Video Tour Journal AK #2 “Heading: Arctic North”

Alaska video tour journal 2

Associated Videos
All videos reproduced in a smaller format on my You Tube Channel

live perfomance video link "Me Watching You"
at The Arctic Trading Post

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VIDEO-2 TITLE video link"Little Friend"
at The Arctic Trading Post

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Video Tour Journal #2 "Heading: Arctic North"
8/8 – 8/11 7 min 29 sec 94 MB flv
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The video can't tell the whole story. I can't include all the thoughts and feelings, or even everything that happened in the few minutes I have. I want to share the best video I capture, even if it isn't that important to the story of what happened. These videos are a window on my world, and so I don't want to try to make any point or follow any theme, because life isn't like that. I want to find some balance between telling the story as I see it, and letting the story tell itself.

van and dulci at Florida folk festBut here, I try to tell the story as I see it, as I feel it. What feels significant to me, at the time or as I look back on the events. As I look at the footage, reread my journals, see how I remember the time, what felt significant or feels that way now. Actually, since I am having to do these videos months after the events, I have the added perspective of hind-sight, though I don't really want to use it. Still, this is really a commentary on my own life, my perspective on what the events and images reveal about it, the thoughts and feelings I had that can add more meaning to the story.

But it is still just a window on events in a folksinger's life, and though I can add to the story, I can't decide what it all means, what is significant, even without hindsight. Like any author or journalist, like any artist, what I create is not finished until it is completed by the viewer's reaction. What is significant to me may not be to someone else. Event that have meaning to me may have a different meaning to someone else. So, as I said, in the end I focus on opening a window on my life, and leaving the significance and meaning of these events to the viewer.

You'll notice that I generally include the sound track from the video instead of deleting it, so you can hear the ambient sounds, which is more natural, and what I or other people are saying, if you listen carefully. One thing I found interesting was that, after I recorded the narration and set it under the video, there were times when what I was saying live matched what I'm saying in the narration, sometimes almost exactly, though I didn't do it intentionally, and hadn't listened to the audio track when I wrote the narration.

With all that said, I'll tell the story as I experienced it, what was significant, and what it meant to me, what I felt and thought, which video just can't capture always. Perhaps what I do here is open a window on my heart and mind.

a folksinger's philosophyMy philosophy of life has to do with perceiving the energies beneath manifestation, forces and patterns, which is really what we are always doing in the physical world. But I extend it to a psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual level, where something like the music, or the dulcimer, is a force, and energy in my life, like a color or flavor or a force of nature, that is woven into the patterns that make up my life, through which I make my way. It is this awareness, this perception, of these forces, and these patterns, that I use to guide my actions. That is, in essence, "The Way". Perhaps it is applied psychology, or a new form of spirituality or a philosophy of applied physics, or all three. But I won;t try to explain it here. I am trying to do that in a special section of my website dedicated to the purpose, "Traveling on the Way, A Folksinger's Philosophy".

When I talk about my experiences, it is in these terms, just as someone religious might react to events, or find significance and meaning in events, in terms of their religious beliefs. It is the filter through which I perceive the world, how I make sense of it, and it is for me, the only way I can describe it, and to explain what I feel. Though the rudder and keel may be invisible under the water, it is integral to understanding the motions of the boat.

I am always observing what happens, trying to understand how I end up somewhere. Sometimes I am struggling to understand, often I am just slightly bemused, or amused, at where I find myself. I am trying to follow a path through the patterns I perceive, to be moved by forces, follow patterns I perceive, rather than force my way ahead blind or disregarding everything but my will. Though I sometimes chose a path, as often, I am trying to find the path that is before me, in a fine balance of perception and free will. Like a sailor upon the sea, or a surfer on a wave, or walking a path at night through a pitch dark forest, I am feeling my way, always remembering that what I plan, and what I think is where I am going, is only a rough guess and illusion of what will be. Like playing music, I am trying to take my place in the pattern I perceive, through an awareness of the pattern I am in. In that sense, it is not that I chose a certain course, like following a written line of music, but that I achieve a state of mind, a balance of will and awareness, that allows me to spontaneously choose what to play in the moment, to jam. So "The Way" is not a course of action, but a state of being that manifests in a course of action in response to the forces of the moment, like balancing on a surfboard. And I end up where it takes me. So often enough, I am not looking at where I have chosen to go, but where the Way has led me. Simple enough.

