Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
“The Land We Share: A Love Affair Told in Hunting Stories” is held aloft under light rainfall in Kenai Thursday.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion “The Land We Share: A Love Affair Told in Hunting Stories” is held aloft under light rainfall in Kenai Thursday.

Sharing about sharing the land

Local authors Christine Cunningham and Steve Meyer will discuss their book at upcoming KPC showcase

The stories contained in the recently released book “The Land We Share: A Love Affair Told in Hunting Stories” by local authors Christine Cunningham and Steve Meyer center on hunting, as the name suggests, primarily in the public lands of Alaska. Cunningham said the book isn’t just for hunters — it’s about the connection to the land and the relationships that can form around outdoor recreation.

The book will be featured next week in the first Kenai Peninsula College Showcase of the 2023-2024 school year. According to information provided by the showcase, a book release event will be held in the McLane Commons of KPC’s Kenai River Campus — free and open to the public — on Thursday, Oct. 19 starting at 6 p.m. The showcase is hosted in partnership with River City Books and with “The Land We Share” publisher Alaska Geographic.

On Wednesday, the authors said they would share photos and stories of their hunting adventures as described in the book — but also that they hope the presentation is more conversational.

The stories contained in “The Land We Share” are a selection of outdoors columns, written by Cunningham and Meyer, originally published in the Anchorage Daily News. They depict a variety of vignettes of hunting, alternating between the two authors and set in different places and at different times in their lives.

The book was created in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

A provided statement by Fish and Wildlife Service Interpretive and Environmental Education Specialist Kevin Painter says the book “aimed” to share the experiences and connections that Alaskans and Americans can develop with their public lands through hunting. Painter says “most who will come to enjoy this book are hunters,” but also that many others have connected with the stories of the outdoors and especially “sharing the outdoors with someone special.”

“‘The Land We Share’ speaks to the deep connections that form between people and their public lands,” Painter writes.

Meyer said the partnership reflects “the blessing” inherent in the sheer quantity of available public land in Alaska. He said that the things he and Cunningham do are available to everybody — though they do take some effort. He says they generally don’t name the places they’re going, but that’s “part of the allure — going out and finding it.”

Meyer said the space they inhabit, “the road less traveled” is just far enough out that there’s no longer “annoying noises” — no more traffic sounds, no distant music, no other conversation.

“Absorb yourself in the land and see everything that’s there to see,” he said.

Though all of the stories had already been written and published within the ADN, Cunningham said it still took roughly 18 months to sort through stories and assemble the finished compilation.

Cunningham said each of the stories was written as a distinct individual — they had to engage retrospectively with their own work and identify those central meanings that connected everything together.

“It’s a love story,” Meyer said. “It’s a love for the land, it’s a love for the flora and the fauna and the dogs and each other … this shared value, it’s brought us incredibly close.

Significant to that narrative are the hunting dogs who accompanied Cunningham and Meyer on so many of their trips. Winchester, one such dog, graces the front cover of the book with his image. That same image graced the belt buckle Meyer was wearing on Wednesday.

Meyer said that the focus on the dogs was a result of the work of compiling the stories. Hunting, he said, is something that they love and something that they share with their dogs.

“A lot of times the dogs are the reason you go,” Cunningham said.

She said that she has a lot of interest in the attitudes, personalities and sensibilities of dogs — as well as their unique characteristics that came as a result of their breeding. They’re a central aspect of much of the hunting the pair engage in.

“This is what we love and the dogs share that with us,” Meyer said.

Another core element of the book is its themes of conservation and ethical hunting. Cunningham said when they were initially writing the stories, that hadn’t been a conscious effort.

Meyer said that came naturally from their “reverence” for what they’re hunting and that relationship to the places they’re going.

A single weeklong hunting trip, Meyer said, isn’t enough of an opportunity to build the relationship with the land described in the book.

“We’re always out there. We’re always seeing what’s going on, paying attention to the animals,” he said. “You do build a relationship, start to nurture that relationship. In a perfect world, everyone would do that and it’d be a better place.”

The Kenai Peninsula Showcase has been around for roughly 40 years, coordinator Dave Atcheson said Thursday. It was started by KPC instructors Jean Brockel and Dave Forbes, as a way to show off the talents of students, staff and faculty. It returned from a brief hiatus last year with features on KPC’s anthropology department, Alaska-Russia relations, salmon, Irish music, and another book by local author John Messick.

This year’s season kicks off with Cunningham and Meyer talking about “The Land We Share” on Thursday, then will return twice in November, first on Nov. 16 for a discussion about a journey by packraft undertaken by locals Ben Meyer, Maura Schumacher and Buck Kunz on a river in the Brooks Range. Then, on Nov. 30, Larry Persily will lead a presentation called “Gasonomics,” about local energy concerns.

For more information about “The Land We Share,” visit akgeo.org. For more information about the KPC Showcase, find “Kenai Peninsula College Showcase” on Facebook.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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