Tuesday, July 21, 2009
ALASKA ON MY MIND
Today was Day 2 of a three day literacy class that I am taking this summer, along with about 50 other teachers from around the area. It is a combination of the Writer's Workshop class I took last summer, and Ellin Keene's Mosaic of Thought for reading. As part of the class, teachers are expected to write on topics of our own choice, teaching us to model the same for our students. Part of the reason I signed up for the class is because I was hoping they would have us write. You'd think, since I like to write so much, that I could just stay home and write for a couple hours every day. But as much as I love writing, it isn't that easy. What I have discovered in the last few years that actually came as a shock to me is that writing is hard work, no matter how much I enjoy it. It takes a lot of self-discipline to force yourself to do it, instead of the laundry, or the dishes, or gardening or any number of other things that always call to me, needing to be done. Sadly, self discipline is one of the things most lacking in my life, in too many areas of my life. Yesterday, though, I knew I wanted to write either about my chickens, about the new puppy in my life, or about my dad, and his aging issues. I chose the chickens, and began a draft about them. There wasn't time to finish, and, lacking that certain bit of ...ahem, self discipline, I didn't finish it when I got home, either, although I WANTED to. Knowing we would have some sustained time to write again today, it would seem logical to have worked on it, and maybe finished it. But as soon as I got up today, and all the way to Olean, all I kept thinking was, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska. There was something about the feel of the air this morning, the fog rolling in off the hills, the colors - their certain early morning greens and browns, that sang the siren song of the land of the midnight sun to me. And even more distinctly, the music was not just of Alaska in general, but of a specific place and time and event. Last summer when I went to Kotzebue, I was lucky enough to spend some time out on the Noatak River, and was along on a sort of spontaneous caribou hunt. For who knows what reason, I was totally and completely back on the top of the tundra all day today, watching while Vic cut up the two caribou he shot, and helping to pack out the meat back across the tundra and back to the boat. I have never in my life before those moments, and not again since, felt so lucky to be where I was. And the best part of having been there then is that I get to go back again, in my mind, any time I want. I feel, today, as restless as the herds of caribou must feel when it nears time to begin moving. I feel like this is the time I should BE there. I have made several trips to Alaska now, only one of them in the winter, the rest have all been summertime, June, July and August. I love Alaska in the wintertime, truly I do. I don't mind the cold, I love the snow, and the total and complete highlight of my life is dogsledding. I could happily live in Alaska year round, I really think. If I had dogs. Or had access to someone else's dogs that I could scoop poop for, feed, love up, and take for an occasional short sled trip. No Iditarod dreams for me, not really. But as much as I love the winter there, it is summer there that my heart really craves. I have been there in the summer. I love summer in Alaska. I love the never ending daylight, the ravens and eagles spinning and soaring, the taste of fresh caught salmon cooked over a beach fire, the way the light dances off the mountains in the distance and on the river underneathe you. The silence. The wide, vast silence of sky and tundra and so few people. Today, this morning, I wrote about the caribou hunt, and I was there again, really there. I was there when I woke up this morning, I was there in the words I tried to craft about it in class today, and I am still there tonight. I love Alaska. It has seeped into my soul, and has laid claim to me. I belong there. I'm not sure it is something I can fight, or that I even want to. I think I'd much rather spend my time figuring out how best to return for longer and longer periods of my life so that I just don't have to miss it so much. I'm guessing that once there, New York really isn't going to lay too heavily on my mind. New York is just not a place to be missed. Alaska, on the other hand, well, I miss it every second of every day that I am not lucky enough to be there. And? Most of all? It's Fireweed time. Me? I LOVE fireweed with every fiber of my being. Favorite. Flower. Ever. Amen!