Image of RRRadan


126 readings

0 vote


I’d come to Alaska to get away from all the headaches that come from living in a big city – the noise, the chaos, and the toxic pollution that humans inevitably leave in their wake. To return to my roots, to nature, and to reconnect in a world devoid of technology and, for the most part, people. Arriving was like stepping off the plane back in time to my childhood, into the frames of a black and white film sharply contrasting the cacophony of color that I’d become accustomed to in the city. My three huskies Polaris, Balto, and Aurora were thrilled to escape the confines of the small aircraft and raced playfully around me as I unloaded my luggage, securing it to the sled before calling the three dogs to attention. After double checking the harnesses and with an affirmative “mush,” we were flying through the bleached-out landscape to my family’s old cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. There were no distinct landmarks to guide me but, like my lead dog Polaris, I knew by instinct the way to my home retreat. I looked up to the sky and, covering my eyes from the brilliant glare of the sun, noted its location indicating that there was still plenty of time to make it to the cabin before dark. Relaxing to the rhythm of the dog’s paws on the crusted snow and hypnotized by the shimmering white landscape, I became lost in thought. Memories of my childhood danced through my mind like the snowflakes that had begun to lightly fall from what had to be the only cloud in the sky. Memories of pridefully holding up my catch during wilderness survival training and of family gatherings when inevitably I would eat all of the desserts and blame the dogs. Then some more painful memories of arguing with my father and leaving for college only to sporadically return for holidays. Thinking back, it’d been a stupid thing to argue about considering all the heartache and regret it had caused. I wished I could run home into my father’s arms and tell him everything but no, it was too late for that. The only leftover thread to my past was this remote cabin, embedded with memories but filled with none of the people I'd created them with. Blinking back tears my thoughts returned to reality and I realized it had stopped snowing. Just a little further, bathed in the light of the setting sun, was the cabin from my memories. I was as close to home as I could ever get.

Frigid darkness. Why I’d felt the need to watch the aurora borealis with my dogs out in this cold was beyond me, but I was hypnotized by the dancing lights. The world was almost completely silent and at peace, although a lone wolf calling in the night perked up the ears of huskies who stared off into the blackness to assess the potential threat. Huskies were incredible dogs, strong and wild, yet unconditionally loving and loyal. Their clear blue eyes saw into my soul as they lent their ears to listen to my anxieties and allowed me to wipe my tears into their furry coats. They were family, effectively the only family I had left, and I cherished them. However, they could never replace the people that had been important in my life. If only I hadn’t burned those bridges. If only I had just stopped to think about what I was doing and let it go. Then perhaps I wouldn’t be living with this unquenchable loneliness that was the only thing colder than the night and louder than the silence. Maybe staying in the city was a form of self-punishment and an attempt to drown out all sadness and loneliness with the relentless lights and noise. But here, in the dark silence, I could finally hear my thoughts and piece them together into a coherent understanding of my past memories that I could finally acknowledge and put to rest.

Brilliant sunshine. Waking up to silence and natural light was a foreign concept for a brain accustomed to the incessant streaming of noise and light that permeates through all of city life. After a few days I’d settled into a peaceful routine that included playing with my dogs, hunting for food, cooking, writing, and reading classic mysteries with a steaming cup of hot cocoa in front of the fire. Before I knew it three weeks had already passed and it was time to return to the city where my small cubicle awaited me. I’d packed everything up the night before so that I could get an early start, as the plane wouldn’t return for another three weeks if I missed it today. The dogs seemed extra lively and pulling back the kitchen curtains I saw why. They always got excited before a major snowfall and the clouds rolling in threatened to block out the sun that had woke me up this morning. As I finished securing everything to the sled, I said a quick prayer for the weather to hold out long enough for us to return to the airport and with a “mush” we were off.

My prayer was not to be answered. I regretted not bringing a travel weather radio with me, although one point of this trip was to disconnect from technology, and I could only hope that this wouldn’t turn into a blizzard. I trusted my dogs with my life and they had never let me down, but it was surreal and a bit scary to race blindly into a sea of cascading white snowflakes. As I tried to ease the panic rising within me, I remembered my father’s calming voice from when I was a child directing me on what to do when caught out in the wilderness in inclement weather. Take shelter, stay warm, stay hydrated. At this point I’d gone too far to return to the cabin even if I could determine which way it was. It was definitely getting colder, but I was well-bundled and decided to press forward. My sense of time was warped by the changing landscape, but I was pretty sure that we would arrive at the airport relatively soon and could shelter there until the weather was clear enough to fly.

Just when I thought we’d traveled too long to be on the right path, I felt the sled pull upward. I blinked as a snowflake landed in my eye and watched as the snow and clouds slowly dissipated beyond the crest of the hill. Looking into the valley I saw a man bathed in sunlight sitting around a fire at his campsite. A man I recognized as my father. Happiness and nostalgia swelled up within me complemented by the shift in weather that cleared the negative thoughts from moments prior. Standing before my father after so many years apart, I suddenly felt overcome by a wave of emotions and questions that culminated into simply rendering me speechless. Then it all came out at once, my tears immortalized as ice, falling from my face with the incessant stream of words tumbling from my quivering lips. He laughed, that full-bellied jovial laugh that I remembered from when I was a kid, and hugged me so tight that I could barely breathe. Leading me back to the campsite we talked for hours catching up on all the time we missed together. I was in no rush anymore to return to the city, not with my dad here. We settled down in front of the warm fire with the dogs as we watched the sun set, painting the sky with fiery oranges and reds. As the discussion transformed into a more comforting and expressive silence that transcended words, I had to say it.

“Father, I am so sorry for not visiting or checking in on you, sorry we had that falling out, so...”

He cut me off. “I know sweetie, I know. I missed you deeply too and I am so happy you’re here now,” he said comfortingly. “Forget the past and enjoy this present with me.”

He pulled me close, wrapping his arms around me as we looked up at the stars shimmering against the now dark Alaskan sky. A mesmerizing dance of green and yellow aurora borealis moved to the heartbeat of the earth’s magnetic field. It was like watching the spirits of my ancestors journey to their celestial home, carrying away all the remnant negative tension between my father and I. My eyes grew heavy and I began to drift off into a deep and peaceful sleep. Alaska has some of the longest and darkest nights I’d ever experienced but tonight, lying next to my father, it felt like a blessed eternity.


A few words for the author? Comment below.

Take a look at our advice on commenting here

To post comments, please