The girl from Nowhere

Growing up, my village was my world, some may consider where I am from
: nowhere. I am the Eskimo girl from nowhere.
Nowhere is where I want to be
Being there is where I can be free
Nowhere is where I’d rather be
Nowhere will always be,
Home
A poem for my childhood: Guggeelee guggeelee, I see you! Guggeelee guggeelee! I will catch you. Let me be the one to set you free, Guggeelee. Out of the lake into the river, here I will help you swim better! Guggeelee guggeelee, I set you free, you can swim faster, thanks to me!
In our language, Inupiaq, we call minnows Guggeelees. As a child, I vividly remember catching these tiny fish in an old tin coffee can, usually red with Hills Bros. labeling.
My childhood was well spent, with much of the time being outside. I knew where all the best flowers grew. Even though I was afraid of bumblebees, I was still willing to pick flowers. It was one of my favorite things to do. Purple wild Iris, wild pink bumblebee flowers, yellow buttercups, white daisies and another white flower smaller in size, purple forget me not flowers, pink rosehip flowers, of course not to forget the pink fireweed blossoms and bluebell beauties.
When I go for hikes, I am always excited to make a bouquet of flowers and sometimes other plants and greens as well. Whatever is appeasing to my eyes. I call it the gift of an eye for beauty. Seeing the beauty in all of creation.
Perhaps you are watching a movie, paying very close attention to every detail, then imagining the brain behind what you are watching. The beauty, or the suspense, maybe the horror, or the joy, or bone felt sorrow of a scene. All so captivating and all from the mind of a beautiful unique human. Someone you most likely do not know. From the script to the costume designs to the area of the shoot of each scene. All so unique and different but all from the mind of a human.
Story telling has been our form of passing information down to the next generation so that they may have a better chance of survival. Now it is assumed, we will always survive. We are taught how to survive just from what is available as a food source in our area. I did not edit my journal entries from the seventh grade. I thought I would share a piece of me growing up in rural Alaska.
The Journal of Gertie Ann Johnson: 7th Grade
3-19-97
Yesterday, I went riding with Amber, Venessa and Cheryl. I also watched TV. And I did my homework. I’m writing with my left hand. I like school, I can’t believe it is almost over. I can’t wait till the picnic. I remember in 4th grade I had to write with my left hand. I think Chris is a lot more cuter. I don’t think he looks good with his hats on all the time. I am so happy I am not a lefty. I think Frank is cute as a little guy! Gertie Johnson Sorry so messy I wrote with my left hand.

March 20, 1997
Dear Journal, Hello, I wrote my letter to my pen pal. Gee, whenever I look at this boy I get butterflys in my stomach. I think Frank is perfectly fine. I really think Chris is a lot cuter, more fine, and more of an babe. I guess it is the hair-cut and perm. I think It is not right to sin. My mommy wanted to buy eggs but we are going to wait till they get bigger. Yesterday Jamie and I fed my dogs and her dogs, rode around and worked on our fort. It was fun.
3-21-97
Dear Journal, The fort Crystal, Jamie and I are building is almost done. It is so big Crystal can stand up in it, so can I and Jamie. Today is Friday. I do not know what I am going to do. I might ride around. I am still in school and have to go. Have a nice day, Gertie Johnson.
3-24-97
Dear Journal, Tomorrow I went to St. Micheal. This weekend I did a lot of things. On Friday I went to suerside with Cheryl and Jamie. Then Jamie and I worked on the fort and fed dogs. It is real sad. Yesterday someone trashed our fort, but just the ground. On Saturday I stayed at Dawns house all day with Crystal. We were cleaning and mating socks for her. I guess they are going to move to Washington. Well, we helped her pack. We also watched a couple movies while we were there. Then I played out, watched Eddie. Crystal rented it. It was a good movie. And that day my cousin Joey was going to Shaktoolik with Doy’s rig. The ice was thin and he sunk by blueberry. He tried to go into Ricky’s cabin because he was wet. Then my Dad and Doy went to find him. They helped him get into that cabin. Took off his clothes and warmed him up. Doy came back to town with our rig, got extra clothes and got Shane and Bruce. Shane and Bruce got out Doys snow machine and my Dad brought Joey back. Then he slept at my house that night. It was fun. Gertie J.
3-26-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday was so fun! I went to St. Michael. At first it was boring but when Kellen, Greg and Louis showed up it was like going on a roller-coaster. We played basketball, went to the store and talked a lot. Out of Louis, Greg and Kellen, I think Kellen is the nicest. He was real nice to me but I don’t really like him. Denny was ok. We placed first for 7/8 and High School placed first also. When we went to go and get the trophy we all held it and screamed/yelled chickens. Their was all sorts of cute boys. Their was this cute boy and his name was Dennis. And their was Ryan Washington, the judge with a green vest and plenty more. At night Andri, Chels, Bev, Dana and I stayed up late and just talked. It was fun. Then this morning when I said goodbye to Kellen, Greg and Louis I hugged Kellen and Louis. It was a lot of fun, I would like to do it again some day. Gertie J.
3-27-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday I slept all day. I never woke up until 5:00 am. I did my homework and fell back asleep. Then woke up at 7:45 and washed my hair. I can’t forget about St. Mike’s. I guess it will always stay in my mind. I just had a pop earlier and broke up with a friend. I miss all of my friends in St. Michael’s. It was really fun. Have a nice day! Gertie Johnson
3-28-97
Dear Journal,
Yesterday I watched TV and did most of my homework. Les is sick and ugly. Denny seems to be getting nicer (in a way). I wish I was president of the class. Jeremy is so immature! The way he acts and everything is so kiddish. He is bright (in some way) but his attitude. The most mature people in this class would be me, Chelsea, Wags, Isaiah (most of the time) and Gabe, maybe Angela. In school I guess I am mature. Man! I miss Kellen so much and Louis and Greg. Greg is so cute as a little boy. In St. Michaels their was this judge (not Brisco) that was a babe. He wore a green vest, I mean everyone thought he was cute, even Andri. Have a great week! Ps Happy Easter! Gertie Johnson (Hope you had a wonderful Easter -Mr. Ross)
4-1-97
Dear Journal,
My Easter was fine, but I feel bad because I never went to church. I ate lots of boiled eggs. Spent quality time with my family. Me and my sister Crystal hanged out with each other. So it was a great Easter. This weekend was fun. On Monday I did my homework. I can’t believe I never went to Suercide this week. I usually do. Today after school I need to finish my Africa HS. -Gertie J.
4-2-97
Dear Journal,
Today I killed a chicken. So did Andri, Sonya and Mr. Holmguard. Mr. H really killed it. He twisted it in circles. I started crying and almost pissed in my pants. But I didn’t. Andri is real brave, Sonya just laughed all the time and helped a bit. The bird flew away after and opened its eyes after we cut its neck. It saw Andri last. I hope she doesn’t have nightmares. I will never forget my Seventh grade year. -Gertie J. (Hope you’re ok. We should have video taped you girls. Mr. Ross)

