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.

Before I left for Australia I said goodbye to a friend who was dying of lung cancer. As I watched her daughter give her a manicure, I was suddenly so sad, in that way that is like a wave washing over you. I won’t see her again. Then I thought, who knows if she will go first. I could die in an Uber wreck on the way to some airport, or if the plane drops into the ocean, or choking on a shrimp tail. “Snakes” my daughter said, “spiders”, and even plants. “Everything in Australia can kill you.” She had just watched a documentary on life Down Under and warned me to be careful.

But I did not die, and I did not get sick. I met a grandchild and a whole new branch of the family. I am nearly three weeks out  from travel now, and am fine. My friend’s funeral was yesterday. I wrote her obituary and in doing so laughed and cried.

We are all extra vigilant now, because of the next  grand baby coming any day now here in Juneau, and because of our older friends, not only the ill ones, but those who seem so healthy, and who over sixty doesn’t have something? Chemo has cured cancer but weakened immune systems. You can’t see when hearts beat unevenly, or who has a pacemaker. Diabetes and asthma effect the smallest of children.

Which is a long way of saying, that sure, I’m a little scared. But I’m hopeful too– because all these measures, all the self isolating, the hand washing, the “jazz hand” greetings-  the financial losses, are to protect the least among us– the elderly, the infirm, the worried, the poor–  and because of this crisis I believe there will be a change for the good. I have learned, in my time as a volunteer hospice helper, that caring for others helps me in challenging situations, and over and over again I have heard stories from other volunteers that say the same thing: this is what St. Francis meant when he said that in giving we receive. It’s not about presents. It’s about presence. The whole world is now full of people caring for each other. Think about that. What can I do? See if someone who is older needs some groceries, a meal dropped off, a dog walked. Watch children for someone that has to go to work when school is closed.  Write.

I have been staying away from the hot stove of social media lately, as you have probably noticed, because it felt as if so much of it was angry, mean, and addicting in a bad way, but now, I think those of us that have a few good words to share, should. Plus, we will need some company now that we can’t all go out together, or even meet for book club.

I am typing this in my bed upstairs at my daughter’s house, listening to her and her husband read stories and play with their children. Earlier, Eliza made me coffee and as we sipped it by her hearth in the quiet of dawn, she said, “Today I’m staying off Facebook and reading my book instead.  We will do yoga, and plan an art project, and play outside in the sun. I think we should bake something too.”


This also seems like a good time to remind you of my friend Becky’s wise words “Be kind, be brave, be thankful.”

And maybe, we will have another new baby soon. I will keep you posted.