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An open love letter to the land: Why I’m glad my feet are here

Blueberries. They’re everywhere. Indigo, succulent, buoyant spheres of happiness bursting up as the summer-green tundra takes on a golden August glow. Really, I’ve been feeling like the little girl in the Welch’s juice commercial, only with blueberries instead of grapes. And that childlike joy was contagious last week as KNOM volunteers and friends braved the mosquito-thick air nine miles down the Teller Road to fill our buckets with delicious, delightful (and free!) fruit.

Again on Saturday, as Tara, Caitlin, Francesca and I hiked to Copper Canyon with the National Park Service group—it was almost impossible to find a clear walking path without squishing a patch of tiny berries.

Blueberries

YUM.

We live in a land of plenty. You can’t take one step outside the Vol-abode without noticing that. I say it again and again—almost a mantra—trying not to take this land for granted. If life in Nome were a novel, the land itself would be a main character; it shapes the plot, so much more than a backdrop before which we perform our long, bright days. The land is a personality to interact with, a presence. Even on a solo bike ride down the beach, I never really feel lonely. Too much life abounds here.

When I was in Elim, boating up the Tubuktulik, salmon were literally leaping out of the river. Even fishing on the Nome River last week, you could pick the chum out of the water with your bare hands (well, some of us could). On the still-warm beach along Nome’s Front Street, smatterings of sea glass are plentiful enough that you can be picky and only collect the green and blue pieces and still manage to fill a jar. The lovely Bering Sea that a few of us crazy kids went swimming in Sunday night is chock-full of crab and fish and gold. In spite of the frigid extremity of winter (but that’s still just a rumor, right? I’m pretty sure it’s 65 and sunny all year long…), the summer tundra is dense with vegetation. It’s sort of like living on a giant supermarket. Or in a fairytale.

Sunset

Sometimes, it looks like we live in some gorgeous, apocalyptic, edge-of-the-earth type point at which everything else burns away—all the clutter—and the only thing you can see is the sun setting, finally.

And with the fullness of life outside truly in full bloom these days, I have to remind myself to turn inward every once in a while—to take stock of how I’m growing into this place, how the constant changes this summer are shifting the direction of my growth like the sun arcing across the sky before it finally touches the mountains. So this week, I’m listening to the advice of a dear friend…

Be where your feet are.

Life will transition, people will come and go, and there’s more of the world to traverse than your feet can possibly manage. But be where your feet are. Sometimes my feet are in Xtratufs, wading through the Nome River to set a net. Sometimes my feet are bouncing about on the squishy tundra, dodging those perfect patches of blueberries. Sometimes my feet are under a blanket on the beloved green couch, happily sharing a movie and quiet companionship—and that last Oreo I really didn’t need.

But sometimes my feet lead me to a place alone, and I remember where they used to be. The ones at home I love and miss and all the faces and places and decisions that somehow landed my feet right here. I am so filled with gratitude, still processing that this is home now, at least for the next year. My mind is still playing catch-up, but my feet have already settled in. They seem to like it here. And I would have to agree.

Nome River

Setting a net on the Nome River. And just playing in the water. Photo cred: FLF/Fluff/Falafel/Chess

1 Comment

  1. […] the very, very hard work that goes into subsistence living here – but you get the idea.) As Jenn skillfully put it, “the land of plenty” takes on a whole new meaning in this […]