Sunday, August 9, 2009

Our One-Month Retrospective

Yesterday marked our one-month "anniversary" as residents in Alaska. Needless to say, our lives are vastly different than they were before we got here. Thinking about this, I asked the guys to give me a list of the things that are different for them personally, what they like, and what they might miss about being in Texas. Here are their lists, word for word:

From Jim:
What do I miss: I miss my friends, though I'd usually not see them much during the off-season for scouts. I miss having a garage. That doesn't sound deep, but it was nice having all of that space.

What is different: A lot is different, but a lot is the same. Now, with two new dogs, more is different. We watch a lot less TV, which is good. We're out doors a lot more together, which is good. We don't eat in front of the TV, which is good. There are challenges which we have to plan to meet together, which is good. Everything smells good. I know I embarrass you, but the good smell is very intense, and it is very pleasurable. The birch and spruce trees smell really good. The colors are very intense when the sky is clear. The water is BLUE. The fireweed is bright purple. The cranberries are a red that almost pokes out your eyes. Cook Inlet is sorta gray from the silt. Everything has the saturation turned up a little bit. I feel more alive. The gray days are very, very gray by comparison. The storms aren't (yet) as intense as in Texas. We'll see what the winter brings.

What is the same: We are. Mostly. In the important ways we are.

We did it. It took longer than we thought, but we did it. And I really like it.


Less poetically and a bit more pithy, here is James' list:
Outdoors is less of a pain, even though there's more that can eat you.
Holy cow, the dogs.
People are nicer. It's weird, and I'm not sure what I think of it.
Less space - you can hear everything.
Going in to town is a bit of a production. - unless it's the M&M.
There's a lot more to be done to the house itself.
There's no furniture. :) [There's furniture here now, so not sure what he means by that]
Prices are higher.
Hardware stores are cooler.
There's so many better views - let's face it, north Texas doesn't have any scenery.
There's a sense of community totally unlike The Colony. Everybody helps everybody here.


And here's my list:
Our lives are, on the whole, better here than they were in Texas. How? Jim's insomnia has pretty much cleared up, which is a miracle. He seems happier and less content to hole up inside the house. James is easier to get outside, too, although I admit I'm still happy enough to stay indoors. However, right now the balcony overlooking the lake is calling to me to bring out a paperback and a cold drink and tell all my chores to do themselves. James has become quite the handyman, having learned to put up shelves and run electrical wire and all sorts of stuff like that. He's also learning how to handle the aftermath of a fender bender, after being in his first one a couple weeks ago in the Home Depot parking lot. Jim's obsession with outdoor "toys" like the kayaks and the snowmachine are tempered only by his obsession with Belle. Belle and Moya are good additions to the family, and once we get the whole issue of potty training two dogs at once solved, and the dogs all figure out whose toys are whose, we can hopefully congratulate ourselves on good choices at the animal shelter.

Jim is right in that the saturation seems to be turned up a bit here. Everything is just a bit "more".... More purple and blue on the roadsides, more blue in the lake, more mountains, more dogs, more wildlife, more quirky people. An eagle flew right over our house, and watching the float plane take off from the lake is a fun treat. And James is right about more of a sense of community. A medical fundraiser for a 14-year-old with a rare blood disorder packed one of the area's larger churches and overflowed their parking lot with cars. I'm not sure how much money was raised, but the donations were incredible and the generosity of people bidding on the items was amazing. The women in the Homemaker's Club have been very friendly and open to me on the couple of occasions I've seen them so far (I'm going to my first regular meeting on Wednesday), and our neighbors patiently answer all our cheechako questions and offer us the loan of equipment we don't have yet and advice on how to lay up food for the coming winter. Speaking of which, my new life up here has involved hours of pouring over plant identification books and websites so that I have at least a little of the knowledge the other women have about what's edible around here. I've got fireweed jelly in the pantry now. I'd never made jelly from flowers before, but it's really tasty, sort of reminiscent of grape jelly, but lighter flavored and a pretty pinky lavender color. The guys, Belle, and Moya are right now out picking me more fireweed blossoms and checking to see if the highbush cranberries on our other property are getting ready for picking. On our two properties, we have wild strawberries, raspberries, watermelon berries (also known as scoot berries - don't eat too many!), highbush cranberries, and I'm still learning how many other plants have medicinal or food purposes. We had no idea just a month ago that fireweed shoots are a substitute for asparagus in the spring, and that parts of devil's club are edible, too. My new friend Patty introduced us to birch tree syrup and spruce tip jelly, which she makes herself and sells at the Saturday Market in Soldotna. I've learned how to can fish for the winter months and how to filet one, should the need ever arise for me to do it again (and I'm hoping it won't). I'm baking bread much more often now, too.

As far as what I miss, well, I miss mostly things that relate to my former cake business. I don't have a reputation up here for doing cake, so of course no one's asking for any. I miss my ovens and my cooktop, and a pantry, and my Metropolitan. I'm thinking I won't renew my subscription to my cake decorating magazine, because it makes me melancholy that I'm not part of that world anymore. I miss easy access to shopping and will probably be weeping grateful tears when the WalMart opens up in Kenai in the spring.

So, what's the bottom line?

This is better. This is where we were meant to be. It was hard to get to the point of being able to come up here, and hard to get out of our Texas house, and hard to get through the trip, and hard to get our belongings up here (still missing some items). But I'm at peace with being here. Jim and James are, too. It's different, but I'm learning that "different" doesn't always have to mean "bad." Sometimes "different" means "good."


  1. I am so proud of you all! I think you are adapting beautifully! And I know you will be so glad you decided to do the move!
    Love you tons, and can't wait to visit one day!!
    P.S. did the books come yet?

  2. I'm glad you think its better. For a while wasn't sure what you thought of it.

  3. There is something so very special about a sense of community. True, they know everything to goes on, but are right there as a steady foundation when needed. I am so glad you have found that. It sounds wonderful and I imagine the Autumn will just "knock your socks off". what an incredible transformation! As mentioned above, so very proud of the family.
    And you know, you could always sell a cake or two at the Saturday Market!

  4. Jim (of the wild ride variety)August 10, 2009 at 4:21:00 PM CDT

    Today is so warm and sunny it almost qualifies as hot. Almost.

  5. Please don't stop doing cake!!! Start making some and adding fireweed filling!