Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kingbird irruption

Ms K and I spent last week in Alaska with Hank Lentfer, enjoying cool temps and mostly dry skies and the incomparable landscapes of Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and Lemesurier Island in SE Alaska. We were impressed by the sense of community (in Gustavus, keys stay on dash boards just in case a neighbor has a need), of priorities (music, art, friendship), and seasonality (summer is its own priority). We were awe-struck by the scale of Alaskan landscape, by the sense of human presence as a thin veneer on the wilderness, and by all of the wildlife - hump-back whales, grizzlies, wolves, bald eagles, and a handful of birds new to us.

The amazing visuals were complemented by a world of new sounds: the slap of sea against hull, the bark of sea-lions, the loud sigh of hump-backs emptying their lungs and low-pitched music of their underwater communications, the soprano chatter of the bald eagles, the thunder-crack of glacier shedding ice and echoing splash of iceberg hitting ocean. 

Also impressive was the extent to which the local wild landscape provides (fish, venison, berries, even kelp salsa!) and the amount that can be nurtured from the soil in a short-season: potatoes, greens, beets, cabbage, carrots, radish, kale. Gustavus is at the end of a very long and costly supply line, but it seems to be more than cost that drives an ethic of self-sufficiency, more than just mutual dependence that sustains an ethic of sharing.

Above all, experiencing Hank in situ was the major reason for the trip, and while our visit was too short and we were sad to leave, we left convinced that he'll realize the hope he expressed at the close of his book, "The Faith of Cranes" - "to be left singing when all else is stripped away." Thank you, Hank, for being there and for being you.

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