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.

Kate DiCamillo, who wrote one of my favorite books ever, about a girl and her dog and love, family and community — Because of Winn-Dixie– (I know it’s for children but good stories are good stories and great writing is great writing)- Kate says that everything she writes comes from her childhood, “in one way or another” and that she is “forever drawing on the sense of mystery and wonder and possibility that pervaded that time of my life.”

I wish I remembered more details from my childhood, but I do know that built into my way of being is that sense of wonder, possibility, mystery– and I would add fear and humor, which I soaked up before I knew I was paying attention–  I know that being scared and laughing may not seem like good traits to carry into life and share stories about, but they go together pretty well.

Still, hanging out with a newly turned 3 year-old granddaughter from the other side of the world, has got me thinking about all of this. Lila Chip may never be here again in the winter (most people don’t travel to Haines this time of year. Most people who live here, it seems, are doing their best to be away in the winter. The lumberyard is very slow, so are the grocery stores. It was only Chip and I in the pool the other morning. Eating out has not been an option. Everyone is on winter break.)

My mother believed that children imprint on their surroundings. She was a plain and never showy person, which was why she was alarmed after Sarah came home with us from her birth in the Haines clinic to a rented old house on Union St. with such elaborately designed and colored linoleum floors, that the patterns  would cause her to grow up to be very bold and bright. Sarah began life as a busy bright penny,  and my mother was right, she has stayed that way. Blame it on the flooring? (I wish it was that simple to raise happy kids, don’t you?) Also, that was February, and the only time my mother ever visited in the winter and we had a record breaking blizzard. That’s why we named Sarah after her. It seemed the least we could do.

So what will Lila take from her Alaska adventure, what parts will remain with her?

She probably won’t remember her birthday breakfast in the little house. Or falling asleep in the top bunk at the big house, where she is not supposed to be by herself, and waking up with me next to her, since I didn’t want to disturb a sleeping toddler. I couldn’t move her, and joining her seemed like the best solution. I was concerned that I might not be able climb down again. The wobbly bunk bed is a terrible design. It is an institutional metal style with narrow rungs. Fine for children, especially in the five-10 year-old range, but clearly not built for anyone over five feet tall. Still, I climbed a lot of trees when I was a kid. Apparently the skills remain.

If I had to bet, I would think that we have insured that Lila will be a dog person. She already liked dogs before, and here she read to them, walked with them,  gave them biscuits (once, when I wasn’t paying attention, she handed out the entire tin, which endeared them to her forever.)

I hope she remembers the mountains, river and sea, the ice and snow, the sky and fresh cold air. Even if she doesn’t, it must stay with her somewhere deep inside, don’t you think?

May she hold onto the wonder, the possibility, the mystery and most of all, the love that is all mixed up with this family and this place– we wouldn’t be one without the other.