looking back one more time
July 30, 2009, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: , , , , , ,

i spent a summer in alaska. i was a fishing guide. the story of how i ended up there is too long, so i’ll cut out that part of the story. just know that i went unwillingly. i was invited and had every opportunity to say no. i was not an overly adventurous lad. i talked a big game, but when push came to shove, i usually just wound up sitting at home. so it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anyone else that i went. i still remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the float plane made the short trip to our cabin in the middle of nowhere. there was  nothing. the closest town was 150 miles away. and in order to get there in case of emergency, we had to hope out satellite phone could pick up a signal. and then we had to wait for a float plane which wasn’t cheap. and so as we landed, i knew i was in this for the long haul. 2 months. middle of nowhere. no fiance. no friends. no bad summer television or sports highlights. just me, my boss (terry), a dirty old cabin, and a rickety old boat. i have to admit it was a thing of beauty. i was honored and privileged to have this opportunity. i didn’t want to complain, because it was the chance of a lifetime. but still…i felt sick and alone. so as bad as i make it sound, i knew it was a moment of beauty in my life. i imagine it must have been the feeling that barack obama had when he became president. he must have said, “what a great opportunity for me, but…i have to deal with this mess?” so practically, i am barack obama. and while i was scared, i was also excited for a new period in my life. and so i knew it would pass.

Tundra_View_8this was my home for the summer. it doesn’t look like much, but it became my refuge. just out of view to the right was a big flat portion of the roof. it’s where i would sit every night to unwind, smoke cigars, and watch the sun go down…at least as much as the sun can go down in alaska in the middle of the summer. sitting on this roof were some of my best times. i could just sit for hours in total silence. reading a book. watching a bear swim across the river, seeing the seals pop their heads up to steal our fish. the loneliness seemed to melt during my time on the roof. because i felt like a small part of a huge world, but like my small part somehow mattered. you couldn’t look around and not see God or feel that he was right there with you. we built a small addition which involved crawling under the floor boards of a stagnant cabin. this was terrifying to me. i hate spiders, and while i doubt there are poisonous spiders in alaska, they have some mother lovin huge abs daddy long legs. i am still scared of spiders, but living out here helped me to appreciate them a bit more. there was the time when in an effort to clean out the cabin, we threw a bunch of boxes into the small attic. about a month later, we noticed a strong stench invading the entire cabin. i mean, i know we didn’t shower that often, but this was worse. being the grunt guy, i had the job of seeking the source of the smell. my search led me to a box we had thrown in the attic, which had a month overdue package of baloney in it. baloney packs a mean punch when left to rot. i buried it in the dirt about a mile from our cabin. a few days later i went to check on it only to see a deep hole had been dug by one of our bear friends and the baloney was gone. we lived with the animals, but mostly the bears. there were a few days where it was just me out there all alone. i wasn’t so scared at first. until on the first night the bear alarm screamed at me to wake up. i grabbed the shot gun and ran outside to see two bears running in either direction. the bear alarm was by our front door and detected any movement within 10 feet of the cabin. so i had a couple bears about 15 feet from eating my brains. i didn’t sleep much those few days. but this cabin became my home. you quickly forgot about your comfortable bed and warm shower when you bathed in a near freezing river  and slept on a gym mat on a hundred year old cot. life was simple. and i grew to love it. 

Tundra_View_10the boat quickly became my best friend. i was not a natural at controlling a boat. i spent the first week learning how to control the motor. often, i would turn the throttle too strongly, causing my boss to nearly fall out. after much frustration and embarrassment, i got the hang of it. the people that came were not always my best friends. they weren’t awful people. but the longer i lived in the middle of nowhere, the harder i found it to relate to people. i make it sound like i’m gandhi or something (minus the being an amazing example to humanity part). there was nothing self-righteous about it. i just became a little less jaded, and conversation about the chaos of the outside world scared me. and so as i drove the small motor boat up and down the river, my music became my conversation. my headphones would scream into my ears. old hopesfall, beloved, and yes, even some matt redman and hillsong united. as much as some worship music makes me want to vomit at times today (not because i don’t like  worship, but because of the whole “worship industry”. that is a discussion for another day), these musicians became my companions. weaving in and out of the shallow parts of the narrow river while screaming at the top of my lungs to hardcore music became my daily ritual. our key fishing spot was a 40 minute boat ride away, and so i had lots of time to rest in the beauty. watching the eagles soar above and driving past moose, caribou and bears on the river bank became the norm for me. instead of freaking out like i did the first few times, i would keep singing and wave to the animals as if they knew me. yes, i living in the bush does make you just a little bit crazy. just thought i’d state the obvious so you didn’t feel like you were judging me when you thought the same thing. the thrill of reeling in a fish is something that i have yet to find a parallel to today. the king salmon became my respected foe. many times i won, but often he would steal my hook and go tell all his friends what a chump i was. i remember the 1 hour battle i had with what i swear to be the biggest fish in the history of the universe. maybe i’m exaggerating about the last part, but i did battle a fish for a whole hour. i ran up and down the shoreline, trying to reel him in. but i couldn’t. every time i would think i was winning, he would make a run for it and take more of my line. eventually, he spooled me, which is the ultimate insult to a fisherman. once you’ve been spooled, you hang your head in shame. but i was not ashamed, because a worthy foe had beaten me on that day. and what did i have to be upset about. my arms felt like they were going to fall off, but i simply went back to my boat, and let the music take me home. 

i don’t know why i share this with you today. i’ve been thinking a lot about both the good things and the bad things of my past lately. there are healthy and unhealthy ways to think on the past. this was a beautiful moment in my life. i grew immensely in these two months, and i often wonder what it would be like to live that life. the life of a recluse, with no one but my family and i living with the beautiful creation all around us. but i’m realizing that the more i hang on to old memories, the more destructive they can become. and this goes for the good and bad. most of us are okay to let the bad things go. but if we hold to tightly to the good things of our past, then it’s hard for us to fully live in the present. our past wasn’t meant to be lived out today. and as much as we want certain parts of our lives to never change, they will. and we should be okay with that. i came back from alaska a changed man, but i also came back into a world that had gone on without me. a world that continued to move forward in my absence. the world will always move forward, whether we move with it or whether we live in the past. i loved being in alaska. but to live in that memory is to miss out on something right now. my beautiful wife. my amazing children. an incredible job. the past is the past. we should leave it there. so i decided to give alaska one more hurrah. it was an important time in my life. but not as important as right now. i hope our society can learn how to better live in the moment. not looking behind. not looking ahead. right here. right now. we can be thankful for our past. we can be excited about our future. but not at the expense of missing what is right in front of us.

so alaska can shove it. i live in regina.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Oh my son, I love your writing! You are so honest and you paint such a great great picture. Love the picture of you and dad! You have truly had some amazing experiences, good and bad, but all growing times for you! I love you and I am proud of who you are, right now! Mom

Comment by LaVonne

too late she’s pregnant.

Comment by Nic

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