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Entries in Matu (5)


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.




We drink coffee and speak of history

Matu and Eileen showed up at Abby's right after I placed my order. During spring and summer, I would see them here frequently and we would often eat together but now it had been quite a while. We spoke mostly of history, how the Native side of it has pretty much been neglected in the history books students are taught by. Matu noted how so many of the early explorers and others who came to the Arctic and whose exploits are remembered, survived only because his Iñupiat ancestors rescued and kept them alive. This, he lamented, is not written in the history books.

Without specifically trying to, he gave me what I believe to be a great idea as I go about trying to reconstruct this little history project I am putting together for the North Slope Borough School District. He also sought to bolster my confidence and to assure me that, however complicated it might seem at the moment, he knows I will get something good together in the end. 


Text added at 9:59 AM. The Squarespace nightmare continues - Day 44 and counting.


This morning's Instagrammed breakfast with Lynx, consolidated - including the missing parts*

Breakfast got off to a good start. Lynx began to eat his toast and

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Breakfast with ruffians - he wore red cowboy boots










I haven't posted a long picture story for a long time. I will do so now. I begin with the

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Matu and the Shamrock hat at Abby's - Abby's new schedule means I can go for breakfast even when I want to eat early and on Monday's, too

Today I ate breakfast at Abby's with James Matumeak - "Matu" - and Eileen Boskofsky, friends from Barrow who recently moved south into this neighborhood. Matu did not really come to breakfast in the shamrock hat. Abby wore it to work. Somehow, Emily got it off of Abby's head and put it on James to protect him from all pinches on this St. Patrick's Day.

Friday morning was pretty hard for me. On my first day back from a trip, I always go to Abby's for breakfast, unless that day is Monday as that has been her day off. Trouble was, on this Friday I could not sleep much past 6:00 AM and I like to eat shortly after I get up but Abby's didn't open until 9:00 AM.

I wanted to eat there so badly, I toughed it out and the wait proved worth it.

Neither situation is going to be a problem anymore. Abby's has changed her schedule and she will now be open seven days a week, on weekdays from 7:00 AM to 8.:00 PM, Saturdays, 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM and on Sunday's 9-2.

Life will be better for me now.

Abby asked if I would post her schedule change and of course I said yes. I would do whatever I could to help Abby - just as I would Carmen at Metro.

On that day, Friday, when I went to the counter to pay, she took half of my breakfast. I guess that makes this kind of like a paid advertisement and sometimes I have been surprised to go to the counter and find a discount after someone has come in and told her they came try her cooking because they read about her on this blog.

Truth is, though, I would have run the schedule change no matter what, and would write about eating at Abby's no matter what. I don't do it for half off. I do it because Abby's is the best restaurant in Wasilla, especially for breakfast, in terms of both food and atmosphere. I want her to stay in business so I can keep eating there, even at twice the price.

Sometimes, Carmen won't let me pay for coffee, either.