Well, it’s been more than four years since my last blog post. It’s late November in Fairbanks, winter darkness is ascending, and I find myself with plenty of time with my thoughts again. That means time to write!
I won’t try to cover in detail everything that happened since my last post. Three big moves, new friendships kindled, outdoor adventures in Alaska and beyond, a few near-death experiences, and a pandemic thrown in for good measure. I’ll do justice where I can, though.
Probably the biggest shift in my life, as far as Alaska (and this blog) is concerned, is the introduction of the community of Fairbanks. It began in summer 2016, while I still lived in Talkeetna. After a friend had to bail unexpectedly, I found myself at the Chickenstock music festival alone, experiencing the Interior in depth for the first time. The town of Chicken, Alaska seemed a little strange, and maybe a little desperate for tourists. The music, however, was jamming, and all sorts of people from far over had converged for the occasion.
There by myself, I had no excuse to be shy if I wanted some company. I had some conversations with hip-looking couples from Dawson, gruff miners out of Mentasta, fisherfolk from Valdez. Searching for the next group of people to impose myself on, my eye fell on a crowded picnic table headed by an exceptionally tall man with flyaway red hair and a t-shirt emblazoned with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “I cannot live without books.”
I plopped down on one end of the picnic bench, introduced myself, and learned the names of everyone else. KC was the man I’d first noticed, and there was Mikki, Kim, and Portia too. KC quickly took the lead in making me feel as though I belonged among them. All from Fairbanks, they were fun, alternative, open, and on my wavelength in a way I hadn’t quite experienced in Alaska yet. The rest of the music festival flew by in their company, and I parted Chicken with KC’s contact info and an invitation to come visit sometime.
I took KC up on his offer, of course– we went on an overnight canoe trip, and the visiting turned out to be a gateway drug to potlucks, contra dancing, saunas, and other forms of Fairbanks degeneracy. Most importantly, KC and his friends welcomed me into their lives unreservedly, and made one thing clear: that here there was a place for me.
I had come up to Alaska chasing excitement and adventure. What my Fairbanks friends presented was a calmer, steadier side of things. The community had a warmth and coziness to it that balanced well with the harshness of the surrounding wilderness.
As years passed, KC and many of those first friends moved away from Fairbanks. So did I, for that matter– I went and started graduate school in the lower 48. But long before any of that, maybe even back at Chickenstock, Fairbanks sunk its hooks in deep. Deep enough that when I got the chance to take my lower-48 work remote, I came wandering back up just as the barely-sub-arctic winter set in, hungry for even a socially-distanced, pandemic-suppressed taste of the community here.
That warmth and coziness I first felt in Fairbanks has become just as much a part of my Alaska as the rivers and the mountain ranges. I count my friends here as close as family, bonds that I hope are built to last.
Through all the changes the years have brought, one constant: here is still a place for me. Hello again, Fairbanks, Alaska.