Home and point of departure. Nested along a sloping peninsula between the mountains and the sea. Young, adventurous, bold. Addicted, drunken, old. Squeezing out the space between the Chugach and Cook Inlet, climbing up the hillside, stretching north and south. Digging and drilling and mining and tilling. Disorganized as driftwood. Sliced up and down by the highway, tucked into neighborhoods cockeyed and rent-choked. Sporting proud your hillside homes on the heights overlooking the bore tide rolling in Turnagain Arm, eagles and geese flying low over Potters Marsh, with a view to Fire Island where the windmills eke out their promises. You bedeck your winter streets with gravel or coat them with ice and snow, groom them with snowplows and brush them clean for summer tourists. Cyclists sport fat tires and poagies, daring arctic headwinds. Trail runners carve footpaths along the front range. Weekenders drive SUVs with box-tops, ski-racks and kayaks, head for rivers and campsites and cabins, scented of woodsmoke and whiskey.
We live outside in all weathers, we hitchhike, we hold cardboard signs. We head to the backcountry in Hatcher Pass, find ways to make the winter last through summer’s short gasp. We roost with the ravens and run Native Corporations. We are mountaineers and mistresses, hobos and halibut fishermen. We dip-net for salmon and drill oil on the North Slope, two weeks on, two weeks off. Bush pilots and line cooks, airmen and officers, bankers and railroaders, coal men and climbers. Teachers and children too, we speak with a multilingual tongue.
Anchorage, you beggar, trouble-maker, reckless one, dreamer. Heart of Alaska. Independent and willful but keen for community, just a big city spread with a small town rumor. Let’s drive out to catch the festival. I’ll listen for your music again by anybody’s fire, barefoot, eyes closed, rocking the stage with homegrown song. Taste your salmon, smoked and grilled and salty on my tongue. Feel your cold bite in the morning. Catch the scent of sprucewood and birch, wet with dew.
I head over a sunset ridge and you disappear from view.