A blog by Bill Hess

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At Abby's with Matu and Eileen, I watch young Connor Boskofsky Eskimo dance his way across a living room floor in Atqasuk. I bring logbookwasilla to a close. There will be no Squarespace 6 blog. I will make one additional post during the holiday football season.

This morning,  I did breakfast at Abby's so I could say farewell to my friends there until after Christmas. I arrived shortly after Abby's Saturday opening time of 9:00 AM to find the restaurant nearly full. Matu and Eileen sat at the usual table and I joined them. Soon, Eileen pulled up a video from Atqasuk of her grandson, Connor, Eskimo dancing to the drumbeat of young Arlene Kanayurak, taken and posted on Facebook  by mother Patti Kanayurak.

One will usually enjoy seeing the video of the son and grandson of friends, but this video rose beyond that. Once Arlene began to beat the drum, young Connor burst into his motions with energy, spirit and skill beyond his age - three years when I pictured him holding a drum at Kivgiq in my last Uiñiq, but maybe he has had another birthday by now.

I could not help but to smile, even to laugh with joy and pride as he energetically danced his way across the floor. It was absolutely wonderful.

I am pleased to have had this image present itself to me at this time. If I must shut down this Squarespace blog altogether - and I must - it is as perfect an image to bring it to a close as is likely to appear before me.

Consider the theme on my masthead: One photographer's search for community, home, and family. After I began to blog, I realized that my entire career as a photojournalist had been a search for the community that had eluded me as I grew up. My Dad was a most talented and brilliant man who loved his family and sacrificed much for us, but also a most restless man - I believe because of his combat experience in the air over Europe and North Africa in World War II. We never lived in any one community long before he gathered us up and moved us to another. The ground beneath my feet continually shifting, the people in my life flowed like a river right past me, just when I thought I might be getting to know someone, perhaps one who had greeted me as an enemy when I arrived, but in the battles that followed became my friend.

This is still the case, despite the fact that once we reached Wasilla, I planted roots here and gave my children the thing I had longed for - a community to establish friends and grow up in - albeit a very odd, strange and different kind of community into which I really did not fit - but then no one who lives here really fits here and that is kind of how we all wind up fitting here.

Yet, I had inherited my father's restlessness, magnified. I also had a strong desire to know the real Alaska. I cannot say the real Alaska is not in Wasilla, because Wasilla is in Alaska and anything that is in Alaska is part of the real Alaska, be it a hunter's tent pitched on the Arctic sea ice, a fish camp on the Yukon River, an oil well at Kuparuk, a fishing boat pulling out of Cordova, a dog team racing through Fairbanks, a dancer gyrating on a pole in Anchorage or wherever in Alaska such a pole might be standing, or a governor leading the state astray in Juneau.

It is all the real Alaska, but the real Alaska that called out most strongly to me is the one that is out there, off the road, occupied primarily by the original people of this land, whose ancestor's have lived off the abundance it gave to them for untold thousands of years. The only way I could experience that Alaska was with them. But a taniq does not just walk into Barrow, Wainwright, Nuiqsut, or any such place and go out with a whaling crew or to camp out with a living legend at the fish camp at Batzulnetaa. But I had a camera and, after a certain period of trial, a heart deemed to be in the right place to gain me entrance into these environments, so different from where I come.

Special. Treasure beyond the value of gold and material wealth.

And so I got out into this land - never getting to experience and know it as deeply and purely as I wanted - as deeply and purely as Matu here had known since birth - but getting to experience it and know it much better than I otherwise would have.

Out there, I found an Alaska home of a different kind than Wasilla, a home in which I felt community, where I came to feel warm and welcome wherever I would go, be the temperature 90 above or 60 below.

After more than 31 years of living in Wasilla, I still feel like a stranger as I wander through most of Wasilla's many familiar places. There are exceptions to this. My house, where we - mostly Margie - raised our children, where grandchildren now frequently grace our rooms with their energy, delights, love of trains and plains and yes, their sibling quarrels and rivalries - this is a very warm and comfy place to me; Metro Cafe, built by the late Scot Starheim as a stage for his wife, Carmen - and what a stage she has made of it; Abby's Home Cooking. Home is the right word, and by now a rather disparate group of regulars of various political persuasion, ethnicity, occupation and lack of occupation have come to make it a regular gathering place, one that feels like community, even family, to me.

So, this picture, taken of my friend from Barrow as a young boy dances in Atqasuk, seen at Abby's Home Cooking is an appropriate one to bring this blog to an end.

