Two days ago, BP and Conoco announced that they’re going to build a natural gas pipeline to haul Alaska’s gas to markets in the Lower 48. They emphasized that this was not a plan; it was a project that begins now – the Denali project. Alaskans know how much political wrangling wraps around this simple announcement. It’s the answer to prayer begged for on the bumper stickers: “Please, God, give us another pipeline. We promise not to waste it this time.”

Pipelines are deja vu for Alaskans. We boom and bust, hoping for more boom and less bust on each go-round. We watch the road ahead, all the while glancing in the rear-view mirror.

All of which has me thinking about the past. One of my upcoming projects (Sasquatch, 2009 – in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of statehood) has me exploring Alaskan archives. Amazing places, these archives. Millions of photos, tens of thousands of family stories – all preserved. A person could spend a lifetime there and only skim the surface.

Paradoxically, in my own life, I’m trying to focus myself on the present moment, to not get caught up in the past or worry about the future. It’s not as easy as it sounds. All sorts of pithy little things can be said about the past – how we learn from it, how we try not to repeat its mistakes, how it forms who we are.

As I pour over amazing photos from Alaska’s past, I think of each as a moment captured not in time but outside of it, a snapshot of what was one person’s present. The energy can’t be relived or captured in two dimensions, but like a good poem or story, the images ring with truth.

Now if only we can figure out the truth about the pipeline, which will carry hopes and dreams, some of them twisted and wrong, along with a more mundane kind of energy.

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