One and the same — Kenai Courthouse performs its 1st same-sex marriages

Editor’s note: This is part one in a series of stories regarding same-sex marriage on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tanya Luck, left, and Heidi King were married Friday at the Kenai Courthouse after the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriages in Alaska. The couple has been together six years and had a commitment ceremony in 2010.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Tanya Luck, left, and Heidi King were married Friday at the Kenai Courthouse after the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriages in Alaska. The couple has been together six years and had a commitment ceremony in 2010.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For an event so charged with controversy, moral condemnation, protestations of equal rights, years of legal wrangling and no less than an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ceremony Friday at the Kenai Courthouse was most remarkable in its absence of anything particularly remarkable. All went as it normally would.

The couple arrived a bit early after spending hours getting fancied up, yet still having to rush out of the house because such primping always takes longer than expected. In the clerk’s office they filled out paperwork and paid the fee, while chatting and laughing about nothing in particular, with the nervous energy inherent in completing the mundane that precedes something momentous.

The crowd of friends and family in attendance were just as patiently good-natured, a knot of smiles, laughter and camera phones brightening the solemn vibe more typically imbuing a courthouse hallway.

The marriage ceremony itself was mostly boilerplate. The officiant read from a script, and the participants spoke when expected to, responding as expected to. The crowd teared and cheered on the regular cues — the entrance march (with music they provided themselves, singing an enthusiastic a cappella “dah, dum t’dumm, dah dum t’dumm”), the exchange of rings, the kiss.

There was, of course, the obvious difference. The bride, with her pink bouquet and white lace overlay dress, facing her bride, with her pink bouquet and white-and-black floral dress.

The officiant asking if Heidi would take this woman, Tanya, to be her lawfully wedded wife. And if Tanya would do the same, both promising to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as they both shall live.

Heidi King and Tanya Luck’s ceremony Friday was only the second same-sex marriage to be performed at the Kenai Courthouse — the first being two men married the day before — since Alaska was required to lift its ban on gay marriage.

Despite the larger legal context — the Alaska Legislature passing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 1998 with a voter referendum approving the measure, a federal district court on Oct. 12 declaring the ban unconstitutional, the state appealing the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court declining the hear a similar case, thus validating the lower court decision — the ceremony itself was a lot like all the other marriages performed at the courthouse prior to last Thursday. And that’s exactly how the couple wanted it.

“Really, we’re like any other couple,” King said.

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Lost in the fun — Annual hay maze is Solid good time

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Maci Miller uses a flashlight to cross one of the rope bridges inside Solid Rock Bible Camp’s Hay Tunnel.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Maci Miller uses a flashlight to cross one of the rope bridges inside Solid Rock Bible Camp’s Hay Tunnel.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

While they had come to be silly in the silage, young Maci Miller suddenly seemed uncertain of the situation. From deep within a thick white puff coat that consumed her small form, she shuddered while staring at the tiny opening in the side of a large red barn wherein the baled labyrinth that was Solid Rock Bible Camp Hay Tunnel maze was housed.

“Go on, have fun,” said her mother, after tying Maci’s pink knit hat tightly under her chin. Filled with nervousness, she got down on her knees and crawled into the hole that served as the entrance. Minutes passed as muffled sounds emanated from inside the barn — the shuffling of knees over the compacted cut grass and children saying to no one in particular, “This way.”

Finally, Maci popped out and zoomed down the slide that served as the exit chute from the hay tunnel, and if the ear-to-ear grin was not enough of a sign that she had experienced a change of heart while crawling through the dark, her exclamation made her emotions clear.

“I want to go again, Mom! Can I go again?” she squealed.

Darling Brown negotiates the hay tunnel at Solid Rock Bible Camp. The maze is built annually from bales of straw, for community fun.

Darling Brown negotiates the hay tunnel at Solid Rock Bible Camp. The maze is built annually from bales of straw, for community fun.

Her mother, Lyndi Miller, gave an approving nod and the girl rushed off and wiggled back into the barn, again and again over the next hour.

“She was a little leery at first, but once she went through she couldn’t get enough,” Miller said.

The elder Miller was not quite as enthusiastic to follow her daughter’s now-cheerful forays into the tunnel.

“I grew up around here, but this is my first time because I’m a bit claustrophobic,” she said.