I had intended to explain the factors that led to my decision, even after I had already prepared my first post for my Squarespace 6 blog, but the text here is already getting too long. I have explained my reasons to Squarespace, and that is enough. I doubt they get it, but even so, I must go. Suffice it to say that, just as I thought the Squarespace nightmare was coming to an end and all would go smoothly there after this, the nightmare flared up to what I see as unjustifiable levels.

That said, from what I have seen, their Squarespace 6 platform is very good, but I my patience is drained. I have had it. Others coming into Squarespace new may have a better time.

Margie and I are about to leave on vacation to Arizona, with a trip into Utah. I was greatly looking forward to blogging all this by iPhone on the apparently greatly improve app and to take my readers on a tour of not only my heritage, but that of my wife, children and grandchildren - The White Mountain Apache Reservation, the Navajo Nation, the Wasatch front my polygamist Mormon ancestors settled upon.

I really want to blog this, but I cannot deal with Squarespace anymore. I have struggled with Squarespace for over five years now, always believing that the ultimate fix was just around the corner but every time I reach the corner and make the turn, I find only more hassles, problems and aggravations just beyond. I do not want to fight this battle anymore - especially on this vacation.

I do not want the first post I made for the Squarespace 6 logbook blog to just go to waste, so I have transfered it to this one. It immediately precedes this one. It does include some hints about the events that finally drove me to leave Squarespace behind, other than for archival purposes.

Right now, I am not prepared to speculate about what I might do online in the future. The bigger future of publishing is online, so I will surely do something. For the moment, while I will not go at it so seriously as I would have were I blogging it, as I travel, I will try to post one or two pictures a day on Instagram, where you can find me @billhess. It won't be the same as making a blog, but it will be something.

To all of you who have shared your lives with me and therefore with my readers,  I thank you. For all the readers who have encouraged and supported me I thank you.

When I was last in Barrow, I photographed a brother and a sister of good heart, big ambition a love of Eskimo dance and football and promised to put their picture and story on this blog. Given my schedule up there and the weak internet connection that slowed my blogging down I could not put it up while I was still on the Slope. I will still put it up - sometime between Christmas and New Year's - the holiday football bowl season. A most appropriate time, I think. Other than that, I am done with this blog. Permantly. There is no chance I will bring it back. I will keep it on permanent archive at the same address until I find a way to preserve it elsewhere.

The Iñupiat have a word I believe is most appropriate to this moment in my blogging history:


This is all I have to say.

For now.



Reader Comments (37)

Jiminy Cricket -- I can totally understand your frustration but how can you leave? Say it isn't so!

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwendy

Oh, dear, this is very sad. Wish I had a magic wand to wave over you and make it all go away. No more school busses? No more trains, No more kitties on the computer or fish swimming in the tank. No more Margie and all the kids and grand kids who have become out extended family. All the Indian, Alaskan Native, Mormon histories we have come to love. It's been like going to a gallery everyday to see your photos. Where else would we have had the opportunity to go whale hunting or rescuing whales from the ice ridges? Having coffee breaks and studies of the barrista's or falling in love with Carman and her boy and loosing the love of her life. Religions of every type. Talking to horses and visiting the Grotto. Getting to see Shadow Guy on your rides/walks. Seeing a real baby in an Indian cradle board or sitting in the clothes basket or watching train wrecks before out eyes. Burying the precious pets in the back yard. This has become our family. Even the family in India and the weddings and customs and loosing them so tragically. The little ones grow up so fast. We will miss that. Going thru the surgeries and rehab. Will we know if you get that hernia fixed?

I hope you will find a way to keep this family together! Have a great trip. Take lots of pictures and come back and show them to us. You have thousands of pictures you haven't shown us yet and we will be waiting! Something bigger and better will come along and we can stay a family for a long, long time. We need you too!

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrsGunka

I say every thing Mrs Grunks said 1000 time over..it is so sad. I hope you find a way to come back to us, we will surely miss you and your family, especially those 3 little boys growing up.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlillibird

MrsGunka has said it all-We will miss all of you. The little boys will grow up so fast. Godspeed to you Bill and especially Margie, glad you are going to visit her home.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn`

Dang, I do not want to read this, but I respect you, Mr. Bill Hess, and want you to have some peace from the mess that is Squarespace. my immediate hop is that you get away from your many aggravations of the past several years trying to work through the messy parts of your blog here and have a great trip to Arizona and a lovely Christmas and New Year's. Then, maybe, somehow, some way, at a future time, I will know again the pleasures of your writing, photos, family, trips, visits, daily life, and all the rest that makes your work so very enjoyable.

