I met you six years ago on a rainy, July day. You were cool and a little off-putting (mainly because I heard so many wonderful things about your best season) but I saw something in you. I felt in my bones that we had a future together. Several months later, I committed myself to you. I packed my bags in North Carolina and moved up here to be with you. It wasn’t until the following month when I fell in love with you and I felt you fall in love with me. I was sitting outside on a porch swing at my apartment in the hills, and your colors were burning brightly and dancing in the night sky. That was my first aurora experience. It was so amazing that I forgot it was 35 degrees below zero.
You dazzled me with your September snowfalls, your golden autumns, and your crystal clear summer days. I kayaked your river, climbed your hills, and soaked in your hot springs. I enjoyed evening runs at Creamer’s Field and morning runs up Ester Dome in the summertime, each time ending with a bigger breath of your fresh, cool air. I napped in fields of fireweed and watched Sandhill cranes fly overhead while picnicking. I’ve gawked at the stamina and speed of your huskies. I’ve happened upon lynx, and I’ve danced around moose. Speaking of moose, I was late for work one day because one was standing between my back door and my car. No amount of noise would make her budge.
You inspired me to try new hobbies like cross country skiing, canning, softball and raising chickens. You helped me reconcile old hobbies, too. Prior to moving here, my life was punctuated by tragedies, tragedies which, for whatever reason, stifled my creativity and my ability to write. Your valleys and peaks, your darkness and lightness, your dirt roads and aerial views helped me find my voice and my niche, and for the first time in a decade, I’m comfortable writing again.
Outside of your vicinity, I fished for salmon in the strongest river and was fed all winter by the fruits of this great land. I felt incredibly mortal under Denali on a clear day and then again when I saw bear tracks on a muddy trail. I got rain soaked in Valdez and thought I was going to catch pneumonia because I was soaked for days straight, but older and wiser fishermen kept me medicated and well with a fisherman’s toddy (Crown Royal). In Homer, my life was forever changed the days I saw her natural beauty for the first time and then again when I got married along her bay.
I married my husband because of you and I met the other love of my life, a 90 pound floppy, furry, loving pup, and brought her into my tiny cabin with tiny rooms and a tiny holding tank and we have all lived happily here.
We’ve seen bad times, you and me. You were downright cruel the week you reached -50 for days straight, leaving 2 of 4 brand new tires flat and ruined. That was the same day I returned from a red eye flight from Hawaii and after the help of the nice lady in Sears, I finally got back to my home (4 hours later) with new tires. I was so relieved to be home and all I wanted to do was take a hot shower. Because of your cold, relentless winter, the water completely stopped running mid lather. I had to rinse the shampoo out of my hair with water from the dog bowl. That was the day the water tank nearly froze solid. If you thought that was funny, I know you laughed when I walked into my apartment after a 24 hour trip from the east coast, only to realize the septic had frozen and backed up and leaked all over the floor of my studio apartment. Ohhhh, I hated you then. Now, I look back and (dare I say) appreciate those experiences because they are unique to you and me and maybe a select other few who love you.
And then there’s your people. Your community of people who have gathered around me and who have supported me from the very beginning. There are my landlords: two of the most helpful people I’ve ever met whose mission is to provide quality, affordable housing to people like me. To a single woman moving here from thousands of miles away, that helped me beyond measure. There are my coworkers, past and present: those who not only mentored and supported me in the workplace but those who reminded me of and made me feel at home, who invited me over to dinner, woodcutting parties, and shooting practice and those who drove to my apartment when it was 30 below to help me change a flat tire and give me a lift to work. They are the people who made the hours I spent at work feel like it was the next best thing to being with family during those hours. Last but not least, there are my friends. My Fairbanks family. Countless nights, we gathered around kitchen tables covered with food, wine, and board games or around bonfires and occupied a space only Fairbanksans can; we celebrated your beauty in the summer and helped each other get through the winter. More importantly, we celebrated each others’ promotions and milestones and helped each other get through hardships and our bond in stronger now because of it.
I love you, Fairbanks. Though I’m leaving you now, know that I will be leaving a piece of my heart behind with those friends I just mentioned, the current of your waters, in the roots of your berry bushes, in the colors of your sunsets, and in the rays of your midnight sun. Thank you. For everything.