There’s something appealing to the lifestyle of some who have made the choice to live here in Alaska. Even they would admit that the greatest deterrent is the winter weather that seems to drag on forever with nearly twenty hours of darkness. I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like, on top of many feet of snow and temperatures that average well below zero throughout the winter. Yet, some have chosen to make it their livelihood, leaving the lower forty-eight behind for a more simple way of life.
We met some today who have made that choice. Prior to becoming a state, some made the choice to move here with the opportunity to make Alaska their home. Of course, many had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and yet, felt called to move to a much more vulnerable way of life here in Alaska, not necessarily knowing the inaccessibility that they would face on the frozen tundra. Many years later, they remain and now others make the same choice to live off the land or “off the grid” as it is known.
We met one such guy today, Levi, a twenty-eight year old native of Alaska who continues to live on one of the original homesteads, although, made the point that now you have to pay for such a property unlike when Alaska remained a territory. He continues to live without electricity or running water, hunts moose and bear to make it through the year, and grows many of his own vegetables for himself and some of his family. Ironically, we learned that you can even can chocolate cake! Although we questioned him on whether he ever thinks that maybe there is something better out there for him, a life that wouldn’t be so hard. He never went beyond the tenth grade and yet finds himself content. After driving nearly ten miles down the road he then gets out and has to walk about three miles to his place, his home.
It was fascinating to listen to him talk about his life and the amount he has learned by living off the land and knowing the cycles of life through that experience. We all kind of stood in awe listening to him, quite possibly, because deep down we know he’s right. We know that there is something simpler about life that we lose in the busyness of it all and the technology that has often stood as a wall between us and others and the natural world. Heck, he has to nearly climb a tree to get a cell phone signal, which he didn’t even want but was made to by his family so they knew he was alright being out there by himself.
There have been other times when I knew we were out of place as tourists visiting different sites and locations, but probably no more than here. We stick out like a sore thumb here and the lives we lead and live at least give the perception that we stand in conflict with something much simpler, much more grounded and connected, despite living in a state that’s practically closer to Russia than the lower forty-eight, that has harsher winters than any other part of the country, and doesn’t worry so much about trying to live up to the haves and have nots.
I don’t want to give the illusion that it’s a perfect world. They would tell you otherwise. It’s not a place for the faint of heart. It’s tough and grueling from late September until Spring. Most of us would not make such a choice in life. But as we wander through the streets of these small towns, it’s hard not to reflect upon on our lives and all that we have that quite frankly, isn’t even necessary. But we like to have our things and we think they somehow make us more connected and more important. Then you meet people like Levi and you are reminded that there are bigger things in life and deeper things in life that draw us to that simpler way of life, a life we can call home, our homestead in which we now dwell and that gives us life.
We can all learn a little from watching some people, knowing that their lives are not going to end but rather learn to adjust and adapt to whatever comes there way. They’ll admit, they don’t like change, and yet, it’s such a natural part of the cycle of their lives that it’s seethes from their very being. It was a good reminder today of just how much we have and often complain about in our very predictable and calculated lives and yet just how free we can be when we hear the call of the wild from within, calling us home, calling us to this more simple way of life.