It was recently suggested that I complement my blog entries with photos of the last frontier. Of which, I have none. Some might thing it's because I don't want to share such beauty. Others might think it's because I can't quite understand the nuances of a camera. Neither of those reasons are correct. I can't find my camera is the simple explanation. The beauty of Bethel is difficult to capture digitally is the more complex one.
As I've browsed the local grocery/department stores I've come across a variety of postcards. Picture perfect they are, to say the least. And completely inaccurate in regard to describing this place that borders on the edge of the world. An array of beautiful wildflowers. Moose trekking across a sunlit snowy day. All of the splendor of Alaska. Or so I've been told. Beauty in Bethel is of a rare and different breed. One that is so elusive it takes more than the click of a camera to capture it.
Imagine a single paved road. A shoulder resting to one side. The other, nonexistent and covered in a thick layer of silt. On a dry day, dust puffs are rampant if you walk along the stretch from one end of town to the other. Those walking are required to turn their heads when trucks rumble past them or find themselves with a cloud of dust swirling in their faces.
Wet days are both a blessing and a curse. Gone is the dust. In its place the dust has turned to the texture of wet sand. If you mix in a rain shower or two the wet sand beneath your feet turns to mud that clings to your shoes. Rubber boots are a must have. By the following day the sand is packed hard and resembles that of the shore of a far away beach. If your imagination is strong enough and the wind is blowing slightly you can almost pretend you're there. Only the chill in the air and thelack of the ocean spread out before you can bring you back from that reverie.
Above are the clouds. Even on sunny days there is a smattering of thick, white clouds that take on a cotton candy look. Hanging low, almost low enough to touch, you begin to wonder how you ended up on a part of the Earth that has such a low ceiling. You feel close to Heaven while at the same time so far away from the rest of the world. I've not yet seen angels dancing on those clouds, but I wouldn't be surprised if one day I do.
Mountains are off in the distance. Close enough to get to in a day's travel and so beautiful that I admire them every chance I get. They stand tall and proud out of the ground. reaching for those clouds and sometimes losing their beaks in the billowy whiteness. Looking out across the tundra, you can imagine walking in a straight line until you get to the base of them, reach out your hand and touch them. But as you walk, you realize that you are looking as far as your eyes can see. No mall intercepts your line of sight. Skyscrapers do not exist. And you realize just how far away you are. From the mountains. From civilization.
Ducks make trails behind them in small ponds and lakes. Dogs run out to greet you as you walk by and some lie down allowing you to pet them. Friendliness knows no bounds here. Pilots speak their presence with the sound of their propellers on small Cessna planes. Flowers with buds that look like cotton balls peak up through the sprouts of grass and the spongy like substance of the flat land. A rainbow of purple, white, and brown the tundra is ever-reaching. The river snakes its way from one village to the next; a highway in its own rite shepherding its passengers to and from.
To show pictures of Bethel is one thing. To pinpoint its beauty is another. An act that takes more than just the eyes, but one that takes the hear, the spirit, and the willingness to look at all the splendor the Creator has put into this small river village. To see the beauty of Bethel is to experience it firsthand.