July 15 marks the first anniversary of my move to Anchorage. It has been a year of many changes.
I think it took me about six months to accept the fact that sugar free ice cream would always be available so that I didn’t have to buy four gallons at once. It took even longer for me to accept that filling my car with gas did not mean incurring something similar to the national debt.
I no longer expect live dance to include mind-numbing MTV-like cuts from one move to another so that I can never feel the full flow or beauty of the movement. Thank you Performing Arts Center. And I am still amazed that I saw every movie nominated for an academy award last year prior to its appearance in video.
I don’t giggle with glee every time I open my front door and find the newspaper there – a morning paper I actually receive in the morning without even worrying about the weather and whether the plane has made it in. And I like to think I have gone beyond the audible oohing and aahing sounds I was prone to make as I wandered through the produce sections of the various stores in town and bought fruit whose flavor could actually be differentiated from wet cardboard.
Of course, I did manage to blow my urban sophistication recently when chowing down on some zucchini bought at the Saturday market. But some things just simply deserve an audible response.
What has impressed me the most though are all the little strings and threads that still bind me to Barrow and my friends there. While I realize that some of those strings are directly attached to the two spare bedrooms in my house, others are more ephemeral and speak to the fact true friendships survive distance, time and marriage partners.
On my last trip to Barrow, the head of the Boys and Girls Club there, Mike Shults, spoke proudly about how his kids had helped the people of Mountain View after a devastating fire there this spring. Out in the Bush, where help in the form of food and clothing is more often received than given, a bunch of kids took up a drive to provide clothes for their “neighbors” who had been burned out in the fire – a little hands across the tundra gesture that helped make the gap between my new home and old home become considerably smaller.
When I think of what I miss in Barrow, I think of the tundra and the pack ice, the cold and the northern sky, the streets and houses that all hold a part of my history. What I thought I would miss the most was the sense of community.
And then I found a community here in Anchorage. I found it at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center. I found it with people like Julie Guy who made sure I never felt left out. I found it with old friends who’d also left Barrow and moved to Anchorage but whose hearts would forever live in the Bush. I found it with the clerks at Carr’s who remember me when I shop there and the post office clerk who rescued my unsealed letter so that its precious contents wouldn’t spill.
And when I read about the things the Barrow Boys and Girls club is doing to reach out and make even more connections with Anchorage, well then, Barrow doesn’t seem so far away and Anchorage starts to feel like home.