Sunday, May 30, 2010

First week in the North

I am here. I arrived on Tuesday after a 16 hour trip (several stops included), more excited about a place than ever before. My flight stopped first in Ketchikan to let off several passengers before continuing on to Juneau. As I walked down the corridor to my flight upon leaving Seattle, and listened to two men talking about life up here, and various goings on with neighbors, I got the sneaking suspicion that I was going to like it...a lot.

I kept my nose pretty much plastered to the windowpane the entire ride up - much akin to a 5 year old. The low lying clouds gave way in spots to the rolling green beauty that is British Columbia. Eager to start the next phase of my life, my head got a little dizzy as I first glimpsed the islands and waters of Ketchikan harbor. It was twilight, which up here means about 8:30pm in May. As we bumped and landed onto the runway, the girl next to me turned, half assuming I'd be deplaning here.

"Are you getting off here?" She asked
"No, I don't live here." I said.
"Oh, are you from Juneau?" She asked
"Not yet, I'm from Boston." Says I
"Oh cool...I live in Juneau. I haven't seen you before. You moving here?" She asks

The conversation that followed was a play by play of living in Juneau, where to find the right jobs, the prices of rent, the advantages over living in Anchorage and the bums of downtown Juneau (She wasnt kidding). It was nice to have the luck of sitting next to a local rather than another dumb transplant like myself. One thing I've been rational about keeping in check is that starry eyed concept that Alaska would be a land of Utopia, where one goes to escape something and everyone is wild and happy. I know that Alaska is also part of this world, and can fall victim and make you a victime of the same bull that made you up and quit in the lower 48 in the first place. I suppose I could say that I there are a few things I'm running from...a failed engagement, deadending in my budding career before it left the ground, recycling the same rotation of bars and local places over and over for another 25 years of life...but truth be told - I'm not running from that. I am, however, running towards something will all the speed and stamina that I can muster.

One look at the Chilkat mountains undulating in the distance in snowcrested grandure, and I know I've made the right choice. I took a walk down to this beach on Thane Road the third day I got here. I spent the first two meeting my new fellow workers and taking in downtown.

I got to the beach in the morning, directly after breakfast. It was empty but for several eagles and two men fixing some sort of transformer. I walked fairly far down, snapping up pictures of every possible angle. I stood there on the beach and watched float planes depart the inlet. A cirlce of eagles flew high above Douglas Island before divebombing their spotted prey. Behind me, meltwater thundered down the mountain side and gurgled into a stream not 100 feet from me. A sign I'd just passed read "Avalanche Zone"...this is where I belong.
Juneau is a beautiful big-little city. I was told by my coordinator not to bother with a car since I'll be in the bush most of the time doing trail work. That being said...this place has a lot of road distance for a city with no road outlet. I considered the idea of renting a bike, but my old back injury has been a bit sore...rather not push it considering the work ahead of me. I've taken the bus to the Mendenhall Valley to do some shopping for necessary items, as well as to take a trip to the famed glacier. (Pictures later).
The one thing I've noticed here is the level of alcohol and substance abuse. I knew that it was a problem per my research prior to making this leap, however seeing it in action really gives it a face. They are mostly men, about 35-50 from what I can tell. Its disgusting to walk by them in the evening as they have no problem hollaring anything at you that comes to mind, and I'll leave that to your imagination given I'm usually walking by myself. So far I've been leered at, whistled at, hollared at, grunted towards and "motioned" towards. I was also plauged by two native men fixing a roof who obviously had a panorama of my movements everwhere I went for several blocks...

Juneau is breath taking, it has its drawbacks, it has its positives. Taking the good and the bad together I am in Love. There are a few things that could improve as mentioned above, but there is a plethora more that I love. This is a huge place, with mountains in the distance and mountains in the fore on all sides. You can step into the woods and get lost for hours, you can board a ferry or a plane and be flung thousands of miles into the wild. There is so much here that man has not touched. And some places where man can be found. Alaska, I can tell, is what you make of it.
As for me, I'd like to make it my home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What I did on Friday

Honestly, nothing makes me as happy as the freedom, peace, and solitude I get when I go walking in the woods. I set out at my favorite part in search of an old granite quarry. What I intended to be a short walk before returning to my car for the real point of my going: Training with my giant backpack - turned into a 3 hour tour.

