"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Love my car

Since I didn't get to go to Anchorage this last weekend, I've been totally and completely out of groceries. I had to use a hamburger bun for PB&J, and that was the last of my peanut butter.

So I headed to Healy, just north of the Park entrance, for a couple groceries. It's a 30-minute-ish round trip. Every time I get in the car in Alaska, I think about how great my car is. Where it's been, how it hasn't really been that much of a pain at all. I love the freedom of being able to move wherever I want to go. At the gas pump in Healy, an Alaskan commented on what a nice rig it is. I get that a lot up here, oddly.

The weather's been rainy and cold the past few days. This afternoon, the clouds have started to let in a little sun. I'm hoping for fantastic weather the next few days.

Thursday I go to the Tek field station again to meet up with a group of high school kids. I'll be going on my first up-close visit with an Alaskan glacier, the Muldrow. Friday, I hitch a ride to Wonder Lake, the furthest I have ever been on the Park road. On Saturday, I take off on the Denali Highway (a 130+ mile gravel road) for Paxson, and head south on the Glenn Highway for Anchorage to meet geocachers at a potluck. Sunday, I explore the south-central glaciers and hopefully I will have a place to stay at Kenai. Monday, I come home to Denali.

I'm just about done with my application for the Peace Corps. I've wanted to volunteer with them for a long while...now, I think, is the right time to apply.

Exciting stuff.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Love from all but one

Thursday afternoon, after blubbering in front of my totally understanding supervisor at Denali, I was invited on a field seminar. And I jumped at it.

But the in-between time was rough. I drove out to Glitter Gulch for sorbet and picked up a hitchhiker who works for a bus company. Hitchhiking is a part of life at Denali that I really enjoy. The only time I've ever hitchhiked was outside the country. There's such a stigma against it here in the U.S., and in places it's illegal. Maybe it's illegal here, but I don't know or care. I'll pick people up anyway.

The blueberry-pomegranate sorbet was absolutely what I wanted that moment. It's a nice little ice cream parlor too - a large cup only costs $3.50, which is phenomenal for such a tourist-focused community. I turned south towards Anchorage and visited McKinley Village to find a cache. The station from Fairbanks just barely came in playing 'Nice to Know You' by Incubus. What a beautiful band...

I experienced dining at Glitter Gulch for the first time...and due to what was available, I had the Hungry Hungry Hippie. It's a sort of disappointing falafel. Maybe disappointing because I didn't have it with the yogurt sauce, which maybe has all the flavor.

The next morning, I packed up overnight gear and walked the road to the MSLC. The seminar I was invited to was called 'Birds of Denali' led by Nan Eagleson. She started the program off with a slideshow of birds in Denali, which I think was really fantastic. I never knew about birds that hit other birds upside the head just to catch their projectile vomit midflight. Or that ptarmigans molt head to toe in spring, and toe to head in fall (did I get that backwards...?).

Before we drove off, an education specialist, beaming smile as usual, handed me a gift: a woven basket filled with three beautiful little notepads with inspirational themes. I grabbed the swan with the 'unsinkable spirit' and ran off. She really amazes me each day. Gifts aren't necessary to make me happy, but she hasn't known me very long and doesn't know me incredibly well - so I'm absolutely touched she makes such an effort to console me and make me feel at home.

We drove off west to Teklanika where the MSLC field camp is located. People here refer to it as 'Tek' and this confuses me completely because I immediately imagine them saying 'Tech.' It was a miserably rainy day, but we stopped for a nice walk at Savage River where we saw all kinds of birds I never noticed.

The field camp is a comfortable little village near the Tek campground almost in hearing range of the Tek River. A small shack holds cooking gear and 'smellables,' and is connected to a cooking area that even has a very posh camping oven. Nearby sits a yurt used for eating and meeting. Down a path in the woods are six tent cabins, each with four bunk beds. They are remarkably new-looking and comfy, though they don't at all shut out the neverending light of Alaska.

We made an alfredo pasta dish with salad and garlic bread with cream puffs for desert. I'm going to blame my emotional state for having totally botched my preparedness for this, as I forgot all my food at home to replace the dairy and meat. I was so hungry though, and so angry that my former inspiration failed me, I just didn't care that night. I devoured a bowl of alfredo (without the chicken... that isn't a compromise to me), ate two slices of garlic bread, a salad, and three cream puffs. Oddly, I was really pleased I didn't really get sick as a result.

After waking at 6 a.m. (you couldn't possibly tell from the sun), our group made a stop at Igloo Creek. Saturday was still rainy and miserable, so hardly any birds called. We next wandered Tattler Creek, a geological wonderland. Still, very few birds. We kept driving west, further than I'd ever been, seeing golden eagles west of Sable Pass and a raven nest under a bridge. West of Polychrome Pass, a group of five Dall's sheep wandered just below the road. What a view - a one-lane gravel road with an unimaginably steep, long drop below. Not a place to ever make a mistake.

We finished just east of Eielson Visitor Center. I'll get there someday.

In the morning, again at 6 a.m., we ate and packed up for Mount Margaret as it was actually a clear day. The general way up to the top is by a very muddy social trail that plugs through alders the first few hundred feet. Beyond that, the mountain opens up to alpine tundra. At the summit are amazing periglacial features including classic stripes, nets, and circles. Not too many birds here, but we were lucky enough to see a group of surf birds fly by us. We watched a group of five Dall's sheep walk across the high plateau to eventually meet with a group of three. A half mile before the groups joined, the five sheep took off running and plowed into the group of three. They took the offensive and flipped around to confront them. Once, twice, sheep jumped and knocked heads.

By the time we started down, the sky completely clouded up and a little hail fell on us. We got down fast and beat the heavy rain.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I was hoping would never happen, happened

I'm sitting in the MSLC because I wouldn't know where else to go. I didn't before, and I still don't. Longer term, I'm even more clueless.

I got a call during lunch that was sickly reminiscent of my last failed relationship. I knew it was coming when I saw the name and dreaded answering because it was so...abnormal. The next two hours were spent curled up in the woods as a thunderstorm set in. My parents, well-rehearsed and doing all the talking, kept me company thousands of miles away.

It is so difficult sitting here in this lobby surrounded by tourists. I'm madly biting my lip to keep from revealing what I feel and making their once-in-a-lifetime vacation feel just a little more awkward and disappointing (it's raining, so they won't see the mountain). It's even worse because everyone here is a couple. It looks like they've been together for decades.

I wish I could just let go when these things happen and feel the way the person who hurt me does -justified to destroy the bond. I shouldn't hurt. This should be an agreement, not a severance. I should feel set free and whole; instead I just feel cut in half with the rest drained. I believe I didn't get a proper chance to fix whatever happened. Thus I feel this is so utterly wrong.

So here I have to remain. In a beautiful land that, for me, has been tarnished forever. I came here for a future and to keep building what was begun. The only reason I even bothered to look for employment in Alaska was for him. I came here, tearing as fast as I could away from graduate school, for him. I stay because I have to. I will probably leave when I'm allowed.

What was I fighting for? Every day through graduate school was an enormous struggle, powered by the desire to get back to him. All I wanted in the world was to escape. I felt energized and encouraged by his beliefs and loved what he wanted for his future....I desperately wanted to be a part of that.

Rebecca told me not to give up on love, but I want to. It's not worth the pain. It's not worth investing so much just to realize in the end that it was meaningless. I would rather just avoid the blissful highs because, as I have learned again, they are always followed by the tragic realization that - after all - I wasn't loved as I had come to believe.

I would rather not feel anything instead of how I feel now.