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.

Here is my essay for this week’s Small Things Considered Feature on KHNS. Rosalie Loewen and Debi Knight-Kennedy are regular contributors too, if you’d like to do one, or more, contact Margaret at 766-2020, or email me and we’ll help you.

When I heard that Oklahoma! Would be staged here on October 5 & 6th, I thought no one will rehearse during the final weeks of summer. Big shows were for midwinter.  

I was wrong. Lots of talented people put on one of the best shows, ever. I’m still humming “The Cowboy and the Farmer Should be Friends.”

But I do worry that this social climate change is not as positive when it comes to community controversy.

The first wet flurries have barely landed, yet already February cabin-fever-type conflicts have begun. A potential mine on Mud Bay Road, new heli-ski rules, the property rights flap at Viking Cove, and the school’s decision to nix an assembly by Amy Gulick, based on her book of photography and essays, Salmon in the Trees. The school board president thought the author’s lessons on links between area fish and forests were too controversial for our students to learn. 

I was so embarrassed that I invited Amy over for dinner with a mix of life-long, long-time, and new residents, with ties to fishing, timber, art, the media, and local government. A schoolteacher came too– 

Over salmon and potatoes we tried to explain the inconsistencies about this beautiful place and it’s equally impressive people – a community that I’m afraid I love too much sometimes–  

There was lots of laughter and spirited debate over the present and past controversies– Remember the hubbub about Playboy on sale at the grocery store, picketers at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the not so funny outcry over teaching tolerance of gays and lesbians at the high school? 

One of my devout Catholic friends calls Haines spiritual boot camp. God tests us daily to love our neighbors and forgive those who trespass against us, she says, and thinks it might be caused by something in the water. 

Our dinner party didn’t. 

But we did consider that it could be the ground we stand on. A huge iron deposit insures compasses don’t point true north and that Haines has more gravity than almost anyplace on the planet – no wonder we get stuck in our ways– add to that glacial rebound, ever-shifting rivers, extreme tides, landslides, and earthquake faults, and it is clear that our town is built on a dramatic and shifting foundation that our psyche reflects.

 It’s such a goofy theory that it makes sense, although I’m sure several of my guests would disagree. Which is how it should be. 

I hope this season’s early controversies don’t last as long as last winter’s snow. But if they do, my antidote will be to practice dinner table diplomacy. At the very least by spring, the cowboys and the farmers will have shared a few good meals.