I’m washing my socks in a sink tonight.
After monotonously scrubbing, I find myself trying to divine some semblance of a conclusion regarding the last couple days of my life from the deep creases, caked mud, and sweat stains. Each one has a story to tell.
Which one best captures the essence of the week?
Maybe it was the Saturday Market.
Tony, Nico, and I walked to the Market together, taking random shots of Bethel and discussing the use of traditions in organized religion as a mechanism for expression of personal spirituality. When we arrived at the market, we talked with many of the vendors, asking about their wares and their lives in the Y/K Delta. We exchanged words with the people our project centers around, giving a face to the story.
Maybe it was eating Salmon that practically jumped out of the Kuskokwim and onto the grill.
Our entire team was fortunate enough to go up river to a fish camp. Once there, we grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, conversed, shot B roll, and played frisbee and basketball on the river bank.
Then the prize came.
A couple showed up in their boat bearing a freshly caught Red Salmon. Fortunate for us, they offered it up as food. Heaven opened up and provided us its most superior mana.
Maybe it was visiting one of the villages on the Kuskokwim.
A group of us, led by John, ventured down river to a village called Napaskiak to shoot some B roll for the film. I centered myself, vamped up the intensity, and got into my work zone as we pulled up to the bank. Dropping onto the soggy beach, I immediately started looking for shots. Before I could get much, a group of young boys came down in a swarm. They asked for my name (first and last), where I was from(Nebraska and Missouri), my interest in basketball (Spurs or Heat, clearly Spurs), and wether I could understand certain words in Yupik (I couldn’t).
Soon after, I had myself a crew. We ran around Napaskiak getting shots and talking shop on guy stuff. They quickly took to calling me “Scotty P”. Now I have friends from Arizona to Alaska using that nickname.
Maybe it was the sunset.
After several hours on the river, we decided to head back to Bethel. It was near midnight at this point. In the low light we cruised along the Kuskokwim, bracing ourselves against the quickly cooling wind and taking in the expansive Tundra.
Then we turned a corner.
And we saw this:
The picture does no justice to the view in real life. We knew what was coming around the bend, but we still weren’t prepared for what we saw.
As soon as the midnight sunset came into view, glinting off the Kuskokwim with gold-orange luminescence, we gasped collectively. I pumped a fist in the air and let out a primeval yell, caught in a crossfire of transcendent beauty.
When I first arrived in the YK Delta the story we have been chasing was just an idea. With each experience it becomes less and less abstract.
The people are real. The fish and wildlife are real. The River is real. The story is real.
But then again, what do I know?
I’m just washing socks in a sink.