In my recent file sorting I ran across this journal entry – dated September 5, 2014. (Almost Exactly Two Years Ago!)
This afternoon I stopped by Fred Meyer for some miscellaneous pieces of dinner. As I pulled off the one way street and navigated my way to a parking spot I noticed the stickers on the car a couple spots over. They were slogans frequently spotted in this Alaska life: mountain love and skiing and specifically, Alaska Girls Kick Ass. I stepped out of my car into the cold rain, thinking about that particular statement as I picked my step around the puddles and wished for a pair of Xtratufs – the ubiquitous Alaska rubber boot.
I’ll never own that Alaska Girls label and I’ll never be part of the group that can wear the Alaska Grown tee. I could buy the uniform, and indeed my fall experience would be improved with a pair of rain boots on my feet. The truth is, I’ve grown to love Alaska beyond my imagination these past 2 years. But I can’t even wear the Alaska Transplant Here to Stay tee I’ve spotted in stores this fall. I’m gonna be out of here in a couple years, and I’m counting on it.
I haven’t tapped any of the adrenaline-fired Ski, Climb, Camp, Float, Fly adventures just beyond the edges of this city where I safely abide. I get nervous just biking down the paved trail that winds through scrub trees along the highway for fear of startling a bear. I don’t forage, shoot, or fish.
Alaska Girls Kick Ass – it’s all: I AM AWESOME CAUSE I’VE GOT IDENTITY CRED. But what exactly are those Ass Kicking credentials? I pump my own gas in zero degree temps. I shop in grocery stores with empty shelves because that item or this did not come in on the ship this week. I pay too much for a cucumber in the summer and Amazon prime delivers a few days later than I wish it would. I mostly stay on the beaten path and look like a camera-toting tourist year round. Not exactly ass kicking awesome.
And yet – I stand outside my door and breathe cool air coming off the ocean. Mountains rise to fill my view in every direction. Colors across the landscape turn brilliant orange gold and red almost before my eyes. It’s fall in Alaska. Geese fly formations overhead and the swans will soon stop by as they wend their migratory way. Snow will come and bears will sleep. Moose will meander and munch through my yard once more.
There’s comfort in the familiar and I recognize familiar in this, my 3rd Alaska Fall. But fall goes by so fast here it hardly counts. In just weeks the color will be gone, the leaves dropped, and my window view wide-open to the sea. So instead, I measure my time by tracking winter. Winter counts. And this will be my 3rd winter in Alaska.
I am not the same person who arrived in town full of regret and anger in the cold September rain 2 years ago. Alaska has changed me. Rather, Alaska has been the place where I have changed. I have been on a long tumultuous journey to find myself after a car accident rocked my brain and changed my life 10 years ago. My path came this way.
And that’s where it stops. It feels abrupt. It took a weird turn. I don’t know if I was finished with that thought? But if I could finish the piece now it could go like this……….
There’s comfort in the familiar and I recognize familiar in this, my 4th Alaska Fall. But fall goes by so fast here that it hardly counts. In just a few short weeks the color will have come and gone, the leaves will have dropped, and my window view will open to the sea. Winter though, winter counts. And this will be my three-and-a-halfth winter in Alaska.
I don’t look forward to the long dark that comes with winter in Anchorage – all bundled against the cold as I tromp through crusty snow and ice. But I AM the same person who arrived here in the middle of a fierce September rainstorm four years ago. That move was challenging and it tested my resilience in so many ways. But, it seems, this is what I live to learn: Hope is born in difficult places. I tapped the depths of my courage and found anchors there. I leaned in and learned to live and love this Alaska life.
But I’ve been on a twisting path without much of a map. A couple months after I wrote this piece in September 2014, we made an unexpected and sudden move back to Oregon. And perhaps just as unexpectedly, we have now moved back. I may look like a camera-toting tourist, but I don’t have a ticket home. I’m gonna get some Xtratufs and ride my fat bike down these trails. I live here. And Alaska Girls Kick Ass.