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.

I listened to an interview with Rep. Andy Kim, who was photographed around midnight after the battle in the Capitol was finally over, picking up the trash the terrorists left behind. There he was, with his mask on, holding a plastic bag, trying to tidy up. “I really didn’t think about,” he said. “It was instinctual.” He was a bit embarrassed to be praised for doing something so normal, as democratic even, as cleaning up an awful mess in a place he works at and loves. This is how people are supposed to behave.

I am supposed to be writing a brief update on life in Haines for the paperback edition of Bears and Ballots. It is harder than I thought it would be, as to say what I want to about how well the community came together in December, the unity and strength we showed, I  have to include the loss of life. Of homes. Of the land itself. I cannot get any closer than this right now. It’s best seen from across the cove and behind a windshield.

After I returned from running errands in town, I made some lunch and opened the iPad, and just as quickly closed it. I can’t look at the headlines any more than I can that cut on the hill in town. I thought about Rep. Kim though. My instinct is to help too– but with all the Covid precautions, that’s out. I couldn’t even go see my old friend at Haines Assisted Living. I can’t babysit. I had already done my radio show this week. I did not feel like cooking. It’s terribly dreary.

I thought again about Andy Kim.

Well, it’s not the Capitol, but I can tidy up some out in the yard. Pretend it is March instead of January. Fresh air will do me good and bump the news out of my head to make room for more productive writer-ly thoughts. Our driveway and paths are a sheet of ice. The rain (and now it’s mixing with snow again) has made everything slick.

I began by chipping a big section of ice off the back stoop. Then I carved an alternate route to the beach,  hiked over the brush and glacier, filled and lugged buckets of sand back up to the yard to the driveway, and then scatterered it on all the walkways– to the chicken coop, the south beach, the north beach, the garage and the woodshed. That took a while.

It wasn’t dark yet, and there was bare ground in some places, so I raked up the leaves, spruce cones, sawdust and bark. Then I raked the sand piles out in a cross hatch pattern and that made all the difference in traction. I picked up the bright bits stuck in the mud and sand. Where does the trash fly in from? Gum wrappers, blue tape, a milk bottle cap. I finished by stacking a few wheelbarrow loads of firewood on the dry porch and then swept the steps. Papa Bob arrived home from an adventure with my sister, just in time.The perimeter was safer, and the footing secure.

I had fled the house and the news, feeling cooped and cornered, but after a few good chores on an otherwise miserable afternoon, I was back home where I should be. Inside, it felt almost too warm from the stove, and smelled like spring- thanks to  the red tulips a friend brought from and Juneau. Which is long way of saying that I feel better now. (And I share this in the hopes that you will to.)