I was gonna go up one trail, just ONE trail, to loosen up. I was then gonna go back to my car, grab my killer pack (filled with everything I need for AK), and go for a longer walk, to really experience the weight of it. Instead, when I got to the end of my one trail, I thought "Well one more wont be so bad" and before I knew it, 12 noon had turned to 3:30 and it was time to leave.
I did find the old quarry, seen above, rather overgrown of course, but it was a peaceful spot none-the-less.

I was rather impressed by my bridge picture. Grainy camera phone camera quality to the side, its rather poetic, aye?
This was taken on my way back to my car, 3 hours after I set out for my ten minute warm up.

I'm really not to thrilled with the idea of lugging something averaging 50 pounds around...on the other hand, its not gonna be 50 pounds of lugging, every day, just those day's that I'm in transit from one work site to the next.

I couldn't help but feel edged on by the quiet of the woods. Everything has been so green on account of all the rain. And in keeping with the rain levels, every little brook and stream was bubbling away. The bugs weren't too bad and if anything else - the temperature was beyond perfect.

Today is another perfect day. It is also the day of a Revoluntary War re-enactment taking place at said location. I'm leaving momentarily to go take pictures and get my first feel for what war re-enactors are like. I hear the good ones never break character. And besides...who can argue with free entertainment like that!

I'm glad that the woods and I get along so well. I go into them, and reflect. And once I leave, they keep calling me back. I remember a time not too long ago when the world of woods and mountains was not my calling card. I think back to when I was teenager and my world revolved around going to the mall, the movies and to nightclubs. I feel that I've found something spiritual, something fulfilling in the wild and semi wild.

I think I've always been a nature lover at heart and just hadn't realized it. When I go into a city, I enjoy it for what it can provide, theater, ballet, unique cuisine and a diverse cultural feel. But after drinking my fill from those cups, my attention is immediately drawn to the underbelly. Crime, poverty, over population, drug addiction, trash...and that understood feeling that no one knows you nor cares about you. I like the independence that comes with nature. I like the sense that wherever I decide to plop down for a night is my home. No rent, no noisy neighbors, no police sirens at 3am. Just...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In seven days I will be boarding a plane for AK. Right now it is 11:33am on the Eastern Seaboard and if we need to be technical, I will be in the sky somewhere over the central US at this exact hour in seven days. I have a few things I still need to pick up. A couple shirts, some under-roos, biofiendly scentless shampoo, conditioner and detergent...and a couple other such odd's and ends. The vast majority of my things are bought. I need a winter coat, but I'm gonna wait till I get there to find out if I actually NEED it upon departing to the bush considering the first few months are warm even by AK standards. To say that I'm excited is hardly enough description. I'm joyous, absolutely joyous. It's a level of happy that borders on found-a-new-reason-to-live happy.

My lower back has done well. Just yesterday I went to get it readjusted again by the chiro. It was sore all day which had me nervous. Its a little bit sore today too. I havent done my stretches yet which should help it. Its the one thing that keeps that cold ball of fear in my stomach. I just keep trying to push it out of my mind, affirming positive thoughts that I will go, I will last, I will make it. I've been praying almost daily for this. My heart beats a little faster every time I think about the whole thing.

Thank you God, thank you for making my dream come true!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And being one traveler long I stood and looked down one as far as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth.

Have you ever come to a point in your life when you've realized that you've crossed over a certain checkpoint and thus can never go backwards? A point that you can actually look at and say that one side of it was "before" and that this side of it is the "after"? That experience happened to me this past week. I entered it one person and have emerged another. I am myself as I was before only visually. The rest of me has shifted. Interiorly I am a completely new person. My life is taking a new direction. And I can not go back, nor do I want to.

I can still hear the old Sara at the edges of my thoughts. But I have gently closed the door on her, she is a part of my past. It is similar to those moments we all have had while growing up. Perhaps you realized when you were, say - 8 - that you are not the kid you were when you were 5. Maybe one day while driving around in your beat up car while 16 it suddenly hit you that you are no longer that kid you were at 12. Or maybe one day at 22 while walking into a store you almost stopped in your tracks and thought, "Wait a minute....I'm an adult!"

It's kinda like that.

It's kinda like that, but not entirely. I guess you could say I realized who I am, who I really am, and not who the world was making me.

