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Totem Poles: An Adventure in Culture and Remberance

AlaskaI got off the cruise ship and admired the landscape surrounding the dock. This was one of the last stops on this Alaskan adventure. Everything is so beautiful here and different from Mississippi.

The small town was directly off the dock and had a unique architecture to the buildings. They were two stories and made of wood with brightly colored exteriors. Each shop had its own unique goods to sell. The buildings fit in perfectly with the mountains in the backdrop.

I adjusted my coat and hat as we entered the small boat for the tour. It is cold in Alaska this May morning with a bit of a biting wind. The boat is going to take us on a tour of an old fish factory, a rain forest, and a totem pole village. This was going to be an exciting day.

The fishing factory had provided employment and food to the people of this Alaskan island for many years. I was impressed how the people of this cold land took advantage of the natural resources surrounding them. The factory had been closed for many years and now it was a museum. The history and resilience of the people in Alaska is fascinating.

The last stop on this tour is a totem pole village. It is a wonderful site to behold. In a circle are very large totem poles. They are extremely colorful and are beautiful in their tall structure.

The native Alaskans believe that everything comes from Mother Earth. They do not tear any structure down but allow Mother Earth to retake it. There are many old abandoned buildings falling down on this island. They will continue to deteriorate until Mother Earth completely recycles them back into the soil.

This deterioration is a wonderful example of the symbiotic relationship the people have with the land. Each thing taken from the land is returned and nourishes the environment. The same principle is true of the totem poles.

The native Alaskans used the totem poles as an impression of their culture. The totem poles are constructed out of wood and have elaborate carvings in the wood. The colorful carvings represent different parts of the belief system of the people.

There are times when a deceased person’s remains are inserted into the totem pole. The pole serves as a representation of that person’s life. Each event in that person’s life is represented by a carving. It is an interesting testament to life.

While viewing some of the totem poles I pondered at how our lives would be depicted if this was a common practice. Would our lives be depicted as a positive influence filled with love and joy or would the totem poles reflect our negatives influences such as hatred and bitterness? It is an interesting question for each of us to answer.

Each totem pole has a series of carvings on them that represent parts of the culture. The Alaskan totem poles have carvings of animals in them. Many believe that these animals will guide their deceased loved ones to the spiritual world.

Other totem poles have carvings that represent a certain part of a family’s heritage. Each impression is used to express what is important to be passed on to future generations. This is a wonderful legacy.

The totem poles remain until Mother Earth reclaims them. The totem pole deteriorates and returns to the soil where it provides nourishment. This is a continuance of the cycle of life.

Before leaving the totem pole village we visit the gift shop. I find a small totem pole that has been carved by the native Alaskan people. It is small and has beautiful vibrant colors. There is a small card attached that indicates the artist. I wonder what the artist had wanted to express about his life in this small carving.

We return to the tour bus and proceed back to town. We are instructed to look out the windows of  the bus while passing over a bridge. There is a bear gathering and eating salmon from the creek. This is a common occurrence as people and animals live in harmony in this community.

While standing in the cold biting wind waiting to get back on the cruise ship I look at my small totem pole and reflect on the impression the tour has made on me. From this time forward I will try to fill my life with positive influences. Perhaps if a totem pole was erected as my grave marker it would reflect a life of service to others.

Finally we enter the cruise ship and it is warm again. I am blessed to have been on this tour and my soul is nourished. The totem poles have made a wonderful impression on me.

copyright 2017 Debbie Pierce

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culture daily prompt inspiration life lifestyles Mississippi nature preservation

Descend: Life of a Mississippi Magnolia Tree

magnolia tree april 21

The magnolia tree is a large majestic tree. The large white blooms are beautiful and decorate the Mississippi landscape. The magnolia tree has a long life span that may extend to 120 years. This is a possible life of a suburban magnolia tree.

The magnolia tree was born in a field in central Mississippi. At that time the field was filled with different types of trees. The young magnolia tree thrived in the ecosystem and grew to a large and healthy tree. There were few people in the area to disturb the ecosystem.

As the years past the magnolia tree began to put on beautiful white blooms. These blooms were numerous and an occasional person would happen on the tree and admire their beauty. The magnolia tree was happy and content in the ecosystem that nature provided.

magnolia group blooms april 21

Slowly over time the ecosystem became disturbed as people began moving closer to the field. There were rumblings of houses, businesses, and golf courses being built and getting closer to the field.

The pollution from all the building began to change the ecosystem. The environment was descending into a period of deep decline. There were fewer resources for the magnolia tree to draw from for survival. All around were plants and trees dying. This was frightening to the young tree.

As more time passed the magnolia tree began to see more human activity. There were more people passing by on a daily basis. This was a time of great change in the world and the tree observed young men in uniform carrying guns. The world was at war and the magnolia tree hoped that the field would be spared from the violence.

More years past and the world was again at peace. The magnolia tree noticed there was an expansion of young children surrounding the field. The tree watched as the plant life and other trees were cut down. It prayed its life would be spared from the death surrounding it.

The magnolia tree was spared and a local park was built around it. There began to be a large number of families coming to the park. A creek was created to supply water to the surrounding area and the ecosystem began to flourish once again.

The years passed and the magnolia tree was happy and content once again. There were many trees with squirrels and birds to commune with the tree. The families took care of the park and everything was in harmony.

squirrel eating grass in park march

One day there was a storm producing many inches of rain. The land was devastated by the sudden influx of water and debris. The people left their homes and the park was abandoned. The next generation of people moved in and had no interest in the park.

The magnolia tree survived the flood and was saddened by the changes. Now the abandoned park was filled with trash and drug dealers. All the surrounding trees and wildlife were dying around it due to neglect. The magnolia tree was frightened since its survival was threatened.

More years passed and a new generation of people moved into the neighborhood. They were a generation that believed in change and renewal. There were new homes built and old homes renovated and given a new life. The park was cleaned up and the ecosystem restored. There were sprinklers installed and the creek was restored to give the ecosystem the water it needed to regenerate.

Slowly the ecosystem began to recover. The magnolia tree was relieved and began producing beautiful blossoms once again. The squirrels and the birds returned singing their songs of joy.

The magnolia tree continued to observe these changes with great joy. Perhaps the people now occupying the neighborhood and park would remain. This thought gave the magnolia tree great hope for the future.

The years past and the magnolia tree grew to be extremely old. The park and the neighborhood continued to change but this time the trend of preservation continued. It was with great hope that the magnolia tree put on its last blossoms. Time for the magnolia tree to live in this physical world was growing short.

magnolia bloom april 21

One of these great magnolia blossoms deposited a seed on the ground. This seed was nourished by the nutrients in the ecosystem. Soon the seed grew to be a young magnolia tree growing in a healthy ecosystem. The cycle of life began again in the park healthy and happy.

The old magnolia tree passed away and the shell of the tree returned to the ecosystem to help the renewal of life. There is gratitude for the privilege of living a long life and the ability to observe the changes in the ecosystem. The spirit of the magnolia tree now resides in Heaven and is resting in the knowledge of a life well lived.

copyright 2017 Debbie Pierce

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via Daily Prompt: Descend