Even though I like my creature comforts, Alaska has become one of my favorite spots on Earth. I’m drawn to extremes– snowy mountains next to ocean, days of endless light (or none at all), seemingly suicidal salmon hurtling up waterfalls. Bald eagles appear at every turn in the road– landing on the eaves of local shops, the Alaskan equivalent of pigeons. And the moose– who couldn’t love these massive beasts that meander from remote forests to backyards across the state.
When I visit cities, I’m awed by human civilization and culture, but in Alaska I marvel at pure nature completely separate from human beings. But despite its beauty and otherness, humans are inextricably linked to it, both by our care and our carelessness. (The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward is an amazing facility– funded by money paid out after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989.)
In June, we went back, this time with our 7-month-old son. He won’t remember this trip, but traveling with him reminded me of my responsibilities, as a witness and a steward of the Earth he and his generation will inherit. I hope that the wild beauty of this last frontier will still be available to him when he’s old enough to appreciate it. Will Aialik glacier– receding at a quarter mile per year– be there when he goes back? Already crippled by accumulated contaminants, will the transient orcas be extinct? Will there be enough ice for walruses and polar bears?
Though no one person can wrap a protective cocoon around these natural wonders, I can focus on these pictures and hold their beauty close to my heart. And drinking in that remote wilderness reminds me that a rich, green world sits right outside my door, waiting for me to come outside and explore.
Photo credits: Sarah Webb, Feature image: Kachemak Bay and Homer, AK