Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Low Hanging Clouds


Chico and I walked on the Ugadaga Bay Trail last night after work leaving Goldfish at home baking muffins. I love the sense of permanence about the trail, grooves worn in the tundra not by dozens or hundreds but by thousands of years of island residents making the passage from one side of the island to the other. The only sound comes from the rushing creeks below as the last of the winter's snow melts away to the sea, and the buzzing of bees as they tackle the enormous task of pollinating the abundance of wildflowers, many of which I can now identify on sight after my sister's constant and loving repetition on our walks during her stay.


About a half mile in Chico unexpectedly bolts for the valley below, running with apparent carefree abandon, and to my dismay continues up the opposite side of the valley, disappearing into the low lying clouds. I sat down on the damp tundra and began what is becoming the semi-regular ritual of waiting for Chico to run himself out and rejoin me. Chico is 13 years old and a pound rescue, adopted from the animal shelter by Goldfish just the day before being euthanized. Given his age and his background - we've spoken with folks who knew his previous owner on the island and they say he was never allowed outside except to go to the bathroom - I just let him run when he fancies as he doesn't really respond much to voice commands anyways. Most nights when I walk out the door with Chico for a dog walk I have no idea when we'll return, and on a couple occasions he has returned without me; no matter, I love him dearly and he always comes over to say goodnight before bedding down and I do the same.


Last night, however, as I watched for his eventual re-appearance the weight of the clouds and the world began to push me deeper into my mossy perch. It wasn't just the missing dog that had me in a wee bit of a funk, it was the outside world that was going mad and nibbling at the edges of my island bliss. The base commander of the Alaska Air Force Base (Elmendorf) has apparently fatally shot himself in the head ; a horrible case of blatant wanton waste of game occurred by Point Hope with 120 caribou slaughtered and left to rot; the local volcanoes continue to act up ; the tumbling stock market has brutalized the Alaska Permanent Fund ; and now Alaska's beloved Senator "Uncle Ted" Stevens has indicted on corruption charges on seven counts of filing false financial disclosures. It's been quite a week here in Alaska - and it's only Tuesday!

That was my state of mind as I sighed and headed back to the truck to go look for Chico on the other side of the pass (I eventually found him almost to Summer's Bay and based on the timing it appears his bolting coincided with increased seismic activity from the volcanoes, so he's forgiven). As I loaded him in the truck and headed for home, I pondered how life had gotten much more complicated, even on an island in the Aleutians. I have to remember that travelers on the Ugadaga Bay trail thousands of years ago only worried about how the salmon run was, how the berry harvest was shaping up, how the health of the village was, and if they had enough of the essentials to make it through the winter - water, food, shelter and sex, the classic hierarchical pyramid of needs. Now, we've become a society of "wants" as we take our "needs" for granted and our universe has expanded so much we are often more concerned for the welfare of nations we will never see than for the elderly lady that needs a hand shoveling her driveway two doors down. We are so wrapped up in the politics of violence on the other side of the world we can't name our own city council members. And our horizons are so broad we have lost our own sense of place . . . . .

7 comments:

Mom said...

Wow, Lots of thought. On the bright side, you took the time to stop, think, analyze and appreciate what you have. I think most of us today are going so fast, we fail to register the world passing us by. I too was surprised that the world could touch you way out there, but it has.

I am glad you got a chance to go to Ugadag Bay. I had hoped to make it there as well but we sure did fill the days with wonder.

Love and miss you much

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Trust me; enjoy what you have and where you are. You are blessed beyond measure. There are those who would love to be in areas of more freedom and wilderness such as yours. Yes, things can be challenging but I, like you, am blessed in terms of living some distance away from "the madding crowd." Which is precisely why I live there. Having to work there is bad enough; at least I can escape in part!

BZ

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

And again, wonderful photography.

BZ

Lothian said...

Oh, I am sorry to see you are feeling a little blue and overwhelmed. This too shall pass, as they say.

Lori said...

Steve - have you ever thought about writing a book? And including your pictures of course? You've really made me think and granted life is too short to not appreciate where we are in life, not by the material things we have or want. The news is almost totally depressing, but looking through your eyes (your pictures) always lifts my day. Thanks!

Bette said...

Wow I love your blog. I just found it by accident - I love your pictures, I love your islands - it's like a breath of fresh air. Thanks so much.

Bette said...

And Chico, too - a wonderful dog!