After the furious shenanigans of camp, it was back to the relative quiet of Salcha. I love Salcha, the beauty of the place is startling. I would be leaving in a few days and my heart was not ready. I savored each day. I spent the majority of my time outside, drinking in the landscape with the urgency only the knowledge of fleeting time can impart.
(Trust me, I'm good.)Twister and I at an old trapper's cabin we found while out fourwheeling. It looked like someone may have been staying there recently.
A wonderful little stream just tucked away beneath the undergrowth.
The literal "end" to a good day in the outdoors.
Kayaking at the Brinks ...
...observing whatever came my way.
I discovered, while in Alaska, that I have a great love of fourwheeling...and surprisingly, a fair amount of skill. I spent most of my last days here riding with new found friends...to the tops of ridges, hidden woods, and well, mud filled puddles. I felt more alive out there than I had in ages. It was truly one of the happiest times of my life.
Risk standing in the sanctuary.
While we were at camp, a the church had continued to be reconstructed by helpers from near and far. Although the work was slow and the schedule lacked behind, there was some forward progress. It was good to see the beginnings of a new roof for the place.
Dave-O and Alex!
Shiny disco shirt and stripper heels...
Twister in an outfit someone actually once wore...for real.
The sky in Fairbanks over Fred Meyer...I can't imagine stepping out and seeing that every day.
After that, it was off to Value Village and Fred Meyer. Now, a trip to a thrift store and superstore might not sound like the best way to spend your last few hours in Alaska, but when in Rome... As it turns out, I could not have imagined the hilarity that was about to ensue. Value Village is a whole world of wonderful goods and we took full advantage of the offerings.They had everything from shiny disco jumpsuits, hooker heels, to gigantic grandma (new) thunderpants (which I later purchased and sent to a friend...hopefully those are finding some kind of shenanigans out on the Bering Sea.) Now, Fred Meyer, we decided to play a few games of scavenger hunt which is basically where you pull obscure items from the shelf all over the store and make someone else find where to put it back. We broke up into teams and went for it. (The Alaskans had the unfair advantage! We don't have this store in the south!) The items we chose for each other included, a small pack of nails, a girdle, gas relief medication, and other various delights. Good times...team AK, was obviously, the winning team. Later, as we were checking out, the cashier saw us getting a bit emotional at the fact that I was leaving. I was standing there with Battleship, Twister, and Lena. She asks, "You're leaving...are you their mom?" She was serious. I was utterly floored. "Their mother? THEIR MOTHER?" Battleship is a couple of years younger than I am, Twister is 19, and Lena 16...I am TWENTY SEVEN! I asked her in a heated tone..."No, no, I am not, AM NOT their M O T H E R, how old do you think I am?" I was even more floored when she said "I dunno, 27 or 28." So, yes, yes, Fred Meyer cashier, I had my first child at 3. At this point, Lena made me leave the store, fearing for the employee...just as well, we had to get going to the airport anyway.
Risk, Dave-O, Me, Battleship, (who said I could NOT leave) Lena, and Alex. I love you guys!
The airport...leaving felt wrong. It just didn't seem like I should be going. We all tried not to get overly emotional, but we pretty much all cried. The TSA agents asked if I was leaving my family (at least they didn't ask if I was everyone's mother!) when I told them we'd only known each other a little over a week, they looked rather quizzical. I can't even explain it...there was a bond there...time didn't matter. As I walked to security and looked back at them one last time, I wondered if we would ever all see each other again... then I turned, handed my ticket to the TSA officer and...was denied entrance into the terminal. Apparently, the ticketing agent hadn't given me enough tickets...according to the ones I had, I wasn't leaving Fairbanks...so I turned around and headed right back to the group. Confusion was pretty much the order of the day at that point. Well, we got the ticket situation done and then we had to go through the goodbyes again...but this time for real. Lena followed me as far as she could and I looked back until she was out of sight...and then I allowed myself to cry as hard as I wanted to. I cried for hours, constantly, unable and unwilling to stop. I felt as if I was leaving a piece of myself behind...and in a way I was...but that's not so bad, because I carried so many new pieces home. As much as the tears flowed, as much as I missed the people, the place, the feelings it all imparted, the tears were not cried with a sense of loss, simply a sense of being overwhelmed. I try to live with the thought "don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Still, I might...perhaps...cry a little.