“I didn’t think that I would actually be here,” I thought to myself. Years ago I had boasted that I intended to move to Alaska, and like so many of my far-flung declarations, it too had fizzled out. Yet upon returning to Anchorage after two months of traveling, I unlocked a door which revealed the small scattering of familiar objects which had made up the trappings of my life for the last year. Skis. Snowboots. Wool sweaters and jackets. My cookbooks. A pair of old mountaineering boots and crampons. An ice ax and helmet. A few pots and pans, all secondhand camping cookware. A small pilot’s bag, radio and headset stood ready on a table in the corner. Behind them on the wall a few books on flight waited with uncreased pages. The orchid which a student had given me for Mother’s Day was still reaching out soft white petals flecked with violet and tinged with lime green edges.
The key in my hand opens a door to a home in the foothills of the Chugach. An almost-home, a half-way point between traveling and home. As much as anyplace can be a home without the dearest familiar voices and sounds of laughter pattering against the walls, the scent of dinner for five stirring the air, the scattered evidence of children lying about in mismatched socks and books and toys and all the sweet murmured conversations over tea and coffee in the mornings. It’s been over a year now since I left Oklahoma and tried to carve out a pathway for my husband and children to follow, and it’s hard to gauge how much progress I’ve made. In my attempt to remain in contact with all those I left behind, it seems that my stories have been well-received. They seem to have accomplished the mission I set for them, and now that I’ve come back, perhaps there might be a chance that my photos and stories could continue to connect me to my loved ones and communicate some of my experiences to others. If there’s one thing I can’t bear, it’s a silent storyteller. And there are so many stories to share.
A few family members and friends I’ve consulted have made their suggestions about possible topics for future posts: my favorite things in Alaska, what it’s like to live in Anchorage, audio excerpts from books by Alaskan authors I’m reading, and what my own day-to-day life is like. Without these suggestions I would probably want to portray a more rugged set of features, but I realize that my family does not entirely share my proclivity for exploring mountain trails and hiking to the point of exhaustion for the sake of breathtaking views. If I hope that they will be happy in their new home, the more sensitive choice would be to show them Alaska’s more welcoming aspect. I will include some stories of my own outdoor adventures, but the focus will be to address my oldest daughter’s question: “What is it like to live there? What is there to do– I mean, besides going to the library?” My dear bookish girl. Although I hope to be able to take all of my family to the wilder places I love, I know that they are most curious about what it is like to live in Anchorage.
I will most likely write less frequently, but I cherish the opportunity to help my own family prepare for this most dramatic transition by the labor of my creativity. I’d like to try to keep the posts open for a public audience, but there may be some which I save just for a chosen few. Understandably so. And thus, the stories will continue. For the sake of those whose ears are open to them.