Around 10,000 years ago, Paleo-Eskimos arrived from the steppes of Asia to what is now Alaska. But instead of turning south, to warmer climates, they continued east, then north to where day and night each last an eternity, and distance is measured by as far as one can hear. Windswept ice, outflow glaciers, calving icebergs, the experience in Otherness began with the first step out of the house; as soon as the pilgrims set out on the road, they became foreigners: the pilgrims were and were not themselves as soon as they moved into a realm which transcended their former knowledge of a place that could only support small bands paced off in slow deep time guided by other gods.” Why didn't they leave?
Left home this morning with an extra sweater stuffed into a worn daypack with notebook and camera,
walking the street to where three flights of steps lead up to a road connecting the city's heart with
a wheel of sprawling suburban centers. To my left, expensive homes cling to silty hillsides,
bedded on antediluvian outcrops of black basalt. We build on Nature's voluptuous body,
clothing her in the silks of our engineering; while our psyches still sacrifice to Artemis,
and our hounds still demand to be fed.
Our appetite for gods pacifies the sobering knowledge of one's temporal life. Thus, K’och’en, spirits who travel in the pure dimension of white, were seen in the grizzled shades of clouds.
"You have heard the tales of white birds, wings from dawn to dusk.
They fill the sky with translucence, muffle the shape of clouds.
Their cries gave someone the idea of language and mourning.
The utterance of the first word, 'inconceivable.'
Sila, creator of the universe, dwells beneath the frigid sea. Caribou Mother, Moon Man, Indweller in the Wind, Indweller in the Earth. Shua, Shugunra, Inua, Nunam-shua, Nuliajuk... What happens to a mythology when its ecology changes? Are the gods and spirits misshapen? Are they bent on revenge? Or do they simply disappear?
To my right, the river is belted with yards of trains, docks, giant cranes lifting steel containers off the broad backs of ships, rows of cavernous warehouses, all the paraphernalia and pollution of modern industry behind which strings of gray hills shoulder snowcapped volcanic peaks and lava domes.
Skirting two tunnels coughing noxious fumes, I finally reach the stone wall guarding the trail's head, and wind my way down around mud and rocks to the Song of the Swollen Creek.
From here, the mythis only to be found far away
from people, out in the great solitude, and it is not found in
play but only in suffering. Solitude and suffering
open the human mind, and therefore
flows north again.