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We Alaskans

Why I live where I live: 14 Alaskans tell their stories

  • Author: Alaska Dispatch News
  • Updated: December 29, 2017
  • Published January 25, 2017

What makes a place a home?

The question is more complicated than it first seems.

"Why we live where we live often changes over time," writes Homer writer Miranda Weiss, introducing our collection of essays on this topic.

Why we moved to a place in our 20s is likely not the reason we stay in our 40s. Or if we’ve grown up in a place, perhaps we’re itching to escape the repetitive routines of each season. But years later, we may find deep comfort in that continuity.

And perhaps nowhere is that question more relevant than in Alaska.

So we asked 14 writers from across Alaska to try to answer a question all of us will ask at some point in our lives: Why do I live where I live?

Their responses are as rich and varied as the state we call home:

Stampede Road - Smelling north

When I cross Broad Pass and tuck through the Nenana Canyon, when I point my nose west toward the Stampede taiga, I feel a loose unbuckled joy.

Unalakleet - So many connections

On a November day while visiting Chicago a few years ago, I looked at my great-great grandpa Stefan’s drawing of Unalakleet and he became a human being.

McCarthy - Birds and Bush planes

The people of McCarthy are compelling, but it’s the people and landscape combined that captivates.

Tenakee Springs - A happy compromise

Our official story is that Tenakee Springs is a compromise. Our secret story is that both of us are quite happy here.

Anchorage - Gift of diversity

I arrived in Anchorage on a spring day in the late 1980s and spent that first summer itching mosquito bites, stumbling across glaciers and huddling in leaky tents.

Slana - The homecoming

Things you take for granted, until you've been away: a tiny log cabin post office, heated by a Jungers stove, with a wall of old-fashioned glass-paned mailboxes, fewer than a hundred.

Kodiak - A generous town

Living here is like that Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Name anyone, and eventually you’ll find a connection among our shared histories and friendships.

Utqiagvik - Flying home to Utqiagvik

When people hear where I live, they always ask about the winter darkness.

Seward - Reverential peaks

It’s the people, like a handful of pebbles scattered beneath the massive grandeur of its mountains.

Fairbanks - Sky magic

The first thing that struck me as our new friends, the Tabberts, drove us in from the Fairbanks airport was the sky. The sweep of it opened my eyes and filled my lungs.

Dutch Harbor - Austere and voluptuous

Hawaii North. I call it that only partly in jest, for in the summer, when the sun comes out after a shower, the wet, black cliffs rising hundreds of feet from the sea and capped with a mat of emerald green tundra do rather remind me of Hawaii.

Gustavus - Turn your watches back

When I first arrived here by small air taxi in 1979, the pilot said, “Welcome to Gustavus, you can turn your watches back 100 years.”

Nome - Beautiful yet dysfunctional

My family has been in Nome since the late 1940s when my grandfather left Deering to find opportunities for work.

Haines - Shared roots

Thirty years ago if you asked me why I live where I do, I would have replied the people and this place. The same is true today.

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