About

Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
19 Clay
Malone NY  12953

19clay@gmail.com

(518) 651-2019

Camping on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, 1995

Camping on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, 1995

For two amazing years, my wife (Nina) and I lived with Yup’ik Eskimos on the Alaska tundra, just below the Yukon River.  About 80 miles from the Bering Sea.

Nina (Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD) was a physician at a native-run hospital whose docs covered an area the size of the State of Oregon.  (Alaska is bigger than you imagine.)  She & I would take bush planes out to Eskimo villages for a week at a time, camping out in the ramshackle clinic building, where Nina was the doc for those 7 days.  (There are no restaurants, motels, or hotels in Eskimo villages.  Their villages, often consisting of one or two dozen wooden homes, are private, not open to visitors or the public except by invitation.)

Two years we lived in the muddy, rutted frontier town of Bethel, established nearly a century earlier by Moravian missionaries as a beacon of righteousness in this vast hinterland of satanic depravity, so went the argument.  Here, among alder thickets and myriad ponds bordering the crumbling banks of the salmon-rich Kuskokwim—the Gift—the cross of Jesus was erected as a counter Gift.   Upon this alcohol-soaked, suicide-stained spot, the well-meaning (Weren’t they?) agencies of western civilization systematically, methodically began dismantling the delicate and altogether incomprehensible world of Raven’s people.

Bethel was a slow-motion heartbreak.

“My god, it’s the last place on earth” was written by a man who lived in Bethel when we did.  No one better captures the otherworldly texture—and sorrow—of  Bush Alaska than Michael Faubion.  I wrote about this world  in “The Way of the Human Being” (Yale 1999).

I thought the horizon would swallow me whole,
Thought the wind-chill would tear off my face.
Where existence itself is defined by the cold,
You can find yourself frozen in place.

Thawed out in mud-time, my eyes on the boats,
Fish-grease and fuel oil perfume.
Turned green on a weekend; it’s Spring’s brief revolt
When the sun steals the sky from the moon.

It’s stranger than fiction, it’s sadder than hell;
There’s no way to judge what it’s worth.
It’s past the last highway, across the lost hills.
My God, it’s The Last Place on Earth.

It’s the Last Place on Earth I expected to be
Believing in better or worse.
Old friends quit asking what’s becoming of me,
They wouldn’t look in The Last Place on Earth.

It’s stranger than fiction, it’s sadder than hell,
There’s no way to judge what it’s worth.
It’s past the last highway, across the lost hills,
My God, it’s The Last Place on Earth.

It’s the home of the raven, where daytime is dark,
Where death takes its toll on rebirth.
The mystical journey, swan flight of the heart
Flutters down in the Last Place on Earth.

It’s stranger than fiction, it’s sadder than hell,
There’s no way to judge what it’s worth.
It’s past the last highway, across the lost hills,
My God, it’s The Last Place on Earth.