As this month’s guest author, Inian Islands Institute welcomes our board member Molly Kemp from the tiny town of Tenakee, in rural Southeast Alaska.
Just over a year ago I was invited to join the Inian Islands Institute board of directors. I was flattered , and jumped at the chance.
“By the way” wrote Zach, “you’ll have the Treasurer position.”
Gulp… This was not the assignment I expected, as my frugal personal economy is still measured in nickels and dimes. I’ve had some experience with non-profit organizations, but only on a similar nickel-and-dime basis. The scale of the Inian Islands vision, and a business plan with seven digits, was more than a little intimidating.
In these early days, there’s a limit to how much scientific research we can conduct at Inian Islands Institute. After all, notwithstanding the excitement of our purchase agreement and palpable momentum towards buying the Hobbit Hole, this place remains the home of the Howe Family. Building our science laboratory, hosting visiting researchers all summer, and mooring our electric boat at the dock will have to wait until the sale is done, lest we impinge too greatly on this gracious family’s lives and livelihoods.
By Tania Lewis, Wildlife Biologist at Glacier Bay National Park, and President of Inian Islands Institute’s Board of Directors
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with something wild? Maybe it was the waves pounding on the sand when you first saw the ocean, or a group of deer grazing peacefully when you began wandering the woods, or a deep green pool of a cascading mountain creek on your first backpack trip. For many of us, these early memories shape our lives, how we live, where we travel to, and how we devote our life’s work. Experiences in wild places generally make human beings feel profoundly good, connected to a larger universe, less alone. Research has shown that spending time in nature decreases anxiety and increases feelings of empathy and altruism. These feelings lead to healthy stewardship of our land, resources, and community. Many of us believe that connecting people to nature may be our best shot at turning this world around.
It was a dizzying month. After our last student group left, I set off for the wide world to keep plugging and pitching Inian Islands Institute. Having decided that October was “the month,” I may have been a bit too cavalier with scheduling my time in one city after another, from Portland to Seattle to San Francisco and beyond. After all, I thought, it’s all the Lower 48 – compared to Alaska, it’s all in the same neighborhood! In the final tally, I gave 6 presentations and sat in 43 meetings in 20 cities, with 17 planes, 28 trains, and 30 buses connecting it all. At such a feverish pace, at times I became a bleary-eyed shell of myself, a zombie lurching. Though I remained pretty confident that the year was still 2015, I was so disoriented and sleep-deprived you could’ve convinced me otherwise. It was time to get back to the Wilderness.
As guest blog writer, Inian Islands Institute welcomes Elizabeth Hillstrom, a wonderfully bright Stanford student in mechanical engineering — and, we hope, a future intern at the Inian Islands!
We came to Alaska to learn about sustainability. There were over twenty of us at any given time: twelve undergraduate students, plus our professor, instructors and course assistants, a local coordinator, a media tag-team, and a rotating cast of guest lecturers, experts in everything from ecology to policy to art history. We moved as a herd. We did not come to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life; we came as a mob of disoriented students with a support crew, hoping to glean something intellectually useful from an environment and lifestyle completely foreign to us: to neatly wrap up these lessons and take them back to our well-planned academic lives.
As our guest writer this month, Inian Islands Institute welcomes Jessica Lindmark, our board secretary, keeper of our Facebook page, and Seattle-based yoga instructor. This summer she led the first ever yoga retreat at Inian Islands Institute.
“Do you think they’re ok?” I craned my neck to look behind me toward the rest of our kayak fleet still battling the currents behind us. Mitchell Green, one of the retreat participants, sat in the bow and mused that they must be getting pretty tired out there. It was the end of our “big paddle” day, and the evening tide was moving powerfully through South Pass, a narrow channel between two of the Inian Islands.
Inian Islands Institute is excited to welcome Hank Lentfer, Alaskan author, grateful harvester, guitar player, and groovy dude as this month’s guest writer. Thank you Hank for helping make the work party happen! Look for Hank in the video below, driving the boat, diving into Icy Strait, and leading the crew building the “sexiest dock in the Hobbit Hole, hands down!”
The work was hard.
Six guys on their back in the boulders and muck, wrestling a rotten 12 x 12 out from under the shop building. Another crew shoveled gravel into Greg’s skiff and then hauled the rocks, one bucket at a time, up the length of the dock to fill a drainage ditch.
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.
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
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.”