Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Center of Almost Everything

English & Inupiaq name of school (Fall)

Not only is Meade River School the most prominent physical structure in the village, it's also the hub of countless community events. Although Atqasuk does have a heavily utilized community center, gatherings involving more than about fifty or sixty people usually end up taking place at the school.

The community feast at Thanksgiving, Eskimo games at Christmas, city league basketball and borough-wide meetings are all held in the gymnasium. Sadly, the gym will be the site of a funeral this weekend. In a village like ours, the school is more than just a building. It is a safe haven where innocent laughter and tears of sorrow coexist without any discernable contradiction.

The school is the center of almost everything here and while the weight of that reality can feel uncomfortably heavy at times, in the greater scheme of things, that seems like a very worthwhile place to be.


School sign in January

Meade River School (side view)

Playground 1


All aboard

When I started looking through photos for exterior views of the school, I quickly realized that most of my shots are taken from the vantage point of the school. Rather than being the subject of my images, the school is often more like a lens through which this village is viewed and brought into focus. Whether it's the warming sun-kissed southern sky or the northern view of sleepy houses tinged by moonlight, I must admit, it all feels a lot like home.

Sunrise 12:30 pm 1/26/08

From My Classroom


Bryan said...

What sounds warm and inviting to me, is the "community gathering." So few places have much of a gathering of the people, for any reasons anymore. It does sound warm and inviting. Just knowing that there is a place where the community can gather, in good times and in not so good times, can lift the heart.

Kimberlee said...

You're right, Bryan. I think that is exactly the quality that people struggle to hold onto...a sense of the midst of a world that promotes emotional (if not actual) isolation.

Laurie B. said...

Hi Kimberlee,
The sight of a school with playground, buses and sometimes mobile classrooms always makes me think of a community also. I could walk to my elementary school and pass neighbors who I knew would be there if I needed them. Your school and village Do look like home!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Laurie B! Thanks for stopping by! It sounds like you can relate to my perception of the school and its place in the village. I appreciate that. I guess the idea of community (and maybe the definition of the term) can be tricky to nail down. So often a collection of buildings are considered a community when, in reality, they are just a sense, empty shells. The real community is within and between the people of that area. It's the human connection that transforms a geographical location into a community that is affectionately called "home."

Bryan said...

I think that is one of the core needs for us as humans. Even those of us who consider ourselves "loners" still need to feel like there is a community of some sort that we belong to. We seek out this feeling of community, even if that community only adds up to two or three.
Thank you for sharing your community with us!

Kimberlee said...

That's a good point, Bryan. That old saying, "home is where the heart is," makes a lot of sense within that context. Just the fact that so many people are able to connect and enrich each other's lives through the internet is a clear illustration of how community can be created even when there is NO geographical commonality.

And I'm really glad about that!