On July 30th, I made it to the lower 48 with all fingers attached, no resemblance of normal sleep schedule, and a pocket full of friends who make NakNek the special place it is. I forgot the peaceful delirium which comes over me when the only responsibilities I have are to wake up, go to work, and do my job well.
In the Pre and Post-Season, I took photos of mud flats, abandoned boats, the view from a sand dune I fell in love on in 2015, and many more places of strength. The wetlands and beaches were scoured for bones by my squad of adventurers. Sadly, only two leg bones were found despite a fisherman telling us where a whale skeleton was (6 miles was a little far to walk). The short amount of time I had to explore and do my physical work was aided by good friends and 24 hour daylight.
There were some places I couldn't return to because the memories were too strong to face. An abandoned house, a certain stretch of beach that held so much emotion, to return to them would spoil the angst and beauty they have in our heads and the poems written about them. Everything is amplified in Alaska, willingly or not, you rise higher and fall harder in a short period of time due to the stress and simplicity of life.
There is Wifi at Leader Creek, however it is more frustrating than useful or fun, so when not adventuring, card games, writing, and reading were the best ways to spend time. I brought Rebecca Solnit's, books "A Field Guide to Getting Lost" and "Wanderlust" along with "The Essential Rumi" to help me learn and process my emotions and articulate what I want to show through my photographs.
While reading "A Field Guide to Getting Lost", I discovered part of why I and many others are drawn to spend their summers laboring in Middle of Nowhere, Alaska. On page 16, Solnit states, "For [Virginia] Woolf, getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are."
We are not physically lost while in NakNek, I posted a map in my previous blog post, you can 'check in' at the bars in town on your phone, but mentally where are you? Who are you? Nobody knows unless you came up with a friend or partner.
One of my good friends told me at the end of the season he is 100% sober in the real world, he just graduated to become a youth minister and has had a girlfriend for three years. He feels Alaska is the only place he will not be judged or expected to fit a mold. We can become anybody and nobody and everybody. We are allowed to be lost.