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