Welcome to Ester

I arrived in Ester, Alaska on Sunday and spent the night at Calypso Farm.  Susan and Tom, the co-founders of the farm and ecology center, welcomed us to their home with such happy energy.  Before giving us a tour of the land, Susan brought us up to the greenhouse where we helped plant seed onions, learned how to make soil blocks, and seeded lettuce and broccoli.  As we worked in the greenhouse, we met Edge, the Farm Health Manager who lives in a small cabin on the farm, and later as we walked around the farm we met Christie, the Assistant Director who lives in a spectacular yurt with her family on the farm.  The entire area of Calypso lends itself to creating community, and arriving at such a place after the long drive north revived my excitement for my time here.

Susan and Tom fed us a delicious dinner of lentil soup, moose, potatoes, and chicken, and Edge made buttermilk biscuits (with homemade goat buttermilk).  The sunlight, already stretching past 9:00 pm, tricked me into thinking it was still early by the time we headed to bed around 10:00.  It felt so right to be back in the woods on a cold night, sleeping in a yurt with a wood-stove for warmth.  I brushed my teeth outside, with the moon shining down through the trees, and felt the same quiet happiness that flowed through me throughout the Adirondack Semester.

The next day Kelsey (my new roommate who I drove up to Ester with) and I went to our house for the first time.  It is a funky place, with a lot of angles and a fantastic front porch.  We devoted the day to getting kitchen supplies and exploring Fairbanks, and then made some vegetable stew and brought it back to Calypso where we met our other two roommates, Colby and Meredith, who had just arrived.  We spent the evening baking bread and getting to know each other at the farm.  Susan, Tom, Christie and Edge filled us in on farm happenings, and while describing the eclectic group of people in the area Tom said with a smile, “People don’t really fall in love with Fairbanks, they just stay here because they don’t fit in anywhere else.”  The city of Fairbanks is spread out and reminiscent of places in the lower 48 that have succumbed to sprawl, but the 30 acres of Calypso Farm and Ecology Center are another thing entirely—a thing very easy to fall in love with.  If there’s only one important thing I’ve learned through my travels, it’s that love shows up in many forms, and I already feel myself falling into it amidst the birch and pines, soil and seeds, and gradual hills of Ester.

No Great Expectations

After one missed flight, two days, and three plane rides, I am finally in Anchorage.  I arrived yesterday afternoon overtired and underfed, and was greeted at the airport by my father’s long-time friends, Bill and Pat, who welcomed me and brought me to the Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria.  There I ate a delicious pizza called “the backpacker” and had my first pint of a dark red Alaskan beer, brewed by the pub–It was the perfect post-travel meal.

Today we drove around Anchorage so I could get my bearings.  It’s a big city (at least it is to a Vermonter).  It is strange to see box stores and high-rises in “the last frontier”, though I admit that my eyes constantly drift even higher to the mountains that encircle the city.  They remind me of the wild I expected to see. Oh, but expectations: I don’t want to have any.

When I studied abroad in Northern Ireland in the spring of 2008, I held many expectations, even unconscious ones, and found myself disappointed and frustrated because of them.  Expectations took me away from the actual place I was in and caused me to look for what I envisioned instead of seeing what was actually there.  This time, I want to see things fresh, to look upon a landscape with wonder and newness, although I know it is difficult not to have expectations, for they have a way of growing in the shadows of the mind where one rarely looks.

How do you free yourself enough to be able to enter each moment with the same freshness, with a clear mind, a wild heart, and an openness to accept all that is present?  How many times do you have to travel and see a new place before you learn how to see it the first time in wholeness?  Or does it take many moments, exploration and hidden spots uncovered to be able to see the whole?  Perhaps the journey of learning how to view and live in wholeness is equally important as the attainment of it.

The whole of Alaska is not just the mountains and frontier, but it includes the cities and towns and people.  Do these things infringe upon the wild or accentuate it?  I have ideas about this, but I cannot truly answer this question until I spend more time here.  So I will soak it up and fall into it.  Alaska, I am yours.  Take me into your terrain.  Teach me.  Show me.  Help me see.