One Man's Alaska

If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name

December 11, 2008

Lately I've been reading a wonderful book about small-town Alaska named If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name, by Heather Lende. Ms. Lende has been a contributor to the Christian Science Monitor and NPR's Morning Edition, and she lives in Haines, Alaska. At the beginning of the book she writes about life and death in Alaska, and one of my favorite quotes comes from this section of the book, where a woman discusses the events following the death of her father:

"In the Lower 48, for thousands of dollars strangers will take over and do everything for you, in the mistaken assumption they are helping. It was so much easier for me to work through the grieving process when I had an active role in the preparations for the burial."

I don't know if I'm doing this book any justice, but it really does a tremendous job of describing life in small-town Alaska. I found my experience living in Talkeetna to be all about a sense of community, about people doing what they have to do to live together in an area that hasn't yet been fully conquered by man and technology. One of my theories is that this "sense of community" is why people here in the Lower 48 belong to churches and other organizations. In general, people have a need to belong, and if you can't belong to a community like you can in Alaska, you find other places and organizations to fill this need to belong.

In parting, here's the wonderful picture from the cover of the book, with a link to it on Amazon:

The cover of the book If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name

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