Currently living/working: Writing while hibernating, as per the season. But we’ve also been regularly giving weekly virtual presentations (Life in the Last Frontier: Alaska) for libraries!
Current mood: I did not rush into any substantial writing projects after the seismic seasonal shift to winter, knowing I needed a minute to recover from the frenetic summer. I gained immense satisfaction from distilling my priorities to basically just cleaning out my burgeoning inbox, and it was rewarding to give myself that grace and compassion to just be! While I had a few steady client deadlines in place this month, I’m trying to dive into pitching mode. Admittedly, that’s been mentally challenging because I had 3 pitches ghosted (which essentially means rejected) already the last 2 months! And I don’t feel like I’ll have as many bylines in 2023 as I did in 2022, so I’m discouraged. Let this rant be the end to my pity party …
Currently amazed by: I simply can’t believe we are heading into our 5th winter in Alaska. Somehow unbelievably, this will actually be the longest we’ve lived in one place together through our 20+ years. Others have come close, like Arizona, New Hampshire and Virginia, but AK wins. It took Justin 20 years to convince me to move here, but I don’t regret waiting. So here we go into our 5th winter. Your first winter is an audition—exhilarating and novel. You know what to expect for the second winter, so you are a tad scared. Your third comes way too early, and you start to realize how hard and long they are. You feel like a pro going into your fourth winter, but then Mother Nature schools you in some way to remind you that you are not in charge. I wonder what the fifth will bring? It will probably confirm that we are crazy.
Current confession: With that being said, I wouldn’t be able to survive year-round life in Alaska without an escape. Many Alaskans go “outside” (AKA, basically anywhere but Alaska) at some point during the winter. I’m lucky our self-employed lifestyle with no children affords us the luxury of a change in latitude. For me personally, the worst time in the Denali area is between late October and late December. If fall is a short-lived, one-night-stand romance, the transition to winter is the depressing aftermath. This year, winter said hi, but mostly it’s just been patchy whiteness among a dead forest. And darkness is swallowing the day in huge gulps as the sun falls asleep behind the mountains for the next few months. Yep, depressing.
Currently excited for: This year, our big escape will be 6.5 weeks. There’s the normal hello-goodbye tour with family & friends from East to West, but the more dopamine-inducing piece is 27 days in Baja, Mexico! Cheers to swapping the monochromatic days in the Arctic for prolonged sun-drenched days in the desert.
Currently thankful for: I’ve referenced the weekly virtual presentations we’ve been doing for libraries across the US. This virtual presentation endeavor originated as a promotional strategy for my book as I approached libraries to stock Between Each Step in their collection. We ended up doing 7 “Exploring New Zealand” programs through 2022. A handful of those libraries expressed interest in additional virtual presentations we could offer, thus we developed a program on “Life in Alaska.” We’ve now done 9 such programs, mostly for libraries in NJ & Ohio (I know, Ohio is random, but I have a friend who runs the library world in Cleveland that forged that connection).
So people out in the Interwebs: save me some rabbit hole research by simply looking up your local library to see if they offer virtual programming! If they do, let me know and I’ll take it from there to try to add more of these to our winter calendar.
Currently proud of: We wrapped up our second season of renting the yurt successfully (and thus contributing to our borough’s overnight accommodations tax). We rented 128 nights for the summer of 2023, compared with 111 nights in the summer of 2022. For such a short renting window and for hosting friends/family for 25 nights, we are ecstatic with that outcome. Rentals for the summer of 2024 will open Dec. 1, so friends & family, get your requests for dates in sooner than later!!!!!!!!!!!
Current guilty pleasure: Speaking of the yurt, we’ve had sporadic rentals through October, which means we’ve been enjoying it as our “vacation home.” I just love spending time at and sleeping over at the yurt! We’ll be shutting it down in the next few days though.
Currently regretting: There is a too-hard-to-explain glitch on Airbnb which allowed someone to randomly book the yurt for 2 nights in the middle of January. I tried really hard to convince them to cancel, explaining that the road to the yurt isn’t plowed, so they would probably have to snowshoe whilst pulling a sled of supplies to get there. That it could be 20 below outside and they have to use an outhouse. That there are other options in the area with plumbing and road access to book. But, NOPE! They want the adventure of staying a secluded yurt in the woods … I know this booking and having to reopen the yurt is going to stress me out, but I’m trying to manifest the feeling that it will be completely successful and worth the effort …
Currently worried about: If you know me, you know I don’t follow national politics. However I am a sucker for local politics! We have a big election in the Denali Borough this fall. Our borough (aka, county) has its equal share of nomadic adventurers, I-moved-here-years-ago-to-avoid-people-and-government hermits, liberals, conservatives, tree-hugging conservationists, doomsday preppers, so suffice to say, a hodgepodge of people. The allure of small town living dries up when you have to make big decisions, like an election. Disagreeing with the rest of the country is one level of uncomfortable, but disagreeing with the small bubble of people you see at the post office regularly? Downright awkward.
Anyway, we have an election in which we will decide a new mayor, as well as some assembly and school board members. There are EIGHT mayoral candidates on the ballot. In a year-round community with potentially 1000 voters (but most likely way less), our vote literally counts.
To paint the bigger picture, we live in a place whose revenue is tourist-driven. We don’t have property taxes, we have “tourist taxes” (e.g., taxes on overnight accommodations, alcohol & marijuana), we have an affordable housing shortage (who doesn’t?), we lack access to health care, yada yada yada. Our borough could go in many different directions and it will be interesting to see how the election plays out, and how Denali Borough looks in the next 10 years. I read Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics by Heather Lende earlier this year in about Haines, AK, which intrigued me even more about small town politics.
Currently not excited for: Our east-Mexico-west travels are smack dab in the middle of the holidays. Nothing could be worse than our 2021 holiday travels when our flights back to AK were cancelled 3 days in a row, but I am fully expecting hassle.
Currently reading: I have yet to see a wolf in Denali National Park and Preserve (or anywhere for that matter), but I know they are out there and their numbers fluctuate over the years. Adolph Murie was one of the first naturalists to study wolves in Denali, and while I usually find these books boring, I appreciated the nuggets of predator-prey statistics in The Wolves of Mount McKinley that gave me a better understand of not only wolves, but all our the mammals in our backyard.
I do love to research, but I did far too much heavy education-based reading this month. Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls by Paul Bannick was another book in a pile I’ve borrowed from a friend that I am determined to get through.
Currently watching on Netflix/Peacock/HBO Max/Starz/AMC: We gave into our guilty pleasure and blew through Season 6 of Below Deck Med and Season 8 of Below Deck (regular) this month. Why in the world do we love this show so much??? We also started watching “The Last of the Alaskans” on HBO Max. People always tell us about this and that Alaska show, but this particular one is older and really seems true to Alaska form! We’ve finished Season 1, and have learned so much from it. And when Justin plays poker, I’ve been watching “And Just Like That,” the “Sex in the City” sequel. I finished Season 2 this month and loved it so so much.