15, 2003 - Alaska at Last!
was crying-with-joy-time again when I saw the Welcome to Alaska
sign. I made it!!!
17, 2003 - Valdez
I didn't wake up until 10:00 and went outside to drink my coffee
with the seagulls. I've seen a couple of eagles soar by, but not
as many as I thought would be here. Now that I'm finally able to
relax, I realize how exhausted I am from driving almost every day
for weeks now and all I was able to muster the energy for was to
sit in front of my house and drink in the incredible view. I managed
to wash my car and half my RV of at least the first layer of Alcan
Highway dirt before I had to sit again and just pinch myself that
I am really finally in Alaska and all I really have to do now is
just enjoy it.
was a beautiful day and I treated myself to lunch in town and visited
the Valdez Historical Museum. I was surprised at how little info
they had on the infamous Exxon oil spill and the curator told me
it's more or less a political thing. Since the community depends
on the refineries for all types of support, they don't want to bite
the hand that feeds them. Way across the water I can see the end
of the Alaska Pipeline and the ships docking there getting their
fill of oil. The owner here filled me in on the process- it takes
about 24 hours to pump each ship to capacity and you can watch the
ballast lines disappear as they sink under the weight of the load.
I can't remember how many barrels of oil they can carry, but he
said the tourists are always asking "What do they do with the
barrels once the oil is transferred to the ships?" He tries
not to laugh as he explains that a barrel is just a measurement,
the oil is not really carried in actual physical barrels.
Monday, May 19, 2003 - Cloudless skies and snowy mountains
still a little chilly and a bit windy on the water, but there was
not a cloud in the sky today and the snow-capped mountains against
that clear blue sky were achingly beautiful. I was going to get
out and drive to Lake Louise, but then I realized that everything
I wanted to see and do in Valdez was right outside my door. There
just could be no better view and since I'm still pretty tired and
feel more in need of rest than more driving, I decided I'd just
stay home, get out my lawn chair and read by the water when I could
tear my eyes away from the sparkling water and the enchanting mountains.
Binoculars are a real treat to have here - besides the closeup of
wildlife, the patterns in the snow-covered mountains are fascinating
and an endless game of "that looks like
breakfast, when I was cleaning the coffee pot, I had the thought:
"I'd hate to break my coffee pot now and have to try to find
one in this little town." About 2 seconds later, while rinsing
it, I hit it against the cutting board and heard that sick breaking
glass sound, and I just could not believe it! I had to laugh in
gratitude that not everything I dread comes to me that fast and
May 20, 2003 - Friends
was nice getting all the email I received today. Being alone makes
contact with my friends all the more important. I wonder if they
realize how much their words of encouragement mean to me. I wonder
if they know how much I am heartened by the words of wisdom I receive
from those that take the time to let me know they are thinking of
me and are with me in spirit. Lee's promises of prayers are not
taken lightly as I firmly believe that contact with God on my behalf
is a true blessing in more ways than one. Thanks for sicking St.
Jude on me, Lee - I could certainly use the patron saint of the
impossible sometimes, for sure! I was especially touched by Kerry
saying she actually cried with me when reading of my mini meltdown.
And Judy wrote:
always thought that pushing to the brink (with some caution, of
course) was what life was meant to be. Too many people just don't
get it. I feel so fortunate to have met someone who does and who
shares her experiences so willingly."
that just so cool? So many others share their good wishes that I
can't believe it's possible I can still feel so alone sometimes.
My kids and my mom continue to be inspirations to me - even though
they miss me, they never try to make me feel guilty for following
my own dreams and tell me that it inspires them to follow their
own (which is my fondest wish for them).
dad continues to travel with me and I feel his encouragement and
affirmation that it's best not to wait for the perfect timing that
may never come to pursue your dreams. And I got a kick out of hearing
advice given by Frank Sinatra in an old interview I happened to
catch on TV: "Live each day like it's your last - because someday
you'll be right."
is another blessing that seems to get me through and sends me messages
that I especially need to hear at opportune moments. Since I've
found it interesting to observe my emotions being all over the board
lately, mostly with no rhyme or reason, I sometimes get a kick out
of the timing of the songs that come on. I've noticed since I've
been here in Valdez that the weather, the glorious views and the
birds have consistently been great - it's only my moods that shift
the perception of them. Sometimes I look out my window and cry in
happy wonder of it all - sometimes I cry in wonder of what in the
hell I'm doing so far from "home" (wherever that is) all
alone in the "wilderness." Nothing else has changed -
no outside force or danger has presented itself - it's only my mind
playing games and bringing every emotion in its warehouse out to
play. I remember reading that Alaska is still a wild place in many
ways and that's the draw for some people. But it's not a place to
hide because nature and the forces here are so powerful that it
won't let you get away with that. The enormity of the mountains
can make you feel small and insignificant or make you feel larger
than life when you realize you are part of and connected to everything
in ways our minds just cannot grasp most of the time.
