As I look back over my time living in Alaska, so many parts still feel like a dream. A dream where I was another person from a different life where adventure, good people, and the wild was the currency for buying happiness. Every so often in this life there comes a time or place that clicks, that resonates within your being that this place is where you are meant to be. Everything clicks and life is good.
Life. Is. Good.
After one of the lowest years in my life, Alaska was a balm to my battered heart and a salve to my weary soul. Alaska, the Last Frontier, the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Land where I found Solace.
I arrived jet lagged with a splitting headache that made me throw up, but my eyes still lifted to the mountains in awe. I was immediately taken under the wing of Sheli, one of the most welcoming and beautiful souls I have ever met, who took it upon herself to make sure that I had more than just a room and place to sleep, but a home for my all too short stay. I started off my time with a trip to Denali National Park, where one is truly a guest in the very wild beauty of nature. I was set loose to explore, to climb, to run, and to simply be while taking in sights that I never thought I’d be blessed enough to see. Sights I had to work to find. Sometimes, the journey was the adventure. Regardless, in less than a week, I was able to see Denali AND all the major types of wildlife- bear, moose, caribou, wolf, and dall sheep.
My clinical was of course an amazing and vital piece of being in Alaska, both in the people I was privileged to work with and in everything I learned. I grew as a therapist AND as a person and I’m full of gratitude toward the people who let me glean from their experience and knowledge.
Every weekend and even during the week, I was running on all cylinders- every day was an opportunity for a new adventure! From meeting up with an old college friend for hikes to biking through downtown Anchorage to ice cream runs with friends, I packed my days and nights. My thirst for adventure was quenched and my desire to wander through the glory of nature was satisfied.
One thing I’ve realized about my time exploring the mountains, it is both a humbling and empowering experience. The glory of God was evident in every rock, in every tiny flower that bloomed, in every crevice I placed my boot or Chaco-clad feet into. It was magnificent to be a wanderer in this wild and beautiful land of the midnight sun. The mountains called me, the cry of the rocks resonated on the same frequency of my mind’s song and I went. I climbed, I slipped and fell, I climbed again. I turned around sometimes, and resolved to return.
Every time I climbed, I was struck anew with the wild beauty and blatant magnificence of creation. What an incredible and thoughtful God to make all this and give us the means to enjoy it, even with the work to get to the top, it was absolutely worth it to be able to appreciate the wonder of it all. And what an insightful Father to give us such resilient bodies with which to journey through these hills.
Another thing I have learned about these mountains- everything is both closer and farther away than you think. The heights we climbed to are far from impossible and not nearly as daunting as they appear; however, it is unwise to underestimate the time and effort necessary to reach them. Even more beautiful and often overlooked than the grand heights sometimes are the tiny flowering plants that thrive in these high elevations. I don’t know why I’ve been so drawn to them, but I find myself fascinated by these little lives. They are hardy, yet still so delicate. They are understated, yet they demand attention through their existence among the rocks. My thoughts on this- Tread lightly as you traverse the mountains, for it would be a shame to miss the resilience of the plants that help to build it.
Tread lightly as you go through life, be careful of the words that so easily slip off the tongue as they can cause either great harm or healing. Walk lightly through life, but grow deep roots.
Finally, besides the mountains, I had people. For those who know me, forming friendships is typically a long and arduous process. Absolutely, it’s worth it, but it takes time and effort. I figured, like all good things, that is simply my normal. But in Alaska, it felt effortless! I feel a kinship with the people up there. There’s the same hunger in all of us. A hunger to do and to be and to appreciate all the earth has to offer. The risk and danger is acknowledged and respected. Nature is respected, but thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a beautiful balance and I loved learning how to live like that.
Besides all we have in common, the people in Alaska have taught me a great deal about generosity. They were willing to go above and beyond anything I expected in so many key ways. From lending me equipment to picking me up for an impromptu hike up Wolverine to going camping with people you barely know to jumping in the freezing cold Resurrection Bay at midnight, the generosity of true friendship I’ve experienced has been unbelievable and it made living there a joy.Joy really is the best way to sum up my two short months in this isolated northern adventureland. Joy at where I lived, joy with my work and learning, joy with my adventures, joy with the relationships I built, and joy at life. Especially after this past year, this joy-filled life alone has been amazing. Looking back over my time here, I’m overflowing with gratitude. Eucharisteo joy and gratitude. Living with immediate recognition of the beautiful, even if it is so small it is passed over by most of the world. Mountain aven flower blossoms turned toward the sun on the side of a mountain. Clouds covering the top of the mountains as you ascend into the whiteness. Mountains outside the office window. Even the taste of sugar-filled coffee after lunch.
My time in Alaska was like one of her summers- brightly flowering for a few short months before the days grew short and dark. But like her summer, I will come again. I’ll let my heart’s compass point me north and I’ll go. I’ll go to live and to learn, to explore and adventure through the hidden treasures of the wild. I’ll return and when I do, I’ll be living by the light of the midnight sun.
The road goes ever on,
P.S. If you made it to the end, free to share or comment about an adventure you had! I would love to hear about where wandering through the world has taken you! 🙂