There is a Season: Vernita Katchatag Herdman,

Diamond Diary: Ellen Bielawski,

Swimmer / Letters to Cynthia / Primigravida / Watching Them From the Porch Above the Garden: Caroline Davis Goodwin,

Smoke: Vernita Katchatag Herdman,

“…here in the north, minutes of daylight are hoarded and counted like silver. Our seasons aren’t marked as much by color as they are by the extent of the darkness, and the dramatic nature of the change from summer to winter is a factor that figures into the psyche of most anyone who lives in these climes.

Couple those extreme shifts between darkness and light with the remoteness of most of the communities in the north, and you begin to understand some other things about Northerners. Consider Alaska, a state one-quarter the size of the whole continental United States, with only seven main highways. There are far more communities accessible only by plane or boat than there are communities you can get to by road. The state population is just over half a million and only six cities or towns have more than six thousand residents. The vastness of land in between these peopled niches is difficult to comprehend, and the dominance of that landscape is the backdrop for any community. Here, perhaps more than anywhere, people are aware of their limitations in the face of the forces of nature.

Circumstances like these can’t help but affect human relationships. People interact with each other and depend on each other in different ways than most folks elsewhere. The indigenous people who have lived in the north for centuries have had long-standing traditions that directly addressed their culture’s relationship with the land. Protocols for human interaction paralleled protocols for appropriate behavior towards the animals and plants they hunted and gathered. Whole communities relied necessarily on this set of right relationships for survival. They were also comfortable within those relationships. Many of us who live here now have yet to attain that level of comfort, have yet to adapt ourselves to such a set of protocols. Instead, the standards for living and the resource and economic demands that we have imposed on this northern country have dramatically altered those long-held indigenous protocols.

This issue of Connotations features work by three women who are lifelong Alaskans…Each writer knows the north country’s darkness and light, each opens wide both our eyes and hearts.”