I fell in love with the Arctic in 1994 when I established
the Barrow, Alaska, bureau for The Arctic Sounder newspaper.
I return as much as possible to see friends, monitor changes
in the environment and landscape. I just plain miss it.
I value the way in which the Arctic sharpened my senses
– the variations in the color white, whether to cross
over a snow drift safely by listening to the squeak my pack
boots made, or being prepared to go anywhere in any kind
To me, the Arctic is not a “barren wasteland,”
but a unique place in the world where ultimate freedom is
obtained by just stepping off the gravel road and slogging
across the tundra in any direction toward the horizon line.
In summer, the tundra smells as sweet and teems with as
much life as any Lower 48 garden. Snowy owls dive for lemmings,
the sound of a bumblebee is detectable from a long way away,
and red phalaropes swim jerkily around in the pond like
a duck in a shooting gallery.
The Arctic’s natural balance is so delicate, so precarious.
In 1994, when Inupiaq Elder Sadie Brower Neakok told me
the ice cellars were melting, I didn’t really grasp
the significance. I do now. Hopefully, we all do.