A year and one week ago I met my person at the Friday softball game. We talked all night after the game at the local watering hole and as I fell asleep that night my girlfriend told me I had whispered to myself that I was going to kiss him.
A year ago today that kiss happened and it took us both into a whole new life.
I resisted at first, tried to tell myself that it wasn’t a part of the plan but it was a resistance like politely refusing the last pour from the bottle of wine. No, no, no. I couldn’t possibly. O.K well, maybe.
I drank from the cup and the potion suited me just fine and I finally relaxed into the reality that I was done for (in the best of ways).
The reality that we were together at last, since once I met him it felt like I had finished a journey I didn’t know I was on, overcame the planner in me. I went with the flow and answered questions about our future with “we will see”.
But eventually, as the Summer started to come to a close and my departure to California rang the leaving bell louder and louder, we needed to plan in order to see one another again.
The Chief had always said he would never leave Alaska for any stretch of time longer than he had to.
I left Alaska in the last week of August to meet a girlfriend visiting from Norway and to attend two weddings of four people I love dearly and, of course, to see my family and friends.
Thank goodness for the draw of loved ones; it would have been tough to pull me from Alaska otherwise. In some ways it was fear that made me want to stay in Alaska, fear that we would change while apart or forget what we had. But after living my life in that way for so long, I knew I needed to stretch and to leap with at least a little faith. I mean, geez, I had been drawn to Alaska like a magnet. Time away from one another could either make that draw stronger or dissolve it completely and that was a reality I couldn’t change. So leap I did, back to California, back to the comfort of my people and the joys of a long shower and electricity.
At times, perhaps fueled by the worries of others, perhaps fueled by my own inner gremlins, I wondered if in fact The Chief would get on that plane on October 5th. Maybe he would have a change of heart. Maybe the uphill battle of leaving would be too much. He would need to winterize the house completely and shut her down for who knows how long. He would need to get the dog approved for flight. He would have to leave paying work that rarely occurred into Winter for pick up or no work at all in California. He was leaving all his comforts to meet me in mine.
But leave he did with a one way ticket and no plan of return.
We both leapt.
California was both wonderful and rough but we made it through together. We moved countless times, packing and repacking ourselves into nooks and crannies of wonderful hosts. We were given an RV and thought we were ready to roll, only to find out that it would take a lot more time and money than we had planned, plus we would have to find a place we could park it. Oh, and the dog got skunked the first night we spent in it. It was pouring down rain and there was no covered area for her. We couldn’t leave her outside so essentially, we all got skunked.
But oh well.
We love her.
It was constant logistics and shuffling.
We spent a few minutes in the morning and a few hours together every night since I was working like a fiend to save enough to get me through Winter while The Chief tried to busy himself during the day finding random work or adventure in order to give our hosts some privacy. We had to pack up my storage unit to the brim, gather last items from my ex and tidy up my life to actually leave for a stint (since last time I had planned to be back in a tic).
We were tired and overworked and underplayed and so in love that it didn’t matter because we would rather be in Choreland all day than be 3,000 miles apart.
Finally, we both felt it. It was time to leave. We had already been through so much together and yet it was time to embark into more unknowns. This time, the unknowns would be for me.
Winter in Alaska.
As we left my parents’ house my Mom and I both went weepy. If I had a choice, we would live down the street from one another but my preference would be my dirt road in Alaska and hers would be her paved road in California and so we bid adieu and an “until we meet again” and hoped that again would be sooner rather than later.
I felt stripped down and built up all at once as we left. We were starting a new chapter. This was no longer a simple Summer Romance. We were embarking on a life together. We had met one other’s families and friends and now it was time to create our home.
California was a condensed version of hard and easy. Winter in Alaska was exactly the same and at the same time the polar opposite and with a longer life span than our time down south.
I planned our Winter in my head. Me at the oven pulling out perfect loaves of bread while The Chief played guitar for us and we all (The Chief, The Lou and I) sang along. Silly me, planning again.
Some days weren’t so far away from that glittery image and others were miles off. The Winter is something people here congratulate you for surviving, both in body and in spirit. On an extra cold day where all you want to do is cozy up with your person and read books but your person has to work all day in the cold, it can get lonely. A phone call to a friend while taking a walk can be the perfect medicine until your phone dies from the cold and the dog ditches you because she’s smart enough to head home in such weather.
You feel alone.
You miss the convenience and independence of your own car on a city road. You miss meeting a girlfriend for a drink or a walk. Heck, you just miss a walk where you don’t have to batten down the hatches and dress yourself for war with the elements to simply walk outside.
You miss your Mom.
But that is the whole point of the Winter. She brings you back to bare basics and strips away the comforts you expect. She forces you inward. She forces you to truly greet yourself, wherever you’re at and so instead of becoming tri-lingual or a master knitter I ended up spending a lot of time by myself getting to know me and trying to become the person I want to be.
The process wasn’t always pretty and in a 408 square foot home (counting the loft) it wasn’t something either of us could really ever could hide. And thank goodness for that. We weathered the Winter together and our relationship grew because of it. Without much of a separate room to go to in a tiff I would go and sit on our cooler in the kitchen to cool down (I didn’t realize the pun in that until just now) and then we would come back together with more understanding and less fire.
Spring Break came and the Break-Up began. I didn’t realize until later that people were also talking about couples. The sun shines a bit more and the hardness of Winter is over and sometimes as the ice breaks, couples too go their separate ways.
I can see how it happens but I’m so glad it didn’t. In fact, I wished for more Winter because between work and surgeries I never really felt like we got the Winter I had planned on. Whoops, I did it again. But that’s O.K. because we have so many Winters ahead of us. All of them will be different and all of them will probably differ from what I expect but I welcome them.
Now it is Summer again, the time when we met, the time when we fell in love. The leaves are back, colors are everywhere, bees are out and mosquitoes are trying to conquer us all, bite by bite.
There are little reminders everywhere tucked into ourselves and this town and the people within it of how we came to be and how I first saw The Chief. Now, as I know him deeper it’s sweet to look upon the past when he was still such a mystery and I’m sure in another year I’ll feel the same again as we both continue to change.
The other day, I was wiggling my toes as I wrote. I looked up to see The Chief smiling at them. He loves my feet, the one thing I’ve consistently been self-conscious about on my body throughout my entire life. I even tried to hide them from him when we first started dating by way of shoes and socks and covers but he found them. They were the one thing I didn’t want him to see and he loved them instantly and in a sense, this has been our way. The parts of us that we’ve tried to hide have found their ways from under the covers and instead of banishing them, we’ve tried to give love to the parts that the other sees as a flaw.
We’ve softened one other’s edges and brought down our shields because it simply hasn’t been possible to keep them up. For the first time I feel safe in my imperfections and safe in my person’s as well. Sure, there are things we both want to move past or change and we will but I feel a foundation, now one year old that has been strong enough to hold us together through all we have seen already.
Today is our anniversary and I am spending some of it writing because that is what I love to do. The Chief is happily researching fire videos to train the crew on rainy days and reading like a fiend. We will go out as a family (The Chief, The Lou and I) and explore and hike and then eat dinner with our friend family who brought us together and then watch an amazing friend do stand-up comedy at the Rec Hall. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect day. Heck, there might even be pancakes factored in there somewhere (there was).
Thank you Alaska for your hard-handed shoves and soft-fingered flicks to push me to where I am today: imperfect and in love in the middle of the woods. I never saw it coming and I only want to see it growing.
With all my heart, thank you.