Monday, September 11, 2006

I'm an Alaskan now

I spent the workday filling the newspaper with 9/11 fifth anniversary stories. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Sept. 11 has become a dubious date - but in 2005, it also happened to be the date I "moved" to Alaska. I thought about where I was this day last year, driving across the state line with a vaguely-promised job offer and little else on the horizon. One year went by. I rounded the jaw-dropping vista of Baycrest Hill, settled in Homer, moved to a cabin that received 250 inches of snow over the winter, embarked on my first below-zero bike ride, started entering endurance wilderness races, tried winter camping in April, pedaled by the light of the midnight sun, and gorged on the endless visual banquet until mountain-framed sunrises and wildlife sightings became routine. Then I packed up my life in Homer, relocated to Juneau, and started all over again. That's what happened in the one year it took for me to become an official, state-recognized "Alaskan."

Now I can get a fishing license. Qualify for the annual PFD check. Maybe run for city office if I ever move back to Homer (who wouldn't elect a "Homer Mayor Homer?") But, most of all, I've adapted my outlook and lifestyle to acclimate into this land of extremes ... I think to the point now where even the grizzled old fishermen wouldn't be able to tell me apart from the next pasty-faced Alaskan slogging down the street in a summer squall. And still, I've maintained an immigrant-like sense of Outsider pride. I'd still cook up a batch of Mormon funeral potatoes for the company potluck. And I don't own anything with the brand name "Carhart," "Xtratuf" or "Subaru."

It's strange that it's been a whole year - and yet, I can hardly imagine my life free of boreal wilderness and bald eagles perched atop streetlights. If year two brings even a fraction of the drastic changes I experienced since Sept. 11, 2005, I'm excited for the possibilities.