Introducing myself to a new friend at work, he asked where I was from. I said, “Technically I am from Alaska…”
“Technically? Either you are or your aren’t!” he enjoyed twisting me on the spit. Ahhh….this was why he was my new friend. Verbal sparring.
Of course, I am from Alaska. I even write books about it. And I remain conflicted about Alaska.
This weekend, I visited with someone from Alaska. She moved here from Fairbanks 5 years ago. She says “Of course I miss Alaska, but it is so nice to walk under the trees in the warm sunshine in October…”
I do not miss Alaska. If I think of the little I do miss, it is the cold. The fine crystalline bite of the cold telling everyone that the sun is only for decoration and if you want to stay alive, you better get yourself a coat.
I remember the clouds in summer casting huge shadows on the mountain (and there were always real mountains in my sight, not like Fairbanks), dappling the sides in calico: dark and light with the underlayer of the trees. The trees are green, but then comes the fall when they speckle yellow through the green and slowly take over the mountainsides in primary yelling yellow.
Sounds great. It is great. That part was great.
But. But! There are so many people there I would cross the street to avoid. Some of them…I would cross the street at a dead run.
Not everyone. There are nice people there. Nice people who would nod as I tried to tell them about the stuff that gets me excited. They would nod, and change the subject.
When I tell people I am from Alaska, and I try to explain why I didn’t like growing up in such a legendary place I say, “It’s a great place. If you like fishing. If you like living in a cabin in the woods with no heat or electricity.” As their jaw slackens with realization, I know they have a peek. And I know I took the easy way, and didnt’ tell the real reason.
HERE is why I can’t be there: Alaska is for men. There are huge big things to do there.
I don’t begrudge the men their big jobs managing the pipeline, crab fishing and commercial fishing and drilling for new oil. Good for you.
What is for me?
In Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger joins their set of friends out of nowhere. He knows he is the only one. It is quite obvious to everyone else that he is the only one. Tigger declares that to be wonderful!
In the book, he gets hungry. Pooh offers him honey.
HONEY! WONDERFUL HONEY!
Pooh loves honey, and it is a regrettable sacrifice to share his honey. When Tigger tastes the honey, he says
After many attempts, the friends in the hundred acre woods discover that Tigger likes Cod-liver oil best.
CODLIVER-OIL! Nobody likes cod-liver oil. It’s nasty.
Except Tigger. He said it, “That’s what Tiggers like.”
You know what I like? Doing Stuff. Big stuff. Hard thinky, complicated, years-in-the-making stuff.
And on no provocation at all I will talk about that stuff. I will talk about the global networks and supports systems I set up in one, two, three different companies. That stuff is the jobs I was able to do
ONCE I LEFT ALASKA.
Alaska is the biggest state in the union, and the least populated. The fewest roads and the smallest scope for MY HUNGER TO DO STUFF.
I know that those mountainsides in Alaska feed other people. Like Tigger, I’m the only one. The only Murphy.
Alaska does not have food for me. I spent a lot of hungry years there. And I remember the pangs when I go back to visit.
So I don’t go back. And no, I don’t miss it.
But I’ll write about it. Alaska has always been good for stories.