Friday, January 31, 2014

Why I Love Alaska...

I love Alaska.

I know that is a much repeated phrase and can become a bit trite at times. Many people love Alaska. Some have a love/hate relationship with it.
There are an infinite number of reasons why someone would either love or hate this place, because it is that big, that immense, that encompassing.

There are many layers to my love for Alaska. My relationship with Alaska has been an extremely significant and momentous one in my life. Alaska welcomed me into its folds when I was a misplaced girl from the Deep South, and gifted me with a sense of belonging in the Far North I had yet experienced in the world. Alaska offered me sanctuary, like any misfit, from a busy and irrational world I did not understand. She has since put me to the test and shown me my mettle, my depth and my command of myself. Thus, she has, in the true fashion of any important relationship, offered me a unique perspective of my own soul. She has let me leave, continuing to not only hold a place for me, but to sing her siren’s song beckoning me home.

I don’t say these things poetically or for the romance of fawning. I say them because I have earned the right to say them through my trials and tribulation with her. I say them because I know that I was meant to be here, and because I am grateful for the intensity of experience that has embroidered my life.

I think it is common for people who live here to mire in the misery of the mess, the weather, the cost, or in disagreements on how things should be run. Alaskans love to be contrary. It is one of the reasons we have come here, to go against the common grain.

But I have learned to step back and nod my head politely when someone feels the need to vent about the insults she flings about so recklessly. I won’t defend her. Alaska on her best days can be indefensible. And I love her for the very reason that she is unapologetically extreme, daring those who don’t like her to leave her. I wish that in my lifetime, I had carried myself with such uncompromising confidence. My perspective on Alaska’s character is a sacred secret I carry in my heart, and I feel no need to convince anyone to love her like I do. Anyone who lives here should know not to expect sunshine and roses anyway.

If you come here expecting either, you will be sorely disappointed.
During my time in Alaska, I have lived with no water to wash with and no electricity to light my way on dark winter mornings, holding a flashlight between my knees as I rummaged through black garbage bags of clothes for something clean to dress my babies in before school. I have dug out my stuck cars when I couldn’t afford to pay someone to plow the driveway, and I have dug out my outhouse when it was too full and the ground too frozen to dig a new one. I have split wood with my babies on my back, and I have bathed those four precious children in Rubbermaid trash cans with water hauled in 5 gallon gas cans. I have cleaned fish till I couldn’t stand the smell of it, and I have butchered moose for days on end on my kitchen table. I have built my life in Alaska from rock bottom, from a place that offered no cushion and no wiggle room.
And in return for my hard work and tenacity, she has offered me her abundance. She has given me miracles of light, every day a different palatte, a changing hue. She has provided unexpected friendships and synchronicities of spirit. She has taught me wonder. Her landscape has moved me to tears, and her voice has sung me to sleep in the gentle hush of summer. She has woven her magic in the cells of my body, so that if I were to ever leave again, I believe I would die a little each day. It may be mad to wax on about such a place, unforgiving and relentless as she is. But I think there are those of us, every once in a while, who are bitten in a way that is profound for us. Robert Service had a way of describing the essence of that venom, illustrating with words that madness that some of us feel for this northern clime. I’d say it is fair for anyone to question my passion for a place that has as many faults as redeeming qualities. But then there will be those very few who comprehend, who have lived by trial and adversity and come out wiser and richer. They will have sat quietly and watched the changing light in all its wondrous subtlety, listened to the solitude closing in with clamoring cacophony, or looked into the depth of the wilderness and seen their own reflection staring back at them from its shadows. They will know what I mean and they will say, “Ah…yes.”

--- Deb Pollock

1 comment:

DeNise said...

Deb, you captured the essence of living here beautifully. thank you for a nice reminder of why some stay and some can't wait to leave.