Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bite-size Snickers vs. Tootsie Roll Log

We have called Noorvik home for six and a half weeks. School has been in session since August 22nd. We have resumed our rural Alaska routines (mostly that means I cook from scratch). However, I don't know that I feel as settled I appear. Things may have fallen into place within the daily minutia, but there is a longing not yet satisfied. Sometimes I have to really ruminate about feelings of discontent to be able to name them and then address them. It has taken every bit of these six and half weeks to come up with this: I think I need to forgive Noorvik for not being Deering.

Deering was by no means perfect, but it was bite-sized. I didn't have to do as much work I guess to establish a place in the community. Deering was a petite holiday sized Snickers, a morsel, if you will, of bush Alaska goodness. It was easy to enjoy and it was not overwhelming. Noorvik is like a giant petrified Tootsie Roll log. The mini-Snickers has some things in common with the giant Tootsie Roll log. They are sweet and chocolatey. Both locations have the same flavor. They share common ideology. They ascribe to the same set of values for the most part. Both treats are found in the candy aisle at the grocery store. The people here are involved in similar means of subsistence. They have more surface level commonalities like speech patterns and modes of transportation (could have been copied and pasted from a 5th grade social studies text book). They look and act a lot like the other. Noorvik just happens to be six times bigger than Deering.

As one can deduce from my illustration there are powerful differences. I feel a sense of insignificance and distance lingering beyond what I felt in Deering. I felt wrapped into the Deering community within three short weeks. I don't believe that Deering "needed" me, but I felt like an integral part of the school climate and subsequent community a lot sooner. I was at the school most days for recess and lunch. I ate with the kids. I got to know their habits and I felt completely comfortable enforcing the rules. The kids were a dynamic part of my life. Though I do not believe I was at all dynamic in their lives, I still was in some way consequential. In Noorvik, whether it is proximity to the school (or lack thereof) or the sheer volume of students, I feel outside and truly irrelevant. I don't really have a connection with the school the way I would like. When we visit Paul at work it reminds me of the part of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day when his mother takes the kids to visit their father at work. We get a little in the way. We drop in and find that the frenzy of the school day has no room for us. We don't fit into the school day setting (yet) which leads to feeling separate and lost in a village so large. This feeling of separation and disconnectedness is an obstacle I didn't anticipate. It is disconcerting and at times paralyzing. Many days can pass without leaving the house, thus delaying my hope to bite off more of that Noorvik Tootsie Roll. Some days I throw caution to the wind and visit Paul knowing we will indeed by in the way. It was not hard work to "join in" in Deering. This large undigestable mass of hard waxy chocolate it going to take some extra work to enjoy.

Something I learned from childbirth is that situations that aren't as lovely and comfortable as you would like will pass. If  you stiffen against the circumstances in frustration you will wear yourself out. If you bend peacefully to the struggle it will indeed pass and something delightful will replace it. In essence I must gnaw dutifully on the Tootsie Roll believing that one day I will get to the end of it and it will feel just as satisfying as with the petite holiday sized Snickers. In the mean time I will savor my memories of Deering and choose to forgive Noorvik for not being a carbon copy of the place I fell in love with. I will explore and observe and become a relevant, significant piece of this community one chewy bite at time.


  1. Love the analogy. I totally get it. Not to mention, Tootsie Rolls take a hell of a lot longer to chew and they sort of hurt your jaw. On the flip side, they are healthier, in the long run, than snickers, or so I'm told.

    Start a book club. Or find and join one. Don't know where you'd advertise it (or how you'd find it), but nothing brings cool people together like a good book. (They bring annoying people together too, but the cool seem to rise to the top much quicker, you know?)

  2. Also, I seriously doubt YOU need to be reading that parenting book and highly recommend you put it aside and pick up "Raising the Perfect Child through Guilt and Manipulation."

    Good parents don't read books about parenting, Jiorgia. You know this.

  3. I wondered when the darker underpinnings of the Alaskan experience was going to manifest itself. You & Paul are marvelously adept at making the best of situations that would sink the rest of us. I know you can handle this, but I agree, it may take time, persistence, and a willingness to, as you say, gnaw away at the problem.