Saturday, January 25, 2014

To the Moon and Back: Snapshots of an Adoption

    Bubbly pink cheeks, a perfect round face and soft light brown skin.  The first time I saw her she was sitting upright on a pink baby blanket with satin trim, wobbly at the core and clearly amused at seeing the world from this new vantage point, she was about six months old. 

Then she vanished.  

A week or so later I saw her standing on a sandy coastline among the beach rye grass with the wind blowing through her soft brown hair, light reflecting like a prism in her rich chocolate brown eyes.  Her skin radiating an inner glow as she stared out at the sea. She was tall, lean and flexible, able to bend and shift with the change in weather, much like the beach grass that surrounded her.  

Then she was gone again.

   Two months later my husband and I drove through a snowstorm to meet a 26 month old little girl.  We walked into the daycare center and were escorted to a classroom.  Two short tables and a dozen or so tiny chairs and endless noise.   I scanned the room searching, seeking, until I found her.  She was sitting in a wooden box, hiding from her world, peering out cautiously.  Her knees were tucked up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around her tiny legs.  She looked so alone, isolated -- lost; nothing like the happy, strong, confident and carefree child I had seen before, but I knew her in my heart. 

There she was.  A child in waiting. Found.

Parke and I approached her gently, dropping to our hands and knees well before we reached her, coming down to her level to greet her from a safe distance.  We sat there on the floor as her peers swarmed around us, tackling us, playing games and singing songs.  She let out an occasional smile at the merriment, but as an observer, not as a participant. We kept our visit short because we didn’t want to overwhelm her.  

The truth was from the moment I saw her sitting there, shy and withdrawn, I knew her, loved her, and I believed in her.  

There she was, our daughter.  Waiting.  

A couple weeks ago Maya said “When I was just a baby in foster care I dreamed about you and daddy and George, then you found me and now I’m home and we’re a family.”.  Maya is tapped into the spiritual realm in a way only old souls can be.  Her knowledge is infinite, her direction clear. I knew all of this before we met in person, because the only way I can explain how she entered our lives is through sheer spiritual force. 

She found me in my dreams. 

Six months after her adoption was finalized we received a letter in the mail from her maternal grandmother.  I unfolded  the letter and a photograph fell out. The moment I saw the picture I got chills and tears spontaneously released from my eyes.  It was the first Maya of my dreams, the bubbly cheeked, happy, smiling baby that called out to me and told me it was time for her to come home.
Our daughter.  Home.  Forever. 

The second dream happened the night of January 7, 2010. It had been a difficult and emotional day.  The fourth anniversary of my Grandma June’s passing.  My Grandma and I shared a special relationship and we relied on one another for strength and support.  When she died my world felt empty. I felt lost.  Before she died I believed I would never have children. I even contemplated having my tubes tied at 22.  Then Grandma left me and I realized the power of family, the importance of loving another person, creating a family, sharing life.  Eight months later I met Parke.  I'd like to think Grandma June had a hand in finding a fellow cheese head from Wisconsin for me to marry and George and Maya for us to love.  
I woke up on January 8 with the strong and unwavering feeling that I needed to contact someone somewhere about adoption.  The proverbial lightbulb was illuminated and our world forever changed.  Friends of ours had recently “fost-adopted” their daughter and I had a contact through the local tribal council.  After discussing it with Parke before he left for work that morning, a conversation squeezed in between a morning breastfeeding for George, followed by a diaper change, coffee, and a rushed shower.  As soon as he left for work I called and left a message to inquire about the fost-adopt process.  A few hours later my call was returned and Maya’s dream was put into motion.  

After a couple false starts we decided to take a break from the process.  It was a crazy idea anyhow, us, fost-adopting a child.  George was just under one year old at the time.  He could crawl, but could not walk. He could make sounds, but could not talk.  He was an infant who required a lot of care, attention and energy.  At the time I was dealing with postpartum depression, managing it quite well, but it weighed on me and some days felt like a struggle to simply get dressed, shower, to eat.  Caring for George was my singular focus and pursuing this “idea” of adopting wasn’t rational and it didn’t make sense, but my in my heart I knew I had to dig deep and find the strength because the truth is she needed me as much as I needed her.  

The day we brought her home we were prepared for a difficult night filled with fears and tears.  As soon as we brought her clothes and toys in the house the party started and she lit up like a firecracker. It was “magical”, as I later told our social worker.  

Meant to be.  

