I always expected I would arrive in Alaska and she would welcome me with open arms and I would know, immediately, I had landed exactly where I was supposed to be. I think in my mind there would probably be a small angelic choir heralding my arrival, possibly rainbows and unicorns - you get the picture.
It wasn't quite like that.
In fact as we prepared to leave Anchorage airport for the second time in a month I felt, well, a bit disappointed that it had not lived up to my ideals.
Now before I go any further, this is not a blog hating on Alaska, it's a blog about misplaced expectations. If you are from Alaska or know it, please feel free to facepalm, roll your eyes and say "duh" - my friend from Barrow has already laughed and said: "Shona, you have only just begun to scratch the surface of Alaska." I know I sound ridiculous, so no snidey comments okay?
In my head I have always seen the 49th state as a wilderness full of rufty, toughty characters living off-grid, miles from their neighbors and eating mooseburgers for breakfast. (Alaskans, this is where you should start with the facepalms.) And I know there are many places there where that is the life. But not the two places we had the opportunity to move to.
Alaska is vast ("duh") and is therefore very varied (roll eyes). And it really is wild. Both places we visited for my husband's job interviews, Kodiak and Valdez, seemed like little communities holding onto the coast, banding together, closely together, because everything else out there really is OUT THERE and is ready to chew you up and spit you out if you are not up to standard or show the proper respect.
As someone who spends a lot of time out in the hills, often alone, I was afraid of being out there on my own, I wasn't confident that I was ready for what Alaska could throw at me ("duh"). And I was also aware that moving to either of these places meant moving to town because there didn't seem to be anywhere except town and wilderness - it was a dramatic divide, no 20 acres 14 miles outside town like we have here - and I like living outside of town and out of pissing distance of my neighbors, even if my neighbors were going to be the people we met up there who were wonderful, real and kind, just the type of people I like being around.
It was at this point I realized the Okanogan Highlands were fulfilling most of my Alaskan dreams already.
Wild country - that box was ticked.
Cold, snowy winters - tick.
Bears, wolves, moose - tick (okay we may only have one or two grizzlies and Kodiak Island has something like 3,500 of the biggest brown bears in the world, but who's counting?)
Ice fishermen, dog sledding, grumpy old PTSD vets living in the woods, families living in the hills hauling their own water, trails, hunters, lakes, mountains, forests, good down-to-earth people - tick, tick, tick..
It became a lesson in be careful what you wish for and be grateful for what you have.
We came very, very close moving to Kodiak. But in the end what held us here was the realization we already have what we want. Right here, outside Tonasket, and it's home.
For now. My children keep asking when we are going back to Alaska and I've been told Fairbanks would be a good match for us. And Kenny Lake and Delta Junction....(Facepalm, "duh" and roll eyes)