Friday, March 28, 2008

Island Life

When I was walking Chico tonight I was struck by the difference between Unalaska and my home state of Maine - although I am just a couple years away from living the same number of years in both states, Maine will always be "home". New England abounds with history, seeping from every pore; the architecture, the statues in the parks of historical figures, the museums, and endless volumes categorizing and documenting, well, everything - the people, the land, the birds, the animals, the ocean, the fish, the trails, the plants, the rocks, the geology, the hydrology, all are explained and studied. If you decided to move to any state in New England and wanted to research the area first you could find information that would answer almost any question you could dream up.

Out here, I live and work and sleep literally on top of the longest continuously inhabited coastal settlement in North America - with history spanning ten thousand years - right on the ithmus of land where the river empties into the sea. A true Sense of Place. Yet I can't just hop on the internet and Google for information or order books from Amazon to explain what I see all around me. There are whispers of maybe a guy that lives somewhere here who knows about the geology of the area. The University of Alaska is conducting dives along the Aleutians to try to catalog the underwater flora and fauna that have never been seen and are discovering brand new species as they go. The weather patterns are so unpredictable and extreme that you really never know what the day will bring. And when I go for walks - anywhere here - it seems like new mysteries are waiting to be discovered.

Honestly, when I found how very little published information there was to explain this world around me I was frustrated. Research is in my blood and I do it well and I don't think I realized there were limits. I always thought there was a book out there to show me anything I wanted to know. Slowly, step by step, I almost feel like I've settled back in time to where information was gleaned from direct observation. I'm surrounded by the unknown and everyday I find out something new - not something like a new item of gossip about who is doing what with whom - things like where foxes go for fresh water, and where you can find crab shells dropped from eagle perches, how the wind interacts with the land, and where the birds go at night. Information is a lot tougher to come by out here but its worth seems greater when hard won.

Anyways, enough rambling and off to bed for me . . . cheers!


Lothian said...

Sounds like someone needs to write their OWN book!

Kym said...

That was wonderful essay! And the photo that goes with it illustrates it perfectly.

here in Northern California, I get frustrated all the time because there aren't books on what I want to know. Slowly though I'm learning to respect my own observations. I imagine this is even more true for you.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

I LOVE that picture.
And like Kym said, it can be frustrating when I can't find what I want to know.
Like the geology of our area is covered but VERY sketchy.

pat said...

Beautifully written! You make us so want to be a part of your world, your environment!

purrdvm said...

Sometimes the best way to learn is by direct observation. We all know how unreliable "others" reports can be.
It sounds immensely fascinating though - speaking as someone who loves to do her own research too!