Adopting out of “birth order” is generally not advised, but in our situation it worked to Maya’s advantage.  Developmentally she was just a little farther along than George.  By the time she came home we were her sixth transition.  So for the first week I treated her just like George, rocking her and feeding her milk (from a bottle), and easing into the concept of parenting two kids, age two and under.  Then we came down with a violent stomach bug, one of the worst I have ever had. I was weak with exhaustion and I was fairly confident that I may never be able to eat anything other than broth and mint tea.  I needed help.  Diaper wipes.  A burp cloth.  A trash can.  A distraction.  Maya was brought into the fold of our family and given responsibilities.  She had a role in our family, a place, meaning.  
Maya teaching George to walk.
That summer she taught George how to walk.  They developed their own language, like twins often do at that age.  George learned to talk and was easily frustrated when I didn’t understand what he was saying.  Maya always knew exactly what he needed.  A few months after she came home she began singing him to sleep, after she thought we were out of ear shot the singing would begin.  Maya teaching George to walk and talk translated into Maya’s ability to communicate with us openly because she was the only one who could understand George and what he needed and I think it provided much needed healing. It gave her a distraction from the isolated world she had been living in.  As much as I believe that she was meant to be in my life, just a few minutes observing her and George together makes me realize it has nothing to do with us, not really, instead it has everything to do with the bond she and George share.   Sometimes Maya will tell George "when I was a baby I was in foster care." and he gets really upset and usually replies with something along the lines of "No you just weren't MAYA, you've always been with me.".  In a sense I think she has always been with George, in his heart.  
Maya set up her rocking chair next to mine and would feed her baby
dolls "Mama Milk" (through her belly button) while I fed George.

      We worked with a therapist who approached care using play and incorporated me and George with Maya in her sessions.  The subject of adopting out of birth order came up and our therapist observed that in Maya’s situation being brought into our home with an infant actually helped her stabilize and develop trust in us, which easily translated into accepting and embracing us as her family.  When George cried we soothed him. When he was hungry we fed him.  When his diaper was dirty we changed him. When he was tired we rocked him to sleep.  His needs were fulfilled and Maya felt safe, secure - home.  

Today our smiling happy daughter turns six years old.  She has been home for almost four years, her 4th homecoming anniversary is on April 3rd.  Her adoption anniversary is in three days; it is our 3rd anniversary of becoming a forever family.  
Adoption Day, January 28, 2011
     Every day, in bits and pieces, she becomes that vision I had of her, the second meeting in our dreams.  The strong, confident, bold little girl, looking out at the sea.  Standing on the beach, wind blowing through her soft brown hair.  
     We chose adoption because we needed a daughter and Maya needed a family.  It's that simple.  The process, generally speaking, was easy, the route we chose involved getting to know Maya's birth parents and maternal Grandma.  This provided us with an opportunity to know and understand where Maya came from and to know her birth story.  There is power in story.  Every child deserves a story; a story with a happy ending.  Maya is our happy ending and we are hers.  Before she came into our lives we were incomplete, she completed our family and made us whole.  We needed her as much as she needed us.   






Happy 6th Birthday Maya.  
We love you to the moon and back.  

- Honey Mama 

Maya's First Night Home, popping out of the box her clothes and toys were packed in.  Happy. Home.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Not Even the Trees

Standing in waist deep fresh powder trudging through the great white depths with my buried snowshoes, which may seem like they’re not quite doing the job, but without their large foot print and metal teeth I would never be able to scale the sugar snow covered hill that leads up toward heaven, up to my spot.  I grip my poles tightly as I work my way up the steep hillside in hot pursuit of the perfect shot of my sitting spot.  Taking a moment to pause I look up at the blue sky, deepening in color as the sun dips down below the cloud covered Mt. Sandford and Mt. Drum.  The natural beauty is increasing by the second as the slow descent of the sun strokes the landscape reaching new depths of color and experience as night slowly begins to take over the day.  
Photo by: Parke Ruesch
Unseasonably warm temperatures have found us outside as much as possible, it was 34 F at 7 PM when we finally dragged ourselves inside from our day of work and play. Earlier in the day the four of us and our fur-legged children Honey and Petzl joined us as we trudged our way through the deep snow working our way along the river’s edge as we cut back wayward branches and attempted to resurrect the lost trail to reach new destinations in this microcosm of experience that is The Moose Lodge.  

