I have never been anywhere more breathtaking than this corner of Alaska where I call Home. Breathtaking in every sense of the word. The frigid air knocks the breath from my lungs with the subtlety of a bulldozer. Promising the immense power of Mother Nature in every captured breath. The lavender wash of early sunset (3:30pm early) splayed across the frosted tips of mountain guardians. The darkness. The ink black darkness. Compelling and coaxing more hours of sleep, more comfort food, and more moments of reflection. The golden orb that hangs suspended in the black velvet sky is larger here, I’m sure of it. Meeting the newest member of my family. Gazing into the portals of the future through the round expressive eyes of countless generations. There is beauty here. Beauty in the land, in the people. Harsh, blinding, bone-chilling, perpetual night, breathtaking beauty.
Two weeks is the perfect length of time to be home. Long enough to reconnect with treasured loved ones and long enough to cherish my time away and on my own. This is where I come from and this is where I leave from. It seems that this trip has been a continual practice of allowing the past to catch up with the present. There is a moment when seeing the face of an old friend after many years when time stops. It takes a beat for the brain to catch up with the vagaries of time, as if each year is a slide in a child’s picture viewer. Your brain clicks through the slides until you arrive in the present and reconcile what once was, with what now is.
The ducks are mostly in order. Except for a few errant details that refuse to be taken care of until after I am out of the county, it seems I have a nice and neat packed away American life. I am amazed at how hard it is to check out of the system. I value the opportunities to step outside of the stream of daily American life and gaze into the inner workings of the American cultural machine. It is such a refreshing and much needed perspective. To see the tapestry of culture, relationships, expectations, contradictions, hypocrisies, achievements, and synapses for what they are. To embody the outsider’s perspective is a valuable place to be. This is where we grow. In the spaces between.
The days remaining are few. The panic that something important will be forgotten, the last remaining to do list almost complete, and the loose ties all satisfactorily tucked away is the indication that change is about to take place. Big change.
I am gulping in the frigid air and honoring the vigil of the mountains with the grace of a black bear in a blueberry patch at the end of summer. Storing memories for the long, sometimes lonely months to come. Thank you Home for cradling my tender heart for this brief time. I may be going forth into the world searching for my own Origins, but Alaska will always be the place I return to in times of sadness and joy. My touchstone. My polestar.
One Reply to “Stage II: Home for the Holidays or Why I do not currently live in Alaska”
I was amazed when I came to Sitka and saw the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. I’ve been to almost every state, but I’d never seen anything even remotely like Alaska. In Colorado the wilderness seems safe, contained within the boundaries of our civilization. You can walk through it and come out on the other side. Not so with Alaska; our towns and cities there are no more than settlements.
But I’ve only ever been that far north in the summer; I still have to come back to see what it’s like when the days are only a few hours long.