Arctic MountainIf you don't have time to read the whole story, the basic theme is that I am on a kind of ritual journey. I am leaving one world, that of modern civilization, and returning to the natural world, which is my home. I get there through various stages, stopping in places, worlds, that are more and more in tune with nature, and less connected to the patterns of the modern world, are less normal and more individual. I am getting back to my roots, my foundations, stripping away all the complexities of my life to get back to the core of my life again, who I am and what I am doing here. It is a feeling like I am crossing lines, boundaries between worlds. I feel like I am crossing gradients, where one world and its energies steadily weaken while another world and its energies become stronger and more manifest. I used to do this regularly, but have been too caught up in work for a while, and even more, in breaking from my old circuit and its routine, I lost the regular returns to the wild that were part of that routine, so that it was just part of life, like exercise was, without needing any special effort to get it. As I say, I realize many things on the journey, and one is that one simple thing that has been wrong is just being gone too long. I have been suffocating, starving, and diminishing in a significant way, separated from nature and the world that is my place, my home.


dulcimer at the State FairSo, the story. I leave the fair, and Fairbanks, and I find myself once again heading north along the pipeline, and wondering what I was doing there, what I am doing in Alaska in general, though chance and circumstance had bought me to this point quite obviously, in the end, the obvious reasons seemed to evaporate. An apt reflection on how our plans and the reasons behind them are often illusions, not realities. The main reason I came up was to go dig with Dave, and try to "tie up loose ends" by digging out one final place we thought could be really good. But Dave isn't here, and I am on my own instead, headed north, following through since I have nothing else to do.

The fair was a blow out, as expected really, but still, it was a gently sad day. I knew it was all over, and I accepted it, and went through the final scene. That they decided to only pay half as much as they used to, a ludicrous $25, just helped keep the whole scenario ridiculously absurd, sadly funny, and so far from reality as to not be worth being bothered over. So I wasn't. Still, I was leaving it behind.

playing at Florida folk festivalThat was the feeling that dominated as I headed out, the feeling of leaving everything behind, of release. Though Fairbanks is a cool town, it is still a town, a representation of that energy, and becoming more and more generic and standardized as time goes by, less Alaskan and more American, with more traffic, big box stores and chains replacing the owner-operated places. Though I was frustrated at having to leave off on the music projects back in Vriginia, they are also a great source of frustration and pressure, trying to do more when I have essentially barely survived by playing the street, since I could never get any gigs, or recognition for what I have accomplished with the dulcimer, except on the street, where the response from people has always been great, and kept me going. But so far, for all my effort, the effort to "do more" hasn't resulted in much except taking me away from the street and my old circuit, away from what worked, leaving me frustrated and isolated, shut away from people and unable to play. I try to network , but the reality is that so far I haven't found much practical help, and people wanting me to get involved in things that I don't really have time for, though I want to help if I can, in the end, my own priorities have gotten delayed already for too many years by the needs of others. And of course, the worries about mom and dad, as I knew they could go any time now. And while I accepted it, and it is one of the main reasons I gave up my old circuit to focus my life in a way that kept me around them, in Florida and Virginia, it is always on my mind, that I might be needed any time, will have to make new plans, and the efforts to set my life up differently, situations change. I got through to ma, and though the last thing I did on the north edge of town was call dad, all I could do was leave a message.

sailing seakayakIt is a feeling like when I head out to sea, or anyplace in the wild, it is like leaving the planet, because you are leaving a world. I was literally leaving it all behind. I was going somewhere where I could do nothing about any of it, and where whatever happened wouldn't reach me, till I got back. I would be essentially out of communication with the world. Where I could do nothing much about any of the issues and projects that had been weighing on my mind and taking up my time for so long. As I leave town I am leaving an entire world represented there, breaking free of those huge and complicated pattern and my place in them, and becoming just myself again, what is essential to my being, my energy, what remains a part of me. It is an powerful and profound feeling.

It is also a great relief. I feel like a huge weight is falling away from me. My life has become so much simpler in a single act. The overwhelming mass of pressures and anxieties are left behind. I am feeling good, again.