Imagine this if you will: You are walking down a hallway, and at the end are two doors standing side by side. The hallway represents the path you are walking in life. It represents all your thoughts, your opinions, your mindset, your emotions, your personality and your trajectory. You realize, however, as you are walking, that you are litterally approaching a crossroads. You reach the end of the hall where the two doors are and realize you can go no further unless you walk through one of them. They open for you and at the same time you are presented with a mirror image of yourself looking back at you. It puzzles you at first. As far as you can tell the images have no differences. They look identical to you. However, you realize you must choose wisely and so you must literally reflect on each option in front of you.

As you reflect on your two reflections you begin to step closer to them, examining each one in turn. As you stare, you are beginning to notice the most subtle of differences. Perhaps the lighting is slightly different than the other. The smiles have a sublte difference to them. The contours of your face are a hair apart. The reflection in the eyes...that is what you really begin to notice. Both have a look about them that is familiar yet each is familiar in a different way. One looks like the you you are currently becoming. You notice a certain element of past familiarity. You can see something there that reminds you very much of yourself - as you are now. The other eyes look at you with an element of the unknown. This is the version of yourself you could become, but are not yet. These eyes are hinting at things you are not currently conscious of, but which exist just the same within you. What is more, it is a look you didn't even know was possible of yourself.

Now that you've been able to register the differences, you step back and survey the whole picture again. You have a choice to make. So....which do you choose? The person you understand now? Or the person who carries an aura of whom you would become should you chose to do so?

I have made my choice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And this isn't my real nose, its a false one.

Considering the plethora of various interests I have, I don't have a lot of hobbies. One of the hobbies I don't have is photography. While I've always found it interesting, I've also found it to be something else: involved. There is so much detail and equipment and technical crap to memorize that the "involved" part usually wins out over the "interesting" part for my attention span. Thus I've yet to take it up to any measurable degree. I personally prefer to stick to the "see, click" method. I also think that most of the photography I see - while it looks nice - is simply a picture. I get teh whole mood, emotion, sensory bullshit that artists like to convey with their photograhy....and I can certainly respect it. But I call a tree a tree and a dude sitting on a bench a "dude sitting on a bench"., regardless of whatever flowery concept speech the more artsy people of the world would like to use.

However, considering the paragraph above is only half serious and the other half dripping with meaningless cynicism, I actually do like snapping pictures. There is something about a bright, fresh, bluebird spring day that makes people that don't normaly take photographs - want to take photographs. Really though, considering I'm the one that took them...I'll call these pictures. I don't own a camera but for the one that came with my iphone, and I'm anything but a photographer, thus the shit I snap is not photography....they're just pictures.

This, (amazing I know), is a dandelion. You'll notice a few of the following pictures were also taken at ground level. My artsy side would like to offer the interpretation that this is meant to convey the backyard at an "ant's point of view". My cynical realist side would also like to inform you, however, that I was too lazy to get up.

My reading tree, often sat under by yours truly.

This one I will honestly admit that I love. I wanted to take a picture of just how clear blue the sky was today, but at the last second I decided just a blank blue shot was kinda hard to place for a viewer, so I added in just a peak of the out-lier upper branches of my cherry tree. The effect is pretty abstract I think. You may call it crap. I don't really give a shit though so it all evens out.

Again with the ant view. I like it. This is what it would look like to the insect on his way to my barn.

This very blurry. Oh well. Happens when you don't have focus. I need a camera that will focus.

And this, because deep deep down is a artsy fartsy chick dying to escape, I entitled "framing the sky." It was after I shot this that I realized what element was missing alllll afternoon - there were no planes flying! I doubt it would have anything to do with the volcanoes in Iceland. But to be honest, I didn't see a single airliner, even though I was outside for hours and the sky above my house is on a direct flight path with incoming Boston traffic.

So thats a wrap. I'm not a photographer, but I am a pretty average picture taker. It certainly was a nice way to burn off a few hours on this perfectly heaven sent afternoon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

De-motivational Weather

This my future house. Yup. Isn't it glorious! I love this shit.

Anyways, I didn't hike the mountain. Sorry to disappoint but there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms in the region we'd be going to, so at 7:30am we bailed out of the operation. I was actually kinda relieved. The idea of driving four hours - albeit for the noble and worthy cause of bagging a peak - wasn't exactly sounding so great at that hour. Coupled with the forecast, I decided to opt out, as did he. Something about being >3000 ft up as a thunderhead roils above you just doesn't sound pleasant. So instead, I ended up spending the day in my own neck of the woods enjoying bright sunshine and experimenting with the concept of setting up and then staring at my little yellow home. It's raining outside right now. And my tent is nice and exposed to the elements. I did this on purpose. I need to know how well that thing will hold out water before I set up shop in Americas Rain forest. Smart, no? Why yes, yes it is.

