Story last updated at 7/18/2013 - 1:11 pm
Let's face it; we all have seen that look from a distant uncle or a friend from the Lower-48. At first, Alaska intrigued them, then they started to ask questions about the cold, about the dark, and rapidly they wondered if we lived in igloos.
A pilot from Bethel felt the need to answer those questions. "Alaska! Up North and to the Left" did not start off as a book. It was only a bundle of loose papers written by a tired pilot after a long day of flying for a local airline. As the stacks grew taller with the stories and anecdotes about Alaska, Steven Swaks decided to put it all on a computer, just to keep his notes clean and organized.
The flights became chapters, but there was so much more to tell than an adventurous run here and there. There was Southwest Alaska and life in his not so famous corner of the U.S. He had a story to share and wanted to shine another light on this enigmatic state. Steven was thirsty to fill in the gaps and correct some misconceptions through his own story.
While living in California, life took him and his wife Lydia out of their sunny little lifestyle and threw them into the bush. The beginning was hard. No, they were not used to the cold, and no, they did not know about putting additives in the car gas tank in the winter. But they rapidly learned to appreciate the area and enjoyed the people.
While he flew planes, his wife Lydia worked for a rural hospital and occasionally visited villages. She met the elders and sat in the steam bath. They both learned to use the ulu knife and filleted salmon.
Without knowing it, they fell in love with the different lifestyle and with Bethel, of all places. Even if they were ultimately forced to leave Alaska, they never forgot about it. After years of work, a book came about to portray Alaska and their story.
The story is not about the main character and his wife, but about the bush and its people, about a different way of living. Not better or worse, simply different from the large cities, and unarguably more peaceful.
This book is an answer to so many questions from non-Alaskans. Above all, it is a farewell and homage to so many good people who they left behind in Alaska.
Steven Swaks is a licensed airline pilot and flight instructor who currently lives in Southern California with his wife, daughter, and a peeing machine of a canine.
"Alaska! Up North and to the Left" is now available with Amazon on paperback and Kindle format. Visit Steven Swaks on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter for news and updates. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org