Spending a summer in Alaska in Denali National Park has been a surprisingly rich experience. I came with no expectations, except the desire to see a place, that others have described as wild and majestic, with my own eyes. In essence, that’s it:
Seeing things with my own eyes.
No blog, no photograph, no documentary, and no book can give the same experience, as seeing and living something for yourselves. I could stop writing here. At least I understand now, why I came here.
I also understand the factors that allowed me to really “experience” this unique place.
It was the luxury of leisure and time. Most travelers have a set itinerary allowing them to spend a few hours or a few days to see and check the highlights on their scheduled trip. Given the unpredictable nature of things in Alaska (and many other locations) it is obvious that those highlights may not present themselves to every visitor. In case of Denali that means you may not see the mountain, or a bear, or a moose. Maybe you miss the blueberry season, or maybe you visit at the height of the mosquito season and wonder how anybody can enjoy the beauty of this place being swarmed by 15 different species of blood-thirsty mosquitoes. A second factor that helped me to appreciate the natural beauty of Denali was the absence of modern day distractions. Living at the end of the road with limited access to the outside world opened my eyes to the world around me. There was no TV screen that drew me into other worlds.
Now I am observing the arrival of winter. At first sight, the surroundings appear to become less attractive. The daylight hours become less every day. The colors are less vibrant, on some days it almost feels as colors are absent. Nonetheless, this lack of visual abundance sharpens the senses. I noticed this watching the ice flowers forming on the windows. I have observed these ice crystals now for several days. I notice changes in shape and size, appearance, occurrence, mood, and character of these ice formations. No, I don’t think I am going crazy.
Having the time and leisure to observe, without extraneous distractions allows me to appreciate this place mindfully.
A beautiful thing: Mindfulness.