We’ve just returned to my folks’ house in Cleveland after a ten-day visit to the Great Land. The highlight of our trip north was the return to Kodiak, two years to the month after we left the island on a twenty-five year old boat with our ten-month old child, determined to sail across the Pacific Ocean.
Before the trip, Alisa and I were full of the suspense of finding out how our identification with Alaska had weathered the last two years. Would Kodiak seem hopelessly provincial after we had roamed such a wide swath of the Pacific? Would the consistently foul weather of the northernmost Pacific seem no longer supportable after we had tasted a year of living in our swim suits?
The first four days of our visit featured the rain and fog and cold that we expected to find in early June. The sky was low and gray, the rainslick trees were black. Even in the middle of the day the sunlight was muted enough that being outside suggested the experience of ongoing depression or creeping blindness. A significant minority of our friends seemed to bring the conversation endlessly back to the question of whether living in Kodiak was “worth it”.
But… there was also the excitement of the new summer in town. Friends were leaving for remote cabins where they would gillnet salmon for the season, or they were getting boats ready to head out for the grounds. We slipped effortlessly back into the feeling of belonging to a community, of being in a town where we couldn’t walk a few minutes in any direction without coming to a house where we would be welcomed at the door. The daylight, though generally dim, was nearly endless, with sunlight or nearly-as-bright twilight for 20 hours a day. I remembered the elation and release that the superabundance of daytime used to bring to me after traversing the dark months of winter, and I marveled at our situation of not having seen winter in two years.
The weather cleared towards the end of our stay, and I took the chance to walk up Old Woman’s mountain above the airport. Getting out of town, I came home. Slowly stumping up the trail on my sailor’s legs, I stopped to remind myself of the names of the singing birds, and I re-discovered the ineffable peace that comes from being out in the country in Alaska. Really, the only other thing that I have ever found that can compare with walking on a mountain in Alaska is sailing for weeks out of sight of land on a small boat. And, for all the social irregularities that come with living in an isolated small town, and the spells of bad weather, and the expense, I realized on that hike that Kodiak is still home, and that we really don’t need anything in the long run that we can’t find on that particular Pacific island.
So. That’s good to know.