I spent 5 weeks on St. Paul Island, Bering Sea, Alaska in 2008–a place I had never heard of, let alone thought to visit. I was there as an itinerant behavioral health worker. On many of the outer islands in the Aleutian and Pribilof islands, as in remote Alaska mainland, they sometimes depend on itinerant health care and behavioral health care workers to meet the needs of the small and remote communities. My long time friend was in behavioral health on Unalaska, in the Aleutian chain. I jokingly said it was hot here, and I might have to go visit her. She said St. Paul happened to be in need of a behavioral health care worker. I was finishing up my summer 1 class and had the rest of the summer off and felt drawn to the opportunity. It was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and one from which I learned much that serves me as a social worker and clinician to this day. I admire and respect the community, its leadership, community resilience, and the many wonderful people I met while there. But that is not the purpose of this post–these trading cards are:
I met with community leaders as we planned for how best to utilize my limited time in the community, and one of those leaders was Aquilina Lestenkof. In preparation for a cruise ship tour approaching, I was invited to stop by the community event where people presented items for sale, some of which represented traditional crafts. I was gifted with a set of these trading cards while purchasing other items, such as handmade soap and syrup from local berries. In visiting, I learned a member of the community was featured with a trading card. They had never been opened and I tucked them away as a prized item when I packed to return home. While I was curious, I also wanted to preserve them in their pristine original package, representative of my time there. St. Paul has a rich history and culture, and I had always hoped to return at some point for another stay….and time passes.
I am currently in process of cleaning up, cleaning out, and preparing to simplify my life now that I am entering a new domain: retirement. I have been sorting into piles of throw away–no redeeming value; give away–I no longer need it, can use it, or want it, but it is still useful and in good condition; important and necessary–must save and file where I can find it when needed; valuable-– it is family heirloom, has financial value, or emotional value, such as it is beautiful, makes me happy, is meaningful for connections with friends, family, or my travels; used regularly and is useful–favorite pots and pans, dishes, and other necessary items; and nothing special–but I want to keep it for now anyway. Yes, I am a bit of a pack rat; came by it honestly by grandparents and parents who survived the Great Depression.
During the process of the above sorting, I came across the pack of trading cards, and decided to open them and find Aquilina’s card. She was the recipient of the WINGS 2006 Earth Award. Her expeditions included the “bluffs, caves, hills, shores of the Pribilof Islands and the Shetland Islands” (WINGS WorldQuest trading card, Aquilina D. Lestenkof). During my off times, I was able to walk in the immediate areas, and certainly there are many places that deserved exploring. In fact, I was warned to be careful due to the lava tubes, so I never ventured far off the road except when I was accompanied. The doctor who was there at the time of my visit and I often walked in the evenings after work, as the light would last until near midnight.
The surface of St.Paul Island has more than 15 scoria and spatter cones that rise from 30 to 100 meters above their base, and includes two polygenetic shield volcanos. Bogoslof Hill has two cone-shaped vents and a crater in the saddle between the two vents. Povolina Hill is a cinder cone near Big Lake (Alaska Volcano Observatory).
The Shetland Islands are off the northern coast of Great Britain, and bear many similarities to the Pribilof Islands.