AK 2010, Days 8 & 9: Reflections
It’s beautiful here. No other way to say it. Tonight I saw a red fox and a moose. There are juncos that flit through the underbrush around the pond. Canada geese honk in flight overhead. Other birds, too—brown ones with black wings (smaller than a robin, larger than a titmouse); large ones that look like flickers but behave like grouse (odd!). Without a field guide for the far north, I’m out of my league when it comes to identifying most birds here.
KB helps me identify berries though, and we’ve been picking low bush cranberry, wild raspberry, and rose hips by the cupful. Tonight we’re going to bake a raspberry-nectarine-barley crisp in the tiny propane oven. It’s the simple things, really.
I lived a variation on this theme for five years in Western North Carolina. Most days, I loved every part of it—heating with wood, studying weather patterns, observing my busy neighbors (the squirrels and deer). But I got too good at it. Too good at living alone and too good at hiding out. Maybe if I hadn’t been in my twenties when all of that happened, I could have just kept on like that until I died in my sleep.
As it was, there were some days the thing I loved the most about that lifestyle (the freedom, the simplicity, the physical beauty) were also the things that scared me the most. If I could only be a generous person and practicing writer with those things on hand, how was that really—honestly—any kind of well-rounded existence? It wasn’t. So I left for two years on the road and here I am, fresh out of a 7-month writer-in-res position at one of the wealthiest art institutions in our country and now tucked away in a cabin outside Fairbanks, Alaska.
It feels a little like visiting that old self again, but one thing has changed: I am not the writer I used to be. I have reached a level of focus and discipline with my work that I never knew possible. This two years on the road in all kinds of environments—cities, rural centers, backwoods settings, old mansions, rustic cabins, shared quarters—will give me ample opportunity to test that focus and discipline. If I’m really a writer, I ought to be able to write anywhere at anytime.
So far, so good.