A blog by Bill Hess

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At Abby's with Matu and Eileen, I watch young Connor Boskofsky Eskimo dance his way across a living room floor in Atqasuk. I bring logbookwasilla to a close. There will be no Squarespace 6 blog. I will make one additional post during the holiday football season.

This morning,  I did breakfast at Abby's so I could say farewell to my friends there until after Christmas. I arrived shortly after Abby's Saturday opening time of 9:00 AM to find the restaurant nearly full. Matu and Eileen sat at the usual table and I joined them. Soon, Eileen pulled up a video from Atqasuk of her grandson, Connor, Eskimo dancing to the drumbeat of young Arlene Kanayurak, taken and posted on Facebook  by mother Patti Kanayurak.

One will usually enjoy seeing the video of the son and grandson of friends, but this video rose beyond that. Once Arlene began to beat the drum, young Connor burst into his motions with energy, spirit and skill beyond his age - three years when I pictured him holding a drum at Kivgiq in my last Uiñiq, but maybe he has had another birthday by now.

I could not help but to smile, even to laugh with joy and pride as he energetically danced his way across the floor. It was absolutely wonderful.

I am pleased to have had this image present itself to me at this time. If I must shut down this Squarespace blog altogether - and I must - it is as perfect an image to bring it to a close as is likely to appear before me.

Consider the theme on my masthead: One photographer's search for community, home, and family. After I began to blog, I realized that my entire career as a photojournalist had been a search for the community that had eluded me as I grew up. My Dad was a most talented and brilliant man who loved his family and sacrificed much for us, but also a most restless man - I believe because of his combat experience in the air over Europe and North Africa in World War II. We never lived in any one community long before he gathered us up and moved us to another. The ground beneath my feet continually shifting, the people in my life flowed like a river right past me, just when I thought I might be getting to know someone, perhaps one who had greeted me as an enemy when I arrived, but in the battles that followed became my friend.

This is still the case, despite the fact that once we reached Wasilla, I planted roots here and gave my children the thing I had longed for - a community to establish friends and grow up in - albeit a very odd, strange and different kind of community into which I really did not fit - but then no one who lives here really fits here and that is kind of how we all wind up fitting here.

Yet, I had inherited my father's restlessness, magnified. I also had a strong desire to know the real Alaska. I cannot say the real Alaska is not in Wasilla, because Wasilla is in Alaska and anything that is in Alaska is part of the real Alaska, be it a hunter's tent pitched on the Arctic sea ice, a fish camp on the Yukon River, an oil well at Kuparuk, a fishing boat pulling out of Cordova, a dog team racing through Fairbanks, a dancer gyrating on a pole in Anchorage or wherever in Alaska such a pole might be standing, or a governor leading the state astray in Juneau.

It is all the real Alaska, but the real Alaska that called out most strongly to me is the one that is out there, off the road, occupied primarily by the original people of this land, whose ancestor's have lived off the abundance it gave to them for untold thousands of years. The only way I could experience that Alaska was with them. But a taniq does not just walk into Barrow, Wainwright, Nuiqsut, or any such place and go out with a whaling crew or to camp out with a living legend at the fish camp at Batzulnetaa. But I had a camera and, after a certain period of trial, a heart deemed to be in the right place to gain me entrance into these environments, so different from where I come.

Special. Treasure beyond the value of gold and material wealth.

And so I got out into this land - never getting to experience and know it as deeply and purely as I wanted - as deeply and purely as Matu here had known since birth - but getting to experience it and know it much better than I otherwise would have.

Out there, I found an Alaska home of a different kind than Wasilla, a home in which I felt community, where I came to feel warm and welcome wherever I would go, be the temperature 90 above or 60 below.

After more than 31 years of living in Wasilla, I still feel like a stranger as I wander through most of Wasilla's many familiar places. There are exceptions to this. My house, where we - mostly Margie - raised our children, where grandchildren now frequently grace our rooms with their energy, delights, love of trains and plains and yes, their sibling quarrels and rivalries - this is a very warm and comfy place to me; Metro Cafe, built by the late Scot Starheim as a stage for his wife, Carmen - and what a stage she has made of it; Abby's Home Cooking. Home is the right word, and by now a rather disparate group of regulars of various political persuasion, ethnicity, occupation and lack of occupation have come to make it a regular gathering place, one that feels like community, even family, to me.

So, this picture, taken of my friend from Barrow as a young boy dances in Atqasuk, seen at Abby's Home Cooking is an appropriate one to bring this blog to an end.

I had intended to explain the factors that led to my decision, even after I had already prepared my first post for my Squarespace 6 blog, but the text here is already getting too long. I have explained my reasons to Squarespace, and that is enough. I doubt they get it, but even so, I must go. Suffice it to say that, just as I thought the Squarespace nightmare was coming to an end and all would go smoothly there after this, the nightmare flared up to what I see as unjustifiable levels.

