Finding Hope

     I awoke late and hung-over on September 12, 2001, and I needed some hope.
     The previous day, while visiting Home Depot in my hometown of Anchorage Alaska, a man in the check-out line started babbling that someone had blown up New York City.
     He was just one of the paranoid nut-jobs who had moved to remote Alaska to get away from civilization, and had spent too much time alone in the forest, I thought to myself.
     Later in the morning I walked up to my coffee shop, to drink a cup and read the newspapers.  My little apartment had no television, and as yet no internet, so it was my only connection to the outside world.
     Everyone – including the counterperson – was standing around the big-screen television at the back of the shop.  I investigated.  Looking over shoulders and between heads I saw a skyscraper dissolve into the ground.
     Ignoring my body’s need for coffee, and following a bigger need, I walked the two blocks to Darwin’s Theory, and had a beer and watched the television hanging from the ceiling, which was normally silent in a loud bar.  But now the bar was silent and the TV loud.
     Some time later I went to The Pioneer and spent some time at the bar there, watching the continued fear emanating from New York, and the rest of the country.
     The rest of the day was spent wandering back and forth, from bar to bar, discussing with the rest of the drunks the end of the world, and how, here in Alaska, we would probably be safe for a little while.

     There are many ways people deal with stress, from drinking to exercise to reading to anger.  I wander away.  I go traveling to find some sort of peace.  A day, or a week, or a month of wandering, going somewhere new, is what usually helps in clearing my mind.
     On September 12, 2001 I decided to visit Hope, Alaska, to see if it could give me some.
     Hope is only about twenty miles south of Anchorage, but on the other side of the Turnagain Arm, which makes it a hundred mile round trip.  The Turnagain Arm is an inlet of water about forty miles deep, and was named by some explorers who were sick and tired of finding dead end inlets and so named this one in their exasperation.
     I, for one, was happy for this body of water, because it meant that the motorcycle ride south of Anchorage followed the winding coastline.  Water on one side, mountains on the other.  I would play leapfrog with the slow moving RV’s in the middle of summer, watching scenery, which was endlessly beautiful.  The green wooded mountains were sometimes covered with glaciers, and there were rivers depositing their summer run off into the Arm every few miles.  At these rivers, at the correct time of year, men in waders stood in the silent water and held the ends of their poles, waiting for fish to bite.
     Where the inlet ends, there is a choice to turn left and head to the town of Whittier for a boat tour of the glaciers, or more simply, a short jaunt to a small glacier, one which no one visiteds very often, but I loved it just for this reason.  I could climb – alone – over its packed snow, watch the water flow out from underneath into the grey stone filled stream and listen to it crack in the summer heat.
     But today I kept following the road, around the end of the Arm to find Hope.
     Hope was deserted.  There was no one on the streets, no one in the huge –built for RV’s – car park, no one on the beach as I slowly motored through town.  I parked my lonely motorcycle in the parking lot and went for a walk along the beach.
     This was the place where they found gold, the reason Hope is on the map, but today the wind blew evenly and a chill struck as the sun passed behind clouds, on this empty stretch of land.
     I did not walk very far, but climbed back onto the bike, knowing that I had been searching for something today, but that I had not found it.  The houses, which tried to look cute and rustic – something that people had built one hundred years ago – just looked pathetic today.  Feeble attempts to preserve a past for those with RV’s who wanted to venture out into the Hostile Wild of Alaska.  Most of the RV’s had satellite receivers on top, so they could watch their favorite TV shows while venturing into the wild.
     But I had to move again, these angry thoughts are not good to anyone, so I throttled the bike up to speed, and concentrated on moving fast, on leaning for the corners, on speeding so my brain is fully occupied with the movement, with the speed, so I don’t have to think about anything else.
     On my way back, I stopped at a rest stop, to pause for a moment to smoke a cigarette.  While there a rainbow came out, standing out from the green of the hillside behind it. I wished it helped, wished it made me feel better, but it did not.
     Over the next few years, as I lived my life, I paid attention to what was going on with my country.  The invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, the torture of prisoners, the outing of CIA agents by their own government, the contracts so the presidents friends could make billions on war profiteering.
     Ignoring our own city destroyed by a hurricane.
     Watching a friend cry on election night 2004 as she realized that her brother was now probably going to be sent to Iraq.
     The daily list of lies and cover-ups, the helping of the rich and their corrupt corporations, the demise of their mortgage house of cards, and the hatred of science over mysticism.
     Finally on election night 2008 I found a little hope.  Unknown that I had been searching for it for the past seven years; I sat and cried when CNN projected the win.
     That evening I went for a walk on the streets of Zacatecas, and people who knew me, knew that I was American, congratulated me on the results.  They actually walked up and said “Congratulations” in English, like I had won some sort of amazing victory.
     I never even told them my political affiliations.  I guess they saw the smile on my face.
     Now I know that he is a politician.  I know that he cannot make the world a better place single-handedly.  I know that he might fail.  I know that the world might continue in a downward spiral.
     But at that moment I felt like it would not, I felt like it might be better.  That we might talk to our enemies, rather than sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming.  That we might work for the better of the world, not just a few corporations.
     Seven odd years ago, when I went searching for Hope in Alaska, it eluded me.  But that November night in Mexico, gave it back.
     And I would like to finish with a quote from Andy Dufresne from the movie “The Shawshank Redemption”:
     “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things…”

Photographs:


One of the many glacier fed rivers around the Turnagain Arm Inlet.


Fishing on the north side of the Turnagain Arm.


The camera mounted on the motorcycle riding on the south side of the Turnagain Arm.


Riding the south side of the Turnagain Arm.


“The view looking west from the road leading to Hope, Alaska.


The same view in a different season.


A house in Hope, Alaska.


The view at a rest stop returning from Hope, Alaska.


My Motorcycle at the rest stop, returning from Hope, Alaska.

A rainbow, and motorcycle at the rest stop returning from Hope, Alaska.

2 Responses to “Finding Hope”

  1. lucinda says:

    You keep getting better.

  2. Kristine says:

    Powerful & moving.

    We were an oasis of Obama supporters here on our very upscale, Republican island.
    The day after the election results came in, I could not stop smiling ear to ear – all day long – and there were so MANY smiling people that day.

    A very Republican guy we know was also very happy – his thought was that if this election provided that much hope for so many people, even if it wasn’t his choice candidate, that it just simply cannot be a bad thing.
    Amen to that.