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  • Seth Kantner

March 22, 2020

It was a nice day here, with a chilly wind off the sea ice and drifting snow. Good to see some sun on and off and be out in the wind working. While I was hauling wood I kept thinking back to what I wrote about my grandpa. I think I was wrong--I think he was drafted, and didn't volunteer, for World War II. I feel like I remember hearing he was 38, very old back then to be drafted, and to leave his family and head off to war. I have a Japanese rifle he found in the Philippines. It was jammed, the bolt sticking up, and had a bayonet still attached, and I think no one else in the family wanted it. He said he'd give it to me, and when he died somehow it came north. Maybe in the US mail. Probably, actually! Some people hunted caribou and moose with re-purposed Japanese war rifles when i was young. Of course nobody knew that word, re-purposed, and just used them. 7mm, i guess, although I never had any shells myself. The idea was to get meat, and those guns did that. It's funny how straightforward we were back then--or I guess I mean how complicated we are now. Crazy, really, all the gadgets and stuff we need now to function. Or think we need. I constantly miss the times before computers--probably mostly because I'm terrible at using them--and honestly it wasn't very long ago there were none. That's the amazing thing. (Sorry, I don't mean to offend any young people used to or addicted to screens.) I just mean we did have a whole big world that somehow worked without computers, where we repaired our rifles while we told stories around the fire and helped each other with projects, sewed, hunted, skinned foxes, cut fish to dry--all somehow without super-essential stuff like email, texting instead talking, checking Facebook or who is trending or what our leaders have to say today. When I think back to being a kid, I remember projects--a lot of carving wood and antler and ivory, filing knives, building sleds. I remember my dogs, and the huge sudden freedom of being allowed to get a little team. I loved running dogs, and hunting on my snowshoes too, even though I was constantly wearing out those old frustrating leather binding. (Always carry spare string!) Snowshoes, too, had to do with that same freedom, to go places, be alive and out and hauling home food and wood and whatever I found. Still, we were trapped in our sod igloo a lot--buried under the snow, and with so many miles of wind and cold and darkness out there on the tundra. What that did do was make little things valuable--a new axe or piece of hardwood, or new book, was a big thing. And any visitor was extremely valuable, and exciting. Animals like moose and wolves and stuff were normal, but people were extremely valuable because there weren't very many. Down through the years I never have had much luck explaining that lack to anyone. I think some old people, lonely and alone, understand completely. Mostly I just gave up trying to explain what it's been like for me to spend extended periods not able to or just not interacting with other humans--for one reason or another. Often it's not been easy. Some times it's been illuminating, and I have felt nature, all so busy around me. Some times it's been very tough. Tough doesn't mean bad, though. That's a confusion nowadays. Tough means tough. Now, i'm kind of wondering how it's going out there in America for "normal" people, most who have always had quite a lot of humans in their days.

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©Seth Kantner
Alaska Wildlife Photography  |  Alaska Writer

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