Annually in our family, some of us share a Christmas Letter to update those on the things that have gone on over the past year. Some of you may have received this already by mail (probably not though .. I only mailed them on Monday .. its been that kind of month). Since the Bear Feed came along, I’ve made my letter open to all of you that put up with a rambling idiot’s meaningless words, just so I you know what I tell people that aren’t paying attention.
All kidding aside, thanks for keeping up with Bear Feed, and I promise to come out of hibernation in 2015 with more of the misadventures of an idiot out of place. Now for the Christmas Letter:
Garrison Keller once wrote: “It’s been cold, but then of course it’s Christmas. Anyway, cold is a stimulant of sound thinking, we know that. There’s nothing like cold to bring you back to reality. And the reality is, we’re very lucky.”
I write this to you on a train, running south of Providence, RI on my way to New Haven, CT so I can head north to a suburb of Hartford. As I sat on a beach last December in Hawaii sticking stamps on envelopes to many of you who are receiving this year’s the idea that I would be anywhere near New England at this time this year was probably as foreign as a White Christmas in a hula skirt. Yet once again, I upset my life’s apple cart in somewhere between a planned and unplanned life change. If there is an overarching story to my year it is simply that.
After two years in Alaska, I started a position this October that brought me back to the Lower 48. I am now work for Bodycote, an international heat treating company with over 120 plants worldwide. I work specifically for the North American Aerospace, Defense, & Energy Division where I am the Quality Manager over 20 of those plants. The role eventually will have me running in and out of those plants in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, & Texas; but since starting I have strictly been at the plants in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and (like this train ride requires) Connecticut. When I am not on the road, I’ll be working out of my home – which is in …Boston, MA. Two years of living on the edge of the wilderness, and I threw myself right into the urban overload. After two months in a temporary apartment in Downtown Boston, I closed on a condo in Dorchester (home of Marky Mark and all those great Boston gangster stories). At the time of writing this, I have had all of 2 months in town – one quarter of which I spent unable to talk from a cold, and another half out of town, including the annual trip to Prairie du Chien for Thanksgiving. So don’t ask me yet what it’s like living there. In fact, currently the first 15 nights after I closed on the condo, I will spend 10 of those nights sleeping somewhere else.
I did get down and around the Lower 48 this year. That one was a big one – a bucket list item – I attended the outdoor NHL Hockey Game between the NY Rangers & NJ Devils played at Yankee Stadium in January. Let’s just say it was cold. During a house hunting trip, I slipped into Fenway as well, meaning I knocked off two big baseball stadiums in a year. I spent a great week of wine guzzling with old Kansas friends in Southern California. I returned to do a little more band judging this year, with three weekends in Louisiana (making it the 11th state I’ve judged in), Nebraska, and Ohio. Next year I should be able to bulk that up, not just because travel will be easier, but I am in the middle of a heavy circuit with some contacts here to help.
I did leave my Alaskan home behind. Those who have known my life know that I am not a stranger to moving away from a home. This has been the hardest place to leave behind. Mostly because many things in my life were just settling in and accelerating in my Alaskan life. Faithful followers of my blog – www.bearfeed.net – kept abreast of much of the nonsense I was getting involved in up there. The first part of the year, I was heavy into curling – the lovely little game of rocks and ice. Really, this was the genesis of the fun I was having. Most of my friends in Alaska were curlers; while that means we met there that doesn’t mean that’s all we did. It also isn’t even scraping the surface of what I did.
I made two trips to McCarthy, Alaska. I place so far off the grid that after driving five hours from Anchorage and thirty miles off the main road, you start the sixty mile dirt road that only gets you to the footbridge a mile from the town itself. Yet there, the cool air off the massive glaciers coming off the Wrangle Mountains give a little treasure of an old mining town filled with the people that smell of the old show Northern Exposure – not to mention the best high end restaurant I’ve been to in Alaska. I also made a run to Valdez, multiple trips to the Kenai Peninsula, and a few trips up to see Mt McKinley / Denali. To paraphrase a singer from Anchorage, I’ve seen a lot in my life but nothing takes my breath away like seeing Denali.
But what I did was just as great. I learned to fly fish, I went dip netting, I took a cruise to see whales, and saw more moose than I will ever see the rest of my life. I raised a glass at an Alaskan-German Oktoberfest. I took selfies with a neon octopus. I hung at the closest thing Alaska has to Woodstock, and may have bear sprayed the afterhours party hall empty. I exchanged doggie fashion tips with a bartender, I learned the meaning of ‘driveway money’ & desert nachos, and found out that wedding ‘Alaska Formal’ should not include a shirt, tie, and a Carhartt coat. Life in Alaska wasn’t always fun, and I faced some tribulations that will hang with me for years to come. But sitting here now, I can’t help but to smile. It was those things up there that can make a man happy. Alaska made me happy.
The one constant, the single constant, was my puppy dog. Auggie the Doggie grows now to be in his ‘teenager’ phase of a 2 year old. Nearly every place I went, I took him with. From McCarthy to Boston. From Denali to Connecticut. As I said to him when I made the decision to move down, “You and Me, Buddy – We’re in this Together.” It wasn’t always easy for him, but he was my inspiration, being a trooper to any new experience I threw at him. So I keep looking to him to guide me through my tough times, and he looks to me for food.
That being said, it’s also been a very tough year, with challenges that will be like scars on my life. That’s not the point of writing this letter, though. The point is to look back and think of the things that make us happy – and share it with those you love.
As Garrison Keller Once Wrote: “Thank you, dear God, for this good life and forgive us if we do not love it enough.”
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Mitch & Auggie