And though I've been up since 9 and it is now edging towards 1 as I sit here clacking away, I am still of a mind to take a walk. (I prefer to do those things earlier than this). Its not so bad when you have a rain jacket and good headphones. Plus its 78 degress out and humid. The jacket I bought says "breathable". Lets see if it really is. The alternative would be me turned into a clammy mess, so lets hope the tag didn't lie to me.

See, rain gear! (Oh, and a hat, a really awesome hat that serves no function other than being awesome).

I went for a bike ride yesterday in tribute to the exercise gods. It was too nice of a day to do nothing physical outdoors. I made yet another mental note that I don't like my bike. I need a road bike is the problem. The one I have is a mountain bike and it's not good for propelling myself at high rates of speed down asphalt like I want to. That, however, is a purchase I'll save for later, once I have an income again.

So, mountain plans aside, this weekend really was quite excellent. I spent Saturday night drinking tequila sunrises with one of my girls - we'll call her M. The air was so perfect we sat outside all night under a patio umbrella. Behind us was the Atlantic Ocean. We couldn't hear the waves over the sound of music and scattered conversations, but knowing it was there was all that actually mattered. Then Last night I spent about four hours driving around with another compadre - we'll call him J - listening the classics of American music. Need I say more really? I don't think I've gone cruising like that in...well its been too long. If theres one thing I love, its watching my music tastes change and evolve. I think a lot of people have lost touch with just how much amazing music is out there if you dig into the past. There are a lot of good bands out today, but I always tend to be out of touch with them. The reason for that is that I'm always more interested in the roots of the music we have today. Blues, old country, rockabilly and swing. Its all a journey. The amazing thing about music is that you can actually hear the journey.

Life is about changing. And nothing speaks to me more about change than when I go and listen to the roots of a genre and then wind up to what plays today. Like being 25 and dying to leave. You have to look at the past to see what factors influenced the current noise that's in your life. When childhood fades, and the people you grew up with are making new little people of their own, it makes you put your own life into perspective. The kids I grew up with - they have kids. And the life I knew's gone now. I have to be an adult in this tumultuous mess of uncertainties. I'm the type of person whose always had a lot of dreams and goals and aspirations, but always took the safe road instead of the rocky one, thus I constantly was shelfing those dreams for a later date. And while there are a lot of people out there who are a good number of years older than me, and might scoff at my 25 year old anxiety....truth is...25 is all I know. Maybe when I am 40 this will seem like a cakewalk in retrospect. But I'm not 40, I don't think like a 40 year old. I think like a 25 year old. And right now, this 25 year old likes to set up tents in her backyard and imagine. She likes to drink tequila with M and stare at the ocean. She likes to cruise for hours blaring George Jones out of J's pick up truck speakers.

And eventually, she'll understand the sounds of the genre that is her own life, and she'll start to understand what those roots are leading up to. Till then, I'll type about it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits

It's May 1st! Twenty Five days and counting till my northern blast off. It is also (in my little world) the first real day of Spring. I used to be an autumn person, and I still like that season a lot, however I tend to gravitate towards to feeling of new life and vitality that spring brings. The sun will be out and shinning in force this weekend, and I intend to take full advantage of it. Juneau is one of the rainiest places in the country, so Mr. Sun and I might be taking a sabbatical from one another for a bit.

This is also my last day at the bank. Only worked there three months and the end still couldn't have come fast enough. Thats not to say I can't respect the job, I just...I's not my slice of pie. Will I refuse to work for a bank ever again? No. Its very much a "take it or leave it" position.
Tomorrow I'll find myself - yet again - on a mountain. (woo). Vermont is supposed to be getting passing thundershowers tomorrow, so...note to self: don't pack anything with metal in it. Right. Fact of the matter is that my days are currently oriented around what activities will help me better prepare for my sojourn. I bought rain pants and a, (I am told), very good rain coat. Either way, I at least paid a very good price for it. Oy. I'll be putting at least the coat to good use tomorrow, and the entire ensemble will likely receive many miles of use once I'm at my work site.

But for now, there is sunshine.
And tonight...Margaritas!