Memorial Day in Boston was a wet mess. The rain started early, and heavy. So much that when I took Auggie out for his morning constitutional, he more or less had water up to his doggie knees at the bottom of the stairs. A light drizzle continued on and off during the morning, but became heavy enough at times that watching people scramble into a Starbucks made them look like they took a swim in their yoga pants.
While such weather should be disappointing, or reason to finally work on the home office I said I was going to work on all weekend (instead of playing video games and watching auto racing … but can you blame me when Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and Coca-Cola 600 are all on the same day?). Instead, as I sat around the condo, wandered off for a bagel, and followed it up with coffee, I thought of something far different -but not so unexpected. I thought of Alaska.
In some ways, that shouldn’t be surprising to any of you. For one thing, I am blogging on the blog that was first created for the sole purpose of talking about Alaska .. so that is sign number one. If you personally talked to me at all anytime in the last two years, sooner or later I would have either mentioned Alaska, droned on and on about Alaska, or at just outright said ‘I miss Alaska everyday’. So, why today?
I don’t know for sure really. In all honesty the memories that came today don’t seem to make a lot of sense – because it would be hard pressed to question why I reminsed the way I did this morning.
The biggest thing that hung over me this morning was walking around the Carrs on Northern Lights connected to the Sears Mall. For those of you not from the area, Carrs is a grocery store chain – and since we are being honest, not the best grocery store chain in Alaska. The one on Northern Lights connected to Sears Mall is not the best Carrs either. You were more likely hit up by someone outside looking for some change to visit the liquor store next door, and had to be careful to lock up your car or you will find either things missing or someone asleep in the backseat. Yet there was something about that store that it seemed to have fresh fruit. Maybe not the freshest in town, but this morning I almost felt myself walking their aisles and choosing between white flesh peaches or Rainier cherries that still smelt of the trees they were picked from.
I was hungry this morning, and there was soup in my fridge. It made me think for Philly Cheese Stake soup they make at the BP Tower where I worked; how the thick creaming gooey stuff could heat the soul in ways that made you feel like you were clogging your arteries at the same time. It was a building that was the only thing unbearable enough to consider leaving the state behind, and the ultimate source of what I still consider to be a bad life choice – rather than finding a way to continue on in Anchorage with or without the oil company paying my salary. Yet even with that negativity hanging over me, I smiled at the way I walked through that old cafeteria happy to see my favorite soup (favorite of all time) waiting for me.
It could have been the weather that triggered my memories. So many days in Alaska were wet, rainy, and cool. Maybe it was the smell of the sea coming in off the Atlantic this morning that reminded me of the Cook Inlet’s salty air. Me standing out in a pine filled park. Auggie by my side. Both of us wet from brushing against ferns and brush, seeing the mist of coming rain follow us through the woods. Trying to convince ourselves being out here was good thing. Most of the time, we decided it wasn’t; and now I wish to have those same decisions in front of me, and to smell that air and feel that chill seeping through my clothes.
I would tell people how in the eleven years I lived in Kansas I didn’t have the half the stories I had the two years I spent in Alaska. This week, and today especially, so many of those untold tales came to my head. How a place we went to lunch at in South Windsor, CT on a mill pond reminded me of the World Famous Peanut Farm Sports Bar, how Campbell Creek ran along it’s side fast and deep enough that you can watch the kayaks and canoeists test themselves. How shaved ham reminded me of the Rainster, an amazing benidict-ish breakfast that became a staple for me in the last few months before leaving. How on the first day of snow I witnessed was rounded out when I had to help a complete stranger push his car out of the road when it broke down. Random upon Random upon Random. Some aweful in the moment, some bad, some uncomfortable, but all of them kept warm in my soul, and calling me from thousands of miles and hundreds of days away.
Years and years ago, I read a book that described love in terms of how it influenced you in times when that love wasn’t around. A couple who saw each other only on the weekends, and the main character saying that things became easy the first day or two but by midweek his lover sat on his keyboard so he couldn’t type, followed him around to rooms so he could remember where he was going, left the smell in the air so he couldn’t breathe. I feel like that somedays, days like today.
I left Alaska because of work. Leaving where I was at was something that needed to be done, even if I am not sure where I ended up was the right move. I was given a choice where to move to and I firmly believe moving to Boston was a wrong decision; but days like today feels to me that I am challenged to ask why I left Alaska to begin with. It remains as ‘a place I once lived’, but of all the places I have ever lived it is the first that I truly want to return to without knowing how I could possibly make it work.
Days like today only seem to shake me in that same way. The memories that haunt me today are not at all the things that make Alaska romantic. It is the cold, miserable, awful days that seemed as numerous in the last frontier as they are in Boston. Yet thinking about them only makes my heart ache that much more. Days like today, Alaska weighs on my keyboard so I can’t type. Follows me through my rooms so I can’t remember where I am going. Smell so real that I can’t breathe.
I may not be in Alaska, I may never live there again or visit ever again. At least I have days like today.