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Into the Wilderness

Inian Islands Institute welcomes Erin Bumpus, a junior at Earlham College in Indiana, as this month’s guest author!

Never in my life had I seen waters so turquoise.  Our little boat drifted towards the Inian Islands over a forest of kelp, vibrant with life.  The above-water scenery looked like a landscape painting, something I’d seen only in pictures, or wildlife documentaries narrated by invisible men with British accents.  In the distance lay a panorama of snow-capped mountains. In the foreground, rocky shores decorated with three green houses and the smiling faces of Zach Brown and Annika Ord, our instructors for the week.

We crossed a small bridge to a little garden and the buildings that make up the property, where Jane Button, the most lovely individual and as we would all soon learn, the most amazing cook in all of the Inian Islands, gave us a tour.  Not two hundred yards from the Hobbit Hole, we found ourselves standing at the edge of the Tongass National Forest.  We were surrounded by Wilderness.

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Community Campaign Kick-Off

Happy solstice, friends!

Today at 8:39 a.m. Alaska time, our planet’s axis, which at this moment in Earth history is tilted about 23.5 degrees relative to its orbital plane, was tipped maximally towards the sun, as if bowing in deference to our life-giving star.  For most of our readers (all you denizens of the northern hemisphere), that makes this the first day of summer and also the longest day of the year – 18 hours and 41 minutes out at the Inian Islands.  Even those remaining 5-plus hours are plenty bright for a stroll or a paddle, and we won’t see stars or aurora until the darkness returns.  The biosphere is dazzling this day: iris and lupine are in bloom, the sea is cloudy green with phytoplankton, the rufous hummingbirds and humpback whales have arrived and so have the salmon. Read more

A place to see for yourself

Inian Islands Institute welcomes author and team-member Judith Aftergut as this month’s guest blog writer!

I lean my bike against the worn green wood siding and knock on the door of a house near the Salmon River in Gustavus. It is my second summer near Glacier Bay. My first summer, I worked as a housekeeper at the Lodge. This second year, I plan to write magazine articles and to interview old timers.

A tall man, slightly stooped, opens the door and invites me in. I’ll call him Mike. We sit at his kitchen table and he offers instant tea. He is in his 70s, the age I am now.

I’m young and full of uncertainties, doubts and trepidations. My first question is impossible to answer, especially right off the bat: “What have you learned from living here all these years?” He chuckles, looks at me and speaks a sentence that sticks in my mind for the next 40 years:

“If I tell you what I see, you won’t see what you see.”

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A Different Kind of Wilderness

It’s go time.

Inian Islands Institute is an official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a business plan, a Board of Directors, and a big vision.  And I, the newly-hired Executive Director, am back in the San Francisco Bay Area where it all started, armed with a fistful of flyers and a big earnest smile, setting out to raise $2.5 million to buy our land and create our school.

Of course, as an environmental scientist who’s spent far more time in the company of penguins than millionaires, I’m feeling a little out of my depth.  Stepping off the train in Palo Alto, I wondered, wide-eyed, how do I even begin this monumental task?  I’ve received no shortage of good advice about “cultivating donor relationships” and “making asks,” but that all felt very abstract and far away from this lonely, busy train station.

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Caretaking, part II

Last week I told about the day-to-day doings out at the Hobbit Hole, so now I thought I’d tell a bit more about the place itself.  There’s something about this homestead that seems to draw people here, body and spirit, through the years.  I doubt I have the wisdom to say exactly what that something might be – it probably verges on the ineffable.  But maybe writing this post will bring me closer to understanding the nature of the something.  In turn, maybe that will help me to understand myself, and why I’ve taken on the vast project of Inian Islands Institute with such abandon.  Thankfully, in seeking the nature of the something, there is no shortage of material to explore!  The Hobbit Hole is such a treasure-trove, I swear this post is going to write itself. Read more

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