Here in Juneau, we preserve a lot. Rhubarb jellies, for example. Or pickled kelp, smoked salmon, and jars of deer meat in neat little rows on the pantry shelf, next to the Dinty Moore. Personally, I like to pick blueberries and freeze them to put on yogurt and waffles in the winter. (I also love a good berry compote. More on that later).
We also try to preserve the ski season, chasing the snow way up the mountain just to get a few more turns in. We try to preserve warmth as we double-insulate our houses and wear heavy mittens over our gloves. We try to preserve some dignity as we peel ourselves off the ice after a spill in the parking lot at Fred’s.
Something else we try to preserve is our town’s self-image. Our perennial favorite debate, “The Road,” is a great example. “Want more roads? Move down south!” the bumper sticker says. Why try to imitate other communities at the expense of losing your uniqueness, right? We also preserve nature, or attempt to, with national forests and protected areas. We try to preserve our livelihoods with fishing and mining regulations. We build scientifically-tuned archives to hold and preserve traditional Native artwork.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a local establishment, surrounded by canvases hand-painted by local artists, all portraits depicting local Juneauites. And I really like the fact that I recognize most of these faces, and know some of them personally. In fact, I feel proud of it, for no real reason. Not necessarily for knowing them, but for that small-town feeling.
Surely I’m not the only one. I think there’s a lot of desire to preserve that feeling of a Cheers-like town “where everybody knows your name,” even long after that’s a reasonable description of Juneau.
I understand the urge to want to preserve that “small-town feel.” And I believe it can be done through participation in community events.
Any time we get together we’re reinforcing, and preserving, a part of our community. This is true whether or not you’re going to a Scorcher (a dance party) or an Evening at Egan. Here are a couple of my personal favorite communities-in-a-jar:
You might have seen this coming. I absolutely love Folk Fest. It’s been going on for forty something years, and it’s all about ordinary people enjoying, playing, and learning music. What more could you want?
Like Folk Fest, at Mudrooms you might just as likely be on the stage as in the audience, and also like Folk Fest, what happens is very often a celebration or a discussion of what is unique about where we live and how we got here.
(And here are a couple things I haven’t been to — yet! But I plan on going someday)
Tlingit Language Learners Group
This takes place on Mondays at the downtown library. This is a different kind of “preservation,” which is practice and perpetuation of a living language.
Gold Rush Days
A perfect jar of preserves. There were times when work was much harder and more dangerous, and you had to be quick and have a strong back. This is a way to keep that tradition going!
And last, but not least, I had to include my other favorite thing to do with those frozen blueberries.
Frozen Blueberry Cardamom Compote
Take about a quarter cup of water and the same amount of sugar. Pour them into a saucepan and stir over medium heat until they boil and combine. Throw a few Ziplocs of frozen berries into the saucepan until you have filled the saucepan, like, more than halfway. I’m not a scientist.
Simmer, stirring occasionally until the berries are soupy. Then add a puff of cardamom, a tiny pinch of salt, and a little lemon juice. Stir. Let the mixture simmer until it thickens slightly, keeping in mind that will get thicker as it cools. I like to throw a pinch of whole berries in there at this point too.
Voila! Serve over ice cream or anything.
• “Guy About Town” appears the first and third Sunday of every month and includes seasonal musings on what changes and what doesn’t in a small town. Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.