If you’re just tuning in to our Alaska adventures, here are the links to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X Part XI, Part XII, Part XIII, Part XIV, Part XV, and Part XVI. Where did we leave off last? Oh, boy! Talkeetna! We spent 24 hours there, making lemonade out of lemons, by ziplining after our Denali Flight Tour dreams were all squashed by the weather. We had a locals’ dinner, a tourists’ dessert, and then went looking fruitlessly for moose, but fruitfully for adventure – like abandoned earth stations and tales of severed moose heads. Sometimes I have something so deep-rooted and burrowed that I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it. I’ll let Eddie Money say it, but pretend it’s me.
I may not have his obvious charisma, but this is about more than Talkeetna. It’s the whole thing. It’s the whole life. It’s dreams and magic and little girl wishes. There’s nothing I can say to make you understand, but it’s ok. I imagine you get it anyway. It’s about that hollowed out feeling from things beginning and ending. And how every ending is a beginning, and every beginning is an ending. It’s about how nothing is ever as it seems, or how you imagined it when you wanted it for SO LONG. That’s ok, too. Sometimes the reality is even better. Achier. Breakier. Heartier. It has grooves & heights. Peaks & dips.
Now bear with me, because this post could easily be two posts, as it is two or more stories, and I’m even adding two songs for you. We woke up on our last day at Grace and Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B and went to the main house for breakfast. It was awesome to sit with other guests and talk about Alaska land, Denali, and bull moose. There was spotty WiFi but I remember taking a shower and then making a video for work out there in the wilderness. I was even wearing a lumberjack shirt. During checkout, Bill suggested we go back to Anchorage through Hatcher Pass, therefore bypassing Wasilla – easily the ONE place in Alaska I wasn’t completely captivated by – but we were only on the main road once. I’m certain there’s beauty there.
It was foggy and drizzly, with cold wind gusts. We went to check out a lodge on a mountain out there – boasting warm soup and awesome views – but it was closed! I didn’t take a lot of photos, other than the ones above. It was hard conditions for it and I was tired and overwhelmed. Sometimes the world is almost too beautiful? Magical and barely touched – like a watercolor. It was like that, but also cold, rainy, and windy. I was numbed over because of all the beauty and emotions.
Our flight was a red-eye, so we had the whole day to explore. We headed to Anchorage – and had dinner plans later with Erika and Steve. Remember them from the beginning of the story? They’re our family and they had given us our first moose, first soup, and first warm bed in Alaska nine days previously. It was probably around late afternoon now, and I had to tackle Anchorage’s WiFi for a blog post first. Yes, even on vacation, but it was only one or two! So I went to a McDonald’s while Cassidy decided to go back to Eagle River to explore the visitors center. Well, while I smelled french fries I didn’t ever intend to eat, he was seeing what he thought might be his last moose of Alaska. We all know smartphones don’t zoom in so well:
Holy cow, though! Not cow. Holy bull! He did a solo hike and saw his second bull moose of all time on a secluded bog. In Alaska. MAN. And it was his favorite moose encounter of the whole trip, and maybe of forever, although we saw our first moose in the wild together in 2004. She might have favorites rights for all time? I don’t know, though. What makes me happy is that Cassidy’s favorite moose encounter actually became his SECOND favorite. That’s right. With only a few hours to spare left before our flight, we somehow topped that together. He picked me up from the dreadfully WiFi-ed McDonald’s and we went back to Powerline Pass. We weren’t there long, because of dinner reservations, but can we say worth it?
That looks close, right? It was. I was balking a bit, and I went to warn two incoming runners about the moose so they’d change their course. They saw the look on my face and said, “Don’t worry! Anchorage moose are different from the ones outside the city. They have more tolerance for people coming close to them.” That does NOT mean I recommend getting close.
He looked at us curiously, but mostly minded his own business. I had the luxury of distance, although this is NOT my zoom lens. This is just a 50mm. My rented zoom was already packed in my suitcase, and ready to be checked at the airport.
Oh my. Well that’s it for moose! We made it to our dinner reservation just on time, and guess what I ordered? That’s right. Salmon. We showed Erika and Steve all of Cassidy’s pictures and told our stories in chronological order. Then, the airport:
I took that same photo on our first day there – after landing at night – and I felt like I had grown so much in nine days. The things I had seen, and not seen. The things I had done, and not done. I felt like something inside me had been sleeping.
We boarded the plane and had someone sitting in between us, which seemed fitting. It was dark and I leaned my head on the cold window, thinking of everything I wish. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish I could break through a shutdown. I wish I could do it all over. I wish I could feel it all over. I wish I could feel.. in general.. when sometimes I can’t touch that raw part of myself. It’s frozen over. Our plane’s satellite radio kept playing one song, and these days, I can’t listen to the song much.
Whenever I take a deep, altering trip, there’s always one song that makes me think of it the most. It’s almost a treat to revisit it in small doses, and reopen the heart and sound waves – to let it all come back rushing towards and through me.
I’m back there now. I’m forever there, in the middle of dreams dying and coming alive. Ending and beginning. They all meet in the middle. I’ll never forget that silent and endless night in the sky – and the brightness I found on the other side.
*Endnote – my mother-in-law took that picture, bringing our kids to meet us in the middle of a parking lot in Sturbridge, MA, after ten days apart. The photo is 100% candid – showing our sleeplessness, sweat, tears, and LOVE. Thank you for reading.