Study Abroad

From The Daily Prompt: Study Abroad: If you were asked to spend a year in a different location, where would you choose and why?

Well, this question is easy. I assume this means money and/or job prospects are not an issue. I can just spend a year living somewhere, doing whatever I want. Well then, I’m going to Alaska.

Alaska is a magical world. If you ask me, spend a year living somewhere, and I have to pick one place, only one place, the first thing that comes to mind is Tibet. I picture Tibetan monks in a monastery high in the mountains. That’s the feeling I want, but it’s missing things. Only Alaska has everything, in its magical, surreal stillness and beauty and wildness.

I cannot get the clear, heavenly glacier blue water color out of my mind. The way that the land doesn’t seem like it’s been touched by anything. You get off the plane and you feel like you’ve arrived in a snow globe – even if it’s not snowing. It’s just so removed from everything, it’s like there’s glass between it and the rest of the world. Water is always a thing for me, I have a thing for water. It speaks to me. This is why I have always loved San Diego, and anywhere coastal in California. But it’s loud and crowded there, and almost like an Arizona but with nicer weather and a beach. Same people, most are into shopping and their social class, too many cars, too much noise. Alaska is not like that. It’s pure.

And aside from the insane color of the water, which you know I love, you know I love anything close to the water, there are mountains and trees, which I didn’t know I loved. When I went to Oregon, the first place I’d ever really been that had trees, I felt like they smooshed me in from all sides. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe. It was beautiful but oppressing. Alaska is not like that somehow. Sometime after Oregon, I went to Colorado, and I thought, hey, maybe there’s something to mountains. I might like them. Then I went to Alaska and I knew, I knew, oh my God, THESE are mountains! They are so high, the clouds waft around them, winding like a cat curves around the corners of a door or the wall.

The tallest mountains, the bluest waters. The glaciers that look at you as if they are a Being themselves, and they just know. And then there are the bald eagles, the puffins, the seals, the moose. This is their world. We humans are just small, and we’re lucky to be apart of their world. We’re small compared to the mountains and this vast landscape, and compared to the beauty, the simplicity and the knowingness of the moose’s life.

So what would I be doing here, in this last great wild frontier? Aside from the fact that I belong in a wild place, where I can breathe, I’d spend the year really actually living. In some ways it’d be monk-like, but it would also be an adventure and a challenge. Those are the things I seek. And have always sought.

I would do a lot of yoga. Of course. But I would also probably go cross-country skiing, ice climbing, and maybe jump out of a plane. I would grow my own food, at least in summer, and it would be huge. I would ride my bike places. And I’m going to surf the Bore Tide – that you can count on. And sit on my porch and watch the Northern Lights, finally. Maybe even sometimes do yoga while I look at the Aurora Borealis. Maybe I would sit in coffee shops and write something; I would definitely read a lot. Maybe I would finally learn to actually play the guitar that leans against my wall. I would swim, of course, and maybe be that crazy person that swims in Alaska. I would write people letters, real actual letters, with stamps on stationery and everything, to everyone that I would miss because they didn’t want to come with me to Alaska for a year because they think it’s too cold and they’re scared. I also want to figure out something about this place. I want the people of this place, this magical breathtaking place, to tell me how it is that this gorgeous place, with educated people, can also be a place with such high crime and suicide rates.

I like snow. I don’t even really know snow. I’m not really sure if I like wind or blizzards, but I know I like snow. And I know I like cold. Must it always be the case, that those who have something great, never realize or appreciate it? Or is there something else? Is there some other reason? What could it possibly be like to live without sun? I have known nothing but sun. Could it really be from that? Is it a lack of vitamin D, of cholecalciferol? Does it really mess with your mind?

Alaska is like the desert. Yes, believe it or not. The desert has the most enraging, I-will-survive beauty, and it gets passed over for places with roses and tulips. But when I go for runs in the desert on the trails with the rocks and the lizards, I know that beauty like no one else. It can’t be taught, this appreciation of the beauty of the land. It comes with knowing it. The beauty is in the stark contrasts. It’s like this picture I saw once on surfline, that I will never ever forget. Of a surfer going out in New York, killing the waves, and just snow and footprints in the foreground. I wish you could see that photograph – it makes me wonder why I ever stopped doing photography after high school yearbook – and you would know. You would know that there is life in the oddest of places. That there is beauty and adventure happening where you least expect it. And these are the places we should care about. Not the red carpets. We should live and breathe the dirt and the snow, and the wild-eyed hungry look in a mountain lion’s eye. Because that’s who we are too.

But no one sees anything but roses and tulips and daisies. No one cares about the golden barrel cactus or the artic tundra and the lichen. And they are missing it all. They are missing it all.


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