Preparing for and taking the first steps of any adventure are pure moments. All your energy and focus leaves the mundane path of daily life and for a short while you can be alone with one goal. Everything else is superfluous to the transition. Nothing else matters except getting where you need to go.
It’s freeing. It’s addictive. It can be as simple as a taking off on a long distance trail run or as complicated as moving halfway round the world. It's becoming a parent, a partner for life, or the million other things that lift you out of your comfort zone and drop you somewhere new.
A year ago we drove onto the ferry from Bellingham to Ketchikan. I’ve covered that trip in an earlier blog post. This is purely a reflection of where I am at twelve months later.
Ever since I was a child I wanted to live in Alaska. I assumed I would even though I was growing up in rural Scotland, then California, then Scotland again - and several places within the country, then Washington state.
And now here we are.
This has been a year of high highs and low lows. Alaska doesn’t come easy. But then neither did rural Scotland or remote Washington State, or even California. Living at a remote hatchery simply intensify these feelings, make them more extreme than they need to be. When your life exists in a world of such limited radius it can be hard to see beyond your borders and not sweat the small stuff. It's easy to let your internal pendulum swing too far and to lose your balance. And it's in the void created by this over-swing, that the worries, the doubts, the anxiousness creep in.
I’m glad I have the knowledge and life experience that allows me to recognize this, however sometimes (okay, a lot) I let myself get dragged down by minutiae. It’s as if I’m watching myself through a window worrying and wearing myself down, while I’m banging on the glass telling myself to pull it together, that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but the glass is soundproof.
I worry about people, the hatchery, how my family is adjusting to the move, whether or not the salmon will come back, if I’m good enough to homeschool my children, that I won’t be able to run or ski in the mountains ever again, that I’ll never kayak well enough to leave the bay, even trivial things have seemed large: that I won’t get a deer again this year, that we won’t get a halibut. The list goes on. There's been some other stuff I've HAD to worry about, things I'm not willing to talk about, not here not now. But most things that have kept my mind whirring are those which worrying about won’t change, things that are out of my control, many of which in five years, or even a few months down the line, won’t matter. But I've spent many days tied up in knots and had many sleepless nights over the past year. I'm tired, my body hurts. My spirit has been bruised at times, even fractured.
Steve deals with life in a linear pattern. He has his goals and works towards them. If he encounters a problem he deals with it then, not before, and moves on. He sleeps well at night.
I on the other hand like to have all my possible problems, and solutions for them, worked out ahead of time. Just in case. It feels like a safety net, but in reality it’s a weight around my neck. There is a Swedish saying: “Worry gives small things big shadows.” And so many things in my life are in the shade because of this. Right now I’m working on being like the midday sun in a desert – ruthlessly shining on my worries, driving the shadows out from underneath them. Reducing them to what they really are; the small stuff.
This is all a long-winded way of saying I’ve had a stressful year. But with many, many enjoyable moments too: I’ve discovered I love homeschooling, I get to travel on floatplanes, I’ve met many lovely and interesting people, my family is close-knit and doing well, the wildlife is spectacular, I get to see more bears in an hour than most people see in a lifetime, seals, sea lions, humpbacks, orcas, wolves, otters, eagles, loons, and of course the splendor that is a salmon run. I've seen four seasons of soggy southeast Alaska. I’m finally living here.
And this is also a way of saying I wouldn’t have expected anything less. Having moved so many times I know that the first year is always the hardest. I get frustrated when I see people give up and leave places after only a few months, before they have given themselves and their new environment time to get to know each other.
Or when people give up on what they want because it’s hard. Of course it’s going to be hard. Everything worthwhile is hard and often it’s two steps forward, one step back. The easy trail never leads to the mountain peak and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – the ones that do have never left the five mile interpretive path, trust me.
As we move into our second year here I am using my awareness of my weaknesses, along with my life experiences, to rebuild my strength of character which has in the past given me the courage to take on all sorts of adventures. And I know there will be many to come. My determination, which has been both a blessing and a curse in my life, will be an ally in keeping my pendulum swinging freely, but not too far in any direction.
We’re where we are supposed to be right now, of this I’m sure. And I’m looking forward.
I just have some small stuff to put to bed.