I've been taking a Conversational Inupiaq course this fall...via teleconference. Yeah. Learning a new language is challenging enough. Learning a new language over the telephone is downright amusing. Although I don't see myself emerging from the course a fluent speaker by any estimation, it has definitely been a good experience and I've picked up a great deal that I hope to build on in the future.
Our last class focused on words and phrases associated with Quyyavik, or Thanksgiving. Our instructor asked us to share what we were most thankful for. One by one, participants shared their blessings. Quyyatigiga iglukput...I'm thankful for my home. Quyyatigiga savagviga...I'm thankful for my job. Quyyatigiga avilaitqatiga...I'm thankful for my closest friend. I can't write "I'm thankful for my family" in Inupiaq because it requires a letter that is impossible to type with this program (a combination of n and g), but you get the idea. We all shared our thoughts and the sources of our gratitude.
All week long, I listened to people around me naturally talking about the things in their lives that they cherish. Prayers were given, feasts were eaten. Dishes were washed, dried, and put away. Yet, there was something in the back of my mind that I just couldn't express, something for which I'm grateful that wouldn't lend itself to words, much less an Inupiaq translation.
Then I looked back through some photos that I downloaded a while ago and it hit me. This is what I'm most grateful for.
About a week ago I made some soup using one of those packages that boasts 16 different beans. Somewhere in the process of washing the beans, one of the tiniest ended up stuck to the side of the strainer in the sink. I'm not sure what it says about my housekeeping practices, but that bean must have remained there for several days being doused by the occasional flow of water from the faucet. I never even noticed it until the strainer happened to shift a little, exposing the seedling that you see in the photo.
At first, I laughed right out loud. Then amazement set in. Those of you who know me are painfully aware, I'm sure, that I make mountains out of molehills on a regular basis. I know it sounds crazy, but I don't care. Seeing this little plant was an encouragement and it illustrates something that I'm grateful for, but haven't been able to describe.
Too often, I complain when my life feels hard or dry. I complain when I feel insignificant, lacking purpose. I complain when an unexpected splash sends my good intentions down the drain. I grow weary; I grow sad and I complain.
Homes, jobs, friends, even family...almost anything can be lost or out of reach.
But the tiny bean clinging to my sink strainer reminded me of something important that I often forget. I am overwhelmingly thankful for life's tenacious potential. The tenacity that prompts me to reach up and dig deep even when...especially when...light and soil seem far away.
So, to the One who has endowed even the most insignificant beans with that tenacious potential, with all my heart...
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")