Other than those with fear of tight spaces, Noah Procter, barn manager at Solid Rock, said that most people find the experience exhilarating and good family fun.

“It’s been going on for around 20 years, but it’s really grown in the last 10 or so,” he said.

Opening the first weekend in October and running through the first weekend or so in November, the hay tunnel attracts a crowd, from families looking for a fall-themed adventure to organized groups.

“It’s a lot of school classes, youth groups, 4-H, Girl and Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and birthday parties. Last year we had around 1,600 people come through and this year we’re looking at around 1,800,” he said.

The youngest has been an 8-month-old, who traversed the tunnel strapped to Mom, on up to retired guys going through, Procter said.

Procter said that the tunnel began as a way to stock fodder for the livestock that play an important role in Solid Rock’s summer camp.

“We have between 15 and 20 horses that we winter over for the summer program, so putting up all this hay saves on costs over the winter,” he said.

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Night Lights: Winter settles above — Sky at night alight with stars shining bright

Photos courtesy of Andy Veh. Ben Veh observes the solar eclipse through binoculars with a safe solar filter (notice the partial solar eclipse being projected on a piece of paper).

Photos courtesy of Andy Veh. Ben Veh observes the solar eclipse through binoculars with a safe solar filter (notice the partial solar eclipse being projected on a piece of paper).

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter
Looking at the sky in the late evening, around 11 p.m., prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper, part of Ursa Major, high in the northeast, and the Little Dipper high in the north. Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair are now low in the northwest. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that in Alaska we can see this summer triangle all winter along, albeit near the horizon.
Cassiopeia appears overhead, in the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond in the southwest. In the east, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, Cancer with the Beehive cluster and Leo have risen, following Orion with red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, which are now quite high in the southeast — which is why I chose late evening for my description this month. Auriga with Capella, Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster with, currently, the very bright Jupiter, now appear high in the south.

The edge of the moon is visible passing across the sun in the partial solar eclipse Oct. 23.

The edge of the moon is visible passing across the sun in the partial solar eclipse Oct. 23.

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Plugged In: Checking technique is always worth the shot

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Note to self: Reread this article whenever personal “shot discipline” slips.

Personal shot discipline simply means knowing what to do in order to get the best photo under different circumstances and then remembering to do so. Nearly everyone’s discipline lapses from time to time. When I promised in last week’s article to write about shot discipline, little did I know how forcefully I would be relearning those lessons myself during the interim.

Over past several days I’ve been going through an accumulation of recent photographs, editing out technically poor images. As a result, this week’s article became a personal reminder about what to keep in mind before pressing the shutter release. Every camera model acts a bit differently when used with factory settings, so the suggestions below are merely starting points for your own experience and testing.

  • Illustration 1

    Illustration 1

    Subject motion was an unexpected problem this summer. Many images taken along Cook Inlet bluffs on windy days were blurred despite seemingly fast shutter speeds. Tripods and image stabilization don’t work in these situations, only fast-enough shutter speeds. This week’s Illustration 1 compares two otherwise identical test images taken moments apart with the same lens. The left side is unusable as a result of motion blur, while the right-side image clearly and sharply resolves individual blades of grass. Avoiding motion blur requires balancing camera and exposure settings, with some trade-offs. We’ll discuss these next week.

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In a word: Revival — Language class speaks to effort to revitalize Dena’ina

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jolene Sutherland, left, laughs with Dena’ina elder Helen Dick, of Lime Village, during a session of a Dena’ina language class offered this semester at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. Dick, one of the few Dena’ina language speakers around who learned the language as a child, visited the class to help with pronunciations and support the effort to not only preserve the language that was in danger of dying out, but to help it thrive.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Shizhi Besi qilan. Shugu shqiya qilanda Kahtnu. Shugu yeshdu da.

When translated, the students in a Dena’ina language class at Kenai Peninsula College weren’t saying much. Just practicing simple greetings in the Cook Inlet dialect of Dena’ina, the language spoken by the Athabascan Natives indigenous to the Kenai Peninsula region.

Literally: My name Besi it is. Thus it is my village Kenai it is. Thus it is where do you sit?

More familiarly in English: My name is Besi (Dena’ina for “owl.”) I live in Kenai. Where do you live?

But for a language that, not long ago, was in very real danger of dying out, speaking at all communicates much more than just, “Hi, where’re you from?”

