Friday, November 17, 2017


Here, and below: there appear to be quite a lot more bears on the Kodiak road system than there were ten years ago.

So. After ten years of wandering, this is what we've chosen; home.

As I've noted before, from a work perspective it would have made more sense for us to settle down in Juneau, where a strong community of academic and agency biologists would have given us access to the personal interactions and collaborations that make for a successful scientific life.

Alisa and I are prime examples of the willingness of Americans to be rootless. We both moved to Alaska as young adults, and made our lives here, separately and then together, thousands of miles from our families.

But we took the opportunity of our return to take a stand, not quite consciously, against being forever on the move. In the US, home for us could only be Alaska. And in Alaska, the place we are at home is Kodiak.

Eric, moving off of Galactic
Living in a town of about 10,000 people without road access to other towns implies a very different social life than the one we might lead in a more cosmopolitan place. 

In most of the US, we would interact with a much more homogenous group of people. Our friends would tend to have similar levels of education as us, would work at similar jobs and have the same narrow interests and outlooks of our particular slot in the US socio-economic world.

In Kodiak, that is not the case. We have friends from many walks of life. Fifty years ago, when America was more rural, I think this would be pretty unremarkable. But now I think it's fairly unique.

By coming back to this town where we have already lived for seven years, the place where we got married and had our first child, we also avail ourselves of a much deeper social life than we would have in a new place like Juneau. In either Kodiak or Juneau we would have a group of close friends. But in Kodiak we also have a large group of acquaintances, people we know well enough to say hello to at the grocery store. That I think is a powerful antidote to the estrangement that marks so much of modern life.

The boys in our new house, after our household goods arrived from storage in the Lower 48. Most of these boxes were packed when Elias was 9 months old, and before Eric was born.
Ptarmigan hunting.
So that is the upside, as far as I can see it.

On the other side, we are coming back to a world that we do not quite understand at all.

The complete saturation of everyday life into the internet, and the products of the net state, happened in these ten years that we were away. Of course there was internet in Australia and Chile and South Africa, and of course I kept this blog going for the ten years that we were away. So it's not like we were unaware of the existence of the internet.

But the degree to which people actually lead their lives through small interactive screens just completely beggars the imagination of someone who has been more or less on the periphery for the last decade. It all looks quite dystopian to me. Consider the state of right-wing politics, if nothing else, and what computers have done with that. I feel myself settling into something of a self-defined museum of a life, apart from what I see as the mass hysteria of our times, and knowing that I also bypass whatever good might come from participating in this new sort of life.

And then there is the historical moment that we chose for our return.

My boys will come of age, politically, in this world. Where we can see how precious these trappings of democracy might turn out to be that we so blithely cast away.