Life

Koviashuvik

“Where is home for you?”

How do you answer that question? Is it the place you grew up in? Maybe you call home the place where you currently reside. Either way, in most cases that place comes with a street address and a zip code. A valid mailing address.

Without that, you are almost … nothing.


“Living in the present moment with quiet joy and happiness”


I am looking forward to reading Sam Wright’s book “Koviashuvik – Making a home in the Brooks Range”. Sam was a biologist, priest, and teacher who lived with his wife decades north of the Arctic Circle in a one-room log cabin, reflecting on life, mankind, and wilderness. He called his home Koviashuvik, which means a time and place of joy and happiness. According to Inuit tradition one must live in harmony with nature to experience koviashuvik,

I have not found a street address for Sam’s home, but living in a place with such a beautiful name, I imagine you don’t care that you can’t have a residential phone line, a cable subscription, or even utilities…

Maybe it was just the lack of modern day amenities (and obligations) and the presence of a relatively undisturbed wilderness that made his home a happy place…

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Inside Out, One Man's Paradise

Goodbye Alaska, for now

“Time to leave now; 
sharpen this feeling of happiness and freedom, stretch your limbs, fill your eyes, be awake, wider awake, vividly awake in every sense and every pore.” 

Stefan Zweig

Moving to a new place means to trade the familiar with the unfamiliar. It means leaving friends behind and meeting perfect strangers. The comfort zone becomes less comfortable. 

Moving also brings excitement, new opportunities, and change, which must have a lot weight in my case, otherwise I would not lead such a nomadic life. 

After living three years in Alaska I am heading South. Not that I couldn’t stand the mosquitoes in the summer or the cold and the isolation in the winter. To the contrary, I liked the serene life style and the harsh weather during the winter months up North. Life may not be easy during the dark season, but it is simple. It takes work to stay alive. Everything takes more effort: going places, fixing things in and around the house. Those efforts made me a appreciate life. 

So why leave? For me it’s like watching a movie more than once. I may understand the movie better after the second time and find a few new details the third time around, but in general I got the big picture. So, I am going to see a new movie next time.

Maybe I find a place one day that I want to call home for the rest of my life. Maybe…

In the meantime I keep wandering. 

Navigating the Inside Passage


Alaska bid a magnificent farewell with a misty Inside Passage and glowing Northern Lights. 

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Mixed bag

A storm is brewing

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Clouds over Chilkat Mountains, Alaska

“Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken.”

Donald J. Trump


Unfortunately I believe Mr. Trump is right. It looks like there is only one man/woman standing between him and presidency. That alone is a dire sign of American politics. Not being satisfied with the current crop of politicians and their actions has led to this strange situation, where not being like the current establishment of party politicians appears to be sufficient to qualify as president of the United States.

Mr. Trump’s controversial remarks on aliens, Muslims, women, and the lack of specific policies have not deterred his supporters. What does that tell us?

“Make America Great Again” is the slogan of his campaign. I think America is already great, if you value things other than just money.

Maybe not just our leaders need to change, but also us, the people.

Hopefully we will end up with a candidate that genuinely cares about the well being of people more than profit, growth, and revenues. America is not a corporation. Life is not a business.

 

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Nature

Seasonal migration

biords

Canadian Geese, Alaska


“Modern life is a centrifuge;
it throws people in every direction.”

Paul Murray

Thousands of of seasonal workers have crammed their belongings into their cars and vans and are on their way to new shores and mountains: the biannual migration of seasonal workers. I am one of them.

Some of us are following their dreams, some are following the mighty green. So we think. In fact we are not following the tourists and the business they create. We are following a natural migration of fish and birds, and the awakening of nature that comes with spring time.

Where I am going, Alaska, there would be no tourism without the splendid nature and its wildlife. From the outside Northern Canada and the US may look like last frontiers, where nature is still largely intact and unspoiled. Reading reports before the whale and fur hunters arrived tell a different story. Wildlife was abundant then.

It is easy to forget how fast and how much we humans have changed this planet.

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Inside Out, Life

A serious case…

 of instant gratification.


Am I part of a covert marshmallow experiment?

Today I walked into our grocery store. I don’t know where you live, but where I came from shopping has become an overwhelming task: Which store do I choose today, who has the best deals and my favorite products? Off course I always expected to find well stocked shelves with endless choices.

