“The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir

The photo above is of Mt. Susitna, or “Sleeping Lady.” It is here, in Alaska. And the story about her is one of my favorite traditional folk tales from the Alaska native peoples.

Utqiagvik

My son is heading to Barrow for at least a week for work. It is the northernmost city populated year round, and within the USA. The city has changed its name back to its original name, Utqiaġvik. It is pronounced, “oot — kay-ahg — vik.” Up there is where they have total darkness for the winter part of the year, and total sunshine for the summer part of the year. Life there, for the original native population, is not one many of us could have survived, back in ancient times. Even today, life there is much harder than the normal suburban housewife could handle. Prices for simple things like milk and cereal are insane. A gallon of milk is $10 and a box of Fruit Loops is $9.73. It’s almost impossible to imagine those sorts of prices. But the people survive. And it is what I look to when I want to see an example of strength and the ability to survive. History has not shared the full tale, but I know it is magnificent, if just known by its folklore. I cannot wait to hear my son’s stories when he gets back home. I am so excited he gets to see and stay in such a remarkable place.

Mt. Denali

I have been noticing that I am drawn more and more to the simple, the quiet, the serene, the natural. I would much prefer a mountain vista with a lake or stream than a high rise and traffic. I have no desire to uproot myself from the heaven-on-earth I live in to explore elsewhere. One of the reasons is because I have allowed myself to find my comfort zone, and to be comfortable there.

When we first relocated here, almost 10 years ago now, I was incessantly trying to get my friends from the lower 48 to see what I saw. To enjoy what I enjoy. Most everyone who has not taken to where I choose to live, have pretty much the same list of their reasons why not to live here:

  1. Too cold
  2. Too remote
  3. Too expensive
  4. Too rural
  5. Too frontier and not civilized enough

And you know what? I can see that. I really can. I was more than ready for summer after a pretty cold winter. This summer is not impressing me – we are having a few sunny days but most are overcast and in the 50s. This entire week we expect rain and 50s daily. I want sun! And this week is my grandson’s All Star tournament – every day – baseball in rain. Fun.

So I understand the objections. I was born and raised in Southern California. I know hot. And I know beach (born in Santa Monica). I know crowds, smog, and traffic, too. High taxes. Insane real estate prices. Yeah. I know SoCal. I miss my family and friends, but not the place. And I realized that my comfort zone does not include hot weather. I’d rather put on a jacket to get warmer than suffer in sweltering heat, relying on my A/C in the house or the car. And learning to get comfortable with who you are is such a hard step to take. I don’t much care for what others think of me anymore. I am here to please (1) my God, (2) my husband, and (3) my family. Friends are the flowers we carry through life. They are the extras we are blessed with to enjoy this journey.

Three Ladies in the Rain

I am blessed with some friends who I have had for decades. We shared marrying, and birthing and raising our kids, soccer, baseball, pizza parties, vacations and holidays, losing our parents, date nights, card playing, shopping, and tea times. We have gone through a lot together, holding each other’s hands when we needed to and celebrating when we were able to. And those friends will be with me until my last breath. And I am a blessed woman.

When we moved here, making connections was more difficult. People who choose to live here are a different bunch. They are hard-scrabble, as my grandma would say. I have met some friends here who have challenged me and who have changed me. For the better, I think. I am not as dependent in some ways, and more so in others. I have learned the importance of my community. I have learned more about infrastructure and supply chain dynamics than I thought I needed to know. And it has informed my conscious and has made both my husband and I change things in our daily lives. And realizing the things I thought I needed, I have no real need of. I can go all day without turning on the TV. I love walking through my garden, barefooted, battling weeds and swatting at mosquitoes. I love hanging out with my husband and he and I planning and enjoying our plans come to life. It is a good life. I am content. I am happy. I am where I am supposed to be. And I am making connections along the way. It is good.

The infamous sars virus that invaded our lives made us change, too. Smaller circle of friends, more prepared for disasters. Disappointed in how our local and state and federal government handled this. And deeply disappointed in how the Church handled it (so much for trusting in God over some man-made disease). Our faith has become more personal, and I actually think that is a bonus we can take from all this. And we have taken a look at how we live in relationship to the services we can use from local agencies. One of the changes we are in the midst of making is changing from a pretty, flick-a-switch-on-the-wall gas fireplace to a real, honest-to-goodness, cast-iron wood stove. My only requirement? It had to be pretty. And boy, is it gorgeous. I cannot wait for the construction to be over and to be able to light it up! We are also surrounding it with fossil rock. As an anthropology major, getting the opportunity to have real fossils, from Alaska, on my fireplace walls, is beyond exciting. The stove is brown-enameled cast iron and it is shiny and pretty and I am so excited. And I can take the pretty top off and cook on it, if I need to! Pretty and practical – I’d call that a win-win!

Cast Iron Humidifier

My stove will look like the cute humidifier I got for it. Gorgeous brown enamel. You fill it with water and set it on the stove and it humidifies the house! So simple and so elegant looking, at the same time. So far all I do with it is dust it! Soon it will have its home on our wood stove – and it is a perfect match!

Why would we pull out a gas fireplace? Well, when we had the big earthquake a couple of years ago, we lost power. We could actually get the fireplace to start, but the electric blowers did not work. The heat stayed right by the fireplace. We had no lights and no way to run our appliances. We were not bad off in comparison to others, but it made us think. We also rushed to the store that day and even though things were all over the floors, the store was open, workers were there, and water was selling out. It made us realize we needed to be more independent of stores, electric and gas companies, and water suppliers. We have since looked at where our food comes from. We now buy local – we try to source everything we can locally. Keeping our small economy running.

One of our raised beds

We also started to take care of our own food supply. There are so many ways we can all be more independent. This is one way. Control your own food. Plant only what you like to eat, that will grow where you live. You can grow enough at a townhouse or apartment, if you want to. Container gardening is almost easier than a full-on acre garden like we have. We also have a greenhouse with our tomatoes, peppers, and dill, keeping them nice and warm.

If a disaster should strike, and food becomes scarce, where will you find enough to eat? You can store canned and freeze-dried food (but you need water to eat freeze dried) and you can also store water. About 1/2 gallon per person, per day. You need about a week’s worth of supplies, at least. If power grids fail, if gas lines rupture, if water pipes burst…what are you going to do? If violence erupts and stores close, are you supplied? What if there is another lockdown? Do you have what you need? What if the computer system crashes and we can’t use ATMs or our debit cards at places like gas stations and grocery stores? What will you have to trade or bargain with? Cash on hand? Politics control most of our lives and the powers-that-be are moving into our food supply (artificial shortages). Have you priced simple lumber these days? Artificial shortage. Research it. The government mandating farmers not farm? Research it.

Sleeping Lady

And all this leads me to why I wrote about the mountains – and for me, that is Alaska. I fled the chaos for the serenity of a quieter life; a life closer to most of my kids (there’s one who is moving even further away, but at least he’ll be out of CA); a more purposeful life…and a life near mountains. All around me in Alaska are mountains. I get all 4 seasons. (I do get more winter than fall, more summer than spring, but they all appear). I am now exerting myself into more control of my life, rather than relying on the system. Living “closer to the dirt,” as the saying goes. Off grid? Not hardly. But I know people who live that way and I sort of envy them. (I am spoiled in that I require running water, and a water heater). I’m not that brave. But I can strive for more than who I was and what I was capable of doing.

And so I have decided to get another tattoo…this one will be of Sleeping Lady, much like what is above. I love the mountains, they truly call me, and I love the story of Sleeping Lady.

For a brief overview, the Sleeping Lady story is about a race of giants. It is about a girl named Susitna and boy named Nekatla. They were deeply in love. It is about war and faith, community and life, and remaining steadfast. All of the story is filled with honorable traits of having a good character. The story says that when there is peace again on the earth, Susitna will awaken. It inspires me (look up the full folk tale for yourself – it is beautiful). And it fulfills my love of ancient cultures, and the mountains. And one day I hope the truth of the history of these ancient peoples comes to light. Perhaps then, Susitna will awaken.

“…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

winterroad

Oh do we have snow! Not as much as they have been warning us about (although it’s not over, yet) but everything is white. You see the world in whites and grays in this winter wonderland. The light from the sun weaves its ambient presence among us and the world is much more quiet and serene. Even the local dump is pretty, covered in beautiful layers of snowy goodness! As we wander into the last days of this incredibly wild year, I have pondered what my next days will be filled with. I am not good with “resolutions” and even the word sounds so final. I rarely keep them. I intend to, which is the main thing, but my follow-through for an entire year is usually weak. And since I know that about myself, and am “of an age” where I can readily express that with no embarrassment, I do! Ha-Ha!

2017

I do wish everyone a blessed and happy New Year. I pray that 2017 is a year of profound peace and prosperity, in whatever ways mean that to you. For me, I am seeking a return to what I somehow laid aside. I am anxious for inner peace – moreover, an inner contentment. It has somehow escaped me and I spend many nights tossing and turning, many days exhausted from a lack of good sleep, and an overall feeling of impending doom. That is no way to go through life. I am working on my health and my supplements! I know I need more vitamin D! I am working on that. We had a very successful experience trying the Whole30 elimination diet and we did so for 49 days, until Thanksgiving. Since then, we have both seen our overall health tank. The old aches and pains are back, some new ones cropped up, and we have an overall feeling of just plain, well, “yuck.” So in 3 days we will back at this Whole30 experience. You can google it, if you are unaware of what it is, and you can also look back at some earlier posts, when I explained in more detail what we are up to.

This year, we met a lot of new people and I can honestly say, our lives are the better for it. Our perspectives have broadened, and we have found areas that we want to grow in. It is wonderful, too, to find a group of like-minded individuals. While many of them have younger families, we have found a group where we are among our peers. And we both love being with people our age and life experiences. It is fun. And so in the coming year, we hope to strengthen these relationships, make many of these people close friends, and grow and learn many new skills. Living where we do, we are deeply intrenched in the seasons of the earth. Right now, in deep winter, we are all hunkered down and only occasionally getting together. I cannot wait for spring and summer – more opportunities to mingle, lots of new things to experience, and more people to get to know. And, we get to try our hand at a better garden this year!

windowsnowcoffeenoborder

One of the things I have learned this past year is that social media, while it can be a good thing, can suck you dry. It can pull you in, because perhaps you are lonely. It can take over your day. You can be so caught up in checking Facebook and emails, tweets and pins, that you forget to be present to those around you. You forget to live this life in the here and now. I do believe our computers aid us (I am typing this on my gorgeous, and purple, MacBook) but I also think that the ease with which they purport to make our lives, also complicates them. I can’t recall the last time I went days without checking things on either my computer or my phone. I deleted a bunch of apps off my phone the last few days. I decided it was just too much. Facebook Messenger was insane. Ugh. My phone beeps and tweets and sings to me all day long. Even when I turn off my notifications, something beeps at me. And I came to the realization that I sit far too long, looking at the activities of other people, and not having enough of my own. How silly is that?

So I am trying to keep a sort of “resolution,” in that I have deleted apps from both my phone and computer, and I am simplifying. I mean, for instance, I am down to 1 Angry Bird app. Period. And I am down to 1 solitaire game across all media platforms.  That is progress my friends! I am seriously thinking of deleting my aquarium app, as I have 6 tanks and if I don’t feed those darn fish…well, you know. (Gross). But seriously. I am 60 years old. And I play Angry Birds. What is up with that?? I feed make-believe fish in make-believe aquariums. I think I knew I was going off the rails when I started breeding sharks in amongst the angel fish. I mean, how sick is that?? And what am I NOT doing whilst feeding imaginary fish and  defeating imaginary pigs? I am not praying. I am not reading. I am not becoming a better me. Does Angry Birds help me get closer to God? Uhm, no. I think He is probably shaking His head at my silliness.

We are all called to be His children. We are all called to share the Word of God with those around us. We are all called to help our fellow man. Angry Birds does not do any of that. I spent an afternoon canning with some new friends this fall. In a very out-of-the-way place (where there was not even navigation in my car or phone reception, and yes, I got momentarily lost as I journeyed home) with some wonderful new people in my life. The conversation was great. We shared stories and we laughed. The skills acquired were really a re-introduction to canning, as I had not done it in years. But the skills shared, the wisdom in that cabin, has stayed with me. And I hunger for more of the same. These were some real people and I felt so welcome and so “at home.” We shared, with one another, the gist of who we are in the simple tasks of washing black currants, and boiling water, of making coffee, and slicing and blanching carrots. What a simple joy that afternoon was. And it profoundly struck me. That is what I want more of.

Do you know I have only been shopping in our one, large mall here 1 time? Guess what? I have no desire to go there. At all. I’ve never been a shopper, and I am really growing to hate crowds of people. But you know what I am anxious for? What I want to do? What I am excited for? Getting together to cook and  make some scrumptious recipes with some of my new friends. We’ve been teasing each other with recipes! I am looking forward to some shooting lessons. I desperately want to feel more confident in my basic skills in regards to being prepared for our next “snowmaggedon” or our new volcanic eruption, or the next big earthquake. Learning to freeze foods; learning to dehydrate foods. Canning, in all its glory. Planting a well-thought-out garden. These things excite me.

house-snow

As we age, our dreams change. I no longer foresee a house in a development, or master-planned community. I envision a place with space around it. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s home; it doesn’t have to please anyone else. But I would like it to to be simple, serene, and away from the “maddening crowd.” I dream of a log cabin, although I am aware of how much adjusting and upkeep they require. I don’t need my own lake or river, but it would be nice to have one close by so my dear husband can grab his fishing gear and walk down to the water, and relax while challenging the salmon. I would love to have space so he can hunt if he wants to, without having to drive miles upon miles to do it. And I want a space where others feel welcome and want to come and hang out. Even if it is simply for some card games and coffee. I would like my forever home. Because I am so very tired of moving. I want my roots in this land to go deep. I want a home where my grandkids will someday say, “Remember grandma and grandpa’s house in the woods where we got to fish and run around?” I want to make those memories with my grandchildren, and with my children, and my husband. I want inner serenity. I want peace and contentment. I certainly don’t want millions of dollars and all that it requires to take care of it. I want to be safe and comfortable, in a space where I can host others, and share some peace and laughter with them.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

And so for 2017, I wish for you the same. The peace the world cannot offer; the peace of Christ. I wish for all of us, to have fear leave us and for contentment to find us. I pray the world will calm down and we can each find this peace in our own little corner of it. For some, it will be an apartment in the middle of a vast city, driving to and from on complicated highways and byways. For others, it will be on farms and rural homes. Still others in suburban hideaways, where they can escape the madness of their commutes. But at least once a week, I pray we can all find our way to kneel before the One Who created us, to give thanks, to be humbled, and to enjoin with Him Who gave us life and breath, and hearts to love. “Our thoughts determine our lives” (Elder Thaddeus) is something I try to live by. If we all have thoughts of peace and we share them, peace will emanate from us and fill those around us. One way to find peace is to seek the quiet and serenity wherever, and whenever, we can. For me, I think I will slowly unplug from the rat race. I may still play a round or two of Angry Birds, but I am trying to rein that in, too. I know that waking early, spending some time reading the Word of God and having a chat with Him, starts my day off right. I also love to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and a little time with my husband before he is off to his day. These good habits that ground us are often hard to come by, and hard won. But they give us peace and prepare us as we enter into the work the Lord has given us for this day. And for me, I will take these “resolutions” and tackle each day, one at a time, as I resolve to find peace, contentment, and work on all these new things and new people in our lives. “…Do not let your hearts be troubled…”

candles-church

God’s blessings on you and yours as we wade into this new year – 2017.