I don't really have time to think about it much, as I'm at the Arctic Trading post in barely an hour. But part of the ritual of this journey is that I go in stages, each step moving further, and farther, from the world I left behind. Passing through these stages, each a world of its own, on my way to the world that is my destination. So it is a short step, but significant, because I have broken free and am moving away. This is just the first step in the journey.

dulcimer on front porchIt is significant. I call it a ritual journey of passage because it becomes like this, with all the energies starting to come out clearly, though I am not trying to do anything. Chance and circumstance are in harmony with the process. I am returning to my roots, my foundations. My first dream was to be a beekeeper and homestead farmer, build my cabin in the woods, have a family, live "the good life". Though I actually looked at it as social action in a very direct sense, in the end, I gave it up to follow a different path, The Way, and pursue consciousness-raising in a simple and personal way on the street, as a folksinger, singing and talking to people. A long story I don't need to repeat here. What's significant is I am visiting my friends who have lived that dream. This would have been my world, could have been my world. And I still wish it was, regret losing it, though I accept the cost.

The music is what I do instead, and it is still a constant part of my life, here as well. Though I have left the stage behind, the festival, the whole frustrating and often distasteful music business, and all the work I have taken on, and compromises, to "do more" with the dulcimer. That is all behind me, but the music, and the dulcimer, and the people I play for remain. So I am back to my roots, and where I want to be really, playing on a friend's porch for them and their family, and the visitors to this place.

traveling swiss familyIn the talk that flows in a place, I talk about how this road is like a filter, just as Alaska is, where most people don't make it here, don;t get this far out, not on their own. I used to call it "escape velocity". The energy it takes to break free of the world you know, the normal existence, the status quo, and head out on a road, live an exceptional life, even for a while. Live experience that you won't forget, that you can't forget. Just now, there is a family from Switzerland who took off for a couple years to travel the world, living different places, now traveling around North America in a van, gypsying around. Then there is an Italian cyclist facing the challenge of this road. It is journeys that test a person, forge them as they pass through the fire, bringing out the steel from the raw human ore. It takes exceptional people to chose to take that journey, that passage. And this is one of the places they pass through. And here they find me, and lifelong resident of these places, and I pull out this wld machine and play for them.

And of course, we are still not that far out, and I play for the van-loads of tourists that show up. They listen and take pictures of me, again, a normal part of my life. Though the subtle difference is that they are here visiting this world from the outside. That in itself says it all. They are from outside this world, me and my friends and a few exceptional travelers are a part of.

It is strange, but feels Right, that I also sell a little gold here. I am on my way to dig gold in the high Arctic. Though that is the road, more than the journey. But I do it right, which means I find gold. And here, at an Arctic Trading Post in Alaska, this is part of this world, with the gold and scales laid out on the counter. Gold, especially the way I mine gold, really is a direct connection to an old tradition and history, especially here in Alaska. It is perhaps significant as well that I use digital scales to weigh my gold. Though as I am leaving behind a lot of the technology and machinery that dominates the world outside, I am not abandoning it or rejecting technology itself, but I am leaving a world dominated by it, and using it badly, opposed to nature, and destroying the whole world with it. I use it as appropriate, without letting it dominate my world. Now there is a balance, and it is not the dominant energy any more. And the gold? Well, that’s another story that I’ll tell later, when we get there.

dulcimer on front porchI stay till after dinner. It is always an honor to share my friend's table, and for me, it is a ritualistic act, to share food, break bread. I am also eating local food again. It is all part of moving away from one world and into another. The Carlson's are dedicated Christians, but show the good side of faith. Though it is a pillar of their lives, they have no problems with people like me who don't share their faith, but find the common ground we do share. They accept me as who I am, and let me make my own choices. Their church has an open door, but they aren’t trying to force anyone to enter it. Their faith is focused upon how they live their own lives, not imposing those beliefs on others. I enjoy the conversations as they discuss their religion at the table, discuss life through that outlook, since though I am not of their faith, I am a mystical or spiritually motivated person. Though to me there is nothing supernatural about it, and I believe in mystery, that there is much about the world that I do not know and can't prove either way, and don't need to. As I often say, I do not need to define the sun, or know what it is, or understand it, to feel it shine. It is, that is enough. But again, in that subtle trail of coincidence, we talk of Calvinism, determination, destiny, fate, and free will, and whether god has a plan. For my part, I bridge the argument with my outlook, even though it is not specifically god centered. My "plan" needs no "planner", so to speak. I see patterns, and forces which create patterns according to natural "laws", which simply is our description of their natures. So I can see a "plan" that constantly shifts with every act of free will, forming a new plan. Like water, which has no plan except to go downward, and flows into whatever pattern leads that way. It creates a pattern by it's nature, changing it's pattern to match every change in conditions, but needing no plan but one, to go down to the sea. Or like improvising music, where I can react to any change spontaneously, and have no plan except to play the right note, to be in harmony, and be part of the pattern of the music, and everyone else is doing the same, with the pattern constantly shifting and evolving as we play. My vision of the pattern is like a kaleidoscope, constantly changing, yet still always a pattern. Plans are something I make and use as applicable without being attached to them at all, using them if they fit the pattern as it happens spontaneously. I make many plans, all possible, and do what works. If it fits a plan, then I have been able to plan ahead and prepare, otherwise, I improvise.

