I survived the holiday season.
For an introvert working retail in a town that loves its social events,
especially around Christmas,
this is a big deal.
It also means that, in an effort to be kind to myself,
I let myself sleep in rather than get up early to write.
I should be back to normal soon.
In the meantime, I wrote this for Tidal Echoes, a UAS literary magazine.
I'll find out in March if it was accepted.
I called it Home, but as more and more folks leave
avoiding Alaska in the winter months that aren't filled with sugar and lights,
I think I would prefer to call it:
Home: Dedicated to Those Who Stay
The next chapter will be
A Housesitter's Guide to Giving a Damn about Somebody Else's Dog, Even When it Eats your Socks
Parts of this might look familiar.
- Home -
A customer told me this was his last trip.
He’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and, luminous,
proclaimed his time traveling the Inside Passage had been a rebirth.
He was leaving the next day, home to Vermont to most importantly live,
and then eventually die.
We smiled at each other when he left the bookstore,
and I told him, with all my heart, to take care.
I fought tears for the rest of the afternoon,
then ordered a cheeseburger to go and watched the sun go slowly down.
I doubt he is the only person I’ve met who came to Alaska with that knowledge.
They travel to our home to have the experience of a lifetime,
and some of us have countdowns for the next time we can leave.
We are children of the Tongass,
with muskeg in our hearts and scales for skin.
We itch to push off,
to wring ourselves dry and bask in the sun.
But before long we’re dried up and in the breeze,
waiting for the rain to help us settle back down.
I was explaining daily life in Southeast to an elderly visitor and her daughter.
The family that includes people who shovel off your porch without asking,
and the walk that should take five minutes
but takes twenty because of the people you see on the way.
She replied, “Oh, I see. You take care of each other up here.”
When I hear whales greet each other before I speak to another person,
it’s already been a good day.
When I need to feel powerful, I put on my boat clothes.
We live in a ring of fire with glacial ice in our veins, but ultimately it is the green
the moss, algae and mold
When I need to feel grounded, I hike alone in the woods.
Our world moves with the tide and winds.
Only the most powerful can try to ignore those
and eventually they fail.
It is a radical act to have an intense connection to the land you call home.
Our connections to other people and places grow more intangible every day.
Anymore it takes intention to feel the dirt beneath your boots.
Those of us that choose this place are here for love.
Of person or place
it barely matters.
It just matters that it is a fierce love.
A love that removes us from others
and defies attempts at logic.
And sometimes reason.
The adhesive on my skin mimicked tar as it traveled
from my hand to my forearm,
elbow to fingernails.
In the shower I was distracted by the sun I was racing to catch
and I scrubbed until the pumice made my arm bleed.
I may help take care of others, but I think I may sometimes need a little help too.
Even in my boat clothes.
Like love, this relationship can be painful.
There can be pain.
But there is also joy.
I don’t think it’s possible to ever actually be alone in the woods.