Monday Musings…31 August 2015

This weekend has been quite eventful, weatherwise! From the Pacific Northwest, to Hawai’i and the Gulf states; from the Bahamas, to the ‘Greater Antilles’ and the ‘West Indies’ …it has been windy, wet, wild and deadly. We didn’t lose power here on the coast, but some of the cities near Puget Sound did.

President Obama is in my home state of Alaska on a 3-day trip, and this part of it makes my heart sing – he plans to restore the name of Mount Denali. From Al-Jazeera:

President Barack Obama will change the name of North America’s tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, the White House said Sunday, bestowing the traditional Alaska Native name on the eve of a historic presidential visit to Alaska.

By renaming the peak Denali, an Athabascan word meaning “the high one,” Obama is wading into a sensitive and decades-old conflict between residents of Alaska and Ohio. Alaskans have informally called the 20,320-foot mountain Denali for years, but the federal government recognizes its name evoking the 25th president, William McKinley, who was born in Ohio and assassinated early in his second term.

“With our own sense of reverence for this place, we are officially renaming the mountain Denali in recognition of the traditions of Alaska Natives and the strong support of the people of Alaska,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The announcement came as Obama prepared to depart early Monday on a three-day visit to Alaska, becoming the first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle. As part of his visit, Obama is attempting to show solidarity with Alaska Natives, and planned to hold a round-table session with a group of Alaska Natives just after arriving Monday in Anchorage.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who had pushed legislation for years to change the name, said Alaskans were “honored” to recognize the mountain as Denali — a change in tone for the Alaska Republican, who had spoken out against Obama’s energy policies in anticipation of his visit to her state.

I was born in the state of Washington, where I currently reside, but I consider myself an Alaskan. My family moved there when I was 3 years of age, and my schooling and formative years were spent there – I moved to the “lower 48” in my 20s. So many memories, though – good, bad, ugly and indifferent. I met my first husband there. My son was born there. I’ve “driven” the Alaska Marine Highway. We’ve been through Yukon Territory, driving along the Al-Can (Alaska / Canada) Highway. Moose and mosquitoes, wolves and bear, salmon and sea lions. Living on a boat. Deer carcass hanging in a smokehouse…fresh venison on the table. Totem poles. Dancing and singing in a longhouse.

I know that climate change exists. The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau looked vastly changed in July of 2012, horribly shrunken and dirty-looking compared to its gleaming splendor when I first saw it on a trip with the Girl Scouts in August of 1978. Back then, it was huge…the cold air that blew from it was amazing to feel. Massive, icy edifice. There were no chunks of it floating in the waters nearby, then. The pictures I took of it in 2012 clearly show how much recession has occurred…and that saddens me.

I’ll close with the song that always played on the radio during the midnight sign-off – “Alaska’s Flag,” the state song. Here are the lyrics, if you want to sing along.

🙂

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue – Alaska’s flag, may it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky – the mountain lakes and the flow’rs nearby
The gold of the early sourdough’s dream – the precious gold of the hills and streams
The gleam of the stars in the northern sky – The Bear, The Dipper, and shining high
The great North Star with its steady light, o’er land and sea a beacon bright
Alaska’s Flag to Alaskans dear…the symbol flag of the Last Frontier.

 

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