Sunday, August 9, 2015

Heather Lende

Heather Lende's new book is Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer.

From her Salon interview with Marilyn Johnson:

You write about older people in your town; you also write about young people, the native Tlingit, fishermen, hippies and loners. My favorite Haines resident might be Granny, who wears a large red helmet and shin guards and travels with a shopping cart and a dog. You were surprised to hear one day she had gone to London – as it turned out, to minister to the homeless during the Olympic festivities. Does Alaska attract eccentrics and originals? Do you “find the good” and the offbeat, as well?

I was at a wedding reception in the rain the other day, with lots of old friends and some new ones, and we actually talked about this, wondering if maybe we are a little nuts. We concluded that people who live here choose to, so they — we—me — have that in common, and it shapes our community. Haines is not an easy place in many ways. Weather. Winter. Remote yet intimate. The people who like it here wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t, live happily anywhere else, and so there is certain respect given to the other survivors. There are residents who brag, “I died and came to Haines.” I am one of them. Granny is more of a nomad. She calls herself a pilgrim, and she never came back to Haines from London. She is in Juneau now, to be closer to medical care and other services (there is no hospital in Haines), but her dog Sissy is still here, and attends church faithfully.

You were a New Yorker who went to Alaska on your honeymoon and stayed. Now you hunt and fish and built your own chicken coop. Were you outdoorsy and resourceful as a child?

I didn’t build the chicken coop, but I designed it, and I care for the hens in it and maintain it. I have always been athletic, and outdoorsy. As a child in rural New York, I was a tomboy; I played baseball, sailed and climbed trees.

Now, I like to hike, swim, ride my bike and hunt, but I am not a killer. I did go bear hunting...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue