A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
All support is appreciated
Bill Hess's other sites

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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Jobe's final moments as the "baby of the family"; a lynx gives a most significant gift to my new grandson

Here he is, Jobe, in his final day as the baby of the family. For one-and-a-half years he has occupied this spot. Throughout this time, he has known nothing but total adoration from virtually every adult that he has ever met. At home and elsewhere, as the cutest and youngest person in the group, he has been the center of attention and that attention has all been good attention.

Jobe thinks that is just how life is - something that takes at the center of affection, attention and adoration.

While I am confident that much affection, attention and adoration will continue to come his way, an event is about to take place that will soon remove him as the central focus point of adoration, affection and attention. Another cute person will soon occupy that cherished but briefly held spot.

At the very moment this picture was taken, his mother was in the hospital in labor and had been for over seven hours. I had gone into town to help Margie take care of Jobe and his brother until his new sibling could be born. Margie and I have just picked the two of them up from daycare. We will walk home with them, as only a few hundred yards separate their daycare center from their house.

Before we reach the house, we stop at the park, where Kalib and his grandma played on the teeter totter. Very recently, Kalib and his mother were walking down the path in the space between the first picture and this one, when Kalib stopped to point out that he had just spotted what he called a "kitty." 

He wanted to pet the kitty.

Lavina looked and was shocked to see a lynx standing about 20 feet away. The lynx hissed at them and then dashed into the trees.

Anchorage is our big city. This is the kind of city Anchorage is.

Melanie had joined us. She watched as Kalib climbed a rope ladder.

Jobe slid down the slide.

At the house, Rex and Kalib played with toy trains as we all waited for the call that would tell us it was time to head to the hospital.

Eventually, my effervescent, ever pleasant, good-natured little grandson grew tired and irritable. It was time for bed. Margie gave him a bath and, with help from Lisa, I trundled him into his jammies. He resisted all the way.

Margie took him into the bed where he usually sleeps with his parents. She would spend the night with him there, beneath the photo of one of his parents' wedding kisses.

Rex left with his girlfriend Courtney and her mother Janet. I returned to the living room to wait for that call with Lisa, Melanie and Charlie. Martigny was there, too, coming toward me from Lisa, who adores all cats.

As we visited at the kitchen table, Melanie and Charlie pondered a grapefruit. We all hoped for a girl. In theory, if this baby were not a girl, then this would end our chance at getting a granddaughter and a niece from Lavina and Jacob as they plan to stop at three.

After a few hours, it began to appear that the big event would not happen for awhile.

Everybody went home, leaving Margie and me alone with Kalib and Jobe.

I slept on the couch, but I didn't sleep good. I was still awake at 1:30. After I finally fell asleep, I woke often, with strange dreams and visions playing in my head. The details have gone soft, but the feelings remain.

I was a bit worried. Lavina had gone into the hospital at about 10:00 AM, after her water broke. At about 10:00 PM, her contractions had suddenly stopped. A womb without water is a womb that cannot long be lived in. This baby needed to get born.

At 5:30, I awoke for what I knew was for good.

I went into the master bedroom and laid down on the bed with the sleeping Margie and the sleeping Jobe. Soon, I got a text from Lavina. We then spent some time texting back and forth. As she always is, she was being brave and tough and pleasant, but she did confide that she did not know why it was happening this way, and said she was almost at a breaking point.

If the baby did not get out of the womb within 24 hours of the water break, then she would likely be facing a C-section.

Still, she inquired with concern about Margie, who had spent a couple of days not feeling well, and she gave me instructions on getting the boys to daycare in time for breakfast once they awoke. After we had accomplished that, she wanted us to come and visit.

After we dropped the boys off, Margie and I headed over. The delivery room had been darkened. Quiet - except for the sound of the baby's heartbeat, broadcast and amplified through the monitor, mixed with the sounds of pain and hard breathing that Lavina would make every time a contraction would hit - yes, she was having contractions again - about two minutes apart.

The doctor moved the C-section time from 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon - but if that baby was not out or coming out at noon, then it would be a C-section delivery. Despite the contractions, Lavina did not feel that vital urge to push.

The day before, I had dropped my Canon 5D Mark II off at the repair shop to get the sensor cleaned before I left for New York. I had only my Canon 1Ds MIII with only one lens, a wide angle. It is the most expensive camera that I ever bought but it is also a big, bulky tank-like thing and it clicks loudly.

It does not do nearly as well in low light as the 5D. I decided not to worry about pictures until the baby was born, because I did not want to disrupt the room with loud, clicking, shutter noises. So I sat down and made myself quiet, but I did take this frame. This is Lavina's good friend Natalie, Maid of Honor at her wedding. Nat has assited Lavina with the births of all her baby's.

