The greatness of home
Caroline Humphreys | Monday, November 20, 2017
Alaska was my first love. Childhood here was full of extremes — winter, darkness, distance, daylight and hard work — but living in a place that constantly tests, nurtures and sculpts one like this is unique to Alaska. My upbringing pushed me mentally and physically in each season, and taught me to rely on myself and the kin who share this lifestyle. I try describing what growing up in Alaska was like each time someone asks, incredulous that people actually live here, but I’m always at a loss for words.
I left Notre Dame early for Thanksgiving Break to celebrate my Dad’s 55th birthday. His family has lived in Alaska before the territory was a state, and his connection to the land seems almost of lore. He grew up wild and running, endlessly exploring a place that goes on for forever. He taught me the importance of being in nature, and how — when we forget our natural goodness — we can find it again in the woods or on the river. The stark contrast of life at Notre Dame to life in Alaska always shocks my body back into survival mode when I come home. The comfiness of South Bend has acclimated me to complain about 30 degree weather and light rains, whereas here I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to help my Dad put fuel his airplane in the negative 20 degree weather. Yesterday I collided with a bull moose weighing over a ton while driving, but c’est la vie in Alaska. Living here keeps you on your toes, but life should.
I was talking to my boyfriend recently about extremes, and how the good life is mostly mundane, with wonderful and awful seasons of living. This past semester I have experienced both more beautiful and painful days than I ever could have imagined, and find myself craving the more muted days that pass by silently. But being home, somewhere that fluctuates from one extreme to another, makes me grateful for the experiences that test me — those moments that have pushed me to grow throughout my life, whether I wanted to or not.
Like yesterday, when Dad and I went flying in his bush plane. Problems always seem smaller hundreds of feet up, so he flies almost daily. As we soared over glaciers nestled into jagged mountains, the wind kicked became stronger. Our little plane battled against the bumps created by gusts cresting the mountaintops, and my heart began to race. I’ve never felt as comfortable in the skies as Dad does. But we neared the ocean, flying low along the coast, and were kissed by the 3 p.m. sunset of Alaskan winters. My dad told me that when you get away from the ground a little bit you feel the risks, but you also see the 360 degree beauty of living somewhere like Alaska. This made me think about how the experiences that test us most also give the best perspective on how to live. While hard times push us to grow and adapt, making the quiet moments in life a little sweeter, the highs we experience in contrast to the lows give us the inspiration to always keep flying towards more sunsets.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.