Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Alaska or Bust: the Allegory of the Alcan

In which our Caffeinated Lady Drives to Alaska

In the late spring of 2007, my husband and I were living in Provo, Utah about to graduate, and wondering what of all things to do with our lives.  I was graduating with an MA in Art History and Curatorial Studies, and had a student job at the university museum that promised to turn into something permanent.  My husband was finishing a BA in Anthropology and Archaeology but had decided to go a different direction into the work force.  I was not excited about his career switch, but felt that supporting him was important.  But it would mean a move to another state for sure. 
He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska.  I knew early on in our relationship that he would love to go back there someday, but I had told him very clearly after we got engaged that I would never move there.  Ever.  It was too far away from family, friends, and shall I say it, was not a cultural center. Now, some of us in this world are the farmer type: please-don’t-make-me-leave-my-land, and some are wanderers.  I am the former type, and am also accustomed to getting my own way.  However, this was not the Lord’s plan for us. 
One Thursday night, my mom called and said, “I really don’t want to tell you this, but I feel like I should.  They are opening up positions in Anchorage that Jon could apply for.”  After hearing more about it, I took a deep breath.  I did not want to tell my husband either.  I was already feeling the familiar pressing feeling that the Spirit sometimes gives you when you’ve finally encountered the right idea.  Sometimes we wayward souls just need a good warning.  A few hours later, Jon came home.  I think I actually waited an hour or two before I told him.  There are times when a person just has to pretend not to know something like that to keep their sense of continuity with their current lives, I suppose.  As I finally opened my mouth, I saw a strange light in my husband’s eyes.  I had small feelings of hope and excitement, soon eclipsed by a feeling of sinking.  Before noon the next day, Jon’s application was in the mail.  I was stunned to discover how badly he wanted to move to Alaska.  He passed all the phone, etc, interviews with flying colors.  The summer passed quickly, and before I knew it we were packing our cars for what would be the longest trip of my life. It would be fifty hours of driving time on bad roads, and once we got there, no turning back.  
The trip itself is quite a story, an allegory even.  We each had our own vehicle stuffed to the brim to drive up.  I do remember that when we started it was late summer, and when we arrived, it was almost the end of autumn.  A whole season passed in six days as we drove along the “Alcan”.  There is a similarity here to the “summer of my life” turning into a kind of “fall of the cancer cells.” (not winter thoughwinter indicates death). At one point my car broke down, and spending much of our remaining money on the repair, spent the next couple nights sleeping in our separate cars on the side of the road.  It rained the whole time we were in Canada, and my windshield wipers refused to work until just after entering Anchorage.  Honestly, it’s like my car was in rebellion too.  Maybe I was sending it bad vibes through the steering wheel.  The last two days were awful for me.  I got carsick for the first time in my life. I used to be an extraordinarily hearty/healthy person.  I blame the carsickness on a combination of the twisty, washboard-like roads and a pack of Pepsi I’d bought to keep myself awake since sleeping in the car was…well, it wasn’t.  As one who rarely imbibes carbonation, let alone caffeine, I felt a strange kind of awareness or energy without actually feeling healthy or very awake.  This is somewhat akin to taking anti-seizure medicine: pure delirium.   

After three years in Anchorage, I can finally call it home.  The first year was rough.  The second a little better, though still a stretch.  During the third I finally felt a sense of settling in—like when you wiggle down into a good recliner.  We’ve had our struggles, but on the whole Alaska has been very good to us.  Even when going through the tough and twisty times.  We knew, and still know that we were and are supposed to be here.    


  1. I remember you used to say that having culture was one of your requirements of a place to live :) You are cultured though and I'm sure you bring that with you wherever you go. I always felt I learned a lot about art and Isiah from you when we were roommates.

  2. it was delightful visiting with you yesterday.
    And while you are for the time being committed to anchorage- just remember- the Metropolitan Museum of Art is patiently waiting--for you !!I too believe you take your love of the arts with you wherever you go--but like oxygen to a fish---being surrounded by culture is ambrosia for the soul...

  3. i'm glad alaska is going so well :) i've never been there but it sounds beautiful!