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.


  1. I appreciate your comments on the social fabric and how our interactions become defined by where we live. When I was in my 20s, I lived aboard for 4 years in Southern California. This meant that my neighbors for all of that time, were of a completely different place, socio-economically. I was a college student sharing a dock and common showers with an IT manager, a retired dentist, a bar owner, a middle-aged gay couple, and many more. We learned that because of our unique lifestyle, we had more in common with each other than those we worked with and would live among were we living in homes that matched our incomes. My 27-ft $8K boat was across from a $200K Passport 47, and surrounded by everything in between. Many of those "neighbors" were at my wedding many years later, long after I'd sold that boat and moved far away from that dock. It was a powerful lesson in the richness of a community of people from all walks of life.

  2. Hi Mike, Alissa, Elias and Eric,

    Unfortunately it is our new found way of life where every person has a screen in their face. I am finding that I am using my PDA less and less though as I get closer to untying the dock lines. I think that society will eventually tire of being connected 24/7 and will occasionally want to unplug. Once we get to this point life will be simple again. My kids live on their phones and tablets when they are having time on their own. It is how they connect with friends and view content that they want to look at when they wish too. They all have their own you tube channels that they subscribe to. I have mine too (mostly about sailing and boat repairs :) ).
    I think for persons of our age we were lucky enough to never be plugged in in the first place and it makes it very easy for us to disconnect from it when we chose to. All we can do is hope that our children do what it is that makes them happy and that they have 3 meals a day a roof over their head and a warm place to sleep. Once they have this everything else just seems to happen.

    Thanks for all your posts over the last few years. It was your book that introduced me to sailing after all.


  3. Awesome. We are doing some rough planning about our trajectory back to Canada and thinking of doing Marshalls to Kodiak ! Would be fun to see you guys again. A long ways and time since the Tuamotus.


    Max (and Elizabeth, Victoria, Johnathan and Benjamin)
    SV Fluenta