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Our trail clearing adventure took 90 minutes and resulted in 3/4 of a mile of distance, but a “5” on a 1-5 scale of “rate of perceived exertion” or RPE, for short.  Then we came back to The Lodge for a short lunch break, which the kids extended into a Milo and Otis movie marathon.  We ventured outside while they cozied up on the couch together for afternoon quiet time.  While they snuggled and rested me and Parke worked over the woodpile that we’ve been building up from our firewood cutting of late December.  I run short loops between the log pile to the splitter, where I hand over the chunk of wood and Parke works it over until it is cut into perfect firewood chunks.  Depending on the size of the round we can get 2-8 pieces from one piece.  I stockpile some logs close to the splitter for Parke to work through, then I move over to the split wood pile and make quick short trips with my arms loaded with sentimentally scented split spruce.  

“Making firewood” is the most satisfying activity I can possibly do, other than tri-sport training, the rate of enjoyment and fulfillment I get from working through the woods, limbing trees with my Honey Mama sized ax, sledding chunks of wood out through the dense forest, loading the snowmachine trailer full of wood.  Back at the wood shed we stack the rounds and depending on the moisture content of the wood (we are cutting dead trees) we fire up the splitter and get to work.  I queue up my iPod and hustle wood, singing out loud the caterwauling drowned out by the sound of the splitter chugging along, snapping the wood into pieces through strategic force.  

Yesterday while stacking split pieces a song came on my iPod:  

“I see you in my dreams
And I wonder if you're looking down at me
And smiling right now
I wanna know if it's true

When he looks at me
Won't you tell me
Does he realize he came down here
And he took you too soon” 

- Hootie and the Blowfish; Not Even the Trees 

A familiar song, I started signing it to myself, then the tears began to fall.  Just a few. An armload full of wood and a few steps later I had to drop the wood on top of the pile and started to sob.  

I checked my watch, 2:50 PM, January 18, 2014.  Nine months ago (to the exact moment) I sat in the darkened room of the doctor's office looking at x-ray films.  Studying the films, searching for something that looked amiss, a clue, a sign, something to make sense of the situation.  While our whole family waited for the doctor we sat in silence, afraid to speak, afraid to move. Just breathe. 

The doctor came in and explained the films. He began by pointing to a tiny speck on one of the two films, then another. In a few moments the picture became clearer.  I had been studying the films for something unusual, out of place, but the reason I saw nothing was because it was everywhere. Everywhere.

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Sitting there, trying to hold my own, biting my lower lip, quivering in my very soul I looked at the doctor and knew what it all meant. My baby, my sister, my best friend -- her strong and beautiful body was ravaged with cancer.  She was in pain and at risk of terrifyingly painful complications that would make her last moments with me excruciating.  
Photo by: H.M. Wild
Parke said “it’s time” and I instantly held my hand up and cut him off. Whatever piece of advice, words of comfort, or reassurance he was trying to offer was not welcome, because hearing the words before I could wrap my mind around them made it real, made it here and now and if there was any place I did not want to be, it was in that moment, that place.

Photo by: H.M. Wild
Back at the firewood pile I attempted to regain composure as the song rang in my ears, feeling the words and the feeling of my heart splitting into pieces. Parke noticed something was wrong and he shut off the log splitter. We watched the long slow sunset and listened to music on my iPod, tears fell at random from my eyes and tried to calm my soul with the one thing that has always soothed me: fur-legged friends.  Honey in my lap and Petzl at my side, we watched the sun go down and I thought of all the sunsets I watched with my dog, "Sneeker".  

Photo by: H.M. Wild
The truth is I haven’t been the same since Unique died. I accepted that yesterday when the grief hit me like a freight train, out of the blue, sucker punching me and making me feel weak all over -- in pieces.  Unique was more than a dog, and her death was about more than losing my dog.  When she died I lost part of myself. A big part of myself. Basically my entire adult life was built up with Unique by my side.  A difficult break-up, the ups and downs of dating, keeping my heart from being broken again, working on my degree, building up my career, getting married, having children, moving, moving, moving. Unique was there. We grew up together and became these wild seeking souls, undeterred by the clear obstacles that lie in our path.  If there were ever a dog that could live to be 100, I really believed Unique had what it took to be that dog.  When she died just shy of eleven it seemed impossibly hard to comprehend.  

A few hours later I hauled firewood in for the night and decided to make an outside fire. I rummaged through the wood shed and found scraps and bits of wood to get me started. Once it got going I hauled down our Christmas tree and limbed it with my axe, shaking the snow off the boughs (it had been on our porch for a couple weeks), then piling them up next to the heat of the fire.  I sat quietly and watched the final reaches of daylight fall below the horizon as the night sky began to reveal its quiet unassuming magic to my salty eyes.  Alone.  Content. Okay.  Breathing. 

