September 20, 2013

Hughes, Alaska sidles up to the Koyukuk River.  The granite river contrasts early snow white overlaying sloping aspen yellows and spruce green.

After three days in Hughes, the last twenty-four hours has walked the landscape from late fall to early winter.  The change in season, though I expect we will again experience fall, matches the change in attitude.

One acquires a different outlook when landing in a landscape where the next village is a hundred miles up-river and the closest hospital is a couple hundred miles, by plane.  Thoughts continue to shift as you become aware that ninety-five percent of traffic is ATV four-wheelers (during the non-snow season) and the remainder walkers.  There is a bit more movement when a good part of your community heads up or down river due to the opening of moose season—It has been a good bit of time since many of our families have lived a subsistence lifestyle.  I imagine if we pull up those memories, we grasp the value of putting a moose in the freezer before winter snow.

A few days in the bush (Bush is a local word, one that is not mine, but one which gives a fair description of outsider isolation and insider home.) isn’t much, but enough to recognize the first steps toward a change in viewpoint.  I think most of us who arrived in this landscape where people come and go by plane (Something about this statement is outsider—as if those places of coming and going to, that matter, are those only assessable by plane.  Locals move up and down river to hunt, to fish, and to visit other Athabaskin-Koyukun villages just fine.), came with a sense of adventure and wonderment.  Yet as one walks this place, this strip of land called Hughes, and listen to folk for whom this landscape is home and for whom this landscape is normal, the adventure slips and wonderment deepens.  What does that mean, well I’m not sure, it’s only been three days.  I’ll give that a bit more thought.

© David B. Bell 2013

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