Me, with a bit too much sun and looking as if I have been chewing tobacco, but really it's just coffee.

I swear I don’t chew tobacco. It’s just coffee.

I have just returned from Outside, which is Alaskan for anywhere in the Lower 48. For me, Outside is Georgia, where I stay with my sister Joy, enjoy her zany hospitality and art-filled house, and commute to Atlanta for appointments with doctors I haven’t been able to make myself give up.

Of course, it’s not all about the doctors. Joy and I cram in movies (this time Grand Budapest Hotel, Chef, and The Lunch Box) and music (Lucinda Williams at Variety Playhouse). In the park behind her house, we take early morning power walks among gigantic oaks, greenbrier, wild grapes, poison ivy, frogs and turtles, including one snapper laying eggs on the bank of Hog Wallow Creek.

She turns on the party lights and water feature, a hand-me-down from me when I move to Alaska, and we sip wine on her screened porch. The whole thing is about as Southern as life can be. No one even comments on my accent.

Outside last month, I made a side trip to Michigan to visit my younger son, Zach, and his dog, Mary, in their new home. The first full day I was there, we (I mean Zach and I) went to an estate sale across the street, and even though we were first in line, in the blink of an eye someone popped a sold sticker on every piece of good furniture. Not that I could have brought anything back to Alaska, and except for one piece of Danish modern, none of it appealed to Zach.

After the sale, we toured the new Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, which is nearly next-door to his office at Michigan State. And let me tell you that the art is the most contemporary of contemporary. For example, there’s a gigantic sculpture of pink dental resin in which the artist imbedded hundreds of false teeth. Maybe thousands. I am not kidding.

So I’m back from Outside, which is not to say I’m Inside. In fact, that term is not used; if you’re in Alaska and you’re an Alaska citizen, you’re just here. And here I have been for two years and two days, making my way in this different place, realizing more every day that living in a different place does not make a different person. I still do not hunt and fish. I do not chop wood and carry water. I do not grow my own vegetables and can or freeze them for the winter. I have not paddled a sea kayak through a pod of orcas (I have not paddled a sea kayak). I have not sat naked as a jay bird in a backyard sauna with anyone (I have not yet sat in a sauna). I have not been ravaged by mosquitoes, though I do have a fresh bite on my face, and I saw the guy who did it to me. Big as a bird.

In spite of all that and an accent that gets noticed as soon as I switch planes in Seattle or Portland, I am officially recognized as a full-time Alaska resident and this October will receive my first dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund. I’ll use that for a trip Outside, but the next time will be different.

I made the transition to a local hair stylist the first summer I was here because I couldn’t fly to Atlanta once a month to see Wayne and Diane at Cowlix. Early that first fall, I found an ophthalmologist because I couldn’t see through my sunglasses (botched prescription by an Atlanta provider). This past fall, a broken tooth led me to a Homer dentist. And now it’s time to put on my big girl pants and bring the rest of my healthcare inside Alaska before I have to.

Then Outside will be all fun with family and friends in Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, and who knows where else. Maybe Wales. Maybe Mexico, where I don’t know a soul, but I hear the weather is mighty fine in February and March. In the meantime, right here, right now, is mighty fine with me. I’m going outside.

Advertisements