I’ve done this before. In those final weeks and months before moving to Reno in 2011, I’d walk along Anchorage’s iconic coastal trail and gaze out at the massive and ever-changing waterscape of Cook Inlet. In the summer, the water shimmered blindingly under a lemon-hued midnight sun sky. During the winter, the Inlet glowed a fierce glacial green, churning and swirling with massive slabs of gray cake-like ice.
I thought a lot about the phrase “the edge of the world”. I knew intellectually that if I could somehow fly my line of sight farther than what I could see across the Inlet; if I kept going and going and saw my way far enough south, I’d eventually hit, say, Seattle. But what it felt like, gazing out at the Inlet in all of its seasons, was that the entire world dropped off right behind it, and then eventually picked back up in a place that was simply Other.
Alaska felt so ethereal, otherworldly to me; as though I were living life on another planet. The people who chose to inhabit this place alongside me “got it”. For some reason my relatives back east, many a taxi driver, and concerned Lower 48 friends frequently did not.
“I don’t think I could deal with the lack of light”, they’d marvel.
At the time, I was so enamored with Alaska that truly things like physical discomfort or mental health were fully eclipsed by my absolute, pure wonder for this place and who I was finding myself to be within it.
But then I moved to Reno. I boarded a plane, hurtled through the sky far above the long landscape that exists between Alaska and everywhere else that I had such a hard time comprehending, and was deposited in the high desert. You know the story: after living there (and loving it) for a few years, Wes and I married and moved back up to Alaska.
Now it’s ten years after my return, and I’m once again getting ready to leave.
I find myself mentally or physically connecting with places and people in Alaska that have defined this place for me. I drove to Valdez and remembered the first time I visited, so easily and wholly awestruck. I re-read old columns for Anchorage Daily News – because something exciting is in the works, stay tuned – and was struck by how many experiences this place has offered me over ten years. I see friends and acquaintances and we talk about the amazing and insidious qualities of Alaska.
I don’t feel sadness about these final weeks, exactly. Maybe I feel a little wistful, but mostly very lucky.
I can say two things without a doubt:
I am ready to leave Alaska.
And, Alaska never quite leaves me, no matter where I go. I mean that: it’s impossible to un-know and un-experience all that this place is, how unique it is, and the absolutely amazing places and people that comprise it. It’s under my skin forever, so although I am pointing my Mobile Art Studio south for the foreseeable future, I know Alaska still plays a role in that future somehow.
I’m grateful for this edge of the world. And I’m excited to step beyond it into a vast unknown.