Inside Out

Into the blue

Winter has gone. With that my job as a winter caretaker comes to an end. It has been an amazing experience to live away from civilization for an Alaskan winter. Amazing if you like solitude, serenity, tranquility, with a few moments of loneliness, anxiety, and urgency. Now that spring is here I am awaiting a plane to pick me up and drop me back into the real world as we know it.

What is next?

Into the blue

Into the blue

I am not sure. As always, there are options, opportunities and choices. Why is it such a difficult task to decide on the next steps? Change, maybe?

Today, I had a day with the horses. It was a good day.

We have 17 horses that spend all year living outside. No heated stable, no roof. We feed them horse feed year round. During the winter that is their only food supply. They are tough. During the cold season they come in every morning, finding their place in the corral, where we tie them up for the daily feeding. Once they are done we let them go.

Today, we decided to follow the horses and see how they spend the day. It was a life lesson.

After getting their much-loved breakfast pellets, they decided to take a digestive nap in the morning before leaving the corral. After an hour of basking they trotted of into a swampy valley to munch on some fresh greens. Leaving plenty of new grass for tomorrow they headed uphill to an open area, clear of willows and alders. This seemed a good place for a nap. Some horses lied down, rested their heads on the soft tundra. Some closed their eyes…

Others stood in the warm sun, motionless for minutes. The rest found enough to graze on without much walking around. One horse, Ember, had enough of this and walked back.

Another hour went by and the group slowly headed to a boggy area. Most of the time we could easily keep up with their pace. That bog was good for another 2 hours of grazing.

I had brought a book about the PCT. The author was in his 60s, when he walked all the way from the Mexican border to Canada in about 6 months. He reports not only on the daily stages and events, but also on his inner journey. Having been fired from his job, he started out angry, disappointed, and questioning his purpose in life. His job was a corner stone of his life.  In the beginning it was important to him to meticulously keep track of the miles hiked. That became irrelevant after a few weeks. The experiences that you cannot quantify, only feel, became most important.

Watching the horses, contemplating my own future, I stopped worrying. It was a great day, sunny, warm, few mosquitoes, surrounded by plenty of lingonberries from last year, a fantastic view of the mountains, the tundra awakening from hibernation…

 

 

 

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Inside Out

A secret…

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

Socrates

Windy conditions in mountains

Windy conditions in the mountains

I have not lived in a barrel as the great Greek philosopher but I believe Socrates has a point. Food and water, clothes and a warm, dry shelter are enough to satisfy our basic needs. Add some good company, as in humans or pets, and life can be enjoyable. Can be. Because it is not the external factors that make us happy or not. It is an appreciation from within that fills us with happiness.

Today, I am enjoying a clear, sunny day inside. At least for the moment it is the right place to warm up from the blistering winds that have driven the snow hard for the last 2 days. It was a beautiful display of snow crystals, clouds moving across the ridges and valleys. We went out for a short hike up to the Monument yesterday. It was too windy to stop and watch the waves of snow moving across the tundra, which looked more like an ocean than anything else. My gloves took off in the wind twice. For a brief moment I had to think of the mountaineers in the Alaska Range enduring high winds on exposed ridges. No place to hide…

Once on top it was a quick turn around, back down the mountain, into the sheltered lodge at the lake, where a warm dinner waited for us.

 

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One Man's Paradise

Celebration

It is now more than 150 days that I have been living in a remote location in Alaska, with limited contact to the outside world. Not totally cut off from civilization, since we have a phone and the internet, and satellite television with hundreds of channels that remain unwatched for most of the time. We do have a fridge and a freezer full of meat, dairy and vegetables. We cook, bake, grill, and toast. There were visitors and guests. I am not alone.

In a sense, life as usual. Still, the remoteness and simplicity of life here are remarkable. While every day is a reason in itself for celebration I came up (in the beginning) with a little ritual to acknowledge special events. I am not talking about birthdays, holidays, or international secretary day. More like, observing a flock of tiny songbirds tweeting in the trees, the sunrise over Distin Peak, not for its colors, but the improbable location of the sun, compared to a few months ago. Small stuff, that is probably only relevant to me, otherwise going unnoticed in the greater scheme of things.

So, what is the ritual? I do like a cold carbonated soft drink… We have a limited supply of those in the basement. Can you see, where this is going?

I do have zero, one, or two Sprite days! Normally, on an average day, it is water, tea, or lemonade to quench the thirst. On a great day, I reward myself and fancy one soft drink. On an exceptional day, I might indulge in two!

Writing about this makes me smile. “Today is a one Sprite day” has become a common phrase that expresses my gratitude to life, even when the fridge is empty.

To Spring!

To Spring!

Have a great day.

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One Man's Paradise

Wednesday

How is that for an inconspicuous title?

I have received many best wishes for New Years Day and sent out a few myself. Before rising this morning and “going to work” I thought about the importance of this day and our habit to come up with resolutions for the new years and to wish friends and family all the best. Nothing wrong with that.

It is one thing to celebrate the end of the old year and to welcome the new year on a particular day. On the other hand, I like to think that every day is a special day, a precious gift that I want to appreciate no more, no less than New Years Day.

In that sense, today was Wednesday for me. A beautiful winter day. We had 7 inches of fresh snow on the ground, and it was still “dumping” in the morning. The spruce trees had a fresh layer of thick snow on their branches, there were no visible human tracks around the lodge, even the foxes were still coiled up, waiting for us to break the trail. Even our backyard bear sported a new look.

Bearly wearing his crown

Bearly wearing his crown

We watched on TV  the ball drop in New York last night with the usual fanfare, crowds and bad music – 4 hours before it was midnight here in Alaska.  Our transition into the new year was almost the opposite on most accounts.

No fireworks, no neighbors, even Buckey is gone, so we are just 2 humans now in the middle of nowhere, enjoying winter in a remote lodge in Alaska. Yes, there was snow shoveling in the morning, but also packing down the runway, feeding hungry horses, maintaining our trail to the wood lot, hauling some fire wood, transmitting the weather to NOAA, cooking, eating, and relaxing in front of the fire place. I am tired and happy.

Just another day in paradise.

Not only today, but also tomorrow, the day after and the rest of the year, wishing you all a happy and joyous 2014.

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