Tag Archives: Nebraska

Auto-Communing with Nature

There is this real contradiction on road trips.

I have felt incredibly close to the terrain while driving from Nebraska to Nogales:
I feel like I have seen Colorado and the mountains, that I could describe in great detail my surroundings when driving through Nebraska, and I honestly felt closer to nature when crossing into New Mexico than I have in a long time.

However, I only left the van to buy food or use the restroom. I was not in nature and really could only guess what my surroundings felt, smelt, and sounded like.

In fact, I am appreciating this refreshing terrain from a vehicle that is harming the exact environment I am in awe of. Continuing on this I am taking highways that sever this environment for effiencency.

In almost direct contrast to this I am simultaneously having historical pity for anyone who “went west” without a car, air conditioning, and roads.

This internal conflict is not necessarily a problem that needs a cohesive solution. Instead, it is simply something that I need to be aware of. That driving in a car is not a substitute for actually being somewhere. I saw a place for a split second as we sped by and that is it.

However, even after this realization that I have not been one with nature I do feel some sort of Jack Kerouac like communion with the road. This is what has been so special about this two day pilgrimage. When in a car there is no escape from the distance traveled. That two days ago we were really far away from where we are now both physically and in mental preparedness.

In a van\car, there is no escape from the reality that you are moving. I have found myself thinking instead of moving southwest, that we are moving forward. Forward to our new destination where the anticipation ends and the real work begins.

This truly plays into why I have felt so connected with the terrain. The terrain is a visual reminder that we are moving past the flat Nebraska corn fields, through the first glimpses of mountains in Colorado, to the dry environment of the southern United States. This adds to this concept of forward movement and pilgrimage. That we are giving ourself time during our travels to accept the distance driven and the experiences we will have within the next couple weeks. This road trip has been a meditation of sorts just being and watching in the car as we travel to Nogales and start our work.

Driving in the Van to Nogales

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