Arctic twilightAfter dinner I am back on the road, heading north into the twilight. In August, there are only a few hours of dark in the middle of the night, still. I find a side road, and there aren't a lot of those, and camp for the night. Before I sleep, I take a short walk, just up to the crest of the ridge to look out over the valley and the ranges beyond. It really hits me that this is the first time I have really been out in the wild again for a long time. The sense of returning to where I belong is shockingly strong and intense, feeling what it is like, the harmony of natural energy, the silence, the intensity of experience, the depth and richness, subtlety and complexity, the wind in my face, the small sounds as I move silent through the birch. I feel great parts of me extending and stretching out again, senses opening up, the majority of myself waking up and coming alive. It is too clear how stiffed and suffocated and diminished I have been, crushed and withdrawn into a little defensive ball in response to the irritation and pain of the urban environment and this unnatural, anti-natural culture and civilization. How so much of what is wrong is just that I have been in the city too long, not returning to living out in nature, the natural patterns of energy I am attuned to.

Arctic mountainsI need to live and dwell in the wild, where nature is singing harmony, and I can sing with it, be one with it. I can extend into a huge area without encountering dissonance. I can relax, with no fear, no need to be constantly on the defensive, not fighting constant pain and irritation. I can be what I am, super-sensitive, and it is not a problem, and it feels so good. No, it feels great.

Once that was my normal pattern, and I had forgotten how much it had evolved out of necessity. Or more, how I was drawn to it long before I realized that it was what I needed to do. I used to tell people all the time it was one of the essential strategies I used to live by, as a sensitive person. I could take up to 6 weeks in a city, and then I had to go, or start to break down, get depressed, lose my ability to shine. I could only withstand the overwhelming pressure so long. I used to say that my job was to go to the wild and breath in that positive energy, resonate with that natural harmony, then go down among th people and breath it out, shine for the people, broadcast that pattern of harmony, human radio. For a while, I could project out against the negative pattern and energies, the turbulence and dissonant energy around me, surround myself with the energy I represented, resist. But eventually I would start to collapse under the weight, shrink back, diminish, stop shining. I would start absorbing more bad experiences than I could deal with, start absorbing and echoing bad vibes. So it goes. I learned that a long time ago, but I forgot it when I made this plan to "do more". And circumstances as well, took me away from the wild. Alaska was like an annual dose, but too short and too wide-spaced. Then last summer I didn't go at all.

As I walked through the cold wind it was blindingly clear to me. The hard shell I had formed had cracked and broken, and I felt like I had woken from a dream, or a nightmare. I knew I had just barely begun to recover. I knew without a doubt I had done the right thing coming here, almost by instinct. This is what I needed. This is what I needed to remember. I crawled into the back of the truck and slept deep and woke feeling good for the first time in a long time, too long a time.

Arctic twilightIn the morning I built my little fire and made coffee. This is my normal life, my real life, and it feels so good, and the coffee tastes great. I look out over a vast burnt over section. I am faced with my long history here, once again. I had driven through this area years before, when it was burning. I have wild video footage of driving through country that is burning for miles on either side, or looking at lines of flames slowly advancing across a hillside. But now it is come back again, growing green, young trees everywhere, and solid with grass and brush, and blueberries. I pick a bunch for breakfast, and then a bag full to take with me. I have brought yogurt (Nancy's Organic!) and granola as road food, and it goes great with fresh blueberries. It is always part of the ritual of return, of entering this world, to start eating what grows here, actually incorporating the atoms and molecules of this place into my body, making this place physically part of me. Whether it is the water or the blueberries, or the potatoes and caribou at The Trading Post, home-grown, home-cooked, and eaten at their table. It is part of the ritual process. And it tastes good, too.

