On the Far Coast
A NASA astronaut’s blog photo went viral this week in our community: a full moon rises over interior Alaska, the frozen white landscape curving into a blue haze. Delicate, almost lace-like snowy islands spread over the foreground, anchored in a deceptively calm North Pacific Ocean. Rugged mountains appear flattened, fjords and bays radiate out from the long spine of uplifted sea floor at the archipelago’s center, and there is little sign of life.
Yet in each online re-post, a collective local pride labeled the photo as home sweet home. For many of us living on Kodiak, this image maps memories along each indentation of rocky coast, each landmark that we can pick out from our sudden bird’s eye view.
At the north end of the archipelago, I can see Shuyak Island, where I spent my first summer here as a backcountry ranger kayaking among salmon, seals, and the occasional migrating orca. Along the western fringe, I find Uganik bay, where my friends and neighbors commercial fish from set-net sites along the shore. I think about sitting on their cabin porch, watching the sun set across the Shelikof Strait as we drink beer from mismatched cups, the tall stalks of fireweed on the tundra illuminated bright pink in low light.
My eye skips over the landscape, remembering places and experiences and the people that live in this place: the red bicycle resting against the mercantile at Larsen Bay Cannery, the Christmas we hunted deer along the icy rocks of Viekoda Bay, the downtown docks and the familiar fishing boats. That afternoon at the beach, learning to weave a traditional Alutiiq grass basket. An early morning at the edge of a river, watching a bear stalk through the mist and deftly snag a passing fish…
It is an unlikely home, seen from space. A solitary rock in a blank blue sea. But those of us who live in this place have a different view: a rich bounty, a survival story, a confluence at the top of the world.
Kodiak from space: http://fragileoasis.org/blog/2012/1/a-salute-to-all-the-coasties-out-there