During summer, the pace and feel of home

The following column ran in the August 10, 2013 issue of the
Ketchikan Daily News

 

When you’re tuned into the small things, they can really get ahold of you.
Waiting for the airport ferry for my trip back to California Saturday, I saw a lady catch and land a salmon on the floatplane dock. Her black puppy was out of its little mind.
That’s what I left when I left Prince of Wales Island for college, but of course when you’re 18, you jump at the chance to see what the world is about. I chose the University of Arizona for some obvious reasons, but after 14 years of coming back during the summer, I am more tuned into the little things than ever.
I’ll miss them.
From May 26 until August 3, I was back in Alaska-mode. I waived to everyone on the road. I went five miles below the speed limit…in most cases. I wore XTRATUF’s almost all the time, at a campfire when I was the one person who wasn’t wearing them, I was mocked. I got caught up in the life lived outside.
I waited; at the store, restaurants, stop signs, didn’t matter. Like the Zac Brown Band, I was in no hurry. I’d say I was patient at the river and the ocean too, but the fishing was so good, I didn’t really have to be.
Being I am a high school teacher, I have two months off from any sort of work with the exception of my weekly column for the paper back in California and thus a free pass to not care about day nor time but I slept less than I do during the school year. There were fish to catch, mountains to climb and friends who worked to see on the dock or in the shop. I bothered them because it was refreshing to be surrounded by workers, hard workers.
I’ll miss my return to manual labor too. I’ll miss the splinters from hauling split hemlock and blisters from spreading gravel. (I have gloves, but burned through them.)
I’ll miss taking fifteen minutes to walk from my childhood home to the river and stand on the rock which splits the falls at the mouth of the Klawock River.
I’ll miss the lady at the grocery store who knows peanut butter candy is my good luck charm and wishes me luck on the river with a smile.
I’ll miss that everyone has a fishing report. Even if that person hasn’t been fishing, they still have at least a nugget to provide.
I’ll miss that everyone has a hunting report. Even if that person hasn’t been hunting, they have a nugget too, or at least a way to prepare the back-strap.
I’m younger than many of the people I fished with, and older than many of the people I spent time with, but that doesn’t matter much when you’re from around here. Speaking of people, I’ll miss them the most.
But it’s time to get back to being productive. Time to be useful and maybe even have an impact. Time to take my recent re-appreciation for pace of life and simplicity back to my job.
After a summer back home, I’ve got a fresh batch of Alaska stories to dole out like candy to my California students.

 

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