Falling Back, Looking Forward

Last weekend, we went on a family hike, Leto, The Chief and I. It went a little something like this:

Fall Alaska Colors
Not bad, eh?

While the fall colors were in full effect, there was still a feel like summer was looking over our shoulder, guiding us gently into the next season. The (sometimes) sunny days didn’t feel so far away. The next morning, I headed to Anchorage and when I returned, a mere two days later, summer’s gaze was no more. Instead, winter beckoned us in. The mountains, bare when I left, were now covered in a determined Termination Dust (what Alaskans have dubbed the first snowfall signaling the end of summer).

Fall colors
The Swimming Hole (not so swimmable). Termination Dust in the mountains.

These wintry days of freezing mornings and oh so sultry highs of 50 degree afternoons have had me looking foward towards winter. This past winter was epic. It snowed more than any year I’ve ever experienced, more than a lot of people had seen in decades.

Winter in Alaska
The Chief, shoveling out our woodchopping area after a heavy night of snow. All these trails had been completely walkable the evening before.

Snow is normally a welcome gift but it snowed so much that looking back in my journal, I found this gem of an entry:

“Monday, March 29th, 2021
5:55 am
Still fucking snowing!”

So, yeah, needless to say, it was epic but not always favorably so. This past winter was also memorable because it was the first time in a year that I had felt total hope we’d found our way out of (or at least a way to barely skirt around) this whole pandemic mess.

Why?

Because in mid-March, a local clinic (and by local, I mean a clinic 4 hours away) drove all the way out our unmaintained, Do Not Drive Without Survival Gear road to our little hamlet and provided second shots and first and only shots of the vaccine for Covid-19 to anyone who wanted them. Did every single resident come? No, but did the majority of the town? You betcha. Mind you, getting to the vaccine wasn’t an easy task. This wasn’t a “drive in your warm car to the local CVS” vaccine type o’ day. Just as the vaccine team had to work to get to us, our entire town had to work to get to them.

My vaccine day? It started with preparations.

Crescent moon
Crescent moon beans

I would be alone afterwards if The Chief was unable to make it back from his snowmachine trip and I was determined to be self-sufficient. I spent the morning chopping firewood, cleaning the house, charging the batteries, pumping gas, warming the generator, cooking food for the next few days and gassing up the snowmachines.

Woodstove heat
House heating up? Check. Firewood for two days? Check. Let’s do this.

I was prepared. The day was a gorgeous but COLD March but boy oh boy was I dressed for it.

Winter survival gear
Layers on layers…
Snowmachining in Alaska
on layers on layers…

From Mukluks to triple and quadruple layers top to bottom, I was prepared. Finally, after the house was warm and my life was ready for me to fall apart if need be, Leto and I started our journey towards vaccination day. We drove the 3.5 miles to Town, me on the snowmachine, Leto setting the slow pace ahead.

I flirted with snowbanks but didn’t make any move too fancy for fear of getting my machine stuck and missing my date. 30 minutes later, we arrived at my girlfriend’s house where our pod was waiting.

Were we all a little nervous?
Yep!
Had we all done copious research and, more importantly, spoken to doctors galore?
Yep!
We were ready.

We gathered our belongings and walked down to the Town gathering spot: Tony Zak’s (a house donated to the community for gatherings). We blasted “Break my Stride” to pump us up. Go ahead, give it a listen, you know you want to…


Just then, we got a phone call. “Are y’all on your way? We just opened the first vial and it needs to be administered in the next 30 minutes.” We’d had an appointment time scheduled for an hour later but thankfully, we were running early. We picked it up to double time and soon, we arrived. One by one we were welcomed in, administered the shot and waited our 15 minutes for any adverse effects. The feeling afterwards?

The big island of Hawaii
Sunny days on a beautiful beach

Kennicott, Alaska
Smiles for miles

Utter elation.

All the buildup, all the research, all the wondering and then…done. In two weeks time, life as we had known it would finally, finally return. We hooted and hollered and danced about and then, we all went home to prepare to nurse ourselves back to health if need be.

Need freaking be.

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t fun. I was coooooolllllllddddd and achy. My teeth hurt. I felt like total crapola. Our pod gave one another text updates as the night wore on (the night which, thankfully, The Chief had returned on). I seemed to have it the worst of the bunch but, overall, after a night of No Thanks, I Don’t Want to Experience That Again, it was over. The next day I rested, ate nurturing foods and ticked one more day off of the 14 until the vaccine was in full-effect. The day after? I was back to skiing, back to life as normal.