That said, from what I have seen, their Squarespace 6 platform is very good, but I my patience is drained. I have had it. Others coming into Squarespace new may have a better time.

Margie and I are about to leave on vacation to Arizona, with a trip into Utah. I was greatly looking forward to blogging all this by iPhone on the apparently greatly improve app and to take my readers on a tour of not only my heritage, but that of my wife, children and grandchildren - The White Mountain Apache Reservation, the Navajo Nation, the Wasatch front my polygamist Mormon ancestors settled upon.

I really want to blog this, but I cannot deal with Squarespace anymore. I have struggled with Squarespace for over five years now, always believing that the ultimate fix was just around the corner but every time I reach the corner and make the turn, I find only more hassles, problems and aggravations just beyond. I do not want to fight this battle anymore - especially on this vacation.

I do not want the first post I made for the Squarespace 6 logbook blog to just go to waste, so I have transfered it to this one. It immediately precedes this one. It does include some hints about the events that finally drove me to leave Squarespace behind, other than for archival purposes.

Right now, I am not prepared to speculate about what I might do online in the future. The bigger future of publishing is online, so I will surely do something. For the moment, while I will not go at it so seriously as I would have were I blogging it, as I travel, I will try to post one or two pictures a day on Instagram, where you can find me @billhess. It won't be the same as making a blog, but it will be something.

To all of you who have shared your lives with me and therefore with my readers,  I thank you. For all the readers who have encouraged and supported me I thank you.

When I was last in Barrow, I photographed a brother and a sister of good heart, big ambition a love of Eskimo dance and football and promised to put their picture and story on this blog. Given my schedule up there and the weak internet connection that slowed my blogging down I could not put it up while I was still on the Slope. I will still put it up - sometime between Christmas and New Year's - the holiday football bowl season. A most appropriate time, I think. Other than that, I am done with this blog. Permantly. There is no chance I will bring it back. I will keep it on permanent archive at the same address until I find a way to preserve it elsewhere.

The Iñupiat have a word I believe is most appropriate to this moment in my blogging history:


This is all I have to say.

For now.



Reader Comments (37)

Bill, I will miss your wonderful descriptive comments and your pictures. I wish you the best in the future and I do hope I will find you again online. I tried to go to your instagram page and was unable to accomplish this. Think of it as something related to your frustration related to Squarespace frustrations. I hope I will be able to figure it out later after I calm down from going in circles with instagram.

I truly enjoyed your stories of family, and travels, and India, and.....I will see your pictures and mrsgunka will let me know if and when you return to blogging, maybe through blogger.

Thanks for the travels!

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandi

You will be missed.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I agree with all the previous comments!
Thank you for giving us all a glimpse in your world, I will miss your posts about Margie and the rest of the clan.
Abby and Carmen too!
Bless you and your family Mr. Bill!
Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year!

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJust Me

I will sorely miss your blog. Ditto all that has been said above. Thank you for your pictures and words. They are priceless. Cheers!

December 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Thank you for all the wonderful stories and photos. I've been quietly lurking and enjoying your blog for quite some time. Have a wonderful vacation and I look forward to your next web incarnation wherever and whenever you create it. All the best to you and yours.

December 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLurker

I think that you are a photo journalist, and as a photojournalist, you will continue to take pictures. Those pictures will wind their way into the world. I will be looking for them. It is the way of things. Enjoy your holiday.

December 14, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

I echo what everyone else has already said, Bill - I'm so sorry about all the frustrations you've endured, and it saddens me to know that this blog will be no more. I hope so much you will find another blogging avenue through which to reach your adoring fans! Until then, take good care of yourself. Love and best wishes to you and your family, who have become virtual family to so many who have been touched by your images and words, myself among them.

December 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

I will miss you, and hope you find a better platform.

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Just popped in - Happy New Year - and WAAAAAAAH.

Miss your blog.

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Oh Mr. Hess.. It seems like a lot of things are ending.
I've said many times that I believe through this blog, I've gotten to see and know people in this great state that I never would have gotten the opportunity to do otherwise. You are a tremendous man with wonderful insight and amazing amazing talent. When I get back to Kansas.. I will display "Gift of the Whale" proudly.

Oh how I will miss checking in on this blog. I love your instagram feed. It's great. Keep that up please?? I need some link to my beloved Alaska when I move home.

Thanks for doing this.. and working so hard to keep it up.

A friend to the North.. Roxy

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

What holiday football season? When will you make that one last post?

January 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterwendy

Wendy, I got overwhelmed in the holiday season, in no small part because I rescued a cat in Arizona and got sick, too. Anyway, if all goes as I now hope, I will put that post up this coming Sunday.

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