I have been asked to audition for a new Alaska reality TV show made by the folks who bring you "Pawn Stars," called "Alaska Rivers" (and the people who live on them.) Apparently the producers like this blog, and as you know we do live in a photogenic place populated by interesting and eccentric people. Here is the questionnaire they sent that I'm supposed to answer on video, while having a really fun, friendly time of it:
1. What is your full name?
2. How old are you?
For real, or reality TV? Can I say 45 if I'm almost 54? Call me dyslexic?
3. Do you live on/near a river? Which one?
Yes, the mighty Chilkat River.
4. What do you do for a living? How does the River affect what you do?
I am a writer, although some years that's not quite a living. Luckily my husband owns a lumberyard, which is not on a river. The Chilkat River is a huge and ever present obstacle for me in my work, as it's constantly breaking my concentration with its ever changing beauty, wildlife, and all the visitors and neighbors who feel the same way strolling by with dogs. This is the worst place to live if you want to get anything done, especially in June. Just now there are a bunch of eagles feeding on what looks like a king salmon on the flats and my dog Pearl really wants us to go investigate. On the other hand, this is the place I love more than anywhere in the world, and I often wonder if I lived somewhere else, would I even be inspired to share as much as I do with the world? I am grateful for the river, and the communities of the Chilkat River Valley for so very much. Everything, really.
5. How long have you been working in this industry?
Writing is not so much an industry as a calling, or a lifestyle, but about 20 years, a lot of columns and two books worth, but if I didn't live on the river I could have written a lot more. It's just too distracting.
6. What are some challenges that come with your work?
Sitting at my desk is a big one. If you lived here, could you?
7. Do you work with/live with any family members? If so, how many? Who?
Oh gosh, yes. They are not all in the house anymore, but if we are all home (with significant others) or at a picnic on the river, there's about 14, ranging in age from 1 to 81. (Grandma Joanne arrives tomorrow.) If I start to list them I might forget one and they'd never forgive me. Wait, do local in-laws count as well? Then it's double that number.
8. Tell us something that the person behind the camera wouldn't know about you. (Please think of something ahead of time.)
Actually, since you contacted me, I figured you've read what I write so probably know more about me than my dad does. (He doesn't use the Internet. But he's a river guy, maybe you should call him? He swims across the Hudson River once a year.) There is one thing I keep a secret, but I'd rather not say.
9. What do you love about the river you live on/near?
Seriously? That it is here, and has been since time immemorial, as a source for all that's living in this valley -- five species of Pacific salmon breed here, and they feed humans, bears, wolves, and eagles -- Also, there are many days when walking its shoreline helps me believe in God. Every day I am amazed that I live in such a place.
10. Why would you be perfect for the show?
Thank you for asking, but honestly, I wouldn't be. I don't want to be on TV and I don't want my family to. Living on the Chilkat River, in the one place in all the world I call home, grounds me and for that I am so deeply grateful. I'm also very aware how lucky I am to have this fragile kind of peace and I'd never do anything to upset it. I do not want TV cameras on our home and family or in the kitchen before I've had coffee -- or poking around the corner the night before Eliza's wedding or popping up when another daughter goes into labor or one of the babies has a meltdown you know? One of my dog walking friends won't even let me take her picture, she'd never walk on the beach again if a film crew were here. I don't want to be telling Pearl to sit all the time, or get off the couch when she's wet because we're on TV. But thank you very much for thinking of me (and us actually) and for the thought-provoking questions. They helped me with my answer. Good luck with the show. I'm sure it will be a hit.
Haines writer Heather Lende is finishing her third book of essays, "Finding the Good." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.