flat lands

Tonight was our last night in Bethel. There has been nice weather during our 11 days here, but none like today’s. As I sat under the sun, barefoot, with the transitioning blues above, it felt like home. It felt simple.   Bethel is full of welcoming and kind people who we have had the humbling opportunity to meet and to hear their stories.   During one of the interviews a Yup’ik elder told of his dislike of Anchorage and of the mountains there. If you were to ask most who have lived in Bethel and in the surrounding villages their whole lives they will tell you the land is part of Bethel and what makes this place home to them. The tundra and the Kuskokwim River provide for their subsistence living culture. I thought everyone liked the mountains, but I realized that to this man the mountains were only obstacles. He lasted nine weeks in Anchorage and then returned to Bethel where he could see for days. On Sunday seven of us walked through the town  of about 6,000 people to its edge where we could see the midnight sun. Standing on a spot of earth on the edge of Bethel more than 3,000 miles away from the familiar fields of Nebraska I watched the orange haze hover above the horizon.   I wondered what the evening sky had looked like back home in rural northeast Nebraska. The way the Yup’ik elder feels about the flat tundra is how I feel about the fields of Nebraska. These places are our homes. I can’t watch a sunset in Omaha the way I can in the countryside of my hometown.   I was reminded of the frustration I felt in Omaha when an evening sky caught my eye a while ago. I had gotten into my car and started, what turned out to be failed attempts, to find a satisfactory place to view the sunset. I felt defeated when I knew that by the time I drove out of Omaha it would be too late. Watching the sun melt into the tundra or an open field is different than watching it disappear behind mountains or trees.   At first glance the tundra can even look like a field. I hope everyone has a place where they can go to feel a sense of home and a connection to something or someone. I have that place in Nebraska that is half sky and half field. Now in a place that is very different, yet strangely familiar, I have had a chance for my bare feet to touch the earth more than 3,000 miles away from the land I know and the people who I love. I have felt a connection with Alaska as I watched the midnight sun mingle with the tundra.

3 thoughts on “flat lands

  1. Great post. I feel the same way about watching the sunsets in my hometown. Nothing quite like it. Its amazing how completely different places can evoke the same emotions

  2. I love being in the mountains, but I do often have the feeling like I’m being robbed of an extra hour of light when the sun dips behind a mountain so early. The sunsets in the Smokies can be pretty spectacular though! I’m really happy I got to meet you, Nicole!

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