It’s been almost thirteen years since I moved to Alaska. Thirteen years. If you had told me fifteen years ago that I would be living in Alaska, I would have laughed my ass off. At that time I was living just a tiny bit south of San Francisco and working in the software industry.
Alaska has a way of changing you so that you don’t quite fit into where you once were. It smoothes the edges, and it dings you up a bit. Alaska can sometimes be like a time machine, a place where a neighborhood comes together to help you build your house, as well as host one big spaghetti (or lumpia) feed after another to support various townspeople suffering tragedies. Today, it was moving the skeleton of a whale.
Local bone expert Lee Post led a merry band of twenty-five folks in moving the behemoth. He reported that it has taken approximately fifty people to butcher and clean the grey whale when it had washed up dead on a local beach. Then over fifty more people to carefully preserve the bones, articulate them, and even tint them individually so that they looked “natural.” Today, we moved the skeleton, in parts, from a shop behind the Pratt Museum, over an icy and moose-trodden parking lot, up a ramp and six steps, finally into the gallery space where it will live (for awhile until the new museum is built).
That sucker was heavy, and delicate, and awesome. How did all these people come together to complete a difficult and physically arduous task on the first Saturday of the year? The folks from the Pratt Museum asked. Simple as that. Alaskan as that. Ask for help and you shall receive it. We haven’t forgotten that it takes a community to build a community.
Teenagers with ear-buds in and older gentlemen with a little snow on the roof. Tall and robust men and smaller but just as robust women. People with experience with line, come-alongs, and rigging. Bone experts and artists and archeologists and ex-mayors.
Alaskans hauling, lifting, laughing, and being the quirky helpful folks that they by nature are. Thirteen years and I feel lucky just about every day (yes even in the snowiest, coldest, blusteriest) to be here. Around these people and these mountains, moose and salmon, boats, Subarus, and whale skeletons.
Lucky, and blessed to share it.