Monday, November 1, 2010

Meaning and Memory

In which our Lady revels in all five of her Senses. 

Lately, I have been homesick.  My sister-in-law keeps putting pictures on her blog of Yellowstone, southern Idaho and Northern Utah.  I know all the places she shows by heart, but as I peruse the photos I find that there are details I’m missing in my head.  For instance, I am reminded of how BIG the sky is there.  It seems to stretch so much wider and taller than here in Alaska.  I truly believe that you can see much further away across the landscape there—the air just has a special quality that expands vision and encourages distant searching.  I miss the sunrises, the sunsets, and the cloudy fracas in the sky as the afternoon wind battered the clouds into submission on a daily basis.  And I miss the night skies.  Idahoan nights are only clear in my memory—literally.  In Anchorage, there are so many city lights and cloudy atmospheric conditions.  Plus there are the tall trees hemming me in wherever I go.  There are no strictly horizontal views in the area of Anchorage, and I’m probably not the kind to seek out the tundra just for the view.  Bbrrrr…
In high school, romantic moods would sometimes overtake me and I would drop my books or art projects to the ground in favor of seeking out a beautiful moment.  I remember laying quite awake in bed on late summer evenings, alert to the goose bumps on my arms as coyote howls traveled fiercely over the encircling safety of the back fence.  The sounds were primordially frightening and excitingly raw to listen to.  Their scavenger language was also mournfully beautiful as they answered each other, singing back and forth.  There were times when I would stop my car on the side of the road, get out, and turn to face into the hot wind, letting it whip away the moisture lurking furtively under my flapping shirt.  I would roam around my parent’s wonderfully landscaped yard, touching trees, running my fingers over rough bark, pokey pines, and verdant leaves.  I still love the feel of gently grazing a tall birch tree’s papery coat with just my fingertips.  Quaking aspens, otherwise known as “money trees” in my family, waved their penny leaves proudly as they whispered among their root-connected kin.   And the mountains were never more beautiful than when I’d climbed the west willow to sit on its nearly horizontal surface, bracing myself just over the fence line.  One night I sidled quietly out the back door in search of starry skies.  I laid myself down on the picnic table by my basement window and used its light to memorize the astronomy charts from the science encyclopedias.  I identified Mars, Vega, Cygnus, and a small cluster known as the Seven Sisters that I had to really strain to see.  In the wintery early mornings on the way to basketball practice I would ever be astounded that Orion still stood his guard near the big dipper, never faltering despite how shivering and miserable I felt at that ridiculously early hour.  His stance stayed solid as he turned his dipping circle throughout the night.  I am always so comforted to see my stalwart warrior constellation up here in Alaska.  It makes it seem like I’m not so far away from the scenery of my memory.     


  1. When I was younger I discovered the Seven Sisters and became convinced that they were a fleet of approaching alien spaceships. They've been a personal favorite ever since.

  2. I have really enjoyed coming to Texas and back to the bit sky. I watch it alot and enjoy the changes and the pink especially. I forgot I missed the big sky while in Alaska. Kaylene