Considering what’s unfurled in the past few weeks, it’s surprising I feel so much positivity as I complete the last few tasks I have up here and head back to Anchorage to catch an 8am flight back to Denver tomorrow.
Two weeks ago, my mother had a pulmonary embolism following her foot surgery. It has made for an anxious couple of weeks; I was supposed to meet her in Myrtle Beach next Monday, and when I asked her about informing the doctor of her travel plans, she said she was just not going to tell anyone. My mother is wildly optimistic; perhaps even idealistic to the point of absurdity. I had read quite a lot on the internet and was 95% sure she would be told not to travel, but everyone in my family is stubborn af, so I’ve been waiting patiently for her to go to her checkup. She was finally told today she can’t go (she told her doctor after I threatened to call every hospital in Pennsylvania to rat her out).
Initially I had planned to drive out there just to have a beach week by myself (my mother had decided to join later on), but I canceled in solidarity. I will return to Colorado tomorrow, take the rest of the week off, and then return to work. The drive from CO to SC sucks ass… it is so tremendously boring, and my 4Runner isn’t exactly fuel efficient.
While the prospect of anything (ever) happening to my mother fills me with dread and fear, the silver lining of canceling this trip is that I will be coming back to AK in late August, for an entire week, to hike, and play, and possibly fish. I had not anticipated returning again this summer, but I have to. I was not here long enough, and I am not done.
I may never be done. Even coming here to another mess left by my winter tenants, my little house looks beautiful now after days of scrubbing, cleaning, rearranging. I had one afternoon to hike and I chose the most miserable one in our immediate proximity: Bird Ridge, which is basically straight up and down. I figured the ridgeline would be mostly clear of snow as it is exposed, and most of our other trails are still snowed in. My trusty hiking partner of the last decade+ changed her plans to meet me up here. We huffed it right up that bitch and back down in :30 under the typical time, even though she is only a few months recovered from major surgery and while I am acclimated to altitude, I am not acclimated to Alaska-intensity hikes.
We returned to town, ate most of a giant pizza and I soaked in my hot tub here at the house (I am still hobbling today). It was fucking glorious. I went back to Anchorage early this morning, renewed my 4Runner tags, ran a few last minute errands, and decided to book my next trip up here. The fact that I don’t have a ton of reservations for the summer was helpful. I feel so much better about leaving now. I told my mother on the way back to Girdwood that I had to come back, and she told me she figured I would.
So few people have been able to comprehend the love I have for this place. The day I pulled out of the driveway at my parents’ place so many years ago to embark on my relocation here is still the happiest day of my life: the level of confidence and mettle it took to do that only occurred to me years later. I remember going through the interview process for the job I accepted up here and knowing — truly knowing — I would get it, and my life was about to change in an unbelievable way. I laid in bed and cried tears of joy at night before I even returned to sign my job offer. Anathema’s Weather Systems will always remind me of that journey – the emotional one and the physical one. I still choke up on my way down the Seward Highway: I have always felt a lot of gratitude, but my life could end any day and I’d be so grateful for the time I’ve had to make this insane dream come true.
Ten years after making this place my home, after a cruel, inordinately lonely pandemic and realizing I would not be able to continue to challenge myself in my career if I lived up here indefinitely, I cried every day as I packed and prepared to leave. I knew it was the best thing for me, but it was not what I wanted. I never wanted to go back to the lower 48, and I mostly still do not want to be there. I have done well regardless, and am finally in a really good place in Denver after a pretty difficult transition. I have never struggled at all with change as most people do, but not one single molecule of me wanted to do what I did in 2022. It has truly been a process.
I had a beautiful but hard life up here; I spent many years contending with a lot of my past and figuring out how to create the kind of life, and the kind of person I wanted, and wanted to be. I spent time in every nook and cranny of this state: very few places did not make the long, long list of places I explored. I am often afraid my life will never be as good as it was here, and I will never be as happy, because I am so proud of this experience and what became of me. I remember walking into this house after I had signed all of the closing paperwork and realizing that this house was mine: that at 28 years old, I could see glaciers from my kitchen door and know I owned this tiny slice of somewhere I dreamt of for so long. I have loved few things in my life as much as I have loved this time in Alaska, and I feel bad for anyone who lives his or her life without the absolute awe I’ve felt up here.
And so, as I prepare to depart again, I at least can rest assured knowing I’ll be back in a few months. One of the longer term goals I had was to organize my life so that I could spend more time up here in the summer, and I’m surprised that I will accomplish that this year.
More on the rest of my life to come.