I have posted one chapter per week of my latest book, ICE DREAMS. Please note that the numerical chapters are autobiographical. The alphabetical chapters are pure fiction. If you would like the complete book in .pdf format, send your request to email@example.com and I will send it to you as an email attachment.
After Lorraine left, I had two big projects for the month of August. The salmon would be running that month. The men had been busy building a big fishing wheel, going by pictures and drawings in books which the Department of Interior sent to me. They had also built some salmon smokers. I warned them that both the fishing wheel, when it was spitting fish into a barrel, and the salmon smokers, when there were fish on them would attract bears. Therefore, we needed men on guard at the fishing wheel during the times when it was catching fish and at the smokers anytime there were fish on them.
Also during August, I needed to be planning school classes for the coming year. As Mrs. Wallace observed, I am just “winging” it, but I think that is harder than if I had a set curriculum to follow. I probably will have to introduce mathematics and science for the older children.
I was puzzled about Tatyana. Will she be willing to help again this school year? One day as I was walking out toward the woodline, she fell in step with me. In my mind, her thoughts came as clearly as if she were speaking to me in audible sounds.
“You may be wondering why I acted the way that I did while your wife was here. When we first met, the Starshij told you that I am a virgin – I do not have a husband. I brought you into the cave because I thought that you could be my husband. It was not until you were talking to Starshij that I found out that you are married.
“I was crushed, because I like you so much. It is only because our souls are so close, that our minds can converse like this. I tried to deceive myself into thinking that you really weren’t married, that you were shy or reticent about giving your heart. I thought that eventually you would allow yourself to feel about me the way that I feel about you. When I saw Lorraine, I perceived what a wonderful person she is. When I saw you with her, my self-deception collapsed. Yes, I’ll help you in school this year. But I had to tell you how I feel.”
We continued walking. I didn’t know what to say.
The day after Labor Day (I was the only one who knew or had ever heard of Labor Day), we started school. I divided the class into those who were almost 12 or older. I started them with arithmetic with the intention of going on to algebra after Christmas. While I was teaching them arithmetic, Tatyana worked with the younger children helping them review the alphabet, the colors, and numbers and then having them color. I asked Mrs. Wallace to buy some coloring books and crayons in Bethel and send them out to me.
I had also rearranged the classroom. The younger children were behind the older children and were facing the rear of the trailer. The older children were facing the front so that I could use the whiteboard. I also had a table on which I could put similar objects to illustrate simple addition and subtraction problems. I also had a map of the world, a map of the United States, and a map of Alaska.
Since coming to the Shemyite community, I had been more serious about doing the University of Kentucky correspondence course on classical Greek. I had finished the first course and received a grade of A- and three semester hours credit. I was now working on the second course. I have almost completed it and I will be sending for the final exam in a couple weeks.
The gardens produced an abundance of produce. The women were finding ways to preserve it. They were using the roofs of the trailers to sun dry many things. They dug root cellars in which to keep potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. I remembered reading about the Korean women making kimchi by cutting up cabbage, hot peppers, and fish and burying it in jars in the ground. All through the winter they dug up one jar at a time. Some of the women decided to try that.
The women already knew how to make bagels. Every trailer kitchen had two or three strings up near the ceiling with dozens of bagels hanging there.
For their part, the men were already going through the woods looking for dead trees which they would saw out in the woods, then drag the pieces back to their trailers. There they split the sections of logs into useable sized pieces. The women’s cook stoves were wood-burning. When it became really cold the pot belly stoves in the center of the trailers were lighted.
I couldn’t help thinking that if I had turned down this assignment and stayed at Fort Meade, I would be in college now. Had I made a mistake? Am I throwing away a year of my life? I cannot deny that the Shemyites need me. Before I came, they were dependent on whatever the Department of Interior would dole out to them. They knew that it wouldn’t go on for long. What I am doing is helping them to become self-sufficient. That will preserve their dignity and self-respect.
The children are being prepared to go to school or at least to earn a G.E.D. diploma. The adults can now defend their community from wild animals, buy food and other necessities with earned money, harvest enough fish and garden vegetables, and gather enough wood for fuel to last through the coming winter.
Also, the storekeeper had sold every one of their crafts and was begging for more. He made it clear that it is only during the summer that he can sell crafts to people who are just passing through. That is perfect because it is during the winter that the Shemyite people work on crafts.
I’m sure that I can get the Department of Interior to set some program in place wherein they will take the crafts to shops in Anchorage. Now that the people have been shown that they can sell their crafts here just as they did when they were living in the cave and now that they have received money for their crafts, I believe they will produce many more crafts this winter.
I am also going to suggest that a teacher be sent to take my place when I leave next fall and that Tatyana be sent to the University of Alaska to work with a linguist who can document the Shemyite patois. At the same time, she can learn English, (and maybe meet a young man whom she can marry.)
Life is about giving others what you have already been given. God leaves us on this earth after we become His children through the Gospel of Christ, in order that we can tell others about Him, and also in order that we may continue to serve others as Christ would have done.