“It is good you have come.” Haida Nation, the Tlingit Nation and the Tshimsian Nation.
My Dad had a den. It was called the ‘yellow room’ because its walls were painted a buttery yellow and the floors were carpeted with yellow shag carpeting. It was kind of the heart beat of the house, which is really ironic considering that is where he ran off to so he could escape from all of life … and us. *It’s all good. I get it.
As kids, before TV was a big thing, we’d all gather as a family on the ‘yellow room’ couch and listen to endless tails being told of Adventures in Alaska on the big slide screen my Dad made for his photographic slides. At an early age, I was hooked on tails of the wild – indigenous tribes, survival, fires, wolves, moose, bear, ice, tundra, fishing, mountains, trails, engineering, pioneering, fur trading, you name it … I was sold – hook, line and sinker. The fascination only grew in years to come. I cannot get and may never get enough and I haven’t even been.
My father was an engineer and oversaw the welding at its final stages on the Alaskan Pipeline. Straight out of college with $50 his father managed to scrape up for him, he set off into Northern Alaska where he’d live in canvas tents. His life dream was to become a Park Ranger, to protect, promote and honor Mother Nature. I cannot even go into the meaning behind the sacrifice he made against his will and calling to simply support his family. In my ignorant view, when it comes to harnessing oil for profit, it is in direct contrast … absurdly so, with Mother Nature’s Intent. I see now, clearly, that that may not have been his intent. It never was, from what I knew of him as a child. But I never dared to ask. It hits way too close to home but I think I am ready now. I cannot imagine the battle he fought – soul vs mind. Wow.
To support his family – his daughter who made it a mission to put an end to generational/ancestral trauma, to watch her grow into someone who craves nature and thrives to see it be as is … or perhaps to become everything he imagined it to be. The struggle, the anger, the deeply held pain that comes with not pursuing your dream is unbearable in my eyes. To support a family that he may have well indeed felt that would never carry on his and his family’s legacy of damn hard work, dedication, expertise, brilliance etc ( let’s get real here. He just wanted to be understood as human being) … I exhale in grief … unbearable. But ya know what? When my Dad admitted to me in the privacy of his “yellow room” with tears in his eyes after he finally told me that my Mother suffered from a diagnosis of Manic Depression, that “I was his only hope left…”
I made it a MISSION to honor him. Not only him, but my Mother and Sister as well. Like, I am balls to the wall dedicated despite everything .. .100% ALL of it. And I have strived for this day in and day out, sometimes without even knowing it. He’s a genealogist after all … it’s apparent family and ancestry is of utmost importance to him and who wouldn’t be!? It’s fascinating to know not only where you came from but to connect the dots and to see potential for the future and how you fit in? And to walk that path alone is mind-bending! Hello!
And I am here to bow down. I am here to recognize the pain in the past of most that have come before me and to rewrite the script. My struggles, which are raw and real and absolutely unique … they are simply a way for me to empathize. Yes. Literally. That is how I see all of it now. All that. From what you have learned so far, I am sure you would agree most would not survive it. And to say today, that this was simply a stepping stone to see my mission through, is phenomenal to me. Just down right, spank me on the ass and twist me sideways, beautiful.
What Dad didn’t know was that I was not going to have kids. And my idea of honoring my family’s legacy and to spread the truth in healing and recovery was in direct contrast to what he knew. I am a creative eccentric poet with a heart on fire that painfully goes to the ends of the earth to put into words what most are not even willing to acknowledge. That is my gift. I said it from day one. Earliest of memories. I asked Mom what love was. She replied, “you just know.” I knew it wasn’t good enough of an answer. I told my mom that I would describe LOVE some day so no one would be confused. I would put that into WORDS. I declared that day and every day forward to make it a point to dive deep into mostly everything I could to somehow articulate in words what it all feels like to feel human and experience life at its core. No pretense. I knew it then and I know it now.
Dad is mathematical. I get it. And he gets I am artistic. Our minds don’t meld. Point blank. But I really think through this journey, we will finally bridge that gap and come to a mutual understanding once and for all and recognize that one without the other doesn’t work. Tandem is key.
Years later, oil and nature (total contradiction but same, never the less) called him out once more with his family in tow, wife and daughter, my Mother and sister, Anika. *Found out recently, a river is named after my father.
It’s safe to say that after all ‘my Alaksa’ shows, and my family history and my ingrained, ancestral native spirit, Alaska is just as much home to me as Minnesota. Funny how that is, because Pennsylvania never quite felt like home despite living here my entire life.
One night, about a year ago, I was flipping through instagram. In my feed, I saw an ad for a lodge in Alaska that was taking applications for Artist in Residency Programs. My heart leapt and I didn’t even hesitate to apply. Next morning, I got up and put everything I had worked for for a decade on paper, in one cohesive application. It was all right there for me, as I had clearly done the work. That is how I knew it was meant for me. It didn’t wrack my brain. It was seamless.
I could have applied as an artist, but I applied as a writer, as that is where I am being led. That is my true passion. I applied with the intent of working on my book – a fascinating memoir about my experience with mental illness and spirituality…an account and calling that dares to bridge the gap between spirituality and science.
I knew I’d be accepted, not in an arrogant all-knowing way, but it was just an energetic fit and a dream come true after many foiled attempts to get there on my own in the past 25 years.
Yet, a month went by after the initial acceptance date. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.
A few weeks after the month went by, I woke up at 4am to an email that said I had been accepted. I bawled. It was a sweet release and confirmation that all I had been through and had processed was finally making its way into reality and as a perfectly-timed reward.
I emailed my father, to which he replied, “the mosquitoes will eat you alive.”
Gee, thanks for the seasoned advice.
Even if I am not getting the support I need from those that lived it, I won’t be alone. It’s a gathering of a like-minded tribe from all walks of life, to learn, live and thrive in the wilderness and create art together as one.
Imagine. “Secluded Lodge” is an understatement when the nearest road is 180 miles away. It is situated on Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. That park, alone, spans over 4 million acres in Grizzly territory.
Gourmet meals, hot river-rock and wood-fed sauna, kayaking, fishing and swimming in pristine waters, fires under the northern lights, artisan tools and supplies, endless trails and adventures for the true wanna-be survivalists and comfort-suite cabins for well-earned retreats.
I have a lot up ahead of me and many valid fears to face. But this is the third time I attempted anything like it. And it will be the charm. I know what needs to be done. I know what needs to be forever set aside to realize this. I am determined. It’s me and me on this journey and I am not about to let her down.
What becomes of this is entirely up to my natural surrender to the Universe. Depth to be sure, uncovering and respecting native truths and myths – a prerequisite, rediscovering joy – a must, new skills – an absolute. A new lease on life – hell yeah! Anything beyond is a mystery.
It wasn’t ‘luck’ that led me here. It won’t be ‘luck’ that follows through and I won’t be ‘lucky’ if I make it out.
Many may wonder what the big deal is about ‘vacationing’ in Alaska. This isn’t a vacation. This is stretching every fiber of my being to see how I react to something that I once believed was larger than me – begging me to believe in it, as much as it is to see how it reacts to me – something that is its equal, begging for it to believe in me.
To meet on common ground. To bury the hatchet and start a’new. All things are possible when you soak and immerse yourself in a place that takes your breath away, only to realize that it is you as much as you are it, reflected. *crickets…
Not naive, just hopeful. I know there’s a huge part of Alaska that will chew and spit me out in a stream of no fucks given … just sayin’ I am not attempting to ride this out on the fumes of Unicorn farts.
To be cont …