I will miss you while you are gone and hold fast to my hope that I will find you once again some day when the various aggravations are overcome and joy returns to you in posting your commentary and photos of your very interesting life.

Merry Christmas, sir, and a happy, healthy, wealthy, and productive New Year!

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElsie

Oh this is too sad. I am so sorry the frustrations of posting to your blog have led to this decision, but I understand. I will continue to cast an eager eye for posts on Instagram and hope that an even cozier, more fitting home than that you found on Squarespace will present itself. Your work here on this logbook has been pure treasure for a woman who grew up the daughter of an Alaska highway engineer. Alaska was my childhood home. There is no beautiful day quite like a beautiful day in Alaska. Thank you for everything. Safe travels and every blessing to you and your family Mr. Hess. I am so grateful.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

@billhess the Instagram account is pretty cool. Not quite the same thing as a blog but each photo has a paragraph or more of text. And, the quality of the photographs seems much better than on SquareSpace. Much more richness of color.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwendy

I have nearly 3400 entries with pictures on blogger, and whatever few issues I had with them are long gone. Looks goodm, easy to use, and I add essays anywhere on my iPad. People like to despise blogger but I have not figured why I want to change a good thing. I wish you would reconsider.

December 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterconchscooter

Bill, as usual MrsGunka said it all so beautifully. She has a real talent with words and spoke everything I am feeling. Your family, friends & travels have become a huge part of my life, I don't think you realize how much you have blessed us all with that sharing. I do understand the burnout you are experiencing and hope that someday you will feel refreshed & ready to share again. You have enriched my life and I thank you beyond words for it. May you have a wonderful, peaceful life & if you can share how you come out with your hernia operation it will be much appreciated. I've been very concerned about that. THANK YOU & BLESS YOU ALL!


December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatzKids

This is truly sad news. MrsGunka comments express what I also feel. I've thoroughly enjoyed the sliver of life your words and photographs have conveyed. Thank you so much for the time and effort that you have put into your blogs. I'll miss tremendously your documentation of what life is like in the far far north. The whaling expeditions. The stories of Margie, your kids, their significant others, and of course your grand children. I hope your upcoming surgery goes extremely well and the recuperation time is very fast. I am definitely going to miss your blog. It's been my dessert for the day for many many days.

Thank you for so much!


December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim

You shall be missed - I so love your blog and your pictures - Do please come back soon.

This moved me so - as following my husband to his roots - which are not mind - I understand still feeling like a stranger
"After more than 31 years of living in Wasilla, I still feel like a stranger as I wander through most of Wasilla's many familiar places."

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTS

I am sad for me (and all of us who enjoy the place you have made here ) but I am happy for you, Bill.
Sending you and Margie and your extended family very best wishes.
Thank you for sharing your particular and special view of the world through your camera lens for so long.
And many, many thanks to all those who have shared their lives with us on these virtual pages here at logbookwasilla.

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlaska Pi

while you are enjoying Arizona I will be having withdrawal symptoms -- your blog is one of the constants in my morning computer check-in. I am so sorry that your frustrations have taken you to this point. But maybe while you're on vacation you will realize that not only do we need you, you may need us too! Hoping to find you back online one of these days. (and I second the above comment about blogger)

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkathy in KY

Oh, Bill -- I will so miss all of you. Reminds me of years ago when we moved far away from a neighborhood, and a neighbor I had morning coffee with over the years. We were an everyday part of each other's lives. We missed so much by not keeping in touch -- and now you are leaving us. We will remember the wonderful posts you gave us -- the photos, the stories, the travels you went on, the grandchildren (one of the earliest I remember was a photo of Kalib in yellow boots in a mud puddle). I learned so much about Alaska, India, even New York City from you and your wonderful photos.

You and your photos, your family, and your view of the world were a wonderful gift when Sarah Palin burst onto the national political scene. (And the only good thing that came out of all that!) Many of us decided then and there that Wasilla was also home to kindness and goodness, peace and serenity, beauty and love, along with the absurd.

Sending you love and a big cyberhug, not only for you, but for Margie, your children, and your grandchildren, Carmen and all the rest of the good friends. Take good care, hopefully your medical needs will be taken care of, and know that you will be sorely missed! I hope you will find a way to come back to us.....

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Voila! I just found you on Instagram from my computer:


I am one happy camper!