Sewskimo Gertz Craft Table

Today was the 10th Annual Tribal Celebration and Health Fair in sunny Palmer, Alaska. There were so many talented artists along with informative health and educational opportunity booths. Door prizes consisted of unique hand crafted items donated by each table, bicycles for every age group, fishing poles, a grill and other Knik knacks. Outside there was a rock wall climbing set up and a bouncing set up along with a bubble station and chalk art. Drumming and beautiful Native dancing were ongoing and amazing! The foods served to our elders first included fresh Salmon and Halibut, moose stew, cheeseburgers with all the fixings, hot dogs, fry bread, rice, salmon spread, cole slaw, lemon cake and carrot cake. I was able to participate in judging the salmon spread contest. My favorite part was the hula hoop contest for all ages, including ages 80 and up. I had many items available at my table and received nice compliments. Many potential commission opportunities. My table consisted of slippers, mukluks, birch baskets, punk art and ornaments. I made everything except my mom made the seal skin women’s slippers, calf skin infant mukluks, the largest birch basket and the girl’s hat. The lucky rabbits foot found a lucky home along with some ornaments.

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When the Celebration was over, everyone gathered around the drum in a prayer circle, with each persons hand laid on the person in front ending in a closing prayer. Knik, Cook Inlet, Chickaloon and other tribes hosted a great event. I plan on attending again!

Alaska’s spring harvest.

There are many greens available to harvest on public lands in Alaska. One of the first to arrive is the fiddlehead fern. The young unfurled fronds of the ostrich or lady fern. They usually grow in a cluster circle. I’m always sure to leave half of the 8-10 fiddleheads. It is important to clean them and boil or blanch the raw fronds to rid the natural toxins. For long storage I pickle mine and they are good for winter.

Around the same time beach greens and willow leaves show up. We call the greens tikyuks and the leaves sura. Both are picked clean and wilted then stored in seal oil for longer preservation. Both have a bitter taste but are a great source of nutrients. When they are mixed with seal oil the bitterness is cut and they make a great side for niqipak or Native food night.

There are roots that are ready to harvest this time of year we call masu. I am hopeful to find some before they harden out of the white flesh form they are in spring.

Enjoy spring and the lands bounties!

-Sewskimo Gertz

I’m in love

I am in love with the perfect man. No matter how many mistakes in life I make, He loves me still. Nothing I do or say can make Him love me more than He does at this moment. This moment that I am alive I am loved beyond measure. Imagine that, beyond measure, or infinity. An infinity of love for a simple woman. Unending love. Forever is an eternity and I am loved for that long. It puts a smile on my face every single day. Knowing and believing I am loved for me. Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so.
Grace is given, as a gift, and received, as the gift it is. What is grace? Grace is winning the lottery when you didn’t even buy a ticket. It’s hitting the jackpot a million times over. It is receiving love that I don’t and will never deserve. It is amazing!
Add these two factors together and it makes you want to strive to be the best person you can be. Forgiveness of sin is remarkable, but it is not a free pass to do whatever you want, even though you can literally do anything you want to do in this world. Having this love makes you want to be a good person because you are accepted for what is, imagine… what could be. The infinity of love from the Trinity. Godhead. What you call your God, His son and the Holy Spirit. Perfect Trifecta!
Love your life, throughout your life, then your life will be well lived. What is it that you hope to give to this world? We can give nothing to this world because we are not of this world. The world is of us. Meaning we make this world what it is. Adding love to the world is loving yourself. When you love God above all things, that is the good life. No matter how much or how little you have in this world there is always one constant, and that is God’s love. He loves us the same because the price was paid for us. Jesus laid down His life so that we may receive the Holy Spirit. This was grace given in perfect form.
So we take each day and remember that today you are loved! Be love!

Alaskan Fiddleheads

Usually, when I start to see geese or crane flying North, I know the fiddleheads are almost ready. These are the early unfurled ferns that like to grow in moist areas, such as near creeks or by the bay. In their raw form, fiddleheads have a toxin that can be removed by boiling the cleaned greens for five minutes then rinsing well before cooking or pickling. I like to pickle mine with a easy to remember solution of 3/4 water 3/4 apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp salt along with pickling spices. Soon Devils club shoots and masu are what is harvested the same time as fiddleheads. Dandelion jelly is batter up and spruce tip syrup. I love harvesting goodness from this area!