Little Planes and Big Hearts

I would be lying if I didn’t say I’m homesick. I am. I miss my boys. I miss visits with family, and wine with Mom. I miss cooking. (Words I never thought I’d say …..) I miss snow! (Words I should not be saying living in Alaska …..) I miss seeing friends. I miss my photos, furniture, knick-knacks, and my comfy bed.

Missing aside, it’s time to write about what I’m enjoying about being where I am.

Merrill Field was the first official airport in Alaska. It opened in 1930. I’ve tried to research the number of flights to take off and land per day, and I see numbers ranging from 340-530. My station is located right near the airport, and all day long I can see and hear the planes coming in and taking off. They are smaller planes, the kind I am terrified of, but I am loving them. I find them intimate, adventurous, and wild. They provoke a vintage feel, and when I hear one coming, I can’t help but look up. and wish I was in it.

Last week I did my first out-of-town story. My photographer, Emily, and I arrived at the larger airport in Anchorage, Ted Stevens International, at 5:30 a.m. and did not have to go through security. We checked in, made our way to the terminal, and waited. As our plane taxied to the gate, it was loud. It sounded old. It was old. Small, two seats by two seats and nine rows. Enough to make me say, “Xanax would be nice….”

Nerves pushed aside, the flight was amazing. We flew over the Chugach mountains, on the sides of mountains, and along Prince WIlliam Sound. We could see white mountain peaks and glaciers, winding rivers, and frozen lakes. It was truly breathtaking and for 45 minutes we snapped pictures and were in awe of the beauty.

We landed in Valdez, a small little airport with one runway wedged in between mountains. As we approached, it seemed like you could reach out and touch the mountains next to us, or if a strong gust of wind were to strike we could be plastered against them ……..

Valdez is a small city of 4100 people. It’s a fishing village with a movie set feel. After we finished the shoot for our story, we set up shop in the restaurant at the Best Western. We had a view of the marina, and the water was eerily calm, all of the boats still in the water despite it being winter. Emily is a bit younger than me, and when I commented that I felt like we were on the Jaws ride at Universal, I think she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about …..

Everyone was friendly and happy to have us there, although perhaps a little weary of our intentions. Once I had eased their minds that it really was a feel good story, they unwound a bit and opened up. We were told where to go for dinner and lunch and the best spots for viewing the city to  get a feel for its isolation. We snapped a lot of photos. The plane for the ride home was half the size of the one there, and 3 x’s as terrifying. I survived and would do it again in a heartbeat.

I have yet to see the Northern Lights as I live in the city and will probably have to load two sleepy kids into the car well after they initially fell asleep, and drive at least 30 minutes outside of the city limits to get the best views. Last night, however, after seeing posts that they could be spotted, I went outside and looked up. What I did see was a moon dog.  Wikipedia says: a relatively rare bright circular spot on a lunar halo caused by the refraction of moonlight by hexagonal-plate-shaped ice crystals in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. I say: amazing.

Sights and sounds of Alaska……I have seen and heard a few. I love it all so far and look forward to experiencing more.

The last thing I love about Alaska so far is the way it has brought me closer to certain people back home. Maybe it is a classic case of distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I am extremely grateful for the closeness I have developed with friends via emails, phone calls, and texts. While I am alone, in many ways, all the way up here ridiculously close to the Arctic Circle, I feel close in heart and mind. I knew this would be an adventure, but I didn’t realize how many people would come along with me.

Thank you.

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