Start thinking about the topic by considering these questions: How do writers make a connection between the exterior landscape of Alaska and their internal psychological or emotional landscapes? Why is landscape such a prominent feature in Alaska writing?
Nancy Lord’s story “Volcano” is an excellent example of how external landscapes can reflect those that are internal. The story focuses on a woman name Julia who is residing on a homestead. A nearby volcano erupts, blanketing her home in ash and cutting her off from civilization. The electricity cuts out, her animals begin to die, and time starts to feel like it’s standing still. The empty time and complete silence start to affect Julia’s ability to wait patiently for help to find her.
Julia’s situation is one that all Alaskans should respect. We are a state secluded from the rest of the country. We are difficult to reach, supplies take a while to get here. When 9/11 occurred, I was living in a rural village. The local airstrip was closed, supply shipments were halted. The population panicked and cleared the shelves of the local grocery store. As Alaskans, we understand that in an emergency we are at the mercy of nature; we are alone. Isolation is dangerous in Alaska. We need support, emotional and physical, from our neighbors to survive. Those that don’t have that, and are unprepared, don’t last long here.
Julia acknowledges this. She knows that she is alone and cut off. The ash is moving still falling thickly and her animals are already beginning to succumb. Julia understands that she has little time left. She chooses to sit calmly in her kitchen waiting for the end. While electricity is restored, a sign that things will return to normal, Julia is left irate with her isolation. In her case, isolation is not just physical but a state of mind.