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A Boring Evening at Home: Alison Hull

Taken from A Boring Evening at Home by Gerda Weissmann Klein, published by Leading Authorities Press and used by permission.

Read by Alison Hull: "The following story, like all good commentary, resonates far beyond the moment." Alison came to Alaska for the outdoors 10 years ago. Alaska is unique for the opportunities it provides to create individual and community growth and change. Check out the Anchorage Fencing Club.

Gerda Weissman Klein, a survivor of the Holocaust, visited Alaska last year. In her book, A Boring Evening at Home, Mrs. Klein reflects on her life before and after her years in World War II camps. She tells this story of her son, James.

"He and his friend Andy had found a few small tadpoles, and each of the boys made a small pond. ... One morning Jimmy came back from the beach, his huge blue eyes brimming with tears. ...that morning he had felt so sorry for the tadpoles that he had decided to release them. ... He was facing a dilemma. He had freed Andy's tadpoles as well! Did he have the right to do so? When I asked why he hadn't consulted Andy before granting the tadpoles their freedom, his argument was that Andy probably would not have agreed to restore the tadpoles to Lake Erie. That was not enough, however. The next question was one of morality. Who had greater rights: the tadpoles or Andy?"

What Happens When Polar Bears Leave: Marybeth Holleman

Excerpted from "What Happens When Polar Bears Leave" by Marybeth Holleman, appearing in Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment, edited by Marybeth Holleman and Anne Coray and published by University of Alaska Press.

Read by Marybeth Holleman, author of Heart of the Sound. A North Carolina transplant, Marybeth has lived in Alaska for more than 20 years, and is still caught breathless by Alaska's wild beauty. Marybeth's website.

"I was thirteen on the first official Earth Day. Same age as my boy now. After school, I walked the neighborhood alone, thinking of the planet and of my adult life before me. It was the first time I'd thought of the Earth as a living entity, as something I could affect. I scanned the sidewalks and roadsides, looking for litter. I picked up one soda can beside the road, all the litter I found that day. Just one, but I still feel the coolness of that thin empty container, see a glimmer in the afternoon sun, still savor the heart-skipping lightness I felt the rest of the day.

What was reflected in that soda can -- I wanted more of that feeling. I wanted to be of use.

But one soda can is nothing. Did no good. What does?"

The Singing Wilderness: Lucian Childs

Taken from The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd F. Olson, published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Read by Lucian Childs: "In Alaska, spring is long in coming and it's hard won. But winter, too, plays its part." Lucian is a graphic designer and writer living in Anchorage.

In The Singing Wilderness, Sigurd F. Olson's first book, he describes the onset of spring for residents of the North.

"To anyone who has spent a winter in the north and known the depths to which the snow can reach, known the weeks when the mercury stays below zero, the first hint of spring is a major event. You must live in the north to understand it. You cannot just come up for it as you might go to Florida for the sunshine and the surf. To appreciate it, you must wait for it a long time, hope and dream about it, and go through considerable enduring."

A Sand County Almanac: Sarah Hanuske-Hamilton

Taken from A Sand Country Almanac, with essays on conservation from Round River, by Aldo Leopold, published by Oxford University Press.

Contributed by Laura Hoopes of Claremont, California. Read by Sarah Hanuske-Hamilton, a retired Alaska school superintendent: "For many years, I lived in the interior of Alaska, in the communities of Shageluk and McGrath. The change of seasons was based on the comings and goings of the geese." Although Sarah was a fan of Aldo Leopold's writings before moving to rural Alaska, it was the direct experience of living in Athabascan villages where she learned to feel the land, animals, plants, trees, weather, the people, and their stories deep into her bones. It brought an experience of freedom unmatched anywhere else.

This reading in A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is especially meaningful to me.

"One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.

A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges."

Conflicting Landscapes: Father Michael Oleksa

Taken from Conflicting Landscapes: American Schooling/Alaska Natives by Clifton Bates and Michael J. Oleksa, published by The Kuskokwim Corporation.

Contributed and read by the Rev. Dr. Michael James Oleksa, who was invited to the Alutiiq village of Old Harbor in 1970. He began researching Native Alaskan history there in 1977, and completed his doctoral dissertation in this field, receiving his Th. D. at the Orthodox Theological Faculty of Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1988. Father Michael's four-part PBS Television series, Communicating Across Cultures, has been widely acclaimed. He currently serves St. Alexis Orthodox church in Anchorage where he resides with his Yup'ik wife, Xenia, and their son Michael.

In Conflicting Landscapes, Clif Bates and I look at education and Alaska Native students.

"Of course we have some success stories. We do have Alaskan Native college graduates. We do have articulate, inspiring Native leaders, ... men and women in various professions around the state. But for every success we have twice as many tragic failures. For every graduate we have two or three drop outs. For every college alumnus we have five times more deaths, accidents, and suicides. For every star we have a dozen black holes.

I have buried too many victims of both suicide and accidents. I have shared the grief and the trauma, the anger and the sadness of elders and parents who have watched as their children drift off into lives of addiction, crime, sickness, suffering and death. And I am convinced that the seedbed out of which these destructive behaviors emerge is the school. Our schools are killing our kids."