I roll north, gently aware of the anxieties, troubles, worries, and well, bad vibrations, easing out of me as the miles roll by. It has always been an important part of my life, the road, and this state of mind where focusing my attention on the task of driving, frees the rest of my mind to think without attention, without direction, without a conscious focus. This is something I was missing by staying in one place as well. It was not just the wild I needed, but the road as well, or the other actions that induced this same state of mind, sailing, bicycling, walking. I could see I had done some of this while doing dishes, or working in the yard, or cleaning, or taking a shower. But it was not near the same as driving usually for a couple days if not more, regularly through the year as I made my circuit, big jumps and small jumps.

Arctic CircleIt is also symbolic, this ritual passage. Where things become isolated, extreme, archetypical. Energies and patterns are becoming simpler, more clearly represented. I have come from a world of roads and traffic, and now I am in a world where there is only one road, the road. And it is a familiar one, as I pass the places I know well, remembering other years. At the bottom of the Beaverslide I hit a dip and something snaps in the exhaust. I am only a few miles from the Arctic Circle, where I'd stop for coffee anyway, so I push on and pull off there. I always stop here, part of the ritual, to take a picture of the rig am driving this time by the sign. Then I grab some wood out f the truck, you always carry wood as it may be scarce. Especially here, where everyone stops and all the available wood locally is gone. Rain is moving in, but in a few minutes I build a small fire, make coffee, and have it all cleaned up and packed away again before finishing drinking it as the first raindrops fall. I actually feel ok, even though something broke on the truck. It is not unexpected. The truck has sat for a couple years just now, and even though I have had it for four or five years, I haven't driven it but a few weeks. I haven't even begun to get it straightened out. But I use it to do what I need to do and get it done, good enough, crude but effective. I feel capable. I feel Alaskan. I recognize the things in me that made Alaska a good match for me, I fit it and it fits me. I belong here, and tourists take pictures of me, part of the wildlife. I get out my work jacket and crawl under in the dirt. It isn't bad, the tailpipe has busted off at the back of the muffler. I can wait till I get back to my homestead to deal with it. But I dig a couple soda cans out of the trash, cut them into long ribbons, wrap them into a sort of collar around the broken place, tightening it down with bailing wire from my toolkit. Then I am ready to roll.

This life is full of stories and I can't hope to tell them all. A motorcyclist pulls in. This road has a powerful energy, not just as I perceive it, but because it does, and that has reached out and made it a destination, for motorcyclists and bicyclists, this has become a dream, seen in magazines or tv perhaps, but representing a real challenge and adventure, an energy that they seek by coming here. Alaska has always had that energy, that draw. Though too often they miss what is here in the challenge of "overcoming" it, like missing the mountain in a single-minded focus on reaching the peak. It is again the mistake of mistaking the destination for the journey, mistaking getting somewhere for being somewhere, or not realizing which is more important.

Still, it is cool to meet someone who has made it this far, achieved the energy you need, the will and determination, to break free from their world, to live the dream, when that often means facing some hard and harsh reality. It isn’t always fun. He is heading on to the Brooks tonight, and plans to stop in Coldfoot, the truckstop. I suggest he should go instead to Wiseman, the village a bit farther up where I am gong. In simple terms, Coldfoot is a truckstop, an while I can't deny it is an aspect of Alaska, it is the outside pushing in, more like someplace down south, mostly populated by people from down south somewhere. While Wiseman is a small village where people live, because this is where they live. It is part of my general suggestion not to focus so much on getting to the end of the road but experiencing Alaska along the way, spending time being here, not just getting through without seeing anything, without really experiencing it.

