THE TURNAGAIN ARM

“We desire not merely to know the sorts of things that are revealed in scientific papers but to know what is beautiful and edifying in a faraway place….

The land retains an identity of its own, still deeper and more subtle than we can know.  Our obligation toward it then becomes simple: to approach it with an uncalculating mind, with an attitude of regard.”

~Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

 

Today the clouds and the rain have created a filtered light that moves the rich summer greens here to become intensely deep… lush, opulent, succulent greens that look as if the source of the color is not the cones in our eyes reflecting waves of white light but rather the hues  revealing themselves as separate living things inside the plants.

We are camped at the edge of an expanse of grasses in Hope, Alaska on the Turnagain Arm - a large inlet of the Gulf of Alaska in the north of the Kenai peninsula.  If we are fortunate, we may have the opportunity to witness a tidal bore…the rushing of a true tidal wave as it pushes opposite against the flow of a river emptying into the sea. This is one of the few places in the world where this phenomenon occurs.  Our desire to witness this unique, natural event pales in comparison to the level of anticipation and drinking at the nearby SeaView bar by locals and the countless fisherman anxiously waiting for the rush of the salmon-run up the nearby Resurrection Creek…which we are told, could happen any day now! 

 

The image of the mountain in the golden hour light of an afternoon is awe inspiring, but it rarely captures the sense of presence the mountain imbues you with when breathing in its humbling sense of scale and listening to its song. 

While a photograph perhaps can capture a moment, inspire awe, motivate, evoke, inform, and enlighten… striking images of exquisite panoramas are a plagiarized perspective of travel….they borrow the beauty, steal the setting, and pirate the place, but they cannot take the place of the experience. They cannot capture what Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams) refers  to as the invisible landscape - the stories, the myths, the people, the vision…that make up the real landscape…the cultural landscape.

We have been traveling for over a month and have driven over eight thousand miles.  There is a distinct difference between those two facets.  The eight thousand miles driving is often on some level simply a meditative way of moving from place to place. It is filled with anticipation, surprising turns, long conversations, silly songs, quiet reflection, occasional frustrations and more scenery than we can begin to explain!  The travel is the countless stories that unfold as we move or depending on perspective - a story.  It is the experiences, serendipitous encounters, revealing of nature, and the overwhelming sense of humility that begins to seep its way into all the cracks often created in all of us over the years by expectations of what we think we are supposed to think, do, and be.  Travel is our new school and our new studio. We are just getting started.  We sincerely appreciate the well wishes while we are on our “trip”… and we are grateful for the hopes and prayers that our journey will return us “home” safely…but… this is not just a trip, and we are home!

~ Jim and Anne