Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna resident Abraham Anasogak throws a plant offering into the flames of a Raven Fire Circle during a healing gathering called "You and Me" on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena'ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or death, and have lavender, sage and sweetgrass available for participants to burn in the healing process.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna resident Abraham Anasogak throws a plant offering into the flames of a Raven Fire Circle during a healing gathering called "You and Me" on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena'ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or death, and have lavender, sage and sweetgrass available for participants to burn in the healing process.

Comfort in company

One by one, area residents tossed handfuls of lavender, sweetgrass and sage onto crackling flames outside the Dena’ina Wellness Center as they remembered their loved ones.

Dozens of participants gathered to comfort and support one another on Wednesday at the event called “Nen shi ela,” or “You and Me,” hosted by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.

Julie Dravis, director of behavioral health for the tribe, said healing gatherings are held throughout the year when residents experience hardship, usually driven by vocal community members and the tribal council.

Wednesday’s event was tailored to those affected by suicide.

“As long as I’ve worked for the tribe, whenever there’s been some type of loss or tragedy in the community, we always try to come together as a community, which usually involves drumming and food and people getting together,” Dravis said.

Before listening to an array of healing songs performed by a drum circle, participants could enjoy food, company and the warmth of the fire outside at the Raven Fire Circle.

The plants provided to throw into the fire are selected for their healing and cleansing properties, said J.R. Myers, of Soldotna.

Dravis said the gatherings are especially helpful to people who may have just lost someone close to them because they use the creation of bonds to spur the healing process, something, she said, is supported by both traditional practices and modern science.

“We know that mental illnesses and mental disorders… when people are having behavioral health needs, that they often feel disconnected and isolated, and so helping them to become connected to others is known in the community — traditionally as well as in science and the field of psychology — reconnection, it creates healing for people,” she said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Area residents take turns performing healing songs on a drum during a gathering called "You and Me" on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena'ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or loss.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Area residents take turns performing healing songs on a drum during a gathering called “You and Me” on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or loss.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna resident Abraham Anasogak throws a plant offering into the flames of a Raven Fire Circle during a healing gathering called "You and Me" on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena'ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or death, and have lavender, sage and sweetgrass available for participants to burn in the healing process.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Soldotna resident Abraham Anasogak throws a plant offering into the flames of a Raven Fire Circle during a healing gathering called “You and Me” on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 at the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska. The gatherings are held periodically to support those affected by suicide or death, and have lavender, sage and sweetgrass available for participants to burn in the healing process.

More in Life

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Would I do it again?

I ran across some 20-some year-old journal notes rambling on about a 268-foot dive I took

A copy of Prince Harry’s “Spare” sits on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion office on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Prince Harry gets candid about ‘gilded cage’ in new memoir

“Spare” undoubtedly succeeds in humanizing Harry

The cast of “Tarzan” rides the Triumvirate Theatre float during the Independence Day parade in downtown Kenai, Alaska on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate swings into the year with ‘Tarzan’, Dr. Seuss and fishy parody

The next local showing of the Triumvirate Theatre is fast approaching with a Feb. 10 premiere of “Seussical”

This vegan kimchi mandu uses crumbled extra-firm tofu as the protein. (Photo by Tressa Dale / Peninsula Clarion)
Meditating on the new year with kimchi mandu

Artfully folding dumplings evokes the peace and thoughtful calm of the Year of the Rabbit

A promotional poster for the first event in the Winter Film Series. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Film Group)
Movie buffs to debut local film series

This first entry is centered on short films

Mashed potatoes are served with chicken breast, green beans and pan sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Mashed potatoes for a chef

They are deceptively hard to get right

Photo 210.029.162, from the Clark Collection, courtesy of Hope and Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum 
Emma Clark feeds the Clark “pet” moose named Spook in 1981. At the urging of state wildlife officials, Carl Clark had agreed to care for this calf at their home in Hope.
Emma Clark: Becoming a Hope pioneer

For 50 years, Emma and Carl had been central to the story of Hope

A copy of “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” stands on a desk in the Peninsula Clarion office on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Coffee shop time travelers leave reader cold

“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” is the debut novel of author and playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Josiah Burton and Jaylee Webster rehearse "Something Rotten" on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
School productions bring SpongeBob SquarePants, Sherlock Holmes to the stage

Nikiski and Soldotna drama programs prepare for April productions

Ultra-fast, protein-packed miso soup is a mild and comforting broth for sick days. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Soothing soup for January ills

It’s probably a novelty to have experienced my child’s infancy without a single sniffle