Arctic mountainThe next stop is Gobbler's Knob. This is where I first can see the Brooks Range spread out before me. I can't begin to express how it feels. The wild has always been my home, wherever I found it. One of the things that makes 1213 still home is the strong force of nature there, even though surrounded and besieged by unnatural forces of the that world. Nature, wild places, have been my retreat and refuge, and this is essential to who I am. From the time I first hiked off into the woods as a child, I kept returning to the natural places. Then when I was older, I took off to spend my time off from school in the mountains or on the water. When I came home from school I would often climb a tree and just sit there, in the canopy with the bird and squirrels, maybe take a nap. It is more than just home, the place where everything is familiar, and you feel the confidence of a known pattern, knowing what to expect, expecting to know how to deal with it, confident and comfortable in that familiarity and knowledge. This goes deeper. It is an essential resonance, when you find something outside yourself that is part of you, that resonates exactly with your self, your essential patterns, in a exact consonance, or at least, essential harmony. It is something you can experience, without need of explanation.Arctic Mountain This resonance I feel with nature is one of the deepest in my being, along with music.

Many places have served to connect me with nature over the years, in mountains and deserts, west coast and east, seashores and islands and the sea itself. But for years now, the Brooks Range has been where I have gone. It is where I went when I first drove to Alaska, long before I bought land farther south, and I have always returned here. It represents the mountains and high country and north country that was the foundation of my summer circuit. Perhaps because that part started earliest, in my summers off from school, that is is the strongest. Perhaps it is that over the Winter I shifted from desert to the sea, was on the road more, and the Fall was both the mountains and the sea in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps it is that for decades I have been coming to this same place. Even more, Every other place where I returned to the wild has fallen away, as I my circuit was reduced by my plans to "do more" with the music, and to focus on spending time with my parents in Florida and Virginia. The Brooks Range has come to represent all the wild places in my life, and now I am almost there, almost home.

Folksinger in WisemanAt last, I pull into Wiseman. It is strangely symbolic, natural, and significant that I pull up at Clutch's and he has a fire going, some friends and one of the neighbors visiting. And almost immediately, I'm getting out the dulcimer to play. That is what I do, even as I move further and farther from the world outside, the dulcimer is still part of me, a big part. I play for a while. Then leave the dulcimer there and wander around the village, telling my friends I am back. It means walking to a few cabins. I can just leave the dulcimer on the table by the fire. Then I come back and play some more. Oddly enough, I meet the motorcyclist who stopped in Coldfoot, but on my advice, tried coming here, and ended up bedded down at Clutch's place in a spare cabin. He's glad he did. As we talk, the simplest explanation is that over in Coldfoot you won't find people playing music and telling stories around a campfire. I also meet a cool guy, Jerry George, one of Clutch's friends from Anchorage, who knows the hammered dulcimer and had been away earlier and now was waiting for me to come back and play some more, like Clutch said I would, eventually. And I do. It is always cool to meet someone who actually knows the instrument and show them what I have done. Later I head down to the river to make some dinner for myself, then go to sleep well and deep again with the sound of the water in my ears.

I wake to the same sound after a night of storms and rain. It is so good to be back to my old routine, making a fire as my breath steams in the chill air, making coffee while looking at the mist on the river and the clouds on the mountains, the play of light and shadow. I can finally relax, because I have made it here. Even if the truck broke down now, I could get a ride up to where I leave the highway. After all the travel, all the efforts, all the possible delays and problems, I am really here, for sure, and know I am just a couple days from walking into the wild, returning to my home.

Arctic MountainI write in my journal. Again, in this journey, everything is symbolic, significant, a indicator that I am crossing from one world to another, one life to another. In one world I am so busy there is no time to think and reflect, and to write. Or alternately, I do write, but the energy goes into writing this on-line journal instead of my notebook. I have mixed feelings on that, since there is a need to communicate and to a degree entertain in this journal, while my personal journal was both an outlet and a place to put into words my inner dialogue, and was often more about thoughts and feelings than the story of events. In this journey back to my foundations, I started writing in my journal for all those reasons. I no longer had the computer to write in, and I had time, on the plane, and just generally along the way, to write, and a life that wasn't so rushed and pushed to produce that there wasn't time to write. I feel that pressure now as I wonder if I have time to keep writing this story with so much that need to be done. It reminds me that I wrote because there was such an active life of the mind in the simple physical life I chose. I am draining away obscuring waters of life to see the foundations of my self, rising into prominence as the journey continues, and writing is part of that. I kept a journal since elementary school. I write because I am a writer, not because I expect to publish it or be read. My journal was an exercise in self-awareness, a tool of reflection and understanding, and the requirement that complicated and tangled thoughts, feeling, and experiences must be clarified to be rendered into words. So it is an indication of the return to my foundations, the return to the world and life that was mine for so long, that I am writing in my journal as I make coffee and start breakfast.

