Someone who say my video “Sleeping with Locals” thanks me for changing his life…wow. I often forget that what I do can have an impact on others, I often forget that making images is powerful. Especially on those days (such as the past few) where I question what I have done with my life, getting a comment like this makes my heart swell.
Another trip is ending, another three weeks has flown by. The first few days I spent here went by so delibaretly, and then, as usual when traveling, picked up steam until all of a sudden it is Departure Day. And as usual, I cannot believe its over. And as usual, I love it here. Alaska is simply inspiring. Stunning, gorgeous, monumental, breahttaking, awesome, grand, magnificent…there are many words that can never quite capture the essence of Alaska’s natural wonder. It is a place of contradictions, where hunting and wildlife coexist, where wilderness and oil pipeliness comingle. It is a place that I never thought would get under my skin.
And more than get under my skin, it has sunk into my soul. The freedom of the open spaces here, the ability to escape from the world, the sheer vastness of the place…it has all satisfied something deep in my soul that didn’t know it was lacking. It has seriously filled a void. When I was out in McCarthy, the literal end of the road here in Alaska, I felt the most peace that I have ever felt in my life. I was quiet inside, I was serene. There were very few thoughts, there were very few pressures. It was just me, living and breathing in the crisp, fresh and snowy air. I had never had such quiet in my head, and it was the most relieving thing. Pressure valve was wide open, and there was nothing but purity left.
While many are against drilling in Alaska, while many decry Sarah Palin, the truth is that Alaska is, at its heart, pure. It is a purists’ place, where people go who just want to live. In private. With little government and noone telling you what to do. It is a loners’ place, but also a respectful place. A community-oriented place where people tend to go about their business. Live and let live, as long as you keep to yourself. Which, in this nutty world, is all you can really ask for.
Sure they are mostly gun nuts, and mostly pro-life, and mostly anti-gay rights. But the privacy thing is so important here that it is almost a non-issue. I have hung out with far-right wingers, and actually enjoyed myself. We can talk about politics and not yell. We can agree to disagree, and then crack another beer. Perhaps I have not seen as much of the real Alaska, as I couchsurfed and filmed my way around Alaska. Perhaps I missed a lot of those in the deep bush that would shoot a gay person they second they saw them - if those kind of people even exist. All I can speak from is my experience.
And my experience here in Alaska was overwhelmingly positive. It was one of the most memorable, albeit busy, trips that I have taken. One of the reasons it was so memorable is that I was shooting basically non-stop. Most trips I shoot an average of a week a month. This trip I was shooting every day, camera in hand for almost every minute. I shot ten hours of footage in 19 days, which is an astounding amount. I really felt like capturing things here, and I hope that I did a good job. (Now I just have to convince TripFilms.com to purchase more than just 10!)
I love Alaska and I look forward to the next time I am able to visit. I want to get a cabin out in the woods for three weeks in the dead of winter and just live. I want to chop wood, go hiking, go sledding, go boarding, go snowmobiling. I want to build fires, read books and cook epic meals. I want to breathe fresh air and feel clear in my head. I want to feel that peace that I felt in the woods in McCarthy once again - and if I have my way, I want to do it more than just once more. Alaska reminds me why I love this earth so much. There have only been one other place that inspired me as much as Alaska - Mongolia. For me, the vastness of these places humbles me and reminds me of just how small and insignificant I am. I love to feel that immenseness, to feel as if I am nothing next to these towering mountains, huge snowflakes and wild animals. It makes me feel alive.
I am heading out the door in 5 minutes to go “into the bush,” venturing far out into the Alaskan wilderness. We are going on a roadtrip for 7 days, eventually ending up in McCarthy, a small town to the east near the Canadian border. We are staying in a cabin with no electrcity or running water - and it regularly hits 0 degrees at night out there! Wowzers!
Before I leave, I just wanted to share a quick Palin story that I heard around the breakfast table yesterday. I went dog mushing with my buddy Emil, and the man that he mushes for, Jim, has a Russian wife. She has been very afraid of Palin, as she oftentimes dismisses people that do not agree with her. She says it is the first traits of a power-hungry dictator wannabe. She says Sarah Palin is on the ultimate power trip. From mayor of a small town of 7,000 to VP in less than 5 years? I’ll say.
This is what I heard. At the Alaska Club, a local Anchorage fitness center, anyone who works for the Governor is allowed 2 weeks of free membership. One day, Sarah Palin brings her mother-in-law down to the center to get her signed up for these free two weeks. Unfortunately the women behind the desk at the Alaska Club knew the mother-in-law, and knew where she worked - she did not work for the governor’s office. The woman politely told Palin that her mother-in-law would not qualify for the free two weeks. Apparently Palin then proceeded to flip out, and yell at this woman in her office - threatening to fire her, telling her that she couldn’t say no to the Governor and that she has to do whatever the Governor wanted, that she was going to get her fired again and again. Palin flipped around, and as she walked out the door to walk through the fitness center, DING, she put on a smile and was all Sarah.
She left the center, and then went to get the chief of police. She brought the chief back to the center and told him that this woman was harassing her. Palin wanted to have the woman who worked at the Club arrested. Seriously! Becasue this woman would not let her mother-in-law have the two free weeks, Palin wanted her arrested for harassment. The chief eventually apologized and said that he cannot arrest the woman because she was just doing her job and follow the rules. Palin was fuming.
To me this is just a perfect example of the truths that I am hearing come out of Alaska. This woman is scary, and the more time I spent up her in her home state, the more I begin to fear her in office. She is an unknown, a power-hungry person that has become a puppet for a bunch of old men who fear losing power themselves. She dismisses those who do not agree with her and surrounds herself with yes people. She is not qualified to be VP - she is simply immature and has a head full of delusions.
Please get out there and vote. Vote early if you have to, JUST VOTE. I’d prefer it if you voted for Obama, but just VOTE. This is the most important election in decades, and we cannot afford to mess this up…
The enormity of Alaska is beyond words. “Everything is super-sized in Alaska,” my Lonely Planet writer friend commented as we were picking ginormous blueberries on the face of Mt. Alice in Seward. The landscape here takes my breath away regularly, with its mixture of greens, blues and whites. The cliffs plummet softly into treelines which segue into shimmering mud flats and blue waters. Eagles soar, mountain goats scramble, sea birds dive. It is stunning.
Equally stunning is the sheer amount of strip malls here. There is a ton of asphalt, a ton of box stores, a ton of reminders that this is a more grandiose version of Middle America. This is a boy’s paradise, a natural playground of concealed weapons, hunting, off-roading, machines, food and big toys. This is the last frontier.
I am sitting here at 3:30am AST, which is 8:30am EST, and I am thinking of all the people running around New York City right now. Oblivious to FlyOverCountry, the coastal residents go about their business as if it were the most important business in the world. As usual, I am being harsh. However, as a coastal resident myself, we oftentimes forget what the Real America is. Alaska is part of this Real America. Real America decides elections, which directly affects everyone. We must never forget the sheer diversity of types, perspectives and realities that exist in this country.
Alaska is a stark reminder of this for me, a reminder to always consider other people’s perspectives when choosing one for yourself. Always realize that we are interconnected, and that one decision can affect us all. We must be responsible to our communities, and we must hold ourselves to standards of such responsibility. So why is it that Bush won two terms and Sarah Palin is one heartbeat away from the Oval Office?
We have lost community accountability in this country. As we locked ourselves in our planetary SUVs during the ’90s, something was lost. And this something was community. I look back at agrarian societies and the community spirit, love and teamwork that they required, and I wonder if maybe we have gone too far. I wonder if maybe we have gone so far that we can never get back to where we need to be…