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March 31, 2017: The Writing Life: Liminality Luminated

I am now sitting in the brightly lit back room the Unalaska Museum of the Aleutians, which is located in Dutch Harbor. A few hours ago, when I talked to Bill, the desk clerk of the Grand Aleutian Hotel, he said that here, there can be four seasons in a day. Yesterday, the day we arrived in town, it was blowsy and windy. Today it started out windy. Now it’s windless. It started out snowy. Now the sun is shining. What gives?

Windless is the operative word. I was told by the airport desk clerk that planes that fly in, fly out. But if the wind is blowing across the runway, then they reconsider. I did not see wind blowing across the runway on my walk over here.

Grand Aleutian Hotel

Kathy is now looking at artifacts that have been carefully tucked away in white, cardboard boxes. She’s wearing white cotton gloves. She’s a forensic specialist, and knows how to do this. She told me that her dream job would be to be a coroner, and do death investigations. My thinking is that it takes a special kind of person to do this. This sort of job would be low on my list of priorities. I could not (last night) even watch a movie she selected, which was about the Boston Marathon Bombing. It made me very unsettled.

Kathy has just finished examining an infant bundle. Kale, the intern, assisted her in untying the cotton sack like material surrounding it. I took a close look it. I recognized the cranium, and a fibula. It was brown and dirt-like – in the throes of decomposition.

Kathy told me that the Natives believed in liminality – and that mummification put the soul in a state of being that was between this world and the next. This has got me wondering – does this mean that this infant’s soul is now stuck in this netherworld? And would it have to be buried in order to be freed? Or will it be freed when it disintegrates? I can fully understand, if this is what some believe, they would want this mummy to be buried.

And did the conversion of many Natives to Christianity change this particular belief construct? These are important questions that Kathy, with a good dissertation advisor, would have explored. Maybe she will still do this. For sure, she is not going to get an assist from the Native community, who undoubtedly would like for her to do her dissertation on some other subject.

Me, I’m interested in finding out more about the horse herd that is on Summer Island, which is close to Dutch Harbor. In looking at photos I have deduced that they are from draft horse bloodlines – they are large, stocky, and have large heads. I asked a few people and was told they were brought here about twenty years ago. Makes sense, they were probably brought here to pull things around, and then released. I would like to come back and go see them, and see what kind of care they are getting.

I am now thumbing through a book entitled “Cow Woman of Akutan,” which is about one family’s attempt to make a living on Akutan Island as ranchers. They brought in cows and sheep. Not such a good idea, to bring in livestock – such things decimate rare plant species. That’s human beings for you.

Next: 91. 4/1/17: Finally in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska

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