Excerpted from Part I, Chapter 3: Blueberry the Clown and Fishhooks
|Summary: I have moved to Alaska and am working as an educational psychologist in remote villages. This excerpt follows my having been dropped
off by helicopter on a remote island called Little Diomede—located so far north and to the west, the International Date Line had to be bent so that all of
Alaska could remain in the same day.
…I actually did generate a fair amount of excitement and activity that was all my own, and which had nothing at all to do
with the postal deliveries. Beginning with my first trip there, and continuing each time I returned, from the moment I
emerged from the aircraft a flurry of strange questions would be discharged in my direction. It was almost a surreal
experience to step from behind the large bubbled window of the helicopter into the sounds of thickly accented English
spoken simultaneous to a legion of hands reaching out to touch my hair.
“Who you be?” I would hear, usually from a child of about eight or nine.
“Are you Blueberry the Clown?” some other child would shout—huge chocolate eyes wide and excitement barely
contained beneath a bulky parka.
I came to discover that Blueberry, aka the visiting nurse, made a yearly appearance (the nurse more often, but
Blueberry only once a year), and the native children had as much trouble telling Anglo women apart (even when in our
view we bore no resemblance to one another) as we had telling them apart. At the time, those of us who traveled there
thought it so strange that the children mixed us up; just as I am sure they found it strange that we did the same. It wasn’t
until much later that I understood the brain enough to have an explanation for this odd phenomenon.
“Can I touch yer her?” a heavily accented and bold voice would inevitably ask as shy others stared at the ridiculous
mass of curls tumbling from my head and reaching somewhere near my shoulders. My hair was in such stark contrast to
their thick, straight, and very dark manes; and I was to discover that reactions ranged from simple, silent stares of awe
as children tried to figure out, “How you do that?” to the near hysterical giggles that sometimes stopped adolescent
girls in their tracks.
I loved being in Little Diomede, and if the bowlegged, round-cheeked, dark-eyed children were not enough to thrill me,
Little Diomede was the only place in the world that I had ever been where I could walk out and straddle an imaginary
line to realize that one half of my body was standing in today (on one continent), and the other half was touching
tomorrow (on a different continent).
Talk about weird juxtapositions.