I'm gonna be honest: Alaska was never on my bucket list. Yet flying into this barren tundra twice the size of Texas mesmerized me. Everyone in my family had an agenda in this place that didn't mesh well with my moral compass. Between fishing, shooting, and drinking in the lodge, I didn't know where my place was on this trip. However, adventure is my middle name and it would take a lot for me to pass up on a "when in Rome" experience. I made a vow to attend every excursion, open-mindedly.
The light hits different in AK (as the locals call it). It glows a soft pink color and stays up until around 11:30 PM in the summer. There are millions - if not trillions - of gnats, mosquitos and no-see-ums that glisten gold in the sun rays and also fly straight into your teeth and eyes. The land in Southern Alaska is flat, forest-y, and foliage-covered; Green with spurts of yellow cedar and spruce trees. Mushrooms sprout out of the cool earth and wild mammals prowl the open-terrain. It's cold, but I have my six sweaters on the whole time.
Everything was still and deafeningly quiet. There were two or three benches in front of our stream-front lodge where locals, lodge-employees and guests alike would have a seat, a drink and a smoke. Big dogs would wander leash-less and aimlessly around the grounds, maybe receiving a pat or stroke. Everyone was nice. There was nothing to see. There was nothing to do. It was strangely soul-warming.
Despite all the stillness, I shot my first pistol at a cardboard target, swallowed a gallon of insects, boarded a rickety seaplane built in the early 50's, caught a salmon, threw it back and felt all the vegetarian guilt, and saw at least a dozen bears. It wasn't so much the action, but that everything I did in Alaska, I did for the first time.
Early one morning, on a fishing boat on the misty Naknek river, our guide, Tim reached over to assist me with my pole. As his hand landed on the line, I noticed a tattoo across the side of his hand. It read: patience.
Tim's tattoo really struck me. Patience. Something so needed in conditions where the sun sets so late and the winters are pitch-dark. Something so needed where the town is small and the sounds are quiet. Something so needed where nature is completely in control and the patterns are ever-changing. Patience. Something I've been working on for a long time.
Turns out, I was ready. I knew to come into this trip with a patient-mind. I sat in fishing boats for hours, watching the tides. I posted up on wooden decks in complete stillness, waiting for bears to catch their lunch. I focused with my eye on inanimate targets, waiting to pull the trigger. And in soft, endless daylight, I'd lie breathing until Mother Earth let me go to bed.
Patience is a must in Alaska. Turns out, it's also a must when it comes to living a peaceful life.