41 years ago this summer Linda I became newly-minted Alaskans. We had married in late May, and took off that same afternoon with all we owned in a pickup truck headed for the 49th state. Alaska was a shared dream, and for Linda, a dream birthed in her early teens. To our surprise, our long Alaska season is coming to an end later this summer. More on that later, but if you are interested, I'd like to tell you a little bit about our Alaska season.
Linda and me in Fairbanks, 1974
Except for three 10-month periods of living in Uppsala, Sweden over five years, and more recently 9 months in Redding, California, we have been Alaskans since 1972. We have lived in Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Juneau, Douglas, Anchorage, Delta Junction (again), and most recently, Anchorage (again).
Our children Glen and Katie joined us in Fairbanks early in our time in Alaska. While they have been "Outside" many times; like us, Alaska has been geographic, work, and cultural "center". Both live in Alaska today. I won't tell any more of their story; it is theirs to tell or not. It has been great for us to grow together as a family in Alaska.
In that time, I worked at odd jobs, served at KUAC FM/TV at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, retired after 25 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Conservation Division, served as a pastor at Delta Christian Center and Anchorage City Church, developed and sold the Alaska Outdoors Supersite, served as a volunteer firefighter, hunted, fished, trapped, flew hundreds of hours in small aircraft over wild country, wrote a book, floated rivers, built a hovel and then a real house from the ground up, lived without electricity or running water, ate a lot of moose, caribou, halibut, deer and crab that I brought home, did some really smart stuff, more than a little boring stuff, and some really, really dumb stuff, had the crap scared out of me more times than I can remember, raised chickens and pigs, kept bees, climbed mountains, made many great friends and a few enemies, facilitated and taught marriage courses, lit really big fires on purpose, encountered the griz, experienced wild country few have ever seen, helped re-launch a faltering church in an Alaska community, gotten up close and some times way too personal with large wildlife, gotten seasick and puked on big water, officiated at marriages and a funeral, floated backwards in a canoe on a wilderness river in the dark, sent VHF amateur radio transmissions via knife-edge diffraction over the Alaska Range and bounced others off auroral curtains to "the lower 48", camped out below zero, nearly frostbit my nose, escaped early death several times (the backwards-down-the-river time being the first of them), watched the northern lights dancing like green, purple and red fire overhead, heard wild wolves howling as we sat by a wilderness campfire, and generally had a glorious time in almost every corner of the Great Land.
Linda had her own share of Great Land adventures working as a teacher for Alaska State Operated Schools, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the Juneau School District, a radio service company, and the Alaska Outdoor Council. She also served as a pastor in the same churches as I, and raced to the aid of Alaskans and visitors time and again as a Delta Junction Emergency Medical Technician. She visited the North Slope, stayed for days in Bush Alaska far from roads, learned Morse code and radio theory, slept in the back of pickup trucks, backpacked in the Fortymile Hills, cooked on wood fires, wood cook stoves, over white gas, propane, electric and buffalo chip fires. Well, maybe not the buffalo chip part, but it sounds good, and she could have :}. She has also camped below zero with young children, ridden snowmachines, three-wheelers, four-wheelers, our horses, cross country skis, bicycles, helicopters, small aircraft, float planes, canoes, rafts, and an old `72 Ford pickup that we put 200,000 miles on. She has dipped salmon out of a scary river -- and then cleaned and cooked them, showed kids how to make snow angels, helped teens graduate, made way more really great friends than me, taught two amazing young people at home, worked with me on a business that finally got off the runway, and generally been the coolest Alaska chick ever.
I'm telling you all this because I have been looking back over this season to see where we were, what we did, who we connected with, what we did to impact our communities, and what it all meant. Today, in the waning days of this summer and this larger season in our lives, I want to say that we always love connecting with friends....especially now before we leave. In mid August, the movers are coming to our south Anchorage home and packing us up. We're boarding an Alaska Airlines jet a few days later. We'll be at our new house in Redding in Northern California late on August 18th.
Why are we leaving Alaska? Well, it started as a 9-month sabbatical at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and this is how it has turned out. That's another story and the beginning of a new season, but if you are interested, there's more detail in the post Seasonal Change.
We are looking forward to this new season in our lives, but I gotta tell you, it feels strange to leave Alaska; both the country and many friends here. Both are deeply engraved on our hearts, and I know there will be times in the months and years ahead when we wistfully remember this glorious Alaska season in our lives.