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10/04/2005: "Noatak River/Suburban Crosswalks"

Layers of contrast. Last week on the Noatak River looking for caribou. Today I drove to a mega size grocery store, past a sprawling mall in upstate New York. I tripped a lot walking in the bumpy tundra outside Kotzebue. The silence was amazing. The vast openness. Sam, our guide shared smoked salmon strips, caribou jerky as well as store bought beef jerky as we traveled. I kept saying or chanting as I looked around, amazed, “we are in the Artic.” I can still almost taste the wild low growing blue berries and cranberries. I need no digital reminders or fragments to call up images of the river and the hills, the lichens, the antlers left behind by local hunters who wanted meat and did not care for trophy-like reminders of their kills.

I get out of my mom’s car, in the seemingly endless parking lot, and wonder if I should lock the car or not. I am not cued in. The cars whiz around the mall lot with such purpose, such cause. In the store, remodeled and expanded multiple times since I was a teen, the piles of fruit, the rows of vegetables, the intent of shoppers behind their carts unsettles me. And I am unsettled again as I drive back to my mom’s and pause ten seconds or so too long after a light turned green (I was noticing a young woman with her back turned, standing at a bus stop and wondering about her story). A woman in a red SUV behind honks at me. I have wasted her time; I have slowed her progress. Not long after I stop for some pedestrians in a cross walk. The car in front of me has hurried past them. Maybe laws don’t apply to people in a hurry, A young man sticks out his hand to remind me of his right as they venture into the street. I lean out the window, again holding up the red SUV, and shout, needing somehow to vent my discomfort with a cheer, “pedestrians rock.”