As I write this, I am reminded that I started taking pictures and then video as a teenager. I did it because I was frustrated that so much oof what I experienced couldn't be captured by words. Yet I also quickly realized the pictures and video couldn't tell the whole story either. So I have done both, and feel that while too many people will just watch the video in this day and age, the real story is here, in words that tell the real story that the video can't, or doesn't have time for.

I take my coffee and walk up to the village to touch base with my friends, see when a good time to visit will be. We all have work to do, but there is time to visit as well, later. This is an important pace, and these are important people, so I want to take a little extra time to talk here. Partly it is perspective, in explaining where I have been and where I am going I get a perspective on my life, as I turn it into a simple story for my friends. A story that has been evolving as the trip continues. In it's own way, this is helping me view my life, gain some perspective, which is one thing I am here for. These are also people who can understand things I can't explain to most people.

Folksinger in WisemanI have traveled and stopped at many places over so many years. The significant fact is that Wiseman is one of the few places where I have come back to. I have no relatives here, no festival or venue, no reason to return here except that I do. I ended up in Alaska all together in a similar way, because I certainly can't say I came to play the fair, since I didn't make money doing it. Though it certainly helped pay for the trip, it isn't what caused me to return. It was because Alaska was a place that matched me, where I belonged, where I fit in. Just as I realize part of the problem with being down south was that, while I met good people, I just didn't fit into their world, whether they realized it or not. They don't really know me, most can't imagine what my life is really like, and would be lost in my world. Most of them have lived fairly sheltered lives, surrounded by the safety net of civilization. They can't imagine a life where the internet isn't available, where cell-phones don;t work, where the closest store is hundreds of miles away, and the only quick way anywhere is by plane. The only way to get most places is by foot or with horses or dogs. Few have chosen the intensity and well, the often harsh discomfort of living out in the natural world, where you tread cautiously in a world of forces much more powerful than you. The forces of nature are not something you ignore, but respect, and hope to survive. It is a world that tests you and tries you, and awes you with its terrible beauty. This is where I come from, the energy I am part of, and where I have spent much of my life, not just Alaska, but places like this, like the sea, and the desert. Wiseman is a deeper example of this, since in Alaska there is a great variety of people. Some here just for the money, waiting to head out again, really not part of Alaska at all, but trying to make Alaska like their world. Others are really part of Alaska, but still live in town, wedded to civilization and separated from nature, though they go out in it often enough, they are not part of it. And finally there are those who chose to live out in it. These few people who live out here are definitely out on the edge of the bell curve, just like me. So I fit in here. If I lived someplace, it would be a place like this. The people here are closer to understanding my world, my life, understanding my choice of it, not in a rational way, but in a personal understanding because they made a similar choice, and so are more like me than a lot of the folks I meet down south. Where down south I am far from normal, no matter what I seem on the surface, here in Wiseman, I am normal, in a small community of extremely individual and exceptional people.

Folksinger in WisemanOn the way back down to the river to eat breakfast, I run into Jerry George from last night at Clutch's. He has his family with him, now, and is looking for me, and the dulcimer. He is a bit embarrasses that he might be intruding, or imposing upon me, but he has no cause to worry. This is a play, and a scene, I have acted out thousands of times. It is what I do. It is what I am. So in a minute I drag out the dulcimer, drop it on the sand and rock behind the truck, and play. And life is good. Again, like at the Arctic Trading Post, it is obvious that while I leave the music business behind, the dulcimer, and the music, are still an integral part of my life, a big part of it. I tell my friends that I come here to separate myself from the dulcimer, since otherwise we are never parted. The only way I can manage it is to leave the dulcimer behind and head out into the wilderness to get away from it, because it is such a big part o my life, my world. For a while, I can try to see who and what I am, beneath the music, when I do not have that to define me, to be a channel for what I am. Perhaps it is the only way to try to see myself, by turning to see other facets that are obscured by the dulcimer, or see what is behind the dulcimer when it is taken away.

