As I sit here in my John Deere cap, with my ponytail hanging through the loop in the back, watching “Bizarre Foods” the Alaska episode, I find myself missing Alaska. Which (honestly) I thought would ever happen. I grew up most of my life in Ketchikan, Alaska. When I say I grew up in Alaska, I mean that I lived in Seward from ages 4-6, then Ketchikan from ages 6-8 and then returning at age 13 from living in Cape Cod, Massachusetts for several years before leaving for good (after my adventures in college) in 1999. I now live not too far from “home” in Washington State…never too far from the Evergreen trees, mountains and the ocean.
What I don’t miss is the rain. Ketchikan is called “the Rainy City” for a reason. The average annual precipitation is about 160 inches per year. And I don’t miss feeling trapped because it costs an arm and a leg to fly or ferry off “the island.” What I do miss are the things I’m about to share from my memories. Things that make me smile like Mona Lisa.
I miss the sun, when it did shine in the summer. To this day, it seemed to shine brighter in Alaska than anywhere else I’ve been and maybe that’s because we cherished each sunny day…because they were so few and so far in between. On those sunny days, colors like green seemed greener and the water (although cold) was so blue like sapphire and the sky was so clear. I miss hiking Deer Mountain, walking Ward Lake and hanging out at Settler’s Cove. Those were the places that we as teenagers would hang out and be mischievous. We would have bonfires and parties by the sea…hike in the dark and…well, be teenagers with all that, that means. I remember cruising the Tongass strip between “the turn around” and Tatsuda’s market…back and forth, back and forth and back again, blasting music like Journey and Prince from the tape player, with every window down; my car filled with my girlfriends, scoping out the out of town boys who were there to work on the fishing boats and canneries. (Ooo la la!) I miss eating fresh fish that my dad caught everyday and having fresh shrimp. I miss the summers on the dock for the 4th of July and watching the parade. Later in the summer when the Aurora Borealis was more visible, I miss watching the Northern Lights from the end of the road. (Ketchikan’s main highway is only 34 miles long from one end to the other so when I say “end of the road” I mean “end of the road”). I miss picking fresh wild blueberries, seeing Eagles almost everyday and even seeing bears by the trash can on trash day.
My life in Washington is beautiful but days like today…I wonder if we were to move to Alaska would my family like life there. What made it easier for me to live in Ketchikan is…I didn’t know anything else. It was all I knew. When I went to college at Washington State University, I started to dislike the smallness of “home” and that I couldn’t drive where ever I wanted to just get away as I could and did in “the lower 48.” Something that I’m not sure I’m willing to give up yet. And I don’t think I’m ready to give up all the restaurants at my fingertips and all the entertainment available everyday living in the Seattle area. So for today, I will be happy with my memories of “home.”