Over the last week, we’ve been exploring the relationship between identity and landscape. During our interviews, we would ask what the Yup’ik word “Ella” meant. Ella has been explained to us as a word for earth, universe, weather, sky and everything. Sitting in the interviews and never having experience the Alaskan wilderness yet, I had to take their word for it.
A few nights ago I finally got my own taste of Ella.
A small group of us who weren’t going to a fish camp or a village that night had a chance to go kayaking. The weather was absolutely beautiful, one of the nicest days since we’ve been here.
We rushed over to the in-home kayak business and slapped on the lifejackets so we could get going while the tide was high. We lowered six single kayaks and one two-person canoe into the slough and set off.
It was amazing, beautiful, almost sacred. The low shrubbery and trees blocked any strong wind as we paddled down the winding path, but there was just enough breeze to rustle the grass. The slough’s width varied any where from two to 10 yards, each side crowded with branches and grass. I paddled alone most of the time with just faint voices of my other kayakers around me. Even though it was past 7:30 p.m. the sun was still high, reflecting off the ripples in the water.
I felt thankful for being able to feel the warmth from the sun and hear the birds around me as I drifted down the slough. Thankful to whom? God, the creator of Ella, lucky circumstances? I’m not sure.
Kayaking down the slough with a sense of peace became my version of Ella and I began to understand the encompassing concept of nature, earth, universe, and everything.