When reading substitutes for moving

14 Jul

Last year I wanted to move to Alaska. It was short-lived. Maybe a week or so. I wanted to go to Haines, Alaska, to work as a reporter for the Chilkat Valley News: www.chilkatvalleynews.com. I saw the  job posting and thought, why not? Opposites attract, or so they say, and something about moving somewhere completely different from the suburbia I grew up in, full of rows of houses and predictable town services, seemed exciting. Not to mention the bears, bald eagles, sea lions and whales regularily trotting, and swimming, around there. Here there are squirrels.

My mom managed to talk me out of even applying, with stories about milk that’s $5 a gallon (It really is) and months of pure darkness and the question of, where would I live? A town of 2,000 doesn’t have single housing readily available. She said if I went there I’d cry a lot. I probably would have. But before she convinved me not to send my cover letter, which I had spent a long time on and typed all out, and my resume and clips, all neatly in the package that didn’t yet have an address or stamp, I researched Haines.

I read a Wikepedia article, where I learned that it’s located on Alaska’s Inside Passage and is often a cruise ship port. I learned 2,000 people live there, but during the winter, that number dwindles even lower. Most people there fish for a living. I went on the offical website of the town, where I learned it has a spectacular library. I Googled. And that’s when I found Heather Lende, Haines most famous authoress. Here is her website: www.heatherlende.com. I poked around it, reading her book reviews and blog, and thought, “If such an incredible person lives there, how bad can it be?” My mom said, basically, that people who live in such an isolated place might be, well, a little strange. I thought, “But Heather Lende lives there!”

After I decided not to put the stamp and adress on the application package and mail it thousands of miles away, across an entire continent, I read Lende’s two books, “If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name” and “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs.” I couldn’t put them down. Interestingly, in them she writes about the Chilkat Valley News’ new reporter, who gets snowed out of the cabin he rented eight miles out of town. He’s couch-serfing now, even spent a few nights on hers. I thought, “If I got the job, that could have been me: snowed out of a cabin, spending all my money on milk, lighting candles to keep out the darkness.”

But that’s only a small part of her world, a few spare sentences. She describes living in her house that’s on the beach, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with her husband, children and three dogs. She describes the people who live in Haines as quirky and lovable. She writes the obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, and so she writes about the tragic death there, the boating accidents and slips down mountainsides while hiking. But more than death, she writes about life and its little pleasures, like going snowshoeing and learning to hunt with her husband, picking berries for jam and making smoked salmon.

By the time I finished both books, I kind of wished I had, even if I thought it was a bad idea, mailed the envelope.

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4 Responses to “When reading substitutes for moving”

  1. Grayquill July 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Hmmm….If you didn’t like it were, you not allowed to return from whence you came?
    Those months of darkness and continual snow and cold would wear on me quickly – I think.
    Here I sit at 58 years old and only the past couple of years I have begun to enjoy writing. I find I have little in the way of a varied life to pull from in the way of experience that would be so helpful to bring interest to a story.

    • slippedink August 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      Grayquill, I think you may be wrong in thinking you’ve not got much to write about. Your blog proves otherwise. Everyone, even those who feel they’ve not lived an exciting or noteworthy life, have stories to tell. We’re all in this thing called life together, and as long as stories carry some shred of life recognizable to others, they’re able to reach beyond ourselves and touch other people. To answer your question, I suppose I would have been able to leave Haines. I wouldn’t have been stuck there forever. But had I made the effort to get there, I’d have stuck it out for at least a year or so. I’m used to snow, being from Buffalo, but as you say I think the darkness would get to me most.

  2. Noelle July 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to live in Alaska. I know that in reality I’d probably miss a lot of conveniences like easily accessible eating out and shopping and all that. I’m absolutely addicted to city entertainment and always having things to do, but I don’t really want to be. I like the idea of living a simpler life. You know where you know everyone in town, wake up to a breath taking landscape, grow your own food…

    I love the idea of that.

    • slippedink August 3, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Noelle. I agree that there’s something so attractive about, as you say, “living a simpler life.” Especially when life gets super crazy.

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