Being in Alaska for the Iditarod was truly wonderful. Going to the Iditarod ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, and taking part in the Fur Rendezvous festivities was a huge part of my childhood. It's such a time of celebration for Alaskans, in the midst of winter's frozen grip. Some of my favorite memories as a kid involve Fur Rondy and the Iditarod. Riding on carnival rides bundled up in all our winter snow gear, seeing all the giant snow and ice sculptures created for competitions, finding dog booties in the snow and squirreling them away like precious treasures. Since college it's been hard to get back to town for the festivities. Spring Break never lined up with the Iditarod or Rondy, but now that I'm out of school I realized that there wasn't really much keeping me from going back this year. Since becoming a better photographer in the last few years I started to dream of shooting the Iditarod and capturing such a special part of my life photographically.
I'll be sharing more Iditarod stories and photos later, but these photos were also some that I really wanted to take while I was home. This is my Grandma's parka. She was a nurse midwife who did her nursing school at Johns Hopkins in the 40's, and went on to do her midwife training with the Frontier Nursing Service in the Kentucky backcountry. FNS provided midwife services to people who lived too far in the backcountry to be able to make it to a medical center for their prenatal care and delivery, and the nurses would ride on horseback for dozens of miles to reach their patients. After she finished her training as a nurse midwife she was hired by the territory of Alaska to create training materials and personally train native women in remote villages how to safely deliver babies and avoid fatal problems during childbirth, as there was a very high infant and mother mortality rate in villages at the time. She drove up to Alaska in her Jeep with just her dog, Rusty, and one of her good girlfriends the first year the AlCan highway was open to civilians.
This coat was the parka she would wear while going out to the villages to train women to become midwives. She traveled by small plane, boat, and dog sled to get to the remote native villages and this coat kept her warm, but not too hot, and the wolverine fur ruff was specifically chosen because it doesn't frost up. It was so special to be wearing this coat while surrounded by so many parts of my Alaskan upbringing and heritage. I actually got choked up a few times because I was so overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia, thankfulness, and the sense of being truly home in so many ways. This coat is one of the most beautiful things I've ever worn. Who I am and where I came from are sewn into the seams. I've always felt like wearing vintage was special because of the history imbued into the fabric, but it's so much more the case when it's your own personal family history.
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