Crosscountry skiing
Vitamin D for the win!

Unfortunately, life as normal hasn’t fully returned, has it? The word Delta took on a new meaning and as we look towards winter again, which seems to be coming as soon as tomorrow here in Alaska, it feels as if we’ve gone backwards a bit. But…what can we do?

We can get vaccinated.

Malamute Akita
If you’re feeling like you want to turn your back on me…just give me a moment.



Listen, I’m not vaccine-happy and I’m not suggesting you have to be either. Getting this vaccine doesn’t mean you’re pro-every single vaccine forever from here on out. Personally, if I can heal any ailment with plants first, I will. I harvest local medicine and keep it for our family. I believe in the power of the mind to heal ourselves too and the power of a healthy immune system. But…I also deeply believe in science and y’all, one thing I know is this thing is not going away any time soon unless we come together to fight it via the vaccine. If you think you’re healthy and are not worried you’ll contract it (which, I’m sorry to tell you, my friends who work in ERs have seen plenty of healthy, young people die within days) OK. But, instead maybe think of the people who aren’t so certain they’d make it, like the woman I saw in Home Depot the other day with a sign on her orange employee vest that read “Please stay back if you are unvaccinated. I have a deeply compromised immune system and I will not live through Covid.” At the end of the day, do you want to be the reason for someone’s end of days? Of course not, and thankfully, it’s an easy fix.

Julia, I’m not getting the vaccine.

OK. I hear you.

Hawaiian wild horses
Get your nose outta my business, Julia! But wait…one request…

Will you, please, then do this instead? Please take it seriously. If you simply can’t stomach the vaccine, all I ask is that you take this situation, this global pandemic, as seriously as it deserves to be taken. Wash your hands, wear masks and social distance like your life depends on it, because even if you don’t think your life depends on it, someone else’s does. Please, don’t go out unnecessarily (sorry, brunch doesn’t count as a necessary outing these days #RIPchampagnesunday). I know it sucks. I don’t like any of it. I mean, I never used hand sanitizer in my life before this. I let my immune system do its thing but this? This is different. None of us are happy about any of it but…

That day in March when I felt hope? Utter joy? Elation? That can return for all of us. We can do this. Please, be a part of it.


McCarthy, Alaska
Pod squad, post-vaccine.

With love and hope,

From Alaska.

Alaskan Malamute
A little Leto levity.

P.S. I am not above bribery, no I’m not (and neither is the state of Alaska)! For every person who is currently unvaccinated but GETS vaccinated by the time I post the next BTB blog, you will be the receiving BTB goodies when our first swag EVER comes out this winter and a personalized thank you card from Leto (his penmanship is questionable but his heart is in the right place). Send me proof of your vaccination and an address for your gifts by Monday, October 4th to win. Everyone likes winning, right?! Email me your details at: beneaththeborealis@gmail.com

P.P.S. If this post makes you say “Ewwww, Julia! I don’t want to read this blog anymore, even though I’ve loved it up until now.” Well, then…so be it. Lots of love your way and happy trails to you (hopefully to a vaccination site 😎 Yea…I couldn’t help myself).

P.P.P.S If you’re thinking “Shit, this post was heavy!”, think again. This was way heavier and this was a ringer too. As Glennon Doyle says, we can do hard things. We can. We have. We will again. They will only make us stronger.

P.P.P.P.S Just kidding. We all know there’s no PPPPS! 😜

**Still here and want to support Beneath the Borealis? Please like and share this post! Send it to a friend, post it on Facebook (follow BTB on Facebook too, here!), tell a neighbor. Any way you can share, I appreciate.

5 comments

  1. WOW! You are the “first” person I have run across who had a reaction to the vaccination. Heavens, we just had to find the way in (drive thru via cones), had the shot… and sat there BORED until we could leave. So glad to know that your reaction was only for a day!! Take care of you two and the precious critters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Debbi! No adverse reaction to the shot itself (within the 15 minutes) just the flu-like symptoms some people get later that evening but then…poof! Gone.

      Glad to hear you had an easy-peasy time of it! 💪🏼 🤘🏻❤️

      Like

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