October 2013 Post: Unique 

Photo by: H.M. Wild

Hootie & The Blowfish – Not Even The Trees (selected lyrics)

Alone as I sit and watch the trees
Won't you tell me if I scream will they bend down and listen to me?
And it makes me wonder, if I'll know the words when you come
Or will you laugh at me
Or will I run

And it makes me wonder
If the stars shine when my eyes close
Or does my brothers heart cry
I don't know

And I know I'll never see you again
Lying down in Charleston under the Carolina sky

And it makes me wonder
When I see you in my dreams
Does it mean anything
Are you trying to talk to me?

I see you in my dreams
And I wonder if you're looking down at me
And smiling right now
I wanna know if it's true

When he looks at me
Won't you tell me
Does he realize he came down here
And he took you too soon

And now my days are short an my nights are long
I lay down with memories of you that keep me going on, going on
And it makes me wonder as I sit and stare
Will I see your face again?
Photo by: H.M. Wild
 Unique Roo
July 23, 2002 - April 18, 2013

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Silent Snow Sounds

Late Wednesday afternoon George and I headed to town to have my braces removed after two years, six months, three weeks and two days of enduring discomfort in the name or orthodontic health and a sparkling smile.  

When George and I drive to town I typically leave The Moose Lodge at daybreak when I am refreshed and feeling prepared to take on the long and winding drive to town.  Frost heaves erupt from the road, springing up shifting the ground, often manifesting in unexpected ways that abruptly threaten to change the course of your trip, waiting to send you in the wrong direction, off the road, into the ditch, off course, lost.  Departing in the morning also happens to be George’s most energized time of the day which means he spends the entire drive talking non-stop, commenting, questioning, and backseat driving his way from The Moose Lodge to Eagle River some 5 hours (on a good day) away.  

The trip rapidly turns into an exercise in focus, determination, and pacing.  All strategies I have been working on for racing, learning how to set goals and move forward, accomplishing the unthinkable, becoming a marathoner in running and in life.  In it for the long haul, willing to log the miles, put in the time, and respect my body and its need to rest, recuperate, and rejuvenate in order to move forward in the most robust, effective manner possible.  

This time I decided to depart in the late afternoon after long periods of outdoor play, indoor adventuring and fort building and space ship captaining had occurred. I announced it was time to get ready to depart and George was ready.  Homemade granola bars and cookies packed, apple juice in the kleen kanteen, CD player ready and an array of favorites chosen for the journey as we disc-jockey our way from one part of the state to the next, driving this dark lonesome highway finding our way, drifting between the home I have created with my family, and the home that was created by my parents, my other family.  Drifting between homes.  

As I pulled The Roo to the edge of the driveway, habitually turning on my signal, left - click, click; click click, I press the “CD” button, illuminated in a green glowing light and nothing. I hit “eject”, nothing.  Silence.  My CD player died no more than 30 seconds from the front door, with several hours to go.  

Radio signal can be picked up at various spots along the way to town, though for long sections of the drive you travel in silence or static, waiting to reach the outskirts of town where radio signal can be picked up and people are everywhere, at all hours of the day and night. This drive to town felt particularly harrowing as we traveled through the darkest, snowiest section of the road in silence, with the glittery snow hitting the windshield in random icy ticks, punctuating the silence of the empty, lonesome road.  

I’ve decided I need to honor each trip in some significant way, some ceremony of celebration at making another uneventful, safe trip to town, guided by the desire to walk in the wild, and live in a wild, open, free place, but remain part of civilization, finding the balance between solitude and companionship. 

 As we approached the top of the hill on our final descent into Palmer, I was astounded by the flickering and fluttering of city lights.  Growing up in the Anchorage area I tend to think of Palmer as the outskirts, living on the edge of civilization as city dwellers define it.  Now that I live somewhere that sits truly on the edge of the vast, wild, open landscape the bright lights of Palmer, which felt both unbelievably big and all -consuming.

When you have found where you are meant to be, things begin to fall into place, one thing at a time, with patience the picture begins to settle and make sense, things become clearer and life begins to unfold in an unhurried way, as one is able to accept the challenges, seek the answers, and live life, simply.  

I am begining to realize that part of this journey is re-learning how to be, and an important part of that is spending time with my parents, who can sit, relax, and be in an unhurried, unrushed way, living in the moment and embracing the here and now.  I have spend the past decade of live busy doing, human doing, not human being.  Being able to slow down and take a moment to notice the awe and wonder in George’s eye as he discovers how to manipulate something, to engineer a solution and craft the object to meet the rules his imagination has enforced for his chosen activity.  Reading the joy and pure enthuisaism in Maya’s face as she hops off the school bus filled with eager, authentic excitement because she loves math.  Magic moments.  