Not so here. We have one grocery store in town. Goods come in once a week, which have already been on the ship for a whole week, when the boat arrives, so nothing is “really” fresh. As quickly as the shelves are restocked, the goods disappear.

Then I tried to open a checking account in our one and only local branch. “Let me setup an appointment for you. Oh yes, we have an opening in 2 days from now. Would that work for you?”. Really? Well, it has to work for me, because I don’t have a choice.

Finally, my bicycle broke down and I needed a new part. That would be a 2 week break from bicycling. Fedex does not deliver to our town, so forget about overnight. Until I can pickup the replacement part from our local post office that would be a while.

Don’t get me wrong, I am here by choice and I am happy with it, being able to have something to eat every day and a roof over my head. Not to mention the amazing, ever changing natural beauty around me.

It just made me think, how spoiled I was by living in a society that fosters instant gratification. Anything I want, anytime. How did we get there? Were our ancestors constantly hungry? Always on the hunt for the next bite? No time to think about consequences in the future? Now that we have plenty to eat, we extend our expectations. Movies on demand have replaced video stores. Online news killed the newspapers. Cubicles and computers… And all that for what? So we can buy and have things that we want. Things that are supposed to make us happy…

I happily accept my new life style. I will be patient. I am not going to live in a cave, but I can wait for the next ship that may or may not bring bread and milk. I can wait for that bank appointment…

Paul Roberts has written a brilliant book about this topic: The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification. And on the subject of choices I very much like the following TED talk: The paradox of choice.

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Life

No news – part 2

Alaska, the land where bananas, bread and milk don’t flow…

Well, the barge came and went.

Day by day the shelves in our market displayed less products. First, anything fresh disappeared: milk, bread, fruit and veggies. Then all advertised specials were gone.

Finally, anything is fair game.

Since the supply ship docked on Tuesday, lots of goods have made it to the store. Many items remain boxed, sitting on the floor, waiting to be reshelved… Everybody is pretty good about it, although the cashiers must have finally got tired answering the question: “Did you get milk? Where is the bread?” and put up a sign.

emergency

At least Redi Wip is in! Pretty funny.

I have seen empty shelves before. I just did not expect to see that in a town that welcomes 10,000 visitors a day. I guess there is no shortage of food on the docked cruise ships. If we only could board those ships. Maybe we’ll have to hijack one…

Just kidding.

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Inside Out

A poem

The wintergreen, the juniper, the cornflower and the chicory
The elm, the ash and the linden tree, the dark and deep, enchanted sea
The trembling moon and the stars unfurled
Well there she goes, my beautiful world

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

I don’t know what Nick had in mind with this song, but it resonates with me. Reading the 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert reminded me how little diversity we have at our longitude, despite the apparent wilderness. Then again, how many guests from the city are amazed to see a moose or the tracks of an elk herd or a golden eagle circling in the sky. It’s a precious world we live in, a narrow range of altitude and temperatures that allows us to live comfortably. We live in the midst of a mass extinction, species are disappearing for good every day, some before mankind even got a chance to see them, some we loose by our thirst for land and sea, by our need for resources and our lack of compassion and responsibility. Mass extinctions have happened before, naturally, without us. To put it into perspective: Until 300 years ago, the concept of mass extinction was unknown. Nobody knew that individual species, sometimes millions of individuals would disappear from earth because they could not adapt to changes in their habitat. Nobody knew that 30-80% of all species have disappeared several times in the existence of this planet. Until today, I believe, the general public is not aware of these “catastrophic” events.

If nature can cause mass extinction, why would we care about conservation and diversity? Why do we have national parks and wilderness areas? Why should we care about clean air and water?

Some of us certainly enjoy seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, some of us never get the chance to see a wolverine in the wild, or witness the amazing beauty of a corral reef… Some of us may not even care.

Which poses the question: What do we do as individuals and as a society with this world? Is it ok to simply care about the well-being of our generation? Or should we attempt to conserve what we have for future generations? Simple questions with profound answers. What do you think?

Maybe Nick was in a somber mood, when he wrote his song, or he was a realist, a visionary, anticipating the power of nature and mankind.
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