Take a Step
There is a show that I started watching a while back, but kind of fell off the wagon with and haven’t watched it in quite a while. It’s called Alaska: The Last Frontier. This is a show on the Discovery Channel, but I started watching it on Amazon Instant Video (which, by the way, is my most favorite new thing. I mean, there is practically anything you would ever want to watch ready to stream on demand, pretty cool). This show resonates with me for many reasons, and my recent re-connection with the show has reminded me of all of those reasons.
This show highlights the lives of the Kilcher family. Granddad Yule Kilcher immigrated to the States from Switzerland in the forties to escape the impending domination of Europe by a man named Hitler. He wanted to find a sort of utopia that he could live a minimalist, self-sufficient lifestyle. He homesteaded over 600 acres in Alaska that is now the homestead occupied by his two sons, Atz and Otto and their families. Their entire existence in Alaska is basically boiled down to this: scramble through the 4 months of summer to accumulate as much red meat, fish, and vegetables you can to last you through the 8 develishly cold winter months. Otto herds cattle to provide meat, Atz, his son Atz Lee, and Otto’s son Eiven all hunt and fish for their meat. Most of the women keep vast vegetable gardens, there are chickens, a few goats, and even a couple turkeys each year. There is no running water other than the water running in the rivers. There are wood-burning stoves to keep their houses warm during the winter. Anything that needs to built is built using lumber from right there on the homestead. Anything they can use from right there at home, is used. Anything beyond that, which hasn’t been much at all, is bought locally or traded for with a neighbor.
Now, most people would watch this show and say, “These people are out of their freakin minds!” And I have to admit that my initial reaction was not far off of that. However, as I’ve watched the show and learned more about the reasoning for the things they do, I have learned to respect their lifestyle, and even envy it.
These people don’t have many of the things that we would call modern day necessities, but what I think is so amazing is that they are proving that these things maybe aren’t all necessities. They are making me re-examine my list of necessities versus my comforts versus my luxuries. Now, realistically speaking, we can’t all just decide that we don’t want running water anymore and disconnect our city meter and go rogue on something like that. The society that we have created and decided to live within holds us to certain things that it now needs to function as a whole, such as plumbing, electricity, etc. The thing is though, these people have taken a perspective of, “I’m going to take only what I need and nothing more.” Because anything more would be a waste.
One way this show resonates with me the most is as a hunter. There are scenes where the men go hunting for their meat for winter. As a relatively new hunter, I associate hunting with whitetail deer, wild hogs, and various birds and waterfowl. These guys are hunting black bear, moose, numerous birds, squirrels, and anything else that will meet their meat requirements for the winter. The one thing they always respect, though, is not to mame or injure an animal and not harvest the meat. They are very conscious of the loss of life that is required to provide them the sustaining of their own lives. They don’t hunt for trophies, they don’t mount the skulls of their kills on the walls, because they respect that that animal gave up it’s life so that they could continue their own. Something not to be taken lightly.
Lastly, there is a connection with the land that they live on, through cultivation of crops, through management of livestock that feed off that land, through harvesting game that live within the land, and through the overpowering elements of nature that govern their lives, these people live lives that respect the land and honor it by living among it and not consuming it.
It is a challenge to me to watch this show and think about the ways that I can be so wasteful in my life. As conscious as I try to be about having a consumerist, disposable mentality, and trying to live a life acknowledging my responsibility to the Earth, this family makes me feel totally inadequate. I watch them and wish I could make decisions to live such a lifestyle. Partly because, like this family, I also am a little bit crazy, but partly because they live with the land in a way that doesn’t abuse it, deplete it, or consume it. They live with the land in a way that honors it, acknowledges what it provides for them, and gives thanks to the land for it’s life-giving resources.
If everyone were to just take one step in their direction, we could make a huge impact on how our world is used. I’m trying to take another step. Take one with me.