Looking at photos I brought back from a summer hiking trip in the mountains, a college friend once exclaimed, "You don't live in Alaska, you live in Middle Earth!" And it's true. Up in the mountains, the plants are too green, the water too clear, the sky too vast to be real. From the first time I heard Howard Shore's soundtrack, I have associated it with my favorite -- to my mind, the most beautiful -- part of the state: a region of the Alaska Range, mostly above treeline and dotted with mountain lakes. If the homesteading act was ever renewed, I would build a cabin there in a heartbeat.
Hiking and camping in those mountains every year from when I was very young is one of the best memories I have, and if you asked me suddenly to picture a time or place when I was very happy, I would probably see myself high on a ridge, looking out across a lake. I would feel the wind in my hair, smell the tundra and the sunshine and my liberally-applied perfume of DEET, taste the frigid stream water and tart berry juice, hear loons calling, beavers slapping, ground squirrels chattering. I've always intended to share this area, my favorite place, with whomever I married... And now we have been married two years, nearly, and haven't been able to do any camping at all.
I understand; you grow up, and real life gets in the way, and you can't do the fun things that you thought would come with growing up when you were younger. Children happen, medical problems, tight work schedules. I do understand, really. But being out berry picking yesterday, with the sudden onslaught of the sights, and smells, and sounds, and sensations of all of those happy times growing up, brought home to me how very, very much I missed all of that. How long it had been, and how nothing else could really take its place.
That's when the tears came. The m-word (moving) has come up many times recently, between frustration with the work situation and the long, cold winters and the astronomically high cost of living, and I have to admit that for many reasons it is the logical decision. But emotionally, it feels like pretty much the worst idea ever, and the idea of leaving is tearing me up. Nothing will be the same, and I'll be leaving behind so much that I love. There aren't any definite plans yet, but we both know that it will probably happen, maybe even within the next year. And last night, I realized that that meant that I might never see my mountains again.
So like the mature adult that I am, I sat down with my husband to explain why making a trip there was important to me and discuss whether we could find a way to make camping with the child work, right? Ha. Well, that did eventually happen, after an hour or two of him being confused because I was sad but wouldn't say why and just apologized for being selfish when he asked... But because he is wonderful, y'all, he did get me to talk about it and was totally open to the idea, pointing out several logistical problems we will have to try to work around but being willing to help me find solutions, like finding out whether Little Bear will sleep in a tent before we drive five hours away from home, and looking for ways to keep him happy in the car on such a long drive, and working around his office's very, very busy schedule in August and September. I am so blessed to have such a husband.
There's no guarantee it will happen this summer, but we will try. And if it doesn't work, letting him know how much I miss being out in the mountains means that we will at least get some more hiking in; we've been uneasy doing much of that on our own without bear protection, but since we're collectively getting just that for our anniversary, that's no longer a concern! I'm so grateful to him, and so excited to spend more time outdoors.