I live and write on Lingít Aaní, and gratefully acknowledge the past, present and future caretakers of this beautiful place, the Jilkaat Kwaan and Jilkoot Kwaan.

My first big event as Alaska Writer Laureate has been postponed because of Covid. I was supposed to introduce Joy Harjo, the Poet Laureate of the United States at an event at the Anchorage Museum on Sept. 10, but the Delta variant has other plans. I expected this, which is why I haven’t mentioned it yet. By then the state fair in Palmer would have increased the spread even more. Haines has  had over 90 cases of Covid here following our fair weekend. We let our guard down and partied, and there are still 20-some active cases with a handful added daily due to community spread. We are back to masks. Distancing and isolating, just as the season shifts and the nights are dark. It stinks.

When my daughter announced her breakthrough case, I couldn’t breathe. I have been hyper-vigilant for months, a year, because I did not want my grandchildren to get it, especially one of Stoli’s girls, who has asthma, and has been in the clinic overnight on oxygen with only a cold. I just knew, knew in my bones that she could not get this virus. It was my worst fear.

You know what happens next. Stoli’s kids test positive. I did not raise my voice or scream, I projected calm and courage. I told her over the phone that I was certain they would be fine, but to call the clinic at the sound of the first tiny wheeze. They have medicine. They will help. Don’t worry.

I had to get it together. So I took a bath and brought the book of poems I was reading to prepare for Joy’s event.  Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. I sank into the hot salty water, inhaled the lavender. Prayed. Hail Mary full of grace. Sweet Jesus hold that dear child in the palm of your hand. Then I asked God for a sign that I’d been heard. Anything. Something.

How about if I open the book of poems, and what I read will be the divine message?

I closed my eyes, flipped the pages, stopped, pointed, and read:

“I don’t like your girlfriend and her high heeled shoes…”


I always give God a second chance. I mean he, or she, is busy. So I did it again:

O unseen helpers! Give my grandchild a safe path through the dark. Keep all my grandchildren safe, keep every grandchild safe.

I read that perfect poem out loud, once, twice, three times — my magic number. I sang a verse of Down to the River to Pray, and It is Well with my Soul, and the doxology too. Calling all Angels.

My grandaughter did not get sick. She breezed through with hardly a sniffle. Her siblings are well too. All of my grandchildren are.

As Joy writes:

Praise and give thanks for each small and large thing.