Nat knows how to massage her aches and pains, how to help keep her spirits up. She is quiet and unobtrusive almost to the point of invisibility, but she is there and Lavina knows it.

Jacob, too. He is there. Lavina knows it.

Soon, the clock passed 11:30. No baby. Still no urge to push. The C-section began to appear inevitable.

I believe it was already a few minutes past 11:40 when Lavina got a sudden and painful urge to push - and she let us know it. The attendant nurse had stepped out for a minute. Lavina's doctor was on another floor. The nurse was summoned., appeared almost instantly, then summoned other nurses and the doctor. In just a moment, the other nurses had joined her. The doctor headed for the elevator, but something apparently happened with that elevator that slowed her descent.

The nurses moved with amazing rapidity and intensity, moving apparatus here, there, adjusting the birth light. They knew this baby was coming - fast. They could not wait for the elevator to bring the doctor. They had to act - now.

I kept my vision discretely turned away from the spot of birth. Suddenly, I heard a tiny but wonderfully strong voice cry out in pain and shock.

Then I was crying; suddenly, I was laughing; laughing and crying. Suddenly, there was a baby in front of me; crying out loud, the blood of new life upon it. My tears blurred my vision, my laughter unsteadied my hand; I took the picture, anyway.

Who is this nurse that delivered my third grandson into this world, as his doctor was trapped elsewhere by an elevator?

I don't recall seeing her before this event happened, nor do I recall seeing her after my new grandson was safely delivered and cleaned up.

Whoever you are, nurse, I thank you. With all my heart and soul, I thank you.

You have my eternal gratitude - and the gratitude of everyone in this family.

Grandson # 3 was born at 11:47 AM - after his mom had been in labor for approximately 26 hours.

And here I am, still complaining about how exhausted I am.

He was a couple of weeks early and weighed five pounds, 13 ounces and was 18.5 inches long.

Although we did not know, we had all been hoping for a girl. Jacob and Lavina had a number of girl's names lined up, but were short on boy's names.

It would be awhile before grandson #3 would get his name.

Mother, father and baby.

Soon, Rex, who had been working on the construction of another part of Providence Hospital, joined us.

Everyone, including me, took turns holding our new grandson. Here he is, with his grandma. She just met him, yet, already, she loves him as dearly as she loves anyone who ever lived.

He has a name now:

Lynxton Dischinn'd Hess.

Lynxton - in honor of the lynx who surprised his mother shortly before he was born.

Dischinn'd - the name of the White Mountain Apache clan that his grandmother, father and all his aunts and uncles belong too.

It is the way of both the Apache and Navajo to go with their mom's clan and tribe, so Lynxton will be of the Lo'kah, and will be enrolled in the great Navajo Nation - home of a major branch of the Dene, whose numbers reach into northern Canada and Interior Alaska.

Apaches are also of the larger Dene, but they call themselves, "N'dee."

Navajo, Apache, Athabascan - these are all names placed upon them by other people; just as "Eskimo" was placed upon the Iñupiat and their other Inuit relatives.

Soon, a medical technician came in to do a blood draw. Lavina could not bear to see the flesh of her son get poked, nor to hear the sound of him crying out in pain, so she plugged her ears, closed her eyes and pulled the sheet over her face.

Little Lynxton didn't cry much at all - a short little blast with the first poke, none that I remember with the subsequent pokes.

Jacob feels the tiny body of his new son...

...then checks out his tiny hand...

...and then his tiny feet.

Dad is pleased.

Margie and I then returned to Jacob and Lavina's house at somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 PM, exhausted, ready to nap.

Margie lay down to sleep on the short arm of the "L" shaped couch. Above her hung a picture that I had taken of Kalib on the first day of his life, alongside the Apache cradleboard his Aunt LeeAnn had made for him. Lynxton will be carried in a Navajo cradleboard, made by his Aunt Cori.

You will see pictures of it in the future.

I lay down on the long arm, but, exhaused though I was, I could not go to sleep.

So I got up, went outside, sat in the car and listened to the radio - first, Terri Gross on Fresh Air, followed by All Things Considered.

I wish I could fall asleep and stay asleep the way Margie can. I think my life would be a lot easier then. I think I would accomplish more and do better work. I might even be able to exercise some business sense. Perhaps we would not be in the continual jam that we always are... if only I knew how to sleep.

To be quite honest with you, given this continual blur of exhaustion that I live in, I don't know how I accomplish anything at all.