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

I hope Wasillalogbook will still be available for us to read and revisit. It is truly the best thing on the net. I save it up and look at a week's worth or more each time Every visit is a journey to a place where a wonderful family lives that is different from the place I live and the wonderful family I have. Different and the same, just like the whole world and all its people are different and the same. Take a much deserved rest from the net and other stresses and come back sometime in the future to gift us again with your very wonderful ordinary and most extraordinary observations and photos, Bill Hess.

Love to all your family and friends in Wasilla and AK from me and mine.

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterK James

A picture can be worth a thousand words.......I have appreciated your perspective since the "300" era........Wasilla will always be ""300" to me........I will continue the journey on Instagram.......thanks for all the sharing past, present and future.....Surf on Mr. Hess!!

December 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMGSoCal

Wendy. Yes, it is so. But until I figure out my next step, you can follow me on Instagram. It is not the same as blogging and I am limited to single-picture posts and the picture appears smaller and my images become as drops of water in a great, rushing, river of endless images, but to one degree or another I intend to keep an Instagram presence.

Mrs. Gunka. Thank you. I wish you had that magic wand, too. Know that comments such as yours and the others here make help me to believe that the effort has been for the good.

lillibird. I believe it is a cinch that one way or another, in one form or another, I will be back. Thank you.

Ann: Thank you. We are very close to her home now. Phoenix. After taking the red eye, we were too tired to drive up and so spent the day here (sleeping) will spend the night and drive up some time tomorrow.

Elsie, thank you as well and Merry Christmas to you, ma'am, and a healthy, happy, productive New Year also.

Kelly. yes. There is beauty wherever one goes, but in Alaska there is just something I have found nowhere else..Glad I could help you keep it close.

Wendy: Glad you found it. The drawback is that the pictures appear smaller and are swept up in the flow of the great river I mentioned above...

Conchscooter, you have done very well with blogger. Not immediately, but sooner or later I will begin an exploration of the other possibilities out there and will give blogger a closer look. One potential I see in Squarespace 6. had everything came togethe without all this aggravationr, is the ability to create a coordinated site incorporating not only blog, but home, gallery, portfolio, market pages and etc. Too bad it has to come with such a high aggravation factor.

Katz - You are right about MrsGunka and her talent and you if I have done all that, you are also right in that I don't really realize it. Thank you.

Jim - I've enjoyed have you around. I intend to keep documenting all those things I have been documenting, so it should still be out there, Instagram and elsewhere.

TS Thank you, and know that somehow all us strangers have our place too, even if it be a strange place.

Thank you, Alaska Pi, not only for your comment here but your contribution out there in the online world...

Kathy, thank you as well and again maybe you can ease those withdrawal symptoms a bit by coming to Instagram. I am already experiencing withdrawal myself.

Nancy. Thank you and a big cyberhug back to you and, Yay! See you on Instagram!

K James - It will. I intend to keep it up as an archive indefinitely, although if I ever figure away to do it without messing everything up, I may move it out of the Squarespace roman to eliminate the fee...

December 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterLogbook - Wasilla - Beyond

MGSoCal: It appears your comment must have come in while I was preparing mine and then I did not see it until afterward. Thank you for your encouragement all these years...

December 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterLogbook - Wasilla - Beyond

I, too, have been following since the "300" days. I have made very few comments, but I have loved watching the family grow, watching the kitties take care of you, thinking healing thoughts for you and Margie during your rough periods.

I will miss all of this, but I understand your need.

Take care, and somehow let us all know if you find a new "home" on the web.

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAkMom

Bill I too will miss your blog, but I can sympathize with your frustration. I really hope you can find another platform, because I love your writing as much as I love your pictures. How will we know what mischief those horses are trying to get you into? Instagram will have to do for now, but we need more than that!

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGenny in Maine

I've enjoyed your posts, and I've learned so much about native culture. Thank you so much! (I hope you change your mind and decide to return to blogging soon.)

December 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeanine

Bill I can only echo the others. You will be missed but I know you'll find your way back to us. I hope you and Margie have a wonderful time away. But please don't let those little boys get too big before we see them again. Hugs. ManxMamma

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Thanks for the instagram link! Great! Margie sleeping on the plane is my favorite. She looks so content. Try to sleep Bill. Click on any picture and there is comment. Thank you!

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrsGunka

Thank you, Mr Hess, for sharing your family, friends, life and community with us.
Merry Christmas and I hope you have a Happy New Year's Day.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjuicyfruityyy

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