Moments Rightly Placed, by Ray Hudson
Along a thousand-mile chain of treeless and windswept islands, Unalaska is perched at the end of the world, or, as some prefer to say, the beginning. In 1964, Ray Hudson, 22, landed in Unalaska village with a brand-new college degree, eager to teach. The Aleuts had seen many outsiders who had come but seldom stayed more than a year. Yet Hudson was no short-timer. Captivated by Unalaska and the history and traditions of its enduring people, he stayed. As the years passed—one, then five, ten, then twenty—he was embraced by his Aleut neighbors, sharing their celebrations and tragedies, teaching their children, exploring their language, and, much to their surprise, learning their delicate art of grass basketry. Ray Hudson’s Moment’s Rightly Placed (224 pages) weaves together landscape and language, storytelling and silence, ancient mythology and day-to-day village life. Ultimately he pays homage to the people he came to teach, and who, in the end, were his teachers.
“Starkly rugged volcanic silhouettes, rusted and ghostly remains of wartime outposts, a decaying Orthodox church, arctic flowers in a muddy bog, the blinding light off a baythese are the views and visions of the Aleutian Islands presented by Hudson, a teacher who lived there from 1964 to 1992. The grasses that Hudson gathers, dries and turns into baskets are the metaphorical threads of his narrative. Weaving a basket is a slow process, one that allows Hudson to gracefully combine the nature and culture of the Aleutian islands and the voices of Aleut people, such as his teachers, weavers Anfesia Shapsnikoff and Sophie Pletnikoff. While Hudson lived in the Aleutians for a quarter of a century, this book concentrates on the first 10 years, during which Unalaska first changed from a small, largely Aleut village to a town of immigrants employed by fisheries. Hudson has preserved the voices of the Aleut people, their real accomplishments and tall tales; public history and private lives; the fights won and lost; the survivors and the dead. Hudson provides plenty of the history of a region exploited variously by Russians and Americans since the 18th century, but mostly he has created a collection of illuminations: gentle, flowing, full of knowing detail. Hudson’s love for this determined and traditional people coping with various conflicts of transition has shaped a deeply moving testimonial, a public gift to a people he very clearly adores.”
—Pubilshers Weekly, July.
“An account of the author’s life in Unalaska, a village on the island of the same name in the Aleutian chain. Hudson begins with his arrival on the island in 1964 and then recounts his exploration of the island’s past and present, his relationship with the villagers over the past 30-plus years, and his learning of the craft of grass basketry. Includes original woodcut prints and b&w photographs by the author.”
—Book News. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
“Moments Rightly Placed is woven like an Aleut basket, warp by warp, each character lovingly described, each story gently told…the culture brought out in subtle detail.”
–Velma Wallis, author of Two Old Women
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