At 4:20 PM, I headed toward the camera shop to pick up the 5D. On the way back, I stopped at daycare to get Kalib and Jobe.

I saw Jobe first, in the playground on the other side of the fence. He saw me and came running to the fence.

His life had just undergone a change of gigantic significance, but he had no idea of it.

Yet, when I look at this picture, I almost think that, somehow, even if he did not know, he had a sense of it.

He had been living with a pregnant mother for almost nine months. He probably picked up more than we might think.

Little people are smart.

Jobe is very smart.

I picked up Margie and the four of us went to the hospital, where Lavina had been moved from the delivery room on the first floor to a room on the fourth.

Jobe and Kalib got their first look at their new brother.

Lavina then handed the not-yet named Lynxton to his Aunt Melanie, and took both of her other babies into her arms.

Then each got some alone time with their mom.

Lisa was there, too.She had held him before we arrived, but I did not get to witness it.

After Lisa got up, Kalib came over. At first, he refused to look at or further acknowledge his new brother.

Then his dad coaxed him to come and give a touch. He seemed to like it.

Jobe, however, had taken a look and it seemed that was enough for him. He was brought over, but no one could convince him to look at or acknowledge his little brother.

When his dad brought his brother close, Jobe tried to push him away. I am not worried, though. It is hard to give up a position so sweet as baby of the family. Kalib did not want to yield that position to Jobe, but he did. And Kalib loves Jobe.

He does experience some natural sibling rivalry and jealousy, but nothing that strikes me as serious.

I am confident Jobe will love his younger brother.

Still, I do worry a bit about his position as the middle brother.

His Uncle Caleb was the middle brother in our family, between Jacob and Rex, and often found it a tough place to be.

Here he is, our third grandson, named for the lynx that suprised his mother: Lynxton Dischinn'd Hess.

I don't know what time I drove home. Seven PM? Approaching 8:00?

I was exhausted, wonderfully happy and yet painfully sad. Wonderfully happy for the obvious reason; painfully sad because I am headed to New York City tomorrow. I have been greatly looking forward to that trip and still am, but suddenly it has become the event that is going to prevent me from seeing my new grandson again until sometime in early October - and then only briefly because I must go north almost immediately afterward.

I do not know how long I will be gone then - perhaps a week, perhaps a month.

My little grandson will grow rapidly in my absence. He will change significantly - and I will miss it.

This knowledge left me feeling down - made me wonder if maybe it is time for me to forsake my wild, wandering, ways, settle down and devote myself to my grandchildren.

Many people my age have retired, many will retire within just a few years of the age I now am.

I ran into one of my retired friends at Walmart the other day. He had worked fulltime for what over the years has been my biggest client. He is three years older than me. He looked happy and fit, relaxed; he told me how great it was to be retired, how he could now afford to run his own bed and breakfast business and soon planned to start a furniture shop with his sons. He was really enjoying his grandchildren.

It didn't really matter if his businesses made money; he had enough to live on.

But I can't retire. For one, I have been a lousy businessman and have no means to retire. Furthermore, I have never wanted to reitre. I have too much work left to do.

Yet, a huge amount of that work could be done right here, at my house, in Wasilla, less than an hour's drive from my grandchildren.

But that ain't gonna to happen. I can't afford to stay home. And at my core, as placid as I may appear on the surface, I churn in perpetual restlessness and wanderlust.

One day, I will quit wandering. On that day, or perhaps the next, I hope someone pitches me into the creamatorium and then casts my ash to the wind.

But maybe I am wrong in this long-held notion.

I missed so much of my children's growing up. Maybe I should be there for my grandchildren.

Maybe... maybe... nah... can't happen... well, maybe... but if so, how?


View images as slides

I leave for New York City early tomorrow (Friday) morning, so I will not post again prior to Saturday, possibly even later.

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Reader Comments (32)

Welcome to the world Lynxton! What a wonderful name and for such a handsome little baby! Congratulations to everyone on the new arrival!

My oldest was a month early and he too was 5lbs 13 oz, but 19". He is now a senior at Colony....seems just like yesterday we were welcoming him into the world as you all have welcomed Lynxton.

Thanks for sharing this special moment Bill.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisaJ

Congratulations to you and your family! Another pretty, pretty baby! Lynxton is a really terrific name. I can't believe how much Jobe has grown this summer. He has turned into a little boy from a baby even faster than Kalib did!

Good luck in New York.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermocha

Congratulations to the entire family on the new addition.

