Carving a Landscape

Last Thursday I rounded up writerly news for the week, set it to post Friday morning, and set off for a three-day weekend in one of my favorite camping spots. The road wound out of the haze and away from traffic to a place where we relaxed in mountain silence. Our almost-grown pup behaved sensibly as she was carried across a swinging seventy-foot suspension bridge (the alternative being a long drop to the surging river below). Nose to nose with her first glacier, she dashed on high alert from one end of the face to the other, unnerved by gravel tumbling as the glacier did what glaciers do. Two caribou trotting across the stream distracted her briefly, but otherwise she stayed fixed on that big hunk of ice. This morning, she’s still sleeping it off.

Coming into radio range yesterday and hearing Mike Huckabee comment on Sarah Palin’s political future now that she’d resigned was a bit like arriving at a surprise party just as they’re tearing down the streamers and mopping up the spilled beer. Reading Andromeda’s challenge, I thought of other metaphors. Palin’s resignation was like a karoake rendition of “I Did it My Way.” More sadly, it was like the pretty bird that flew into the car ahead of us on the highway. Fluttering to its senses, it no doubt blamed the car.

But mostly it felt like my little dog grappling with a rock-tossing glacier. Sarah, I trust, is now likewise sleeping it off – between tweets.

When I came to Alaska, I gave no thought at all to the fact that the state, at twenty, was a year younger than me. Under the ruse of not caring much about politics (“Ah, but politics cares about you,” my brother is quick to remind me), I gave little thought to our growing up together. That changed last August. Sarah Palin has angered, astounded, fascinated, and annoyed me in turn. She’s also made me think a lot about who we are as a people of place, a people defined by where we live, and how important it is for us to refine that definition before others do it for us. Which is, I believe, our task as writers, inching forward, carving the landscape, forging a body of literature that’s truly Alaskan.

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