“Bloom where you’re planted.”
I have no idea who originally came up with this brilliant gem of advice, but I was the parent of a four-year-old the first time I heard it uttered by Teacher Tom at the Anchorage Cooperative Preschool. It’s one of those phrases that has stuck with me ever since.
My family and I have just returned from the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks Alaska, and I can assure you the people in that community have fully embraced the philosophy. They were “planted” in one of the most frigid areas of a state that is already ridiculously cold, and as an extra kick in the bunny boots they get to shiver without daylight for about 20 hours per day in the worst of the dark winter months.
Yet these people are blooming. The universe dealt them snow and ice, and they decided to turn it into a party. The crystal clear frozen water near Fairbanks draws ice carvers from all over the world, and people flock to the community to view their masterpieces.
Alaska is an amazing place. There aren’t many roads to travel, but they never look the same. The vista is so incredible that I often view it with misty eyes, blinking to focus on the beauty and wiping my tingly nose so I can break out my camera and try to capture the impossible. The adventure and unknown is part of why we moved here.
But all this suddenly and catastrophically changed once we had children. The scenery outside could longer compare with the view inside our own living room. What mountain range can compare to watching your children learn to crawl, and then toddle, and finally dance? To seeing your husband as a father too? To the mess of baking sugar cookies at Christmas? We are blessed to live in the age of Skype and email, but it just isn’t the same when you want to share these experiences with family.
We spent a few years vacillating – move back home, move closer to home, or just stay where we are? Admittedly, we were sick of the constant search for plane tickets, and all our vacations were spent visiting the family we missed so much. We were ready to get back onto a realistic road system where we could take some affordable trips and see some new highways.
But then reality hit. It was easy to pack up and move to Alaska when we were in our 20’s, when it was just Clark and I and one GMC Jimmy full of crap. We didn’t worry about giving up good jobs, health insurance, or retirement benefits back then. Now we do. Now we have these two little children to think about. College funds for their brilliant minds. We are already halfway through our careers here, and the thought of starting over is overwhelming as well.
So, right or wrong, we have decided to bloom where we’re transplanted.
For us, that means enjoying the best of what Alaska has to offer. We have a raft, which allows us to quietly float rivers in the summer to fish and camp as a family. We have miles of trails to explore by foot. We bought a home with a view, so even on the ordinary days we can look out the window and realize Alaska isn’t such a bad place to be a “stuck.” Combine that with all the amazing relationships and friendships we have formed here, and it’s hard to imagine ever leaving. (Except when I find myself pushing a fully loaded shopping card through the Costco parking lot in December… that is misery for a gal who is prone to forgetting where she parked!)
The raft… Kenai River
The view… Cook Inlet
I’m fortunate to have summers off, so every year the kids and I head back to Nebraska for a full month to enjoy family, friends, and garden vegetables. The annual “cousin week” is a highlight, as is the Fourth of July (fireworks are not nearly as exciting in Alaska, since it doesn’t even get dark in the summer). It also gives our kids a glimpse of the childhood we remember: lightning storms, scorched legs on leather car seats, swimming outdoors in muddy lakes, and snitching garden tomatoes fresh from the vine.
Compromise? I suppose. The right decision? Time will tell. It’s strange to think that we are raising little Alaskans, but if we keep taking them back to Nebraska every summer we’re confident they will remain Husker football fans each fall. And really, what could be more important than that?