When we set out on our drive to Town the sun began its final sunset.  The third dip below the Mount Sanford’s sweeping horizon that intersects with Mount Drum conformed to the curvature of the earth, giving it an illusionary glow that parallels the glow of the crescent moon hanging out amongst the clouds on a blanket of deep blue, like water, the ocean rolling, building, crashing - as the sky.  

Clouds hang overhead, threatening to release snow flakes that flutter and flit as they drift down to the frozen white ground. Winding, drifting, falling down.  Silent snow sounds.  

We drove by the light of a hazy crescent moon enshrouded in fog and dusted by shimmering snowflakes, falling like confetti on New Year’s Eve.  A celebration of the natural world and the beauty that exists when we stop. 


And take a moment to notice those small moments of wonder and simplicity that exist within our natural landscape.  George comments, from the back seat “I just think this snow is magic snow, because it is just so magical - I love it.”, as I white knuckle the steering wheel, keeping the faith, driving by feel, memory, on a snowy, dark, silent night.  

I remember being about his age driving on the highway between Eagle River and Anchorage on a snowy night with giant puffy flakes falling, slowly, with fierce determination, finding their way to the ground, stacking up all around; it would hypnotize me.  Looking out the car window up at the lights that dot the overpasses along the highway as the snowflakes dance as they fall to the ground.  

Poles line the road for driving in white out conditions, only through this section though. 
My awe and wonder of the snow diminished as I grew older and realized that the roads are icy, snow limits visibility, and that cars crash, people can die -- lives can change in an instant.  It feels too morbid and dark to talk about, so it is something I avoid writing about, but a quick glance at the statewide news was all I needed to confirm the reality. Two major wrecks on Alaskan highways yesterday; three people all severely injured and in the hospital.  I am not sure if there were other major accidents yesterday, I stopped reading at two news stories. 

Everyone you know will die. Someday you will die. Why live life as though that reality doesn’t exist, when it not only exists, but it is inevitable.  Why not make each day count and live out your wildest dreams, making each moment matter, and living life in a way that honors our talents and gifts and makes the lives of others better through knowing us.  

Each of us has the capacity to change the world, even the smallest acts of kindness can bring light into a dark scene.  Small things, random acts of kindness, sincere attention to detail, something real, shared in the here and now.  Those little moments make life extraordinary.  

Driving on the dark and silent roads, traveling between homes, drifting between here and there, feeling wrapped in the silent, dark wilderness that threatens to swallow manmade comforts whole, intent on reclaiming the road, reclaiming the wild within my self. 

I suppose we all are traveling in some way or another, seeking, striving, finding our way, following our dreams; going back to the heart of it all, the passion for living, loving, and being happy.  
Driving blind through the dark night with silvery specs of shimmering snow, falling like glitter-- magic touching down on the ground, as we wander out on the open road, seeking that place -- the experience, the feeling, the acceptance of reality because we know life is fleeting, mere moments.  
Time is a gift, the most precious of all things, we can’t buy more time.  In the end, time is all any of us wants, time to be with the ones we love, time to enjoy nature, and revel in the wonder it is to be alive.  Accepting reality as it is, the preciousness of time, the recognition that life is sacred, and each moment is a present, a gift to be shared.  
We move forward, guided by blind faith, determination and Happy. Love. 

This Moose Lodge chapter that is being revealed in segments was in a sense sketched out many years ago when I was busy exploring the possibilities that life held for me as I grew into adulthood; back to being seven years old and dreaming of living in a little log cabin surrounded by the big woods, wild, all consuming wilderness that envelops and allows for freedom and exploration, so long as you respect the landscape, the elements that preserve the mystery of this place.  

The whole of the experience rests outside our back door, but will not be revealed in a single expedition.  A landscape so vast tempts and flirts with the wild seeking soul, drawing the individual deeper, fully consuming them with the awe and wonder of the natural landscape, the deepest of secrets revealed to those that persist, those that are patient, those who stop, look, listen and feel with an open heart and mind.    

The gift is in the indescribable beauty hidden in plain sight, nestled into the landscape, woven into every leaf, stem, pinecone and it rests within the sweeping night sky.  Indescribable beauty that is so stunning that words cannot begin to fully describe the way the light plays through the tips of snow covered drunken spruce trees nestled in the thick, insulating tundra carpet of blueberry bushes, lichen, moss, and nutrient rich soils, with perfect paw prints pressed into the surface of the snow leaving traces of the wild creatures that call this quiet, protected place home.  Pictures cannot capture the heart of it all. 

