Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #36: December 6, 2020

 Hi all,

It has been yet another extremely difficult week, but this one extends far beyond my own household.  My husband's hometown of Haines, Alaska, was hit with an intense rainstorm (called an "atmospheric river") following a deep freeze that had left the ground frozen and non-absorbent.  The result was massive flooding and mudslides, with two people still missing, half a dozen homes destroyed or severely damaged, a number of roads in town broken up, and several neighborhoods evacuated, all in the dark of winter.

It's hard to comprehend that something like this could happen in this beautiful, idyllic little community that I've come to know so well and to love so much over the past 13 years.  When Luke and I got married, we had a second celebration at the fairgrounds in Haines, and hundreds of local residents came to celebrate the occasion and wish us well, including many who had welcomed me with open arms over the preceding years.  Some of our friends who flew up from the lower 48 to celebrate with us hiked the mountain where the worst landslide occurred this week (also the site of one of my very first true Alaskan adventures when Luke first brought me to visit in 2008).  I remember Mt. Riley as the place where I first learned about devil's club and muskeg and what to do if we encounter a bear in the wilderness, and where my breath caught in my throat as the clouds parted at the summit to reveal endless rows of blue and purple mountains stretching into the distance.  I remember hiking up Mt. Ripinski from one of the neighborhoods that's been evacuated, and encountering a magical, snowy lake en route to the summit - in July.  (My Facebook profile photo was taken at the summit.)  Haines is where I learned to chop wood, to identify myriad animals and plants I've never seen anywhere else before or since, to say "Thank you" in Tlingit (Gunałchéesh), to wade through a tidal inlet in rubber boots, to dig up carrots and garlic and pick blueberries and rose hips straight from the bush, to snowshoe and cross-country ski and to truly hike, to look up at the mountains and the trees and the eagles and the sky and to breathe deeply in the fresh air when we arrived from NYC.  Haines is a place that's so beautiful that the day after a big hike, when my quads are screaming in pain and every part of me is exhausted, I still desperately want to go out anyway just to be able to see all those sights again.  Haines is where I started to understand how my husband came to be the man he is.  It's difficult to reconcile the images in the media this week as being these same places, and my heart aches for all the amazing people who live there and have taught me all of these things.

I love Haines - even though Luke and I live here in NY, I consider Haines one of my homes, and I truly hope that everyone reading this email gets to visit that incredible place one day.  All week, I sat helplessly, staring at the computer, praying and trying to think of ways to help from afar.  I was so inspired by the immediate and powerful reaction of the community - it didn't surprise me, but I felt so lucky to know a place like this, and people like this, and to know that each person was in good hands with all of the other townspeople to help them.  Within hours (minutes?), there were hot meals and baked goods for the search and rescue teams and the evacuees; by nightfall, they had to ask people to stop dropping off blankets and clothing and other items because they had more than they needed; one woman even offered to catch and transport any livestock at the evacuees' homes and to house them at her property until they could return home.  Messages of support poured in from all over the surrounding area - from "neighbors" in Juneau and Fairbanks in Alaska, to Whitehorse and Haines Junction in Canada - and from friends of Haines all over the country and the world.  I cried both tears of sorrow, for the destruction and loss I was hearing about, and tears of gratitude for all the amazing things people were doing to help each other. 

So today, my hope for all of you is that you hold your loved ones close if you're with them, or, if you're not, that you call to remind them how loved they are.  The past year has been difficult and terrifying for so many, and in so many ways.  Remember how lucky we are to have met the people we love, and to have places in the world as beautiful as Haines, Alaska.  And remember how lucky we are, no matter where we are, to be able to build homes and lives that bring us joy, no matter what a year like 2020 brings our way.

If you'd like to support Haines and those who have lost so much this week, please consider making a donation through the Tlingit and Haida tribes' Emergency Donation Request, the Chilkoot Indian Association, or the Salvation Army.  There are also separate fundraisers for each of the families of the missing residents here.

As always, previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.


'Tis the season!
  • The holiday season is officially in full swing!  There are loads of incredible livestreamed theater performances coming up in the next few weeks, including a live broadcast of The Grinch Musical!, Estella Scrooge (depicting the classic character as a Wall Street villain with a taste for foreclosures), and an international Hanukkah celebration from the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene.  Check out a wonderful roundup of these performances here.
  • The Rockettes are now offering kicking classes you can take from home.  They'll be doing it weekly, and the videos will be available afterward if the timing doesn't work for you.  Check out the details here, or follow the Rockettes on Instagram for further announcements.
  • Drive-through holiday lights displays:
    • I mentioned this Jones Beach lights display last month, which is 2.5 miles long and pretty darn impressive.  If you're planning to go, advance tickets are $25/car; it's $30-35 at the gate.  Open November 13-January 2.
    • My family and I tried Westchester's Winter Wonderland at the Kensico Dam in Valhalla last week, and it was pretty enjoyable.  This one is relatively small (just set up in the plaza in front of the dam, but the path twists and turns through different areas, and they even recommend a radio station playing only holiday tunes to complete the experience.
  • Speaking of holiday music, if you're in Westchester, radio stations 106.7 and 88.7 are all holiday music, all the time.  So buckle up and get ready to sing along!
  • If you still need more holiday cheer, don't forget that 'tis the season for Hallmark and Lifetime movies galore, plus an attempt to emulate these wonderful traditions by Netflix and Hulu - both streaming services have a splash page when you arrive at the site that will offer you a one-click ticket to Tinseltown.  Oh, and once you've finally gotten over the fact that you actual love this stuff, feel free to top up your cheer gear with a festive cup (or two, or three) that publicly identifies you as the delightful holiday elf you really are inside.
Other Entertainment
  • The Anti-Defamation League organized a beautiful concert this evening, ADL in Concert Against Hate, featuring a huge number of celebrities standing up to inspire viewers to fight hate, antisemitism, and extremism across the country.  You can view the hour-long performance here; if you're inspired to, please don't forget to make a contribution along the way.
  • The Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill (featuring Alanis' Morissette's music) will be livestreaming a concert next Sunday, December 13th, at 8pm.  Purchase a ticket here to gain access to the performance either live or on-demand following the live concert.  In the spirit of the #SaveOurStages movement that has risen during the Covid-19 pandemic, this concert directly supports our nation’s most vulnerable venues experiencing catastrophic revenue loss during this time of suspension for live arts.
  • One thing I really miss is taking tours of NYC's neighborhoods and architecture.  However, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman is filling that void from afar - check out this listing of tours you can take to transport yourself from your home office to the grittiest corners of the City.
  • Is working and playing from home suddenly making you realize that your typing skills are lacking?  Wish you could read more books?  Well, now you can solve both problems at once!

Festive Food
  • Want to learn to make your own sufganiyot (donuts) for Hanukkah?  The Boulder JCC is hosting a virtual cooking class on Wednesday, December 9 at 8:30pm EST - purchase your ticket here, and remember that the times are in Mountain Time (2 hours behind NY).
  • Since many people associate cookies with the winter holidays, I thought this might be a good time to re-circulate my Cookie Party Recipe Collection!

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