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.
On the surface, the novel Beloved seems like literature that makes us more aware of the brutality of slavery — the physical and emotional abuses, the violence, and the dehumanization. It is, all of these, of course, but I think that what sets Toni Morrison’s novel apart, and what has earned her the well-deserved international acclaim she has achieved, is that she goes deeper, to really get under our skin, as it were. For me, reading Beloved made me acutely aware of the color of my skin. This is perhaps as good as it gets, when it comes to fiction writing, because Beloved forces the reader to confront themselves in relation to skin color and in relation to the brutality of racism, both past and present. Morrison does all this simpy by being a great writer, by putting the reader there, right there in the middle of it all.
“I’m off the book,” says my friend Scott. We stand together on the porch of the Golden Saloon, drinking a few beers in the early evening. We’re a little buzzed, it’s a nice beer buzz without being completely swept away into intoxication. “Off the book,” I repeat. I’d never heard it put quite like that. “I like Facebook,” I say. “I really do. But I think I’m winding it down.” I’m still connected to the Book, I tell Scott. My Facebook account is still active. I just haven’t been checking it very often. It’s gone from a daily scanning to a weekly review.
There’s epic mountains and breaching whales and raging rivers and scary bears and grizzled men with beards, but one of the natural features that most intrigues me about Alaska is the light, specifically the yuge swings of light and dark. The weirdness of the solar cycles gives the place a certain mystical feel. Most of the year, this area of Alaska is gaining or losing about 5 minutes of light a day. Things are always changing, always in flux. I never feel like anything is static or settled. Perhaps it’s a Buddhist-y thing, for me, or maybe it’s just the nature of nature itself, a part of life that we tend to forget in modernity, where we spend a good deal of our lives indoors and/or in front of screens, mostly disconnected from the natural world we evolved to live in. Whatever the reason, it feels refreshingly primitive to me to be in a place as dynamic as Alaska, especially on summer solstice where you can stay out all night and never need a flashlight …
The Trumpification of the English language: “For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now I didn’t go there. Everybody knows. The logs are there, the planes are there. He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time. But of course I stayed. Well his memo said I left immediately. I never said that. I never said I left immediately.” From recent interview on Fox & Friends
The annual trek up to Alaska is rapidly approaching, less than a week away. This will be my ninth consecutive summer working/living in AK. It’s become a lifestyle choice, to say the least, a nomadic lifestyle: summers in Alaska and winters spent wandering the world. In truth, though, it’s mostly been California. I’ve become quite comfortable and settled in here in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. So I do a good deal less free-style gypsy living these days.
Take anything — my passport, my coin collection, and my money (if you can find any) — just don’t mess with my character development…On second thought, sometimes a good ransacking is good for a writer, especially when stuck, perhaps when slugging through the middle of a project. And maybe that’s why we have readers and editors, to shake things up, to shake up our mentality, to use a bit of dynamite to open a new tunnel that leads to a new view.