Where Is Your Alaska?

I am about 90% of the way through a book called “Into The Wild”. It is a non-fiction story about a young man who became disenchanted with his premeditated life in his early twenties, gave away everything he owned, disassociated his family and began wandering around the country. He eventually ends up pursuing his dream escape, Alaska.

Then through a series of small oversights and accidents, he dies of starvation (I know… this is a bit deep and dark, but bare with me for a second). The author effectively documents his steps and attempts to establish what this guy was searching for, or running from.

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It is a haunting and tragic story. But what is even more daunting is that as you zip through the pages, you read about dozens of others that had done the same thing. Souls that for perhaps pathological reasons, found more comfort in the wild than in society. Individuals that found less value in maintaining a balance between running with the wolfs and eating Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws.

As is usually the case when I am reading a book, I try and find parallels housed within the text and the path that I am currently walking. I am a person that has often found refuge in the woods. There have times when my therapy has been enduring a rainstorm while I’m waist deep in the Little Manistee River in pursuit of the ever elusive trout. My aspirin has been the bite of sub-zero weather as I step from the house on mornings when the sun is still crawling across Greenland. I suspect that’s why this book is so intriguing to me… that and I enjoy the author.

It is a hectic time of year. Our social calendars are full, we shop, shovel, we attend performances by our youth. This morning I was thinking about this in the darkness of our living room as I acknowledged a moment of peace and solidity. Somewhere in the aurora of our seasonal lights and the warmth of a down comforter, I slipped into a micro Alaska. A place where I found peace. It is almost an absurd correlation and a bit of a reach but never the less, there I was. Thinking about why it is that I do not (or cannot) pack up and head out? What stops me from giving heed to the “Marco Polo gene” of youth, as a friend of mine puts it.

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I’m somewhat relieved to conclude that snippets of structural integrity like this morning suffice. Not that I do not accommodate the occasional need to blow off dinner and isolate myself with a fly rod or paddle on occasion, but my wife and I have somehow managed to create a life that enables a good mix.

Part of which is a home that just feels right to us. Artifacts of who we are and what we love abound. Things that are precious are tucked away but can be obtained in a moments notice. A place where self expression is encouraged (we might regret that as our kids morph into the teen years). It isn’t Alaska, but if you want to go there through the text in a book, it can easily be done by tuning the lights, pouring a coffee and putting your feet up on an adjacent chair.

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2 thoughts on “Where Is Your Alaska?

  1. My Dad always said he was going to retire to Alaska. It symbolized freedom, outdoors, nature, renewal. My townbred stepmother wasn’t enthusiastic.

    By the time Dad retired, he needed heat. He enjoyed soaking up Florida sun, albeit in a cap and long-sleeved shirt and slacks. Dad grew up in Redding, Connecticut when it was rural, with some summer homes of literary people from New York. He worked in a brickyard in New Hampshire as a teenager, and shipped out very young with the US Navy.

    Your linking of integrity with the ideal of Alaska interests me. It links up with the idea that we aren’t here forever, that our time is short, in some ways, that what we acquire or nest in serves temporary needs, that one day we will be free indeed, free from things, free from our bodies, free from Earth.

  2. The book I refer to is typically associated with the tragedy of it all. But what I found to be most moving in the book, movie and the story… is how this one individual built so many strong relationships with a vast amount of people. People that were clearly impacted by his acquaintance. That’s the message I harvested from the story.

    I think that is what you are referring too as well… it’s not the things we acquire, but the people who’s life’s we make better that really matter.

    A good friend of mine once said that if we proceed through life blinded, eventually the things we own will own us.

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