October 30th, 2011

I Can't Go Home Again.

For the past year i have been unable to properly take care of my toenails, and the big toe on my right foot looks like it belongs to a member of a different species' so when Dianne saw that they were doing a foot clinic at our church, she insisted that i go.   The nurse who took care of me spent our forty minutes together updating me on Ketchikan, Alaska where she spent the last three years working in a medical facility serving the Tllnget (klinget) and Tsimsian peoples.

Between my tenth and eighteenth birthdays, i lived in Ketchikan,  It was the closest thing i ever had to a hometown until i moved to Boise 44 years ago.  It was a rough town, a logging and fishing town, less than ten thousand people on its large island.  It had its lumber mill, its cannery, its well marked red light district, its Coast Guard base, its "indian town" and its more traditional Tlinget village, all surrounded by beautiful, rugged wilderness and the Pacific Ocean.  In retrospect, it was the perfect place to have grown up.  If you kept your eyes closed to a certain covert brutality, which most of us kids, at least, managed to do, it was a safe, tolerant, comfortable place.  Other people seemed not to think i was nearly as odd as i thought i was.  Outside of my own dysfunctional household, it was a kind of kids' paradise.

Now, Marie, the nurse, tells me.  The cannery and the lumber mill are gone.  So is the pulp mill that was built there in the early 1950s,  Tourism is the closed thing there is to an economy.  Wealthy "statesiders" (Alaska had not obtained Statehood when i left and references to the lower 48 states as "the states" still are present) have built summer homes there and the streets are filled with homeless people.  I learned more, most of it depressing.  But it still has rain

Uneating the Fruit

One of six verses on snow: by Dogen

All my life perplexed by truth and falsity, right and wrong;
Now amusing myself in the moonlight,
Laughing at the wind,
Listening to the songs of birds --
So many years spent idly contemplating
The immense white layer on the mountains;
This winter, all of a sudden,
I see it for the first time as a snow-mountain.

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