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Six Degrees of Separation


30 x 24"

acrylic on canvas

Homewood Studios, Minneapolis, MN

SOLD (available as print)

We had scheduled our trip to Alaska in line with our friend’s homecoming from Iraq. Captain Joseph Scarbrough has just completed his year tour, but with only two weeks prior to his arrival, we learn that he (and the entire 172nd Stryker Brigade) is extended for another seven months. Questions and emotions rise amongst family and friends as we all prepare for several more months of worry. We board our flight anyway, and it is Captain Sean Loosen who greets us at the Fairbanks airport. He is one of Captain Scarbrough’s close friends, and kind enough to take us in during our stay. 

Captain Loosen shows us around town, and our tour ends at a small bar near his house. It is called the Speedway Inn, and this one room wooden shack sits at the end of a dirt road. Inside, locals enjoy a free turkey sandwich at the stainless steel stand that is pushed against the back wall. It doesn’t take long before we are on a first name basis with the regulars and feel as if we’ve known Captain Loosen for years. 


On the seven-hour drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage, we stop to visit Denali National Park. A close friend of mine has flown in to attend a gallery reception in Anchorage. The owners of Virtu Gallery take us to dinner, and share some background about the land. What I find most interesting is that the U.S. government offered Alaskan natives the choice between corporations and reservations. Agreeing to corporations they found a comfortable balance between traditional and modern wealth.  This relationship is a far cry from the destitute southern tribes. Ironically, the suffering and loss of tradition in the plains tribes is what inspired the painting that now hangs on a gallery wall in Anchorage. 

It is the day of the reception, and we drive down to Portage Lake to catch a glimpse of Portage Glacier. As a small ship escorts us to the extravagant blue ice formation, I admire floating ice sculptures around us. It feels as if I am bobbing along in someone’s chilled beverage. As the boat turns to take us back to shore, we hear an echoing crack. I look to the glacier in time to see a small piece of ice calve and splash into the lake. It is a raw and natural sight that no other state can offer.

Before returning to the gallery, we stop at a small river alive with spawning red salmon. I walk upstream to take photos, and suddenly hear Alfonso yelling my name. A look of fear has fallen upon his face, and his lips mouth the word bear. I take off running. Not more than ten feet from where I stood, a mother black bear with two cubs had come down the bank for a bite to eat. Thankfully, she chose red fish over red meat.

The reception is wonderful, but we are glad to return to Fairbanks. Captain Loosen has invited us to a meeting with Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who discusses the return of the 172nd Stryker Brigade. The night before we leave, just as I am feeling as if our Alaskan experience could not get any more exciting, the sky begins falling upon us. The Northern Lights dance over our heads with shades of green, violet and white. I can’t find words to justify the beauty of this phenomenon, so we sit in amazement until they slowly fade away.