For each of us, there is a place that represents the best of what makes the world good. For me, it’s an old building. I like to think about the work that was done; the human connections made, the lives that were changed in the walls of an old building.
Originally from New England, I grew up around buildings with creaky floorboards, huge timbers, and hand sawn shakes. Each board representing a moment in time when someone was using the latest technology, making new connections, and building something for the future. For me, it represents tangible hope.
I moved to Alaska 30 years ago and have lived in this rainforest with the ocean at my front door ever since. It has changed me. The sea provides food for my family, presents opportunities for fun, and its power to destroy a constant reminder of humanity’s small place in the universe. I have thought of leaving this lifestyle many times, but there is something that always keeps me here. It is the basics. My husband and I raised our two girls in this island community where you must live an accountable lifestyle because you will see your neighbors in 3 different places that same day. Where we truly depend on each other and come together to support each other.
These days world issues overwhelm me. However, I am invigorated by the idea of doing something that may seem small but that I know could make a big difference, could even change the path a person is on. I want to be a part of raising awareness that increases understanding of our natural world by getting closer to it and by slowing time down, slowing down people enough that we perhaps stop and consider what we can learn from our past before we lose it. When I step into this Sitka Saw Mill building, it makes me want to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that will live well beyond me. I want to be a part of promoting critical thinking, validating, and problem-solving. These skills in the hands of the next generation will surely find ways to make the world a better place. I often ask myself – what can I do to support this next generation and support my beliefs in sustainability and connection to nature? I find answers in my natural surroundings – the ocean and the trees.
The ocean holds answers to some of our biggest questions about cures for disease, sources of energy, and new technology – answers waiting to be discovered. Standing in the Mill building along the shores of Sitka Sound, I see a place for students, scientists, fishermen, naturalists, teachers, historians, baby salmon, curious kids, artists, seafood enthusiasts, newlyweds, and life-long learners to connect and dream up new ideas. A place where we remember the contributions of those who built it and celebrate new ideas that are being hatched there right now. The simple design elements, the large floorboards, and clear wood trusses are all that is right and good about the man-made world; it mirrors our own basic elements of humanity – perfection in its simplicity. It is a place to stop and look-up from our cell phones to be in wonder of what was, what is, and what will be. A place that inspires growth and contemplation by simply standing in it. A place to encourage people to pay attention to the details and learn from what is around us.
If you’ve ever been on an Alaskan cruise through Southeast Alaska, you have probably looked right at this beautiful old building. It is certainly a treasure to behold.
Lisa Busch is the Executive Director of the Sitka Sound Science Center. A non-profit that is uniquely qualified to provide unparalleled access for research and educational programs in the North Pacific and Tongass National Forest.
The Sitka Sawmill building has a rich history and is in dire need of renovation. The renovation of the Mill Building will create new possibilities for the future. Click here to learn more about this national treasure.