by Abby Salter and Brandon Gulstene
I don’t know where you are and I don’t know where you’ve been but I would gamble to say that you’ve experienced a place that wasn't simply “going” to a location, the place itself got inside of your soul and in a small (or big) way, you’ve never been the same. One day, I fear that after having left a part of myself in so many places I’ll be too spread out to exist as a human in space. I guess the hope is that one day those places we love will let us become part of them as they are a part of us. And here is one of those places, here is an ode to a place worthy of wonder and adoration, Alaska.
I don’t know much about making a home, but I know homes should be places where souls meet, collaborate, make each other better, and challenge one another daily. A home is where everyone has a place and a voice, and for us a house in the middle of nowhere in Alaska was a home. And to put it differently in the words of Maya Angelou, “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
We weren't strangers for long, and before we knew it, this wild home in the forest formed a restless group of wandering souls into a family (albeit dysfunctional), but a family all the same. And when the backpacks were packed and the rations were labeled for the heli drop, anticipation filled the air, the dinner table buzzed with chatter of dream summit attempts, unimaginable ski lines, and pizza night on the glacier. To the house at the end of the road, in the middle of nowhere Alaska; for the memories and the forever comrades, we thank you.
The glacier was our home and the snow upon it gave us life’s source, water. I know each peak by name and I swear they have unique personalities they only share with the thoughtful. Snow sheds from the faces, for days we wait while the mountains tell us they don’t want visitors. Wouldn’t you get tired of constantly being trampled on?...I think the mountains need their rest just like we do. It is serious and it is playful; in an instant it can give and take life. Not all those who wander there come back. My ancient friend, thank you for safe passage. To the storms that pushed us to our mental limits and to the sun that dawned and reminded us that no storm lasts forever. Our outlook on life has been positive ever since. To the summer that came far too early to that beautiful mountain range. You took our snow and winter temperatures, but I know we've all taken so much more from you. I'm sorry we didn’t consider you before we damaged you so much. We promise to be your advocate or as Chief Seattle put it, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Humility, the gift you give each of the sojourners that pass your way. Thank you for teaching me that I'm not awesome and no one really is standing next to a 5,000ft granite wall. We learned to stop comparing ourselves to each other because, in comparison to the Ruth Gorge, we all look pretty insignificant. We all know those souls who can get lost in the room. I look across the room and I know you are dreaming of all the places you haven't explored yet. We might have just finished an incredible ski tour or sent a sweet project climb but you, although immensely satisfied and thankful, are thinking of being out there again. You love the unknown and you thrive on the peace of a quiet patch of mother earth.
You haven’t been yet but you’ve already given yourself to those places, the tracks we've yet to set and the coordinates we've yet to enter into our GPS. To the mountain ranges we have yet to venture into, the sandy beaches we will inevitably sink our toes into, and to all the fields we have yet to watch the sunrise from, all the adventures we’ve yet to have. And in the words of the Alchemist, “Those places are part of our souls and we are alive and full because “the possibility of having a dream come true is what makes life interesting.”
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