The best laid plans can all be upended by a single plaintive cry from someone smaller than myself. Her eyes had that glazed over look and her cheeks were flushed in that way every mother is familiar with and I knew, in an instant, down to my gut that despite all the carefully packed Shabbos salads…we weren’t going anywhere.
Happily, Mr. Safek can turn on a dime in times like these and quickly the Shabbat RV 2.0 was unpacked and we were able to settle in to Shabbos at home for the first time in quite a while. It felt strange having lights, running water, and so much quiet compared to the usual noise of the busier streets near shul. The time seemed even more leisurely and our meal spread out over a table that was the size of an entire room in the RV.
It was an expansive weekend of rest and recuperation and exactly what her little body needed before the week of camp ahead and precisely what our spirits needed. We studied and read, played games, and went for walks. The weather was sunny, hot even, at least by Alaskan standards. Trees were blooming everywhere.
I started to feel a bit sad about leaving Alaska next summer. I know it needs to happen for us to move forward spiritually, but there is so much about this beautiful place that I’m going to miss once I’m comfortably tucked in to an urban setting. I wish there was a way to finish conversion here and more of a community to support observance or that there was an affordable, vibrant Orthodox community with mountains. I’m thankful, though, that we have been able to enjoy Alaska for as long as we have and that there is a place for us to move to.
As I walked through our neighborhood, watching the birds flit around and enjoying the breezes off the Chugach mountains, I also had to work to keep my mind from worrying over the logistics of our move a year from now. It wasn’t easy moving our little family from Florida to Alaska, but we also had some help from my company. Now…it’s going to be even more challenging selling our house in time to make the drive down from Alaska. Everything is going to have to happen at just the right time and then there’s the challenge of buying a house and settling in before school begins.
Not to mention whether or not any of the Orthodox schools will accept our children in their current state.
For now, though, we have the summer, with camping trips planned to enjoy the most of Alaska possible. I hope to catch another salmon, visit the yak farm, and hopefully also climb a mountain this summer. I want to keep the woods and mountains inside me for later, wrapped up in my heart with the Torah, a reminder of all that Hashem has made and given to us in this amazing world.
There is a wildflower that is iconic to Alaska called the fireweed. Fireweed grows everywhere in the summer, tall and eventually covered in lovely purple flowers. You can even make a sweet syrup from it used to flavor ice cream and it is said to have medicinal properties, too. Its main function for Alaskan’s though is as a timer. The fireweed goes to seed and earns its name by looking like the tops have caught on fire and turned to ash. Rapidly, the purple flowers give way to this ashen look, as if the plant caught fire. By the time all the flowers are gone, so also is the short Alaskan summer. Alaskans watch the fireweed in the short summer months much like others watch the calendar or a timer.
For now, the fireweed has not yet begun to bloom.