I can share our experiences through my words and pictures, but our journey and our observations cannot be captured and defined; the magic of the place will not be confined by human quantification and archival.  The true beauty comes from the experience as it etches the indescribable elements of nature and the experience of seeking the wild into your soul.  It changes you.  

---changing the individual who seeks the wild secrets that are hidden, nestled deep within the landscape.  Waiting to be explored, then left behind, vanishing into the archive of memories, the hall of records, another experience, new exposure, the experiencing of something different, abstract, simple, and indescribable; fleeting. A moment in time.  A snapshot. 

 All living things who call the wild woods of Wrangell St. Elias seem to sense our  presence in the woods, long before they even hear the sounds of our children laughing and taking full delight in the beauty that surrounds us.  The beauty wraps itself up in its awesomeness.  Washing away the layers of the city, traffic, noise and light that have marked our experience and shaped the people we became though this process, this exercise in self-exploration. Each of us on our own respective journey, yet working together to accomplish something we all have a hand in, recreating the American dream and carving out a place for the dreamers, the thinkers, the doers, and wilderness seekers.  The last frontier is calling, and I must go. 

Tracing my way back home, to my childhood home, then back again to The Moose Lodge, Home. Drifting between these two places, this feeling of being home. Surrounded by nature, surrounded by home.

Happy. Love. 

Near the joyous halfway mark between home and home. Like white on rice...

Step out the front door like a ghost
Into the fog where no one notices
The contrast of white on white.
And in between the moon and you
The angels get a better view
Of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
I walk in the air between the rain
Through myself and back again

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.” - Joseph Wood Krutch 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January (2014) Photo Album Link

Dark Night of the Soul

I've spent the past few weeks since graduation in a bit of a funk trying to figure out "what's next"; I'm referring to it as my "dark night of the soul" period, because the polarity of living here in this unfinished log cabin in the woods and the life that “was” back in “The City” bares little to no resemblance of my life today. 
The few similarities that exist in my life here and now and my life then are: my family, friends and my passion for running and writing.  These lifelines have made this process of moving here, sitting with the unknowns and uncertainty, and finding a way to fulfill the destiny I believe I am here to meet, possible and notably less terrifying than they would otherwise be.  

       “One dark night,
          fired with love's urgent longings
          -- ah, the sheer grace! -- 
            I went out unseen,
            my house being now all stilled.”
                                - Juan de Yepes y Alvarez
         St. John of the Cross 1578-79

Despite having several good ideas that inspire and move me, I hadn't discovered "The One", and have been searching endlessly.  At times the search has felt desperate, but mostly I am learning to sit and be, to accept the uncertainty that each day in all of our lives brings.  Back in November I set my goal to "write my way through" whatever this is.  At the time I was writing more than I ever have in my life.  It is possible that I wrote more in the last three months of 2013, than I have in my entire life, but I don’t think that’s the case, it just feels that way.  In any case, I have been writing frequently and about several very different things that are both intimately connected and independently wandering the universe of my heart, searching for a home.  

Something that moving to The Moose Lodge has taught me is faith. In order to pull this off it took faith, which to be totally honest is something I have never fully understood, but the beauty about faith is that you don’t have to understand it in order to have it.  Back in August I felt the need to figure out, upon arrival to this wild place, exactly why I was here.  What was my purpose for so radically changing my life? In order to justify this move, at the very least, to my self but also to those that have loved and supported us on this journey despite all reason.  

Then I opened The Anchorage Press and read my horoscope for the week and it said:

“You’re in a phase when you can thrive by being a gatherer of information of everything that attracts and fascinates you.  You don’t need to know yet why you are assembling all  the clues, that will be revealed in good time” - “Gemini” Rob Brezsny 8/2013 

Say what you want about horoscopes, but Rob’s interpretations of my current personal dilemmas, thought processes, and upcoming challenges are generally spot on, profound, and have at the very least given me something to think about.  I used these two sentences as a guiding light in the months that followed, by not limiting ANY possibility. If it interested me, I wrote about it.  Since then I have written hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages and while I have a little something to show for it, until this morning I didn’t have “My Big Idea”.  You know, the one I am here, on this earth and in this wild place, to write.  

“The artist is by necessity a collector.  He accumulates things from the sea and from the scrap heap.  He takes snapshots, makes mental notes, and records his impressions on tablecloths and newspapers.  He has a taste for children’s wall scrawling as appreciate as that for prehistoric cave painting.” - Paul Rand 

It must have been the Kick Ass coffee my father-in-law, Gord, or “Dad” as I generally refer to him as, sent us for Christmas (a follow-up to last year's inaugural gift of Kick Ass, which quite literally kicked my ass into gear), but a certain kind of magic overcame me this morning and I found the energy to open a book I bought back in this clue gathering process.  

