Fact: Nome is 537 miles from the nearest lower-48-connected road and only accessible via plane or boat. Just to drive from my hometown (Evergreen, Colorado) to Anchorage is 54 hours of car time. And as our mayor, Richard Beneville, loves to declare, Nome is part of 375 miles of road connecting Council to the village of Teller. And with gas hovering around five dollars a gallon, most people aren’t driving that distance without a purpose.
Despite those facts, Nome has never felt remote to me.
At around 4,000 people, my college freshman class was nearly 700 people more than Nome’s current population.
And yet, Nome has never felt lonely.
Why is that? On paper, Nome seems like it carries a strong possibility of a rocky transition from city life. Well, it seems that no matter where you go, there is a possibility of rocky transition. In fact, a quick bout of Google searching revealed that tons of people admit to feelings of loneliness even in bustling metropolises like New York City.
These facts and my own personal experience have forced me to reconsider what makes a place feel lonely or far from everything else. Perhaps, the difference between a (possibly) lonely New York and well-adjusted Nome are experiences that can’t be captured in numbers. What Nome lacks in proximity to overwhelming modern amenities it makes up for in the connection found through shared experience.
A shared experience like salmon.
Anyone who lives in Alaska knows it. Salmon has been, and always will be, a big deal. For those involved in subsistence activities, the fish represents an important part of culture. For others, fishing is a time to feel connected to the tundra and a great opportunity for self reflection. For me, it’s been an amazing way to feel a part of Nome’s community.
More people than I can count have offered to take me fishing. Whenever conversation comes to a lull, fishing conditions are always a go-to topic. Wherever I am, I know salmon provides me an automatic connection to anyone — and, therefore, an easy way to dig in and call Nome home.
Salmon is a big deal for other reasons, too! If you want to hear a more in-depth explanation of why salmon is a big deal and why the KNOM volunteers are such a big fan of it, click the audio blog link at the top of the page to hear the group’s thoughts surrounding the tasty fish.