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.

The Aussies left Haines on Friday’s ferry, spent the weekend with the Juneau sisters skiing, and flew out of Juneau Monday morning to Seattle, Doha and finally Perth where they are all asleep right now, and in the morning there, which is nightime tomorrow here, Ella’s parents will meet them and they will all drive home.

It’s summer there. 90 degrees. Green grass. Beaches. Flocks of parrots in fig trees. Kangaroos hopping through the woods.

What a world.

The day they left was our youngest daughter’s 11th wedding anniversary, and a Friday the 13th. They were also married on Friday 13th, and we took it as good luck then and still do. It has been more than Lucky. Their family is a blessing. I was kind of tired from more than a month of being “on”– but when she asked if we’d take the kids overnight so they can go to the cabin I said yes. Of course. I wasn’t quite on my game. I may have been still in pajamas on the couch when she texted. I did not have another pot of chili on the stove. We baked a frozen pizza for the kids. When Teddy said he wanted a bath I asked him if he could do it himself. He is almost 4. ( I helped. Of course I did.) He had toast and chocolate milk for dessert.

The next night I met with a group hoping to bring a Ukrainian refugee family to Haines. There are three young families in the mix, with a lot of children between them. More than a dozen. I think, and they all came to the potluck dinner-time conversation and Zoom with the Seattle refugee placement person, who is our friend Amy from Haines, the daughter-in-law of Christian’s godmother Becky,  thus the connection. I know: what a world.

This morning I talked with a friend on a team taking care of another friend who is dying of cancer in a small community not far from Seattle, near her adult children. The care giving afternoons are long and quiet. A sip of this, a bite of that. Reading aloud. Napping. Rubbing some hand cream on paper-like skin. A smoothie “made her smile,” my friend said. There is a crew there, some from Haines, some Washington, some family — it takes a lot of attention to pass from this world to the next comfortably- There are  end of life professionals stopping in  ( a hospice nurse, a massage therapist) but mostly it’s all being done by a caring circle of friends who are like a family and family members. They take walks in between shifts and see and hear things you don’t in Haines.  In that town, the parks have people living in them. They yell obscenities. Poop in public.

“It is tragic.”

Why are they there? Where do they come from?

“It’s easier than Seattle, I imagine.”

We talk some more. They are all ages, and they come from all over. They are harder to care for than our dying friend. It’s too big a problem to fix by ourselves. I tell her two people died from suspected fentynal overdoses  in Skagway this weekend. — Skagway! The police in Haines posted a picture of the lethal pills and they look like Skittles. It’s terrifying.

“The world is in trouble, Heather. I fear for the children.”


And yet. It’s a beautiful snowy day here. The school is full of Martin Luther King Jr. quotes. There is hot lunch for four bucks at the senior center.  Tonight at the library  Erik is giving a slide show about rafting down a local river to the sea.

And, a small group of us are trying to bring one refugee family to Haines. We are creating a “welcoming circle” — as Amy calls it– she says it’s really  “an extended family.” I know how lucky I am to have such a family, and I know Amy is part of ours too, and how connected we all are–  and how so many of us in Haines also have friends like family that care for each other from births to deaths. On Saturday night, my first night “off” from my own family since Dec. 8,  I looked around that noisy kitchen-living room where our little, hopeful, group gathered and brainstormed,  and realized I must have been chosen to be the grandma in this new kind of family for children that I have never met. Well, at least it’s a job I am confident that I can do.

Yes.  It is only one family in a world full of millions of refugees. Yes, there are so many who need so much, near and far.  But it’s like that old starfish parable, about the woman walking on a beach carrying  a few of the hundreds of starfish that washed up in a storm back to the sea. Why bother?  What difference does it make? Her friend asked. She placed another one gently back in the water and replied, It matters to that starfish.

And it matters to me.