During my “dark night of the soul” moments in the past few weeks I managed to slowly thumb through the first fifteen pages, also referred to as “The Introduction”.  Generally I take an idea, run with it, sometimes very far and often without much vision because I feel the pressure to make a decision.  Typically I would have delved into the book head first, wildly reading through the chapters, spinning my webs tossing ideas in their general direction, waiting to see what stuck. 

“The inspiration comes while you write.” - Madeline L’Engle 

Last spring I conducted a series of interviews with former Native Youth Olympics athletes for my Senior Project at Alaska Pacific University.  At the time I was living in The Labrador House, content and set on living a life in the suburbs, and raising our children in the community I was raised in.  In the interviews I conducted I had the honor of interviewing one young individual who expressed their cultural values and how they are tied to placing an emphasis on the importance of being.  Just being.  Being human. Being still. Being quiet with ones thoughts.  Just be.  The experience moved me. It changed me. It made me realize I did not know how to be.  

The participant identified much of their ability to “be” through their relationship to their culture, which is tied exclusively to the land and all things that the natural world represents.  He pointed out the simple fact that our (American) society encourages us to make quick decisions, and to always move forward, even if it is in the wrong direction.  In the months that followed I transcribed these interviews, an exhaustive process that took hours and hours of focus, careful dictation, and thought.  I found the process harder than I had imagined because it was impossible to separate myself from the raw data.  It consumed me, I found it hard to think about anything else, yet at the same time it was impossible to write about it, a process I needed to do in a set time frame in order to graduate after a decade long journey to complete my “four year degree”.  The words, thought and feeling shared in these interviews wrapped around me, drawing me in, and ultimately pulled me in an entirely different direction.  

I needed to learn to be.  I came here to learn to be.  In the (almost) five months since I have been home I have come to realize that I am very much the same person who set out on this journey, because I am busy with my thoughts and anxieties and worry over what’s next.  The past few weeks in particular have been especially confusing.  Paired with the intense darkness and cold (ten days ago it was -38 F), it has been hard to find the mental energy to delve into some of the ideas that I need to, in order to move forward. 

Or so I thought.  

I kept writing, though at a less intense pace with even more ambiguity and lack of direction.  I let myself cry.  I bordered on wallowing and stopped myself short confining myself to bed, accepting a wintertime hibernation as par for the course in living a wild life that in a five months will be transformed into an endless marathon of daylight and the summertime activities that will consume me.  Then I talked. To Parke. At length. Exhaustively. And he listened.  I’ve been moody and intense.  Sad and happy.  Inspired and lost.  And he has been with me every step of the way.  Sitting with his own sort of confusion, helping me to help myself, to find the way.  That my friends, is marriage. 

“Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name.” - The Avett Brothers  

While I haven’t yet learned how to “be” I am learning how to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and uncertainty that this path has put me, and my family on.  Driven by passion and faith we have found ourselves here in this wild place, unsure of how we are supposed to move forward, lacking a blueprint or plans.  This is not typical for us. 

My husband and I are both known for our extreme Type A tendencies and we always have a plan, a vision, goals, and a timeline in place.  When opportunity came knocking, we had no time to sit down and write out a timeline, identify concrete values based goals, and action steps to accomplish them.  We had to conjure up faith from a spiritual source beyond ourselves.  This is not easy for two control freaks, but somehow (I suspect with a lot of prayer on part of our mothers) we managed to find the faith to do the things that terrified us more than anything in the world. 

Following our dreams.

“You have to climb to reach a deep thought” - Stanislaw Lec 

The one overarching statement nearly everyone says upon hearing about what we have done is “I’ve always wanted to do that.”.  Indeed.  Many of our friends, family, and acquaintances have this vision of moving to a little log cabin on the edge of nowhere in search of a simple life surrounded by nature, solitude, and peace.  

“Author Eliane Scarry defines “the basic impulse underlying education” as follows: the “willingness to continually revise ones own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty.” - As quoted by Rob Brezesky, 9/13 

So why is it few people embark on such a journey?

Because it is terrifying and in order to do it, actually make it happen, you have to let go of everything you have worked for, built up, and cultivated in your life and exchange it for uncertainty.  It’s like that saying about holding sand in your hands.  If you hold on tight, it slips between your fingers and you are left with nothing.  If you hold it loosely, relax, and learn to be - the world is at your fingertips.  

