Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Reunion, Alaska Style

We have been in Alaska for the last two and a half weeks, and I think I'm finally adjusting to the pace here. It takes me a while. Everything moves more slowly in this largest of large states. The daylight stretches on forever and the mountains surround us and reach for the sky. Life moves like the tides, inching up and down almost imperceptibly, against this monumental setting. I get anxious to hit the Chicago streets, one kid strapped on my back and one in the stroller, and visit bookstores, bakeries, parks, and friends at least one-per-block. Instead, every outing takes planning, two carseats, one vehicle, and large bottles of sunblock and mosquito repellant. The other day, stuck at the in-laws house without a car, I spent two hours looking under rocks for bugs with Henry as my only company. But once I gave in to this slower pace, I began to enjoy it.

When in Chicago, I run into friends all over our village-like neighborhood. It seems I can't walk anywhere without running into several friends and many acquaintances. In Alaska, these meetings-between-friends happen less often, but take on seemingly epic proportions. I visit the coffee shop where my sister works, only to run into my in-laws, whose friends happen to stop in, joining us for coffee. Then, it turns out, my sister has become friends, all on her own, with the friend of the in-laws. And I find these connections everywhere, snaking through almost every interaction, almost every day.

A few days ago, we were coming back from camping in a borrowed camper. Now, we used to scorn campers, but having kids and getting older and creakier, we decided to give it a try. The day before, on our way to the campground, Craig had crashed into one of the millions of roadside coffee stands (coffee too! monumental!) but thank goodness, the person working inside merely said, "Don't worry about it. This thing gets hit a lot harder by bigger RV's."

So we decided to stop, out in the middle of nowhere, to get some ice cream. As we pulled into the parking lot, we passed by a stopped bus in order to park in a spot in front of it. And again, Craig underestimated the size of the vehicle he was driving (vehicles too!) and he hit the side mirror of the bus. We got out, and the bus driver was nowhere to be seen. But moments later, walking out of the outhouse tucking his shirt into his pants, came Wade Hampton Miller, the musician who had played at our wedding ten years before.

"Are you Wade Hampton Miller?" we asked. After we reminisced about our wedding for a few moments, we asked if he was the bus driver, which, indeed, he was. As we waited for the insurance guy to show up, we spent over an hour catching up with this old acquaintance. We ate ice cream, and then burgers, and we talked about weddings, kids, camping and driving busses.

It was a scene right out of Northern Exposure.

1 comment:

Jenny said...


I LOVE this post. This makes me really want to visit. When are you coming home--I miss you! Also, when you get a chance send me an email with your new address!