Anchorage: Adjusting

Occupy Anchorage abides (1 tent).

It’s not an easy transition, from island to landmass or from small town to major city. In Sitka, I was on an island that’s 100 miles long and 30 miles at its widest point; a perfectly-sized small town with just 14 miles of roadway, surrounded by 17 million acres of Tongass National Forest wilderness. If a plane flew overhead, it was “the 73” or “the 67” (going by flight number) and usually someone would look up and comment–Oh, so-and-so’s on that outbound flight. If it wasn’t that, it was a small float plane and typically someone without shouting distance knew the owner.

Here in Anchorage, traffic and Monday-through-Friday work schedules dictate a lot of human behavior; 375,000 people spread across the biggest city in the biggest state. Planes overhead are a constant, whether they’re military or commercial. And while it’s lighter for slightly fewer minutes per day than it was in Sitka, the sunset seems closer to real and visible here because the Chugach Mountains climb much more gradually from sea level than Sitka’s beloved fjords.
If I didn’t say I feel a little heartbroken, I’d be lying. I have dreamed so big to create this three years on the road for myself, and most of the time I am affirmed by my inner voice in this decision. Here though, I haven’t yet felt the rocking of a boat or had vertigo on land from my closeness to the water. I do feel the tug of the dogs at the leash (I’m dogsitting in trade for housing here in Anchorage) and the softness of endless snowfall beneath my boots. I can look across the Knick Arm if I head one direction on the Coastal Trail, or across Turnigan Arm if I head the other. Those are good feelings too, and I’ll come around to them soon enough.

I’ve been to Anchorage before and loved it–the land of
the midnight sun (almost). This time, it’s more like the land of the midnight snow, and I think I may need to rent some
skis to love it again. Winter in an urban setting is a whole
different beast. But because this is Alaska, the outdoors still announces itself around almost
every block. (Ok, definitely not on 6th avenue, where I had to go into the mall today for an errand that felt like selling my soul to the devil after all the down-home-down-to-earth living I did in Sitka.) I’m just a few blocks from Westchester Lagoon (yes, it’s frozen) and the Coastal Trail, where long views and families playing in the snow abound. Now if my spirit could just catch up with my body, I’ll be good to go.

  • Rocky Cole

    Katey, the transition between Sitka and Anchorage sounds jarring. Hopefully some good material for your fiction will come out of the transition. Definitely get some skis.

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