June 24, 2014

Free Time

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” 

The Alaskan summer is well underway, but the nights are still little chilly and I've kept all three blankets on my bed. When I was growing up we only had one car most of the time and it wasn't that reliable so we'd spend most days at home. There would be weeks where we didn't leave and I remember my mother half joking about cabin fever. My sister and I never really felt it. Being stuck at home was fine as long as we had books, movies, board games and weather that would allow us to periodically escape each other. Now I'm grown and living in the middle of east nowhere Alaska and I think I finally am understanding the real stir-crazy potential of cabin fever that my mother way hinting at.

Alaska is beautiful, especially as the weather grows warmer. We have wild roses growing through the front porch and the sky, with it's parade of puffy clouds, is the definition of vast. Unfortunately the mosquitoes seem to have formed loosely knit gangs that attack as soon as I step out the door, so long hikes are out for the time being, which means I'm largely house bound. I get up each morning and fast walk the 30 feet to work where I wait on a slew of interesting tourists and truckers traveling up and down the Dalton Highway. Most of them ask where I'm from which leads to a stock answer, something like “New Hampshire by way of New Orleans” and then they ask what brought me to Alaska to which I answer “Louisiana was getting hot so I picked the farthest point north.” It's like a script now that I recite ten to fifty times a day. And there's the issue. Each day here is very similar to the last one and the perpetual sunshine just adds to the feeling of a never ending loop.

Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. If anything it's made me appreciate the little stuff, the slight variations like a cook that makes a special employee meal or a pair of chatty bicyclists. It also occurs to me that very often we are given things to occupy us, like television, shopping, driving, eating out. Did you ever read Fahrenheit 451? Bradbury wasn't just warning against a world where books were outlawed, though that's what people always pick up on, he was warning against a world where we no longer had the “leisure to digest” information. A world where we were constantly kept busy, so busy that there was no time to wonder about ourselves and our world, to analyze the information in books. I think that's been the gift of Alaska, that I have so much time to think now and, while it can be a little overwhelming, it's lead to some interesting choices.

My house in the woods
For one I asked my father to ship up my violin and now I practice every day, sometimes for hours if my housemates can stand it. I also have begun brushing up on my Spanish and learn at least one new word or phase each day. I still read too, at least two books a week. I take all the work I can now, giving up days off, so I'll walk out of the woods with a good chunk of change, maybe even enough to make a side trip somewhere between Alaska and Louisiana.

So I'm adapting, maybe so much so that my planned one month of city life will be too much of a shock. 


  1. The worst thing about endless amounts of free time is getting so used to it that having something to do seems like an intrusion.

  2. wow Ashley, i'm loving your new writings. great to see you active again. :)


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