Updates from Alaska #8

Date: 15-20 June 2011

Location: Talkeetna, AK

Daylight: Mostly

Like the new layout? I’ve sort of abandoned you all lately. My host family’s family is here and I’ve had a nice couple of days completely slacking off. As they’ve been occupying my little cousin and family I’ve been off biking, hiking, reading, and sleeping. It’s been very nice to spend time with them as well. They’re a film professor and wife from Cambridge, MA (he originally from England, and with a lovely accent). They are both extremely caring and considerate, interested even in us young people, and very kind.

Last week and this week I’m spending time with the Wounded Warriors group, teams of combat-wounded veterans going out for a six-day mountaineering course and a Denali trip. I’m so glad the Warriors are here this month. They’re really sweet. I do so enjoy spending time with soldiers. They inquired into my academic studies and gave me some advice on Afghanistan, like, “grow a beard,” because “those guys are all assholes” and don’t take you seriously if you don’t have a beard.

An update on Alaska Adventures – I think I may have lost count:

#1 First time driving a truck, too big for me, alone with dog, unlicensed, unknown route. First three point turn.

#2 Horse-jumping clinic

#3 Went rafting with 8 AMS guides, three six-packs, and a bottle of whiskey.

#4 Horses escaped and were running around the yard

#5 Accompanied Wounded Warriors to air taxi and found myself holding the keys to the van. Sure, I can drive a van.

#6 Moose escaped and was running around the yard, playing tetherball

#7 En route to hike, skidded down a hill on my bicycle. On hike, was accosted by Illinois farmers, harassed by a grouse, and went skinnydipping.

Despite falling down a hill, I really enjoyed my hike on my morning off. It was clear, sunny, and quiet, and my feet were happy to be on the trail. (I even looked forward to climbing hills, and trail running!) It was certainly nice to be out, but something wasn’t quite right. I found myself feeling out of place: these woods are very different from my mountains and forests. There are hills, and trees, and brush, and water, but not the ones I know, that make my heart sing. This experience brought some realizations:

I went to Princeton in search of independence and distance from home and for academic challenge. I found that I visited home often, and that I had had as interesting courses in high school – and as gifted classmates and teachers.

I came to Alaska in search of the outdoors and continued distance from home. I found that the places and patterns of home (that is, friends, family, and the city) were what I needed most, and that the Eastern Woodlands offer all I need.

I’m planning on going to India in a year to get my feet wet in NGO/development work and to visit spiritual teachers and places. I no longer dream of going there to find my spiritual home – I am (sort of) finding it already – but do I yet intend to go to India in search of spirituality, only to find that it’s here?

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