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My mother had been working in the Sitka Hospital as a nurse. She had a patient come in named Steven James. When he was admitted, he was elderly, and very sad. She spoke with him at the bedside, Uncle why are you so sad? He told her, when I go I have no one to bring me back. No one will carry my name on for me. You see, in our culture there is a certain belief of reincarnation. My mom thought about this for a while. Having recently lost her husband, maybe she was looking for a hole to fill. She asked if she could name her first-born son after him. See, mom and Steven are from the same clan. Of course this made him very happy. He began telling everyone on the recovery floor that he was coming back. He passed away three days later. This was in 1991. I was born in 1993. When I was very young, we took a ferry ride to Haines. I remember being excited, and pointing out all the coves and bays that I thought would make the best fishing spots. We would find out later, through a friend of Steven James, that most of his favorite fishing spots were exactly along that route. It appears that his name was not the only part of him that came back.

A story and a history can change a name. A name for a person or an object is not just a word, a label, but a history. This is what I mean- our culture, our people have a name. You hear it and form an image in your mind about what that word means based on your experiences, what you see in the news, what your friends tell you. But if you never bother to ask the owner of the name, will you ever really know what or who they are?

When people would ask: What superpower would you want to have? I always think about having the ability to see people’s thoughts. Not read minds, I mean literally see the images that form in their heads. Like in a thought bubble floating above them. Imagine asking a theater full of people to think of home. One word- and if given a multiple choice test, everyone would be able to identify the same definition. Yet truly, no one has the same definition of home. Some people picture the houses of their parents at childhood. A man visualizes his family spending time together in the living room. Maybe a girl thinks of her entire hometown- all the streets and people evoke a familiar warm sense she names as home. You see? Words are not just a chain of letters, they don’t just symbolize some objective form of an idea. They do not just have definitions, they have meaning, often specific to the reader, the writer, the speaker, the listener. Do you see? What if you could see my thoughts? When I said my name you could see the history, the meaning, the depth behind the letters? Would that change how you see me?

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There are so many things in life that make me happy.  Margaritas.  Dancing. Love poems, sonnets, and prose.  Walking on a sidewalk with click-clacking high heels.  My best friend, soul sister, the fierce and fabulous Kat. The unnerving glow of neon in a bar with sticky floors and loud conversation.  The feeling of sweat cooling after a good hard soccer game.  The feeling when I’m talking with someone who notices that beyond my breasts is a brain and a personality.  Impromptu splurging.  Looking at the city skyline at night.

(There are people who believe that people, places, objects do not MAKE you happy, but rather that happiness is a state of mind that you create for yourself.  What do you think of that?

Hmm.

While I would be unbelievably sad if I could never play soccer or eat mint chocolate chip ice cream again,  I do think that’s right.  Put someone in the isolation ward in a top security prison, take away everything that makes them happy, and they go insane.   Really, could they still be happy if the sun never shined? If they lost everyone they knew?  Could their soul muster the strength to create a synthetic happiness?  But a big part of me thinks, yes, yes.  If you put me in isolation in prison, I would learn to love singing to myself.   I think people feel unhappy in much less extreme situations, as if the little daily dramas and losses combine into a tsunami wave, drowning any chance to smile truly.  But I personally believe in loving and celebrating the little daily victories and delights.  Even Anne Sexton had a horrible personal life but found happiness in her outlet, the typewriter.

(Please explain more about your connection to poetry, as you’ve referenced it a bit.)

Oh, sure.  I’m currently studying English, with a focus on poetry.  Actually, to be even more specific, I’m really interested in modern feminist love poems.  Shakespeare was great, but you just can’t beat someone trying to explain love with things like trains, refrigerators, push-up bras, roller skates.  I love the effort of trying to explain your emotions in words.  It always leaves a little unsaid, but sometimes there’s a perfect connection between writer and audience, the aha!  I totally get what you’re saying! I thought I was the only one who felt that…. And that to me is more important than the words themselves.  This is by far the most nerdy aspect of my life.  I try to avoid bringing it up at bars because I get too excited, and it’s apparently much more attractive to remain cool and detached about things than to be passionate.  Kat and I have talked about this a little, but it’s easy for her because she’s cool and detached about everything naturally.  One time, she went to a hair salon and they accidentally put green coloring in her highlights.  She didn’t lose an ounce of steam, she just got them to agree to a month of free haircuts; and as we walked out, she said, “Lucy, I don’t care what color my hair is, life’s about fun not being serious.”  And you know what?  She looked awesome with those streaks of green.  Often I forget that she isn’t really my older sister, because I look up to her so much.  Too bad I can’t say that about my real siblings.  Maybe I should dye my hair some crazy color.  Just in time for the big Halloween party coming up.  God I can’t wait to see a hundred people crammed into our house…

 

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