Pants fit a bit snugly. People smile in a knowing way as though they too haven’t been hitting the gym quite often enough. If we were to divine how to fill in the blanks for the D word with these clues, one version we might grab hold of would be “diet.” I loathe diets and this probably has something to do with being on various forms from junior high on, finding them wanting and myself hungry.
Another word that just as easily might conjure itself into existence would be detox. And here, we are closer to the matter at hand. This first kind of detox, the one that calls for stiff swigs of all matters of green vegetable presents itself and naturally is something I reach for often enough anyway to hydrate my skin and give a bit of pep to my step. This kind of detox might also regale a person with notions of fasting and avoidances, which quickly for me gets into the territory of the first D word, which I’m sure gets defined as “fail.” But, the actual conundrum remains: how do you adequately detox from Alaska?
What I am pointing to is something deeper than a regimen of juices, and a detox that does involve leaving delicacies like salmon bacon behind until a blowtorch can be procured. It does involve giving up two hour long hikes through old growth forests on moss-covered paths that make even the hardest step lithe and buoyant. It means saying sayonara to seeing bald eagles with the frequency of black crows back in the lower 48. Alaska snuck under my skin like the sap from the devilclaw attracts light.
Perhaps it involved the homesteading mentality of canning and preserving fresh produce now because winter is coming. It might have been discovering that the admiration for salmon even works its way into berry form, having procured a small pot of salmonberry jam. Perhaps visiting in a sultry summer of sixty degree weather spoiled me rotten, but something hasn’t been quite right since I left.
True, I spent hours writing at a long table appointed with small lamps and poised under antler chandeliers, all stationed in the belly of a moored ship. It might have something to do with the camaraderie of fellow writers pouring themselves into simple writing exercises and leaving the rest of us breathless with the results. Each day, memories forged to the front and spilled out onto the page.
In Alaska, I let myself go. There, I could curtail any fearful thoughts that might assert themselves. There, I held an exquisite anonymity of being myself- not someone that someone might know online or from a brief meeting. It’s an arresting thing to realize that we become who we fashion ourselves to be in this online era. How do we grapple with the idea of actually being known? It’s an odd thing to be alone at midnight under sunny skies and begin to see the light fade in the distance. It’s tempting to consider the possibility that you can get lost intentionally.
My love waited back home for me in San Francisco, so I relished the few days and the few people with whom I shared the hours, even as I swept the camera of my laptop over the backdrop of Sitka spruce to share a glimpse of the majesty with him. Alaska bewitched me with its natural beauty and rugged demeanor. So, how do you detox from that grandeur and worm your way back into urban living and the sound of the street dispelling the quirky call of the eagle? What becomes of the indulgence of discovering that oysters strung off the bay until time to eat taste like seawater?
Some of us wanted to nab a glimpse of a bear. Others wanted to stroke the calm waters of the bay in an early morning kayak ride. I went for the writing and I came home with companionship- both with the place and with my fellow Tutka travelers. I’m not sure I want to detox, so I’ll keep my focus singular and hope that sucking down green juice will bring my spirit back soon to land by water taxi.