Melting Away

On our last day in Alaska, our touristy group made a trip up to Exit Glacier. I was in an average mood; I was a bit tired, but excited for a scenic hike. I was excited for the thrill of reaching our destination and simply looking at everything around us, and enjoying our last true piece of our time in Alaska.

On the way up the trail, my thoughts just wandered. Each little break in the trees, we’d see the beautiful mountains and sky surrounding us, and each time I’d have to do a little spin around and smile with admiration for the beauty that is Alaska. It was hotter than I had expected, so after each little break, I’d rush myself just a bit to get up to the crisp glacier air a bit quicker.

As I got closer to the Glacier, I came to this point:

CUBP
The last sign on the way to Exit Glacier.

On that sign, it was noted as the location of Exit Glacier in about 1996. After reading, I began to feel slightly off, something I wasn’t expecting, as I finally began to feel the chilled wind from the face of the glacier.  I was still a little far from the edge itself, but I began to look around and I slowly realized the true impact of me being there.

I watched people walk up to the edge, smile or make a silly pose and get a picture. I watched people take a long look, and then just walk away. In the most recent exposed rock from the receding glacier, scrapes and scratches painfully dug into the rock were being ran over and overlooked. I suddenly felt disgusted with myself for being excited to be there. I was no longer a happy tourist; I was a mourning visitor.

This glacier, this change, had happened and is still happening in my lifetime. I looked at the clawed rock and I saw suffering. I looked at those smiling and taking goofy pictures as ignorant (even though I did get pictures in front of it). This once massive, beautiful structure stood with pride, yet now it is literally melting, receding, and cracking, losing its place on earth.

Exit Glacier, as it stands today.
Exit Glacier, as it stands today.

In a way I could compare it to the Yup’ik culture we experienced in Bethel. The old ways and traditions were being pushed back, forced, by a new western outlook. The children didn’t want a part of the Yup’ik ways, they want the modern ways, and therefore don’t make room for the culture. Just as the glacier had clung to rocks, trying desperately to pull itself back, those who believe in the Yup’ik culture are trying to bring it back to the people of Bethel.

In our times as humans, we lose things. From friends, toys, or games, to memories, material goods, or history, things disappear from our lives and this world all the time. But something made this different for me. It’s happening now. When I was 5 years old, that glacier was bigger; now it’s not. That one moment, standing on the edge of Exit Glacier made me realize the harsh truth of the matter; if people don’t see the importance of things such as culture and climate change, they are just going to keep disappearing.

Though I was in no way expecting something from that hike, it taught me something. It showed me the importance of staying aware, and being on the side of seeing importance and value in my history, my traditions and culture, and those of others as well.

I’ve learned a lot from my time in Alaska. From all the people and stories and lessons shared, it was all an incredible experience. Yet I got my final push of remembrance and inspiration from that hike frozen in my mind; and it’s one thing that will never melt.

A beautifully written passage about the glacier.
A beautifully written passage about the glacier.
Leah Renaud

About Leah Renaud

My Name is Leah Renaud.. I am a Senior journalism student studying Public Relations/Graphic Design at Creighton University. Driven by a desire to learn and gain new insight, I learn by doing and therefore am constantly working on my design, writing, and public relations abilities. A proud BlueJay fan, Internet explorer, lover of puns, superhero nerd, a Dreamer and Doer.

3 thoughts on “Melting Away

  1. Indeed. When people die, we lose them to a fate we have no control over. We have no ability to stop the inevitable things, like death. Climate change (this climate crisis) is something we are causing and can alter if the people in power use their power for good instead of greed. My fingers are tightly crossed for your generation, and future generations… Please forgive the generations that came before you for their selfishness. Some of us are trying to find a way to do something about it. On behalf of my generation, I am sorry

  2. Leah – thank you for your poignant blog post, as well as the accompanying picture. As my husband might have told you. We visited Exit glacier just a few years ago. I am absolutely SHOCKED and very deeply saddened at how much it has receded in that short time…. It makes sense of course when I remember the melting water pouring off of it the way it did. Thank you for witnessing to this loss and sharing your own deep concern. It actually gives me a kind of hope when others care and are moved by these environmental changes. I’m truly looking forward to the film your group is putting together. Thank you for writing about this.

  3. Such a profound post! Thank you! The Yup’ik people have a word that means ‘when I become aware’…I’ll try to find out the word for you so that you could have it when you think of this moment.

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