Joyfully pressing the pause button: Alaska News Brief November 2022
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Joyfully pressing the pause button: Alaska News Brief November 2022

I don’t know about you, but I need a break.

It’s been a long slog through the election season with its bombardment of calls, texts, emails, and junk mail, and I really feel the loss of sunlight, too. It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to unplug long enough to really relax.

I’m excited, though, because soon I get to scuba dive again in Loreto, Mexico, on the Gulf of California north of La Paz. But before I get to that, I want to reflect on a few great things that have happened here at Trustees since Election Day.

Tracy, Geoff, Ashley, Lydia, Vicki, Lang in back; Bridget, Rachel and Joanna in front. Dawnell taking the photo.

A half dozen of us went to the courthouse to watch one of our fellows, Lydia Heye, get sworn into the Alaska bar with about 20 other lawyers. Our other fellow, Geoff Toy, also recently got admitted into the Alaska bar.

At the courthouse, the justice who took the lead during the ceremony spoke with great kindness when sharing her joy in welcoming in new lawyers. Other judges and speakers shared wisdom and advice.

All of them circled back to the importance of service and civility—of having respect for each other and of oneself, and of remembering the legal profession as a human one.

One reason I feel so honored to work at Trustees is how we take that to heart.

The next day, we got tremendous news when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted our request for an en banc rehearing of a three-judge panel’s ruling in March that allowed an Interior Secretary to overrule Congress by approving a land swap in Wilderness that would make way for a commercial gravel road in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

The court vacated that decision and set oral argument for December. Yes, this means our attorneys and team will put in more long hours over the days and weeks ahead, and it also shows how the work matters, the commitment matters, collaborating with clients and partners matters, and the way we celebrate and support each other matters.

Strangely, I remember these lessons every time I jump into the ocean, too. Diving into a vast and unknown space somehow inspires an understanding of all the things that matter, seen and unseen, recognized or not.

I learned to scuba dive in 1991 when finishing college in Santa Barbara. I couldn’t dive often back then because I didn’t have much money, even less so when going to law school in the Bay Area where the water was a lot colder anyway.

I finally got back into diving 15 years ago while working here with Trustees. My first dives were in Fiji, in warm water and with lots of diverse life.

Swimming with fishes in 2018.

What I love about scuba diving is the literal immersion into another world. As soon as I release air and start sinking to the bottom, the world becomes quieter. I can focus on breathing. I notice the larger fish first and the immediate surroundings, often coral or rock where small things hide. As I settle into periods of moving and pausing, I find nudibranchs, shrimp, lobsters, eels, fish hiding in rocks, and the most elusive octopus.

The sharks, jacks, tuna, and barracuda are cool, but it’s the whole of it that I take in, learn from, relax into. I might even hear humpbacks singing and see the (manta) rays gracefully gliding through the water.

It’s not just that scuba diving allows me to escape the worries and issues of the world, but that it reminds me to see the whole of it, and to know that I’m in it with so many other living beings and communities, with so many perspectives and interconnections, and that it’s impossible to see and understand it all, and that I must remain humble within it.

It reminds me of the superpowers of gentleness, of noticing, of giving space, of swimming with what’s unknowable, of breathing in and breathing out the beauties and perils of currents and cycles of life.

And it’s just so joyful, too.

I know when I return later this month, I will bring that joy and understanding back with me, refreshed and relearned. 

May you all swim with joy, however you dive into it.

PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s lands, waters and communities.

Photo by Cadence Cook, NPS

Between a rock and a hard place: the proposed road to Ambler

Photo by Gus Barber

A climber’s reflection: being in that exact spot, in that exact moment

Finishing her fellowship, Joanna reflects on growth and change in her professional and personal life. Like baby Vaila!
Photo by Joanna Cahoon.

Joanna is finishing her legal fellowship. She has words.

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