sang too, and then the fire chief, filling in for the pastors who were away, gave the sermon and he just slayed me. I think it was Rabbi Heschel who said that God shows up in awe and wonder, and when you are struck by it, or notice it, you feel the divine. This has been the season of awe and wonder.
Anyway, I thought you’d like all that, but actually this a long warm up to some other news, and in true second string reporter fashion, I have buried the lede: I’ve been chosen by the Alaska State Council on the Arts and the Alaska Humanities Forum to be the Alaska State Writer Laureate for the next two years. It’s heady, a little scary, and a huge honor. My wonderful old friend Melissa Ganey (Mel G Photography) came over yesterday and took a couple of pictures so I’d have something current to share. She’s so great, and did her best in the wind and spitting rain– I like this one the best, but it probably won’t make the press file. I wish I could share the fresh fishy eau de beach scent on Trixie, instead you’ll just have to use your imagination. I love this place.