A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
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Wasilla is the place where I have lived for the past 29 years - sort of. The house in which my wife and I raised our family sits here, but I have made my rather odd career as a different sort of photojournalist by continually wandering off to other places to photograph people and gather information, which I have then put together in various publications that have served the Alaska Native Eskimo, Indian and Aleut communities.

Although I did not have a great of free time to devote to this rather strange community, named after a Tanaina Athabascan Indian chief who knew Wasilla in the way that I so impossibly long to, I have still documented it regularly over the past quarter-century plus. In the early days, my Wasilla photographs focused mostly upon my children and the events they participated in - baseball, football, figure skating, hockey, frog catching, fire cracker detonation, Fourth of July parade - that sort of thing. 

In 2002, I purchased my first digital camera and then, whenever I was home, I began to photograph Wasilla upon a daily basis, but not in a conventional way. These were grab shots - whatever caught my eye as I took my many long walks or drove through the town, shooting through the car window at people and scenes that appeared and disappeared before I could even focus and compose in the traditional photographic way.

Thus, the Wasilla portion of this blog will be devoted both to the images that I take as I wander about and those that I have taken in the past. Despite the odd, random, nature of the images, I believe they communicate something powerful about this town that I have never seen expressed anywhere else. 

Wasilla is a sprawling community that has been slapped down hodge-podge upon what was so recently wilderness of the most exquisite beauty. In its design, it is deliberately anti-zoned, anti-planned. In the building of Wasilla, the desire to make a buck has trumped aesthetics and all other considerations. This town, built in the midst of exquisite beauty, has largely become an unsightly, unattractive, mess of urban sprawl. Largely because of this, it often seems to me that Wasilla is a community with no sense of community, a town devoid of town soul.

Yet - Wasilla is my home and if I am lucky it will be until I grow old and die. Despite its horrific failings, it is still made of the stuff of any small city: people; moms and dads, grammas and grampas, teens, children, churches, bars, professionals, laborers, soldiers, missionaries, artists, athletes, geniuses, do-gooders, hoodlums, the wealthy, the homeless, the rational and logical, the slightly insane and the wholly insane - and, yes, as is now obvious to the whole world, politicians, too.

So perhaps, if one were to search hard enough, it might just be possible to find a sense of community here, and a town soul. So, using my skills as a photojournalist and a writer, I hope to do just that. If this place has a sense of community, I will find it. If there is a town soul to Wasilla, I will document it. I won't compete with the newspapers. Hell no! But as time and income allow, it will be fun to wander into the places where the folks described above gather, and then put what I find on this blog.


by 300...

Anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Wasilla. This encompasses perhaps the most wild, dramatic, gorgeous, beautiful section of land and sea to be found in any comparable space anywhere on Earth. I can never explore it all, but I will do the best that I can, and will here share what I find and experience with you.  

and then some...

Anywhere else in the world that I happen to get to, such as Point Lay, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Serenki, Chukotka, Russia; or Bangalore, India. Perhaps even Lagos, Nigeria. I have both a desire and scheme to get me there. It is a long shot. We shall see if I succeed.

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A wild reading of Dr. Seuss gives way to even wilder antics

Here is Kalib, the night before I got sick, before his mom fell and hurt herself in a minor but painful way, practicing his WWE professional wrestling moves upon his dad. Yet, this photo session did not begin in so wild a fashion.

Well, verbally the beginning was pretty wild, for it took place here, with dad reading Dr. Seuss to little Kalib. It was a real tongue-twister, and for awhile Kalib was quite absorbed.

Kalib decided that he wanted to take a more active role in the story.

Now he uses his dad for a diving platform.

Off he dives!

The dive turns into a full-fledged somersault!


Oops! Mom is out of the shower. Time for the acrobatics to end; time for a tiny boy - who was a baby such a short time ago - to go to bed.

Kalib gets a kiss from his mom.

He has a bedtime snack. As he lay there, a CD of children's music softly played and one of the songs was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It reminded me of a dream that I had, back when Jacob was a teenager. In the dream, he was a small, small, boy - a little older than Kalib is right now, but not much.

The dream was accompanied by a song sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, but the words were different, though precisely what they were I cannot remember now, although I believe that I wrote them in my journal. They were something like, "where is Jacob, where is Fred?" Jacob's middle name is "Frederick."

In the dream, Jacob was dressed in the same kind of PJ's that Kalib wears here. He stood on the floor, a slightly grumpy look on his face, and he reached out and upward.

I awoke, devasted, feeling a sense of terrible loss, because that tiny boy that I had seen in my dream no longer existed and I could not ever spend even a single second with him again. I hadn't been with him enough when he had been that age. Always on the go. But even if one is a 100 percent, stay-at-home, parent, it is impossible to ever spend enough time with your young children. I wondered about the God who made life this way, to bestow treasures upon us but to impose severe limits on the time that we are allowed to hold on to them.

And yet, here he is, that little boy, in front of me all over again. Now I see that it all just keeps recycling itself.

I still wonder, though. Kalib won't be little long. Yet, another little person will soon come along. And soon I will be old and dead and gone. But damn, I am enjoying this little boy right now!

I had meant to come back and photograph Kalib after he had fallen asleep and the sippy cup had been taken away, but I got distracted. 

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Reader Comments (10)

I love your musings. They bring me joy every day.

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Your dream about little boy lost brought tears to my eyes.

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

He is so adorable! And his parents, you can see the love there. Such a great post!

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

Thanks again for a minute of wonder.

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Nancy

Hi Bill! I came over from Pioneer Woman. I saw your comment there and decided to leave you a comment here where you'll be more likely to see it. If you want to find out what Ree was talking abut on her post, just click the link at the very end of her post. Just click on the word Ethel and you will hear an audio clip of Ree doing her Ethel Merman impersonation. Hope this helps.

Nice blog, by the way.

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

I glad you caught that action of Kalib's wrestling pose.

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkavitha

Hi Bill,

You reminded me of all the dreams I've had for the last few months. The wonder of Little Calvin or maybe as you said a Calvinarya...how I would shower them with all my love...Oh! What a feeling!

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

ManxMamma: Thanks! Such a statement brings me joy.

Debby: Yes, and from your new post I see that you feel the same kind of thing.

Mikey: Thank you.

Grandma Nancy: You are welcome.

Ann: I clicked Ethel and I saw. Thanks. Hope you come back, sometimes.

Kavitha: Yes, and I'm glad you're glad. Always good to see you here.

Sandy: Whenever little Calvin or Calvinarya shows up, the half-a-world that usually separates us must somehow close for a time, so that I can photograph the three of you - mom, dad and the little mischief-maker, together, and catch all that love.

And how about that, two cousins from Bangalore, dropping comments one right after the other.

November 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

As I mentioned on Debby's post, which was itself a response to your post, I believe there should be a Law that parents of adult children can have their child(ren) back at toddler age for 24 hours, once every year. It should be a law, I say! And the second law should be that when your children leave home they must reside within a 150 mile radius. Sigh!!!

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWhiteStone

>>I wondered about the God who made life this way, to bestow treasures upon us but to impose severe limits on the time that we are allowed to hold on to them. <<

It leaves me in thoughts so deep.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVijay

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