It’s been all about the skiing with me lately. I’ve been out every day for a while now, excluding travel days and Fairbanks days. It’s like flying, when you hit your rhythm, and it’s a quiet way to move over the snow. I love it.
This is from last week, when Angel kept Ben, Terri and me company on an afternoon turn around the village. I miss that sunshine: it’s been cloudy here for ages now, and with the tipping of the earth, we’re only getting a few hours of daylight: I come to school in the dark and head home in the twilight. I ski every evening in blue half-light under the heavy clouds. Before too long, the sun won’t break the trees anymore, and the shadows will disappear into the deeper shadows until spring. I’m hoping for clear skies soon soon soon.
I went snowshoeing outside of Fairbanks this weekend with a new friend. I flew to town to see some kids at boarding school in Nenana, but the weather was crap and I didn’t make it out to them. I ran a few errands (bought a sled, a bunch of ice cream for the school, and some parsnips) and had some food that I didn’t have too cook, but the best part of the weekend was easily the part where I was miles from Fairbanks, playing in the woods.
Scott broke trail the whole way as we climbed a steep hill and then hiked along a windy ridge. Stretching my legs and actually climbing for the first time in months felt awesome. By dusk, we’d only made it about four miles, and, with the wind whipping our tracks off the ridgeline and the flagging tape that marked the path buried in a rock-candy snow-crust, we opted to turn around rather than risk getting lost in the dark. The windward sides of both our faces prickled white with frost as the sun went down and we crunched back along the ridge. Later, sheltered in the trees, we all but skied down the mountain using the snowshoes to control the tumbling, galloping roll that gravity gave us. I loved it. That feeling of falling and the soft snow spraying all around made me giddy. The rest of the weekend I could take or leave, but that part was awesome.
It really felt like coming home. When Pat dropped me off at Wright’s on Sunday, I felt a huge sigh burst out of my chest. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath, but I guess I was. While I waited for my plane, a former student pulled me aside and asked me to bring her son home to Venetie and his grandparents. I boarded the plane with her kid on my hip and he fell asleep in my lap as soon as we lifted off the ground, a bush baby for sure, lulled by the engine’s drone and the smooth ride. I felt so comfortable, sitting with that warm little kid in his batman hat in my arms and watching the roads and the parking lots and the nasty brown slush peculiar to roads and parking lots wink out of existence below us. I was relieved to see Fairbanks disappear, ready to resume my real life, to be back in the bush.
Real life. A year ago, this week, I quit my job in Arkansas. I’d never been to Alaska. I’d never heard of Venetie. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
I have arrived. In so many ways, I have arrived. This independence and remoteness is my natural habitat.
I’m getting eccentric, though, I think. All I can think about when I think about going back to town is how much I hate parking lots.