Tag Archives: Landscape

Finding Beauty No Matter Where You Are

I have been home from Alaska for almost a week now, and I admit it still feels strange to be back in Nebraska. It seems that no time has passed, yet so much happened to me while I was away. I am definitely missing Alaska, from the community of Bethel to the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula.

Fortunately I haven’t had a lot of time to think about the twinge of sadness I feel as we dive head first into creating our documentary. I don’t feel a complete loss of connection to Alaska as I re-watch interviews and look at B-roll. I have enjoyed listening to the stories of people we interviewed early in our trip and finding the best quotes in our many hours of footage. It was a tiring week of transcribing and editing video, but we have made great progress in our project.

As I tell my family and friends about my Backpack Journalism experience, I feel a sense of excitement as I talk about the wonderful people we met in Bethel and the issues of the area that we learned about and witnessed firsthand. There is so much to tell, yet I can’t find the words to tell about everything. All I can do is try to express my love for the beautiful state.

I always seem to fall in love with the places I visit. My numerous trips to Chicago have led me to decide that it is my favorite city. Visiting Oregon and seeing its splendor helped me determine that I want to live there in the future. During my service trip to West Virginia, I was amazed by its beauty during the fall and inspired by its people.

Alaska was no different. I feel fortunate to have spent so much time in a part of the state rarely seen by tourists. I came to admire the Yup’ik culture and subsistence lifestyle. I saw tundra, ocean, glaciers and mountains, all in one place. The people I met and the stories I heard changed my life.

Being a Nebraska native, everywhere else seems to be more beautiful and exciting than the flat plains of the Cornhusker State. No mountains or oceans, just fields and rivers.

Yet being back, I have come to appreciate the beauty of where I grew up and the city I call my second home. On my first night back from Alaska, I looked out toward the sunset from my 10th floor apartment window. I thought about the stunning Alaska sky, but then I realized that Nebraska has pretty amazing sunsets, too.

From the outside looking in, the town of Bethel, Alaska, may not seem like the most exciting place. But for the people living there, it is home, and it is beautiful to them.

Our very last interview was with a woman named Susan, who worked at the Immaculate Conception Church where we stayed during our trip. She was born in Bethel and has lived there her entire life. Her love for the community showed, and there was no place she would rather be.

“Bethel is our paradise,” she eloquently stated.

No matter where I may end up living in my life, for now I will appreciate the beauty and comfort of Nebraska and the people here who have impacted my life. I hope that I have the opportunity to travel to Alaska again soon, but for now I am going to love the place where I am now.

Bethel in a nutshell: big sky, clouds, painted dumpsters, water, mud and wonderful people. Photo courtesy of Claudia Brock
Bethel in a nutshell: open sky, fluffy clouds, painted dumpsters, water, mud and wonderful people. Photo courtesy of Claudia Brock

Finding Identity in Landscape

I have seen some beautiful landscapes in my life, but none may quite compare to what I saw during the flight from Minneapolis to Anchorage.

The Backpack Journalism team left the Minneapolis airport around 10 p.m. on Sunday  in complete darkness, but our plane flew into glowing twilight as we moved west to Alaska. Even though my watch read 2 a.m., the sky was telling me it was 7 p.m. Despite the confusion I felt, the light allowed me to see the breathtaking sights beneath us.

My favorite part of flying is looking out the window at the clouds, water, mountains and towns below, and during this five-hour flight, I was lucky enough to have a window seat and witness the beauty of Canada and Alaska. Clouds covered the landscape during many parts of the flight, but at times you could see the rising mountains peaking out in the midst of the puffy whiteness. Because of the excitement I felt to finally be in Alaska and the stunning scenes, the flight was an experience I will never forget.

 

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I noticed the change in landscape immediately the next day as we flew into Bethel. Although it doesn’t have mountains like Anchorage, the flat, damp tundra is beautiful in its own way, and more importantly, is integral to life in this area.

On Tuesday during our first day of filming, we talked to each of the three people we interviewed about the subsistence lifestyle of the Yup’ik culture and the challenges that the people face because of climate change and other environmental issues.

We asked a common question about the connection between landscape and identity in the Bethel and surrounding community. One of our interviewees explained that just as she has a connection to the place she is from in the Midwest, the Yup’ik people share this same experience but in an even deeper way. The land provides much of what they need to survive. Now that salmon fishing restrictions have been put in place, the huge stress with potentially devastating results is threatening the subsistence lifestyle and the Yup’ik culture.

In just three days in Bethel, I have learned so much and see an emerging storyline for our documentary. I am eager to hear from the Yup’ik people and other individuals who can share more about the importance of this beautiful landscape and life in the region.

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The sunset in Bethel outside the Catholic Church where we are staying