After two weeks of shuffling and switching between sleeping spots, packing and unpacking and repacking again, we’ve arrived home.
From the moment we left California, everything was different (other than shipping a case of wine for free, that was the same. Thank you STS + Alaska Airlines).
For the first time, we returned to Alaska saying “Yes”.
For the first time, we returned with clear work plans for the Spring and Summer months.
For the first time, we traveled in our own truck with a working heater.
For the first time, we returned in late Winter.
For the first time, we returned just us two.
Once on the Alaska side of things, we were smoothly skating along.
Pre-Alaska wasn’t as easy. Our last day went a little like this: high stress, filled with rain, a broken car defroster + windows that won’t roll down = no visibility, locked out of our storage unit where ALL of The Chief’s new tools that he needs for the season were stored, soaked in rain trying to get in and then running my face into my car window in an effort to jump quickly inside, resulting in a sweet little shiner.
There were a few too many last-minute chores and odds and ends but, in the end, the skies cleared and we sat at the kitchen table, my Brother, my Nephew (the fearless, toothless wonder), my Mom, The Chief and I eating tuna salad and laughing it off. It was good and hard to leave. My heart straddles the states with neither part taking or leaving more. It’s good to arrive and hard to leave each time, each place.
But leave we did in the smoothest of fashions and arrived just the same. We were back to our well-oiled machine Alaskan selves.
I wait for luggage, you pick up the car (already running and warm inside. Pure luxury).
You drive the icy streets, I navigate.
We arrived at The Musher & Hula’s Anchorage abode around 2 am, you know, the normal hour for guests and immediately, I felt Alaska sinking in. After being gone for so long, I was missing that connection.
The smooth continued on into the next day when we gazed upon the two lists I’d made:
One listing everything we had at home.
Another, listing everything we needed.
The Chief congratulated himself on being genius enough to have caught such a genius fiancée.
Arriving at 2 am and leaving one day later sounded ambitious, but as we floated through our chores 12 hours later, we became giddy with the reality that we were indeed heading home tomorrow.
After dinner at R&J’s with even more Alaskan friends, we were getting more and more excited to head home.
And, an early rise and a blood draw later (we had to at least throw in some medical issues) and we were off.
We’d heard tales of The Road, 60 miles of ice covered in slush and so we steadied ourselves for a tough journey but 6 hours later, as we laid our first tracks, it still felt easy, breezy.
After a few quick inhale moments (on my part, The Chief was relaxed, as always while driving in insane conditions) crossing through some tougher road glaciers, we were home. We arrived at our snowmachine, with the sled attached, at the end of our driveway, ready to haul our goods to an already heated house with working lights.
It has never been easier.
Lordy, I love our friend family.
The hard part came in heart form when we awoke from our warm bed the morning after to the quiet. I quickly awoke, worried that I’d slept too long and Lou would be hungry. But, of course, Lou wasn’t there.
Just the quiet.
Just the two of us.
Through all of the beautiful, growing up life changes we’ve welcomed since we’ve left from and returned to Alaska, that jarring sadness still remains. It followed us through California to Ecuador and back, all in different forms, despite the thought that I might escape it. It’s smaller but it’s there.
Thankfully, so are our friends.
After a cry and a realization that we needed the house to fill up with more than just our own sounds, we heard a call. Just like that, our needs were met, as our neighbor (who had set our house up so cherry for us – which was no quite feet given the inch of solid ice under all the snow. That’s a lot of Ramp of Doom chipping…) hollered as he walked over. An hour later, another neighbor followed with his pooch and after him more and more of our family (canine and human) arrived until we found ourselves amongst half of the valley, at a bonfire in our backyard.
Home again, home again, different as it may be and same as it always was, joys and sadnesses set in balance by those we share this place with and are lucky enough to call our friend family. Thank you for making it easy, physically and emotionally, to snuggle in so sweetly again.
Winter & Friends