I get the blues or a bad case of the doubts, I try to wait it out
with the knowledge that "this too shall pass." And the
mountains will wait until I can see them with a lighter heart and
the sea will still sparkle when my eyes aren't wet with tears. Since
waiting for anything is not my strong suit, I was so struck with
the words of a Sarah McLachlan song (Wait for the Way) that just
popped up with perfect timing:
my travelin' times
Running circles around my dreams
I know that heaven holds amazing grace
When you trust what you feel inside
And a true heart opens at its own pace
And I must say goodbye
wait for the way
Through the valley of my shadow of doubt
Through the winter of my discontent
Sometimes it feels like all my hope is spent
There's only one prayer I pray
Wait for the way
guess I still have not fully reconciled with the fact that Don is
not parked beside me. I still get a lump in my throat when I see
an Airstream and I still expect to hear his key in the door in the
morning to get my sleepy self going. It's hard not to talk to a
man every day who has been an ever present part of my life every
day for almost 2 years. He doesn't have reliable cell phone service
yet, either, but I know from the couple of times we've spoken that
he's struggling with it, also. Timing sucks sometimes, but at least
we've promised to meet again in the next lifetime with better timing
and closer in age, and I fully intend to hold him to that promise.
or bad, it definitely is a different dynamic being alone. People
seem to relate to me differently - or maybe it's just me relating
differently, who knows? RV people have always been very nice and
helpful, but they seem especially so now, especially after finding
out I'm on my own. That feels pretty good and is comforting somehow.
The owner here also runs the local Tesoro station and when we discovered
I had a flat tire yesterday, they're going to send someone over
here to air it up enough for me to safely drive it in. In all the
reading I did about Alaska before I left, I heard that the people
here are really nice and friendly, and that is definitely proving
to be true. Most of the people I've met except one moved here from
other places after coming just for a visit and staying once they
fell hopelessly in love with the place.
totally understand that because that's the way I felt about Hawaii,
which led to me living there for 3 of my life's most happy years.
I also do not see that happening for me here. I definitely don't
see me ever spending a winter here - I really have too much an aversion
to cold weather for that. Especially since Keala has decided to
move back to Hawaii at the end of this month, I've recognized that
when I'm really ready to settle down again, I'm willing to bet it
will be in Hawaii. Of everyplace I've ever been, that's still the
place that holds the most magic for me and where my heart's true
home is. But I have a lot of wanderlust left in me and as long as
I can afford to support myself and travel at the same time, that's
what I want to do. I haven't even made it to Colorado yet and that's
on my list of summer destinations in the future, that's for sure.
I've enjoyed meeting the resident birds around my new "yard."
The seagulls wake me every morning sounding like they're having
a party to start the day. The Arctic Terns dive bomb into the water
and then come up celebrating loudly carrying their little catch
in their beaks. They're beautiful and hilarious! Of course, I've
been privileged to see a few eagles soar by, but they seem to be
more frequent in town for some reason - city birds, I guess.
hope to see more bear in the wild at some point. I'm going to approach
some of the operators of the boat and airplane tours to see if they'll
barter a tour for some of my office services. I like the idea of
at least trying to do those kind of extra "luxury" things
that way. Those kind of expensive tours would generally be too much
for me to do, considering my goal is not to do my "normal"
thing and work as a legal secretary, at least this summer.
say my budget was blown already with the seemingly constant infernal
repairs that have been necessary on the RV lately, but the simple
fact is I never set up a budget at all. I was afraid if I did, I would
figure out I couldn't do it, and I didn't want to spoil the fun with
that reality. I just know I need to be as frugal as possible if I
want to end up with any money at all when I get back to Austin finally
and get back to work for a while. Everything is pretty expensive in
Alaska and one of the things I've learned is that I should have stocked
up more on basic things in Portland where things were so much cheaper.
I didn't know this, but Alaska - like Oregon - charges no sales tax,
but even so, toilet paper is $1.25 a roll at the only store here!