Later, I have to shake my head and have a hard laugh to think that here, in a remote Arctic village, I have made more in tips, without asking or even thinking about it, than the State Fair was willing to pay for a performance. It is just too absurd. And how can I explain it to the people at the fair, that their main stage can't compete practically with a village campfire or a riverbank 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It is a strange life I live, at times. I accept it, I have had to, but it is still strange and funny sometimes. That I get such a response from the people, even here at the edge of disappearing into the wild, yet I can't get a scrap of recognition, support, or acceptance from the business, from venues, and end up on the street instead, for 30 years.All I can do is hake my head and have a hard laugh, and keep on doing what I do, what I am.

I do my chores that day and the next. I always leave town fast, then deal with sorting through the supplies I have bought and my gear once I am out in the wild. I have to repackage most of the food and pack it into my food boxes. I remember talking to my brother years ago, and it has echoed since. That while anyone can dig a hole, with enough perseverance and determination, it is more than that. And one important thing is knowing how to go out and live and work in the wilderness for weeks, to bring everything you need, food and tools and supplies, that is a special knowledge. I have a definite system. Everything in its place. I inventory before I go and replace everything that is missing when I buy supplies. It is simple and effective.

Arctic MountainsIt is a day of passing rain and storms. I am ready, that is part of it, of being capable, of being part of this world. I have tarps ready, take cover when it rains, sometimes out of a clear blue sky, sometimes under dark, boiling clouds. A couple light planes come racing into to land at the village airfield, forced down by the weather. Life in the Arctic. I get it done. And there is time to visit with friends as well, sitting by the wood stove, talking about many things. These are intelligent, literate, knowledgeable, and aware people, even though they choose to dwell out here, like me. They understand, at least more than many, some of the forces that drive me. I would live in a place like this if I could live anywhere, but again, there's the dulcimer and the music, and my friends understand this. So we share the time we have. Until it is time for me to go, the evening of the second day.

I drive out fairly late. They are working on the road, and it easier with them gone. I drive up and turn off on a abandoned mining road, blasting through bog holes and bumping up the creekbed to get a little ways away from the highway to dump my gear. Then I drive back to Wiseman and park the truck. I have brought a bicycle just for this reason. Now I ride back up the highway to where I left my gear. It is so late I actually experience the few hours of darkness.Arctic sunset The air is so clear and the stars are so bright. The silence is so profound, and I savor it. Half-way I stop and walk the bike for a while, partly just to revel in the experience, partly because I am not used to riding. As I leave the highway to hike the final short leg to sleep by my gear, I once again feel the same intense sense of crossing the line between worlds. I have left the road behind, now, left the truck, even left the dulcimer. I am leaving Wiseman behind, people, even friends, and the tools and technology and connection to the world there. With every step, I feel like I am crossing another boundary between worlds, one more integrated with the wild, but still balanced between the wild and the outside world, and now I move fully into the wild.

I can only begin to explain what I am feeling. All my life has been marked by this dichotomy between the world outside, the energy and patterns of civilization and modern culture that are so un-natural and anti-natural and the energy and pattern of the natural world. I chose to be part of nature, to make its energies and patterns the foundation of my life and being, to make it my home, my source, my world. When I leave to go to the outside world, I go as an visitor, a stranger, and a representative of my world. I come out of the wild, and return to it, and am always at my core, part of it. As I said, I realize on this trip that what is wrong with me is I have simply been gone too long from where I belong. I go into the outside world because in the end, I can't escape it, or my responsibility to participate, for I am part of my people, of humanity, even if they are, to me, lost in patterns that threaten to destroy everything, unsustainable and destructive patterns that have made them sick, and I weep to have to watch my people destroy the world and themselves, manifesting the worst we have in us. I enter the wild like a fish returning to water, I merge and become one with it, and start to heal and recover from all I have been through. It is an experience beyond words, though I want to explain, and is at the core of all I am and do and believe.

I walk through the final layers into another world, another state of being, till I reach my gear. Call it mystical or magic, call it spiritual or psychic or psychological, or all of these, but this is what I have really come here for, what I have come here to do, and nothing else really matters. I stand for a moment naked under the stars, before I slip into my bed and sleep, listening to the rush of the creek not far away, being there, being here.

spacerFolksinger in Wiseman

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