Contorting the mouth to make sounds that don’t exist in English says, “I value this heritage.”

Coaxing the words from memory, rather than peeking at written notes, demonstrates integration with Dena’ina culture and traditions.

The mere fact that 15 students — many of whom are young adults — are taking the semesterlong language class at KPC communicates that the effort to not only rescue, but revitalize the language is gaining momentum.

“This is the language of this community,” said class instructor Sondra Shaginoff-Stuart. “It’s the validation of who you are. I think what’s important is a lot of our families heal from (the disconnection of) not being able to speak their language. I think so much has been lost, and the thought of having identity to a place where there was a language there — your family’s language — and to bring that to the surface, I think is really important to bring about healing for a community. For individuals that are of the language, I think it’s a sign of identity, that they can speak their language that couldn’t be spoken before. And just bringing that language to the forefront, it’s an important language for our community, for everybody.”

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Alcohol a tricky issue for area youth — Teen drinking subject of town hall discussion

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

The news of an incident is shocking — a teen assaulted at an underage drinking party. The assaults may range from embarrassing, such as a victim having their head or eyebrows shaved, to the devastating, such as with cases of sexual assaults. At least in the lesser events, adults might chalk it up to teens being teens. Some might read resulting headlines with a disapproving tsk-tsk and go on about their business, not to think of the issue again.

One local entity wants to do more.

“We have reasons to be alarmed, but there are things we can do in this community, as a community, to make positive changes,” said Stan Steadman, a member of People Promoting Wellness though Community Action.

The group held a town hall meeting Friday to discuss underage drinking, facilitated by the Roundtable Center for Mediation and Community Dialogue. The goal was to create a community dialogue to share information about how underage drinking affects local youth and the community as a whole, and to gather community input on what can be done to address this issue.

Steadman shared statistics compiled by the state’s Division of Behavioral Health. Kids who drank prior to age 13 had a 47 percent chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in their lives.

While these numbers were shocking to those in attendance, Steve Atwater, superintendent for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, shared even more grim statistics that focused specifically on local numbers.

“I see a lot of data about our kids, and our kids are drinking more than the rest of Alaska, and that’s concerning. There are few incidents of alcohol in schools or kids drunk at school, but it is prevalent on weekends,” he said.

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A vote for satire — Triumvirate’s election-year “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” set to spoof

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” performs a parody song of “West Side Story,” where Republicans and Democrats are the rivals.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It’s down-to-the-wire time as Nov. 4 approaches. Campaign signs dominate the landscape. Election rhetoric is omnipresent. Speeches are being perfected. Images are being tweaked. Digs and jabs at opponents are being sharpened. Song-and-dance routines are being polished. All the last-minute stops are being pulled out to catch attention.

That’s not only the case for candidates. The performers of Triumvirate Theatre’s “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses” political satire show are rehearsing their lines for Friday’s opening night as frantically as a candidate in the homestretch of the election.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

Chris Jenness serenades the crowd as borough mayor candidate Tom Bearup.

It’s hard to say which is funnier at this point — the sketches as written, lampooning some of the biggest quirks, quips and personalities of this year’s election season — or the sidebar comments made while preparing them.

“Am I supposed to be screaming because I’m getting attacked by a bear, or because someone wants me to go on Sound Off?” said Chris Pepper, seeking clarification during a sketch where he plays Thom Walker, the one-time Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate, trying to survive in the literal wilds of Alaska as well as the political wilds as a third-party candidate.

“Wait, are you going to talk like you’re on helium the whole time?” director Joe Rizzo asked Dan Pascucci, playing, at that moment, an agitated Matt Wilson, KSRM’s general manager, berating news director Catie Quinn for not being able to drop her Australian accent in pronouncing the radio station’s call letters. A “My Fair Lady,” “Wouldn’t it be loverly” riff ensues.

“Yes,” Pascucci replied. “I’ll probably pass out, but it will be hilarious.”

Triumvirate has been doing “Lame Ducks” every other year since 2006, creating each show from scratch to parody whatever is making news, raising eyebrows and rolling eyeballs that election year. The actors onstage poke fun at people on the local, statewide and national stage, and the donations of humor are doled out evenly between the parties.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

Delana Duncan does a “My Fair Lady” takeoff of KSRM news director Catie Quinn’s Australian accent.

“Humor is the highest value, not the politics,” Rizzo said.

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