Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of European cities I am thinking of McCarthy:
Alaska, Alaska, Alaska booms Screamin' Bob from the microphone of Open Mic Night in McCarthy. The bar is packed and buzzing with chatter and laughter. The dance floor is full and the music carries late into the night. The season is coming to a close and everybody meet at the Saloon for one last drink infused with community spirit. Only weeks ago McCarthy was bustling with life; summer Alaskans from Anchorage mingling with Californian backpackers, Midwestern artists, Czech students, German couples, Israeli families, Australian elderly on a tour and one Irishman who came for three days in June and never left. But now the streets remain quiet. The log cabins that dot the woods along the valley empty as well. The dogs until recently running around McCarthy or resting in the middle of the road unfazed by the few passing cars have followed their owners. Only the old beat-up trucks in the front yards stay. Or new beat-up trucks as it does not take long in Alaska to wear out your transportation, be it a car or a pair of shoes.
I wonder if nature breaths a sigh of relief as it watches everybody to leave, the rowdy young, the tourists with bear bells, the groups with guides, the Park service and their divisions, lines and demarcations. The land belongs to itself again and the handful of year-round residents belong to the land.
In late September, the silence is immense and the landscape powerful in its stillness; the leaves whisper as the breeze moves gently through the branches, a squirrel runs around, a few birds chatter. A bear moves soundlessly through the forest. Our eyes meet. He holds the gaze and then continues on with his quest for food. The moose is shy and looks away quickly. So mysterious and surreal when she emerges from a thick fog at dusk, yet exposed in broad daylight, she is suddenly awkward despite her size, like she grew too quickly and is still learning to walk on thin long legs. A few branches break then quiet again. Only the sounds of water remind me that the land is living. Currents run in the stream. Gentle rain caresses the earth and my face, soft drops cling on the cabin’s metal roof before they gather strength and turn into heavy streams that hide mountains for days behind a curtain of clouds. When the clouds lift in soft gray mist they reveal a layer of fresh snow on the peaks. The glaciers crack and water sings underneath the layers of ice. Drops fall in the ice caves, loud and clear like tones of music. The land is living, breathing, dancing to its own melody.