Safe travels, Bill!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Nancy

Congratulations on your new grandson! What a welcome addition to your wonderful family. Safe travels in your journeys.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

So good to hear of the birth of Lavina & Jacob's new addition! His name is very special!!!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCyndy E

Welcome, Lynxton Dischinn'd Hess, welcome !
Blessings to mama who got you here and all your family, big and small.

Wonderful changes, big changes, beautiful, beautiful changes and some things will stay the same.
And that is good too, Granpa Bill.
Whatever you are and however you are is part of the richness which made all this happen, put all these people together. That is a good thing even though it includes the ups and downs of seperation and worrying about what it is you should be doing.
Best wishes to you all!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlaska Pi

Congratulations! What a beautiful baby boy. You are truly blessed :)

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMikey

Congratulations and welcome! All will be fine, even your wanderings, Bill!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentereva

Congrats Frostfrog.
I hope you have a wonderful experience in New York.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGordon Lafleur

happy birthday LYNXTON

oime...FROSTFROGY...may the spirits of health ,happiness and peace
BE with you and your family

all the rest will come...

LOVE you mate...

from Greece
your civi

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentera civilian-mass audience

Congratulations to Lavina and her family. What a beautiful baby boy. I'm glad everything turned out so well. What a miracle!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShoshana

All the best wishes to your family and the new little guy…

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThodoris

:) So glad to hear. My love to the new baby of the family!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVijay

Congratulation and welcome Lynxton Dischinn'd Hess...what a beautiful Baby and what impressive hands and long fingers, maybe an artist ?
Have a good trip Bill

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Bill, could you please hand me another kleenex? The way you told the story was so suspenseful, yet beautiful in its happy and safe outcome, I was crying like, well, a baby. Welcome, precious Lynxton! Congratulations to the Hess family, one and all. Your new grandson has magnificently long fingers, which is the first thing I noticed. Have a safe and productive trip!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi3

Such happy news. And such a beautiful family you have Bill.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Welcome to the world, Lynxton. What a wonderful family you have chosen to join.

Bill, I must say, this post made me cry and laugh and ponder. We have been blessed with 7 grandchildren..the oldest is a senior in high school, anxious to spread her wings and fly..and the youngest (and last I have been told) is 4. I am lucky enough that they all live within 5 miles of us...all but two within 1/2 mile. I am also lucky that I am able to attend all of their events. I pity those grandparents who are "too busy". Invariably, they will look up into the stands and give my our sign language "I love you" sign. They know I am there. I did not have grandparents, so never felt this special love.
You last few paragraphs are so poignant..as life pulls you one way while your heart pulls the other

I am very glad for the day I found your blog! Travel safely, friend!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhockeynana

May the little boy have a long and happy life and may you all forever be in lots of health so you can enjoy every one of his days around you!
And thank you for taking the time to post under these circumstances, and sharing with us the wonderful story and photos!
Best wishes and have a great trip!


September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlily m.

Congrats Bill! Welcome Lynxton!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKavitha

Congratulations, Bill, to you and the whole family. This is such a beautiful post; it moved me to tears. I think that with all your work, this blog included, you are creating a wonderful legacy. Your work may take you away from your family at times, but it also reveals dimensions of who you are that would perhaps otherwise remain unknowable, even to those closest to you. Your grandchildren will be privileged to know you more deeply than some grandchildren know grandparents who never left their side.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

Thank you for the most beautiful blog ever. Welcome to the new baby, love to the" two babies that were the baby" !

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn S.

this post could be an entire book! what a wonderful sensitive family, how gently they treated thother two boys, esp. jobe. really creative names, too, as well as photographs!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Deming

Congratulations to all, what a beautiful family. Safe travels, Bill.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat in MA


September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Garrod

this is a beautiful post..I have a suggestion - maybe you can turn this post into a little book (check out Blurb.com) for the new parents for a Christmas present. You captured the birth so well in both photos and words!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternancy in ak

Love your work!
These photos are great!

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJayKen Knotstirred

Bill Frostfrog...

Congratulations to you and your family on such a marvellous news. You keep on wandering but take those little grandchildren with you and show them your wise ways.
BTW wishing you the best of fun in NY with DAH!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Congratulations Grandad Bill, once again!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe problem child


ps, my wife says, HI BILL HESS.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPAYUK N ASIANNATAQ


Congratulations, Bill! And welcome to the world, Lynxton!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOmegaMom

Bill, this blog post made me cry. And I don't cry. Such love in your family, what so many families are missing now days. Thank you Bill, and especially, thank you Lavina for sharing this special moment with all of us! Welcome to the world Lynxton Dischinn'd Hess (awesome name!!)

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChrissyinPA

Congrats Uncle Bill!

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterV.I.

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