You have to become comfortable with the unknowns.  Through this process I have realized we all live in this terrifying state each and every moment, of each and every day.  Your bank account is likely bigger than mine, your life more clearly defined, and your path more fully detailed. But the reality is we all live in a constant state of vulnerability, uncertainty, and risk.  All it takes is a moment, a single moment, and your whole life can change.

In August 2012, a good friend and colleague of my husband returned home from a work trip, late on a Friday night, to his wife and two sons.  He went to bed that night, happy to be home with his family, and I suspect with plans for seeking out the wild places that Alaska has to offer, sharing in the joy of the great outdoors with his two sons and wife during the weekend that laid out before them.   

Sometime late in the day on Saturday I was on Facebook and came across an odd comment on his wife’s Facebook page that came up in my news feed.  When I first read it nothing made sense.  I didn’t even understand what it said.  There were words and in my mind all that I could see were question marks.  On her page there were photos of our friend, out fishing, with his boys and touching photos of he and his wife together, happy.  I kept reading the words, over and over.  I stood motionless in the kitchen of our rented house, on shaky legs, still unable to comprehend the simple words that were written explaining how their life had changed in a moment, a single moment, early that Saturday morning in August with a weekend spread out before them and adventures waiting to happen.  

That morning our friend Kelly died unexpectedly at home in his bed, next to his wife.  He was 43 years old and in good health, active, full of life, passion and adventure. His life had ended and his family was left in a state of shock. There was no rhyme or reason. It happened. It was awful. I still grieve for his family because I cannot imagine the loss, pain, and hardship they have had to endure without this great man in their life.  I felt blessed to have known him as a friend and know that the time he and my husband worked together, shared mexican lunches at Hacienda, and talked of adventures had and adventures yet to be had, made a difference on how my husband viewed his future.  When he met Kelly he was a single guy with limited interest in having children, or even in being married.  When I met Parke in 2006 our second date was a “Shack Warming Party” at his recently acquired cabin in Eklutna.  Kelly and his wife Denise and their boys Dylann and Brennen were there, and I looked at their family with such admiration.  Committed to living a life of adventure, having left their home in North Dakota in search of wild adventures in Alaska and an experience for their two young boys. 

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will.” -Gandhi  

I shakily walked over to the living room and sat down next to my husband on the couch and paused a few moments, tears began to fall and finally I said “Something happened this morning, I don’t know the details, but Kelly died, he’s gone, I am so sorry”.  Then I began to cry.  I cried hardest for his boys, knowing the father he was to them and the loss that his passing represented in their young lives.  Parke sat there and looked at me with the same puzzled and bewildered look upon his face that I had when I was reading the words that made no sense.  Then he demanded to read what I had seen, because clearly I was confused and had misinterpreted something and the world had not in fact changed in such a profound way for Kelly and his family.  

In the months after Kelly’s death Parke had a few dreams where Kelly came to him, in subtle ways, but his presence and the heaviness of his passing gave these dreams a sort of magic, and created a sense of urgency.  We started discussing the life we were living compared to the life we wanted to live.  We asked ourselves what we would do if we knew it could end at any moment?  Because it could. At any moment.  We had the evidence to support that belief, it was as real as ever.  We had just signed the sale paperwork on The Labrador House and were on the hook for over half a million dollars of a mortgage we couldn’t truly afford, in a lifestyle that didn’t fulfill us, despite the fact it was The American Dream, or at least the dream we’d been led to believe was “Ours”.  

We spent the months that followed in a state of questioning about our future and the life we were living compared to the life we wanted to live.  Then a series of miracles happened that were too obvious to ignore.  All the signs were there, the opportunity presented itself and somehow the many things that needed to fall into place in order to make The Wild Dream come true, did.  Kelly has been in our hearts the entire time and the life we live here is in no small way dedicated to the life he lived.  A life the ended too soon.  A life that made a difference in the world.  

Because of all this, even the terrifying moments can be wrestled with because we did it, we followed our dream and we are living in the here and now. All we have is this single moment.  

What are you going to do in this moment to fulfill your destiny?  

“Inspiration is unlimited power” -Yogi Tea Bag Message 

 - H.M. Wild
Run Life From Your Core 

“The works must be conceived with fire in the soul, but executed with clinical coolness.” - Joan Miro

P.S. Coming home feels just like going back, back to the way that I was...back to the gypsy that I was.  

                                                              Fleetwood Mac, 1978
So I'm back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy... that I was
And it all comes down to you
Well, you know that it does
Well, lightning strikes, maybe once, maybe twice
Ah, and it lights up the night

And you see your gypsy
You see your gypsy
To the gypsy that remains faces freedom with a little fear
I have no fear, I have only love