When I told people I was moving to Nome, Alaska, to do radio, everyone seemed to have a similar reaction.
Behind a nostalgic haze, they would smirk and say, “so, like… Northern Exposure?”
And that’s how people continually relate to me: a TV show filmed in Roslyn, Washington.
But I can’t blame them. The past year has been the most amazing, emotional, un-relatable period of self-discovery in my life. How do you explain to people the way a whale tastes? How do you explain to people the cultural significance and awe that is subsistence culture? And even harder, how do you explain to people what you find in yourself after those experiences?
In short, you don’t. In fact… you can’t. From the outside, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, I can’t explain it. The most you can understand are the extremes: weather, sunlight, accessibility, and resources. What I cannot accurately describe are the wonderful things that living in those extremes brings the region.
I could attempt to tell you about the vibrant local music scene.
“But Tyler, you left Denver. THE very local music scene that birthed famous band ONE REPUBLIC.” (Maybe not the best band, but you gotta have hometown pride.)
I would tell you that it produces a wide variety of amazing art, culture, food, and dance.
“Look… Buddy. You grew up in a city with an AMAZING museum scene. None of this should be new to you. And what’s so great about muktuk when you live a life without QDOBA?”
On the surface, what makes Nome special and unique are seemingly unoriginal. But underneath, in the land of the midnight sun, every facet of art — happy and sad — is a celebration of life. Even in a place where food arrives by plane, citizens have made the best of life for themselves and each other.
Nomites are generous. When a band needs a guitarist, a bassist, or even a singer, someone is happy to lend a hand. Accordingly, so, a majority of Nome’s bands are purely different configurations of the same 10 or 15 musicians.
In a place where few things naturally grow or thrive, life finds a way not only to exist, but to do so pleasurably. And to know and share in those triumphs and successes is to know Nome.
And seeing as this is my last blog post, I bid farewell to living a life whose bounds have stretched farther than my immediate self. It’s not easy. But fear not. Because when I flex my new-found appreciation of hunting, or serve others before myself, or reflect on the Iñupiaq values which have impacted me so much, I will be taking your memory, respect, and generosity with me. And who knows, if what everyone tells me is correct, it might be likely that I’ll wash up on our shores again.