I just returned from a trip east to my childhood home on the Jersey shore. The weather was – for a Barrowite – downright summery. In fact, on some days it actually got up to 68 and I’d complain long and loud about how darn hot it was. Most people just gave me strange looks. They’re outsiders, what do they know?
I’ve always loved the Atlantic Ocean. Being brought up at the seashore in Atlantic City has left me with an abiding devotion to that dark mass of crashing energy. The mid to north Atlantic has a dark look and stormy feel to it even on its calm days. If the Pacific is a dove, the Atlantic is an eagle.
So one of the great pleasures of this trip was my five-mile walk each day into Atlantic City from my sister’s house down beach.
She’d go to work in the morning and I’d wait till she left to get up so I wasn’t in her way as she raced around getting ready. She has a two-bathroom house but one bathroom has unfortunately become a storage closet after a rather memorable trip to Sam’s Club.
I’d answer e-mail, do some minor cleaning, pretend to actually do some work on my next book and watch more than I’d like to admit of the Game Show Channel. Then, about 3 PM, I’d start out for Atlantic City.
My rationale was that I could spend all the money I saved by walking instead of taking a cab or public transportation on the nickel slot machines and not feel guilty. Or, at least not as guilty as I would otherwise feel.
About quitting time, I’d wander up to my sister’s office and we would leave together.
It was a comfortable, though not highly profitable, routine. After a few days of it, I found myself thinking the unthinkable. I found myself thinking that I could move back to Atlantic City if I had to and not find life too awful.
In all my 30 years in Alaska, I could never imagine living anywhere else. And now as I strolled the Boardwalk, the ocean crashing on my right, sandpipers flitting around in the sand, seagulls screaming their desire for the perfect clam, I realized I was really enjoying myself. It felt like blasphemy.
I got home to Alaska during the cold snap that seems to be lasting most of the winter. While others might consider that off-putting, for me it was just perfect.
I woke up my first morning back and opened the door for Mr. T to go out for his morning ablution. I immediately heard him barking at a pitch even higher than normal – and his normal is already in the ear piercing range. I ran back to the door and found him nose to nose with a moose. The moose was on one side of the fence and Mr. T was bravely defending his territory on the other.
I started to panic until I saw the quizzical look on the moose’s face. She had apparently never encountered a barking, hairy rat before. She was gazing at him in rather stunned disbelief.
My maternal instincts kicked in as soon as I stopped laughing at the sight of a 16 pound dog letting a 1000 pound moose have a piece of his mind. I darted into the yard, grabbed his hind end and quickly dragged him away.
Mr. T spent the next hour running from door to window to sliding door in an attempt to get at the creature that was in his yard. The moose periodically looked up in an effort to locate the annoying sound. Then she’d peacefully go back to devouring my trees.
I know this because I took my cup of coffee and stood on my second floor deck looking at the sun rising over the mountains while the moose grazed in my yard. There was that red glow you get right before the sun comes up. And I could still see the moon in the other half of the sky.
And I knew without a doubt that as wonderful as the East Coast had been, as great as those walks on the boards had felt, nothing would ever be my home the way Alaska is my home.
I feel privileged to be part of this state.