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!
Seal skin, beaver and calf skin design.
One summer in middle school a family from Nome brought their horses to Unalakleet. This was the first time I saw a horse in real life. I was in love with horses and they were beautiful. They fed along the coastal beach grazing on grass and could not be more picturesk. Nena was the name of the female horse. I was dared to ride her bareback when me and some friends drove out to the old dump site. I was up first, being assured my friends would hold the reigns and with the help of my sister and friends hopped on Nenas back. They started walking her and she took off full speed and I held on for about 30 seconds before she came to a complete stop and turned to her side almost as if to say “this ride is over.” I tumbled in the grass and did not get hurt. My knees were covered in grass stains, a small price to pay for my first horse ride. Then a younger friend was next, she got on, held on and was taken very far up the beach. We had to go get help because the horse did not stop for her, it just kept going.
The second time I rode a horse was in Fairbanks when I went to Rural Alaskas Honors Institute. We got to pick the horse that we wanted. I chose a male horse named Jessup. He was amazing and while all the other riders stayed on a slow pace, Jessup would stop to graze and then do a sprint to the group when they got a good distance from us. I got to go fast if only for a few seconds, I was in heaven and he did this the entire journey.
The third and last time I rode a horse was at the Cincinnati Horse Derby. My ex husbands Grandma owned horses she raced in Cincinnati, Ohio. She had a beautiful male white stallion. For exercise they tied them up to a rod with a leash that goes in a circle. I was able to ride him for a couple of minutes. We went round and round in a circle, posed for some pictures and that day her horse won at the races. We got to pose for pictures with the Jockey and her horse along with the blanket of flowers for the horse as well. It was all a splendid memory.
Someday I hope to own my very own horse. That would be amazing and the kind of work needed to take care of them, I’m willing.
Today I used my wood burning iron for the first time. This is what we call punk in Alaska. In ash form it helps absorb other substances more intensely. It would be interesting to study its effects in other combinations besides nicotine, considering that is what a lot of natives mix it with I’m sure it could play a more useful part perhaps absorbing nutrients that are beneficial. I’d like to try mixing some ash with chaga tea or Labrador tea along with my rosehip petals and spruce resin. Possibilities are endless with an open mind.
By Gertie Ann
Ever since I was a little girl one of my favorite people to simply observe was Anna LaMug. She frequented our humble home when she traveled to Unalakleet. It was my one goal to make her smile while she visited, I won almost every time. Her stature and the way she carried herself is how I hold myself when I need to, only when I need to. I saw her beauty beyond her red stained lips and make-up. I knew she was making her rounds, meaning that I felt she was a prayer warrior. You could feel it, literally feel it. The best warriors make their rounds without telling a soul. But some of us just know. And she made my heart happy because she always looked ageless to me and her seriousness was what I strived for at times, only when I need to. Her smell was pleasant and sometimes I’d get a hug from her. When we observe people in their actions, you have the ability to learn from their actions. I call it learning through other’s actions. Taking advice to heart only to strive to be the very best person you were created to be. When I went to church for the first time after my brother Axel died, I did not want to go. I had just gotten over being sick for seven days where I only had strength to get out of bed only to tend to Duke’s needs. The Sunday before Christmas I got ready to go to the Mat-Su Covenant Church. In my mind I told myself to pretend to be Anna LaMug so I made myself presentable. The thinking behind that is that people are more willing to accept a message when it is made presentable. So i made myself presentable.
It was going to be Duke’s first time going to Church and after my brother died I refused to ever go again until that day. Our frankenvehicle did not have heat so we bundled up, the white car had engine problems so we were left with no choice but to dress warm. I took one look in the car and saw no car seat, I completely forgot it was left in my brother’s vehicle, he had invited us to Thanksgiving and that was the one time we saw people for three months, we were ever so thankful. So no car seat, yay we don’t need to go after all. Then the idea that my neighbor had a carseat was set in my mind. I sent her a text and she had a carseat but they weren’t home. No go. So maybe we didn’t have to go to Church after all. Then I remembered there was a booster seat we had for when Duke was old enough. I found it and the seat was covered in frost, I took the frost off and it fit him just right. It would work for the purpose of going to church, so we took off. It’s a forty minute drive from where we live.
On the way a thought that maybe we would be too late crossed my mind, so my next thought was just don’t look at the time. I didn’t look at the time. We kept going and maybe we were almost half way there and I felt like turning around and just going back to the cabin. Then a song that I never heard before came on. Be brave, say what you want to say do what you want to do and this lady singing this song gave me the gumption to keep going. I was on a mission. I brought my notebook that had a part of my testimony written in it. I was like, ok I will bring it but don’t expect me to share. First, no one invited me to church I just had to go (Holy Spirit) Second, usually when people speak in Church it’s preorchestrated. We made it to Church. I took Duke to the Children’s play room and to my great surprise my cousin Ruth was watching the children. She invited me to stay in the play room with her and as much as I love children and adore them I had to say no. I had to go sit and listen and worship.
Duke had no problem letting me leave he had his two cousins to play with. No matter how much I try to be a kid with him he needs the social interactions of actual children. I was looking for a place to sit and my cousins husband was leading worship and he was seated up at the front. Oh gosh, really? I have to go sit up at the front? Any chance I get I will try to go unnoticed. I was wearing my Parka from my Aunt Harilynn and she recieved the Parka from her Aunt Agnes, I only had to do the fur work on it. I felt a little peacockish but not on purpose. No way was I going to walk down the middle isle so I walked up the left isle of the pews ALL the way up to the front. I felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit and went with His flow. I gave my cousin a hug and he was surprised to see me. His last name is Johnson and that is my maiden name, he married my first cousin so I call him my cousin, she got to keep our last name Johnson.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to share but worship was coming up soon so I asked my cousin if I could share something to the congregation. I said look, this is what I want to share and he skimmed my testimony and said to keep it around two minutes. I smiled and agreed. He called me up and I did not want to go up. It’s not like I wasn’t already praying for strength and for God to use me. I got up there and the congregation was among my favorite people, elders. I love elders because my mom taught me to. Anything my mom has ever taught me in love stayed in my heart, same with all the lessons of love people showed me simply by loving me.
I shared my testimony. Tears, heartache, then smiles and hope. Always a message of hope. It was good to go to church again. I met people who knew my dad and saw the Egli’s who used to live in Unalakleet. I gave them a hug becuase I love to give hugs to people I know and love. When so many people show you kindness, how do you not live to do the same thing. My heart was happy and I hope the one person who needed to hear hope heard it.
God is good to me, even when I have nothing I feel as though I have everything because He loves me. I will never give up on my family, on generational healing and on spreading Love and that is allowing Jesus to continue to be the Lord of My Life, this time all the hurt and pain that caused me to run and hide is no longer there. I was never afraid, only ashamed and Jesus is not ashamed of me, He carried me through the darkest of hours and I spent a lot of time in dark places because I was following my own self desires and the further I strayed the harder life was. But, I wouldn’t trade any of it because I met amazing people through simply being someone experiencing the world through my own perspective. Always choosing good over evil when that is made clear.
If you feel ashamed of your life, give your life to Jesus and walk a life free of shame. I only want to be a sheep if Jesus is the Shepherd, and He is a good Shepherd. Amen.