When we arrive in McCarthy at the beginning of the summer, we all ask each other about our winter. At the end of the summer, the topic of conversation is what we are doing for the winter. I always seem to talk to one or two people who are considering working on the North Slope, at the top of the world. A friend of mine working the Slopes recently sent me these two pics:
For me, 2018 was another bad year. Apart of me really hates to call a year “bad” — or any time period. We live and learn from any and all experiences, blah, blah. We call know that we can make the best of difficult situations, etc. A part of me gets it and understands that I can’t control the circumstances of my life and that in order to successfully navigate tough times, I ought to be mature and learn from shitty experiences, but some years are just harder than others. So, another part of me is fine with saying that 2018 sucked.
Fall comes early in Alaska, so most of these pics were taken in August or September. It’s now November, and I’m back in California, central coast, where fall takes its sweet time. In truth, I’m not sure the winters here are really worthy of the name. If no one is slipping on the ice and breaking their legs or otherwise endangered by the cold, crappy weather, then it’s hard for me to call that a “winter.” Not that I’m complaining or anything. It’s just that fall in these parts is just sort of starting to catch up to the fall of two months back. So, even though I’m remiss in posting these pics, they are still timely for folks in the Lower 48.
Trump is hitting the campaign trail, hitting it hard in the way that Trumpty Dumpty sort of way he has, and one of his repeated platitudes is some variation of “I’m not on the ballot, but I’m on the ballot,” also taking the form of “think of yourself as voting for me.” I haven’t been following this election as carefully as I should. I haven’t been well. I’ve been struggling with digestive/gut issues since last spring, and it’s taken its toll. My energy levels have been pretty low.
My time is winding down here in McCarthy, and so I’m trying to enjoy the last week of my time in Alaska, which isn’t hard to do with all the September sunshine, a welcome relief after an Angry August of rain and cold. It’s also easy to enjoy the time here because as more and more folks disperse in the annual Alaska diaspora, the bar empties out save for locals. Last night I was chatting with a local buddy at the bar. He lives in McCarthy now, but he’s originally from California. We started talking politics and culture, and eventually he began reminiscing about attending Iraq War protests, back during the Bush years. The protests seemed to have left a distinct impression on him, mostly negative. They felt a bit ineffective, quixotic even. He mentioned a certain festival type of atmosphere, with fire jugglers.
A few years back, before coming to McCarthy, I worked a two summers in Glacier Bay National Park. The glaciers there, however, were not very accessible. For one thing, they were Tidewater Glaciers, meaning that they terminated in the water, i.e., the Pacific ocean. One summer I worked on a tour boat, so I saw them every bloody day, but actually getting up onto the glaciers was a whole ‘nother story. Watching the glaciers, day after day, made me feel a bit like a Medieval peasant gazing up at the lord’s manor, up on the hill.
I want to pass along a great opinion piece that ran in the Guardian a few days back, written by Kim Heacox, an Alaskan writer who lives in Gustavus, a very small bush community snuggled up next to Glacier Bay National Park. I worked two summers in Glacier Bay, one of the truly special and one of the most wondrous places I’ve been, and I met Kim during my stint there. It’s a good piece and a plea for some sanity: Over the years, I’ve walked many visitors into the Tongass national forest in Alaska, and watched the city tinsel drop from their eyes. They often sit quietly and look around, and for the first time in a long time breathe from the bottom of their lungs.I live here, I tell them.