has been on my mind since my return from there in the earlier part of this month. The people, the places, everything I saw and learned has been, and is, being processed back in my busy world of city lights and noise.
Alaska is wild and immense, a cluster of towns and many more very small villages and wide spots in the road surrounded by vast, barely, or entirely untamed, places. Two states of Texas would easily fit inside Alaska and the people there have mostly dispensed with the idea of roads from place to place in favor of airplanes and ships to cover the distances. There is civilization, for sure, but all of it always seems to be on the edge of something that hints of the days before modern humans brought their machines.
It is certainly, at least legally as legalities go these days, part of the United States. I wonder if the people who had been living there for thousands of years were puzzled, perhaps even infuriated, by the idea that two countries much less timeless than their nations could sell and trade that which was not theirs to begin with. Sill the native culture is resilient and distant laws created by people without an understanding are usually quietly endured or ignored whenever possible. The rules of living in this land seem to make certain things so regardless of foreign machinations.
And those rules, those rules of nature and the endless motion of the seasons, ensure that those who would seek to thrive in this Alaska need to learn to adapt. The foods that are eaten, the kinds of shelter that can be built, the ways of moving across the land, all of them are ultimately decided by nature’s larger wisdom and direction. You may have an airplane, but when the fog comes in off the ocean and nothing can be seen, that plane must stay where it is and whatever you were hoping it would bring will have to wait as well. There is much to eat but you have to know what it is, where it is, and how to harvest and keep it as Alaska itself determines the menu unless you wish to pay the significant costs of an imported diet. Seasons are larger than days, the weather larger than planners, and the people have a directness with the wisdom that comes from living in a place where safety nets may be few and far between.
There is a generosity in the people as well, a kindness of heart to strangers as long as they are willing to listen, learn, and not exploit or condescend. Alaskans, especially the natives, are not stupid or unsophisticated. They have lived in this very different place since, in some cases, the beginning of time as we understand it and know the rules, the actualities, the way things really are. If you are a guest and wish to share in this, the doors, the dinner tables, and hearts will always be open. If you come with theories, lab results, or a sense you know better, you will be, like distant laws, either quietly endured or ignored.
As there is a beauty to the people there is also beauty to the land. Even the most, as we would describe them, barren spaces have a kind of awesomeness to them. There are places, here, where people have still not been, places where time stands still, and nature presents on a scale that is stunning to those whose whole lives have been lived in tiny boxes in big cities. In certain places human beings are potentially still part of the food chain and this wildness can go on for what seems like forever.
It would behoove a person, I suppose, to visit Alaska at least once in their lives. Still, if you go take the place as it is and leave it exactly as you found it. Spiritually, physically, geographically, and culturally, the whole place will always be thousands of miles from where you live and trying to mold it into your image will be as futile as trying to stop the rain from falling. Enjoy, visualize, bask, and then take all of that, and nothing else from the place because that is enough.
mistake technological progress for human evolution. We have better machines but our human nature, broken and challenged, touched by eternity and yet so very mortal, has remained a constant over the eons of human existence. Thus while an old machine may have truly outlived its usefulness an old truth, even an ancient one, related to the human condition may still be valid precisely because it has endured.
Living in the City I enjoy the physical and contemplative benefits of my small flower garden. Pondering this year as a start for vegetables. Gardens are wonderful places to pray and ponder while your feet are in the soil.