Well, for heaven’s sake! Here I am in Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada. Just yesterday morning, I left Anchorage after some tender, delightful visits with dear friends there. I drove away feeling so loved and held, and I still feel a sense of closeness, despite having driven almost 700 miles since yesterday morning.
This adventure I’m currently undergoing/creating/being created by is a visual fiesta and an endless series of lessons and prompts. I’ll use the two as framework for my travelers’ tales going forward.
Picture 1: Homer, my last full day there (Tuesday morning) — one of the biggest snows of the year.
By the end of that day, Homer was shiny with wet pavements and blazing with sunshine.
By the end of the next day in Anchorage, I had six fewer boxes in my car, and a much clearer view out the back.
Lesson 1: Don’t be tyrannized by the status quo!
I get inertia around status quo. I’ll undergo inconveniences or do without things I need because they’re not easily in reach but require some uncovering. And that’s even when I’m at home! So I was proud of myself when the friend I stayed over with Wednesday night encouraged me to take my time the next morning–I had the whole day in town, after all, but she urged me not to feel pressure to leave when she left for work–and I took her up on it. I pulled most everything out of the car and repacked without the “get out for an appointment” time pressure of the previous morning. I’d already shed four boxes–things I was giving away/letting go–and was able to eliminate two more just by consolidating.
Not only did that make me feel safer with the improved visibility; it also demonstrated to me that repacking really isn’t hard. I’ll probably do it many more times in the next couple weeks!
Picture 2: My car gets the duct tape job, just in time for leaving Alaska!
Oh, duct tape. It’s the cliche go-to solution for anything and everything, and the badge of honor for many a piece of venerable but stalwart equipment nursed along by Alaskan folks. Part of the pride of my car when I got it a year ago was that it was in such good shape. It was a self-esteem boost! Preparing for this journey included several timely repairs to the car’s machinery. but I hadn’t realized the rubber flanges on the passenger doors had worked loose. Normally, I don’t open them very often. At the moment, I’m opening all the doors several times a day.
This is a safety issue, too. If those worked loose enough to start that whistling noise I would go crazy! Thankfully, the Subaru folks in town helped me tuck it all back, but what was I thinking? I was going on the road without any duct tape in my on-board toolkit! And I didn’t want the flanges to work loose again. So, bright-red cold-weather duct tape it is. I taped the flanges on my break yesterday.
Picture 3: turning around from picture 2, this is what I could see:
The roads yesterday were better than I could have prayed for. As were the skies. Glorious. Almost no ice on the road; sunny skies. Alders and willows by the sides of the road sleekly red, ready for spring. There was good warning every time the pavement was gravelly, and those patches were few. I saw maybe four cars coming toward me between Glenallen and Tok; only one other in my direction.
The Snowshoe Motel in Tok was comfortable and simple. A blessing to be able to unfold and unwind in a quiet, private space with the sunset warming the bed.. I was supposed to write a blog yesterday, but I hadn’t realized how tired I’d be.
Lesson 2: It may not be me. It got very cold in Tok last night. Good job I pulled all my food indoors, but ironically, I turned the fridge too low so my carrots and fennel froze anyway. My poor car, struggling to start up with all its fluids so cold–I ran it for a good twenty minutes before setting off. A couple other motel guests were starting out too. Cars warming up when the air is barely above zero Fahrenheit (and had been colder yet before dawn) make odd groans and whines, and odd smells too, sometimes. I brought an armful out to my car and picked up a nasty burnt-oil odor. I can worry about my car, not being a skilled mechanic, and I had some moments of misgiving. But then a voice said, “It’s probably not even you”–a liberating lesson one can also learn from the tears that come from onions, or the anxiety contractable from someone else’s nailbiting.
Picture 4: the moment I thought I was driving into a blizzard:
The first 30 miles or so south of the Canadian border were gnarly–basically unpaved. As elsewhere, though, whenever the road was going to be bad, there was a good heads-up. The stretches of bad road were another reinforcement about flexing from status quo. I would get so used to driving a certain comfortable speed, but all of my stubbornness couldn’t counter the obvious fact that I needed to slow way down. I hit a frost heave too fast at one point and almost went airborne. When the skies went from blue to blizzard, I acknowledged it had always been a possibility. But I drove out of it just as quickly as in; it was the mountain’s snow shadow. Gratitude…
Picture 5: Kluane Lake. Just up the road from where I’m spending the night.
Soundtrack: I had a fantasy of driving away from Homer to the Monteverdi Vespers, whose opening gives me chills and tears every time I hear it, as do many other passages.
The opening is a solo baritone–”Deus, in adiutorium meum intende” (God, make haste to help me)–like a laser pointer of focus, one voice of all the hundreds in the several choirs and instrumental sections of the score, and at the end of his “intende” the full chorus, strings, organ, leaping trumpets break out with their first “Gloria!”
Oh, and what an auspicious beginning to my journey: as I pulled away from the house, this prayer for God’s help, and then the massed-voice “Gloria” broke out just as I rounded a bend in the road to find myself looking straight into brilliant sunrise.