Serenity of Silence

Outside my window the light rain continues unabated from a featureless nimbostratus cloud cover; its been a very wet October thus far as I’ve recorded 4.08″ of rainfall since 11:00 AKDT this morning for the month.  The average October rainfall for this area is 2.90″ so at fifteen days into the month we are already 141% of ‘normal’; in addition I’ve reported measurable precipitation on 12 of the 15 days.  Hand in hand with the precipitation is the well above average air temps; I’ve recorded just five mornings in October with below freezing temps yet the ‘normal’ temp range for mid-October should see early morning temps in the middle twenties with day time highs struggling to reach 40 F.  My friend Holly tells me the lakes and rivers have usually frozen by now to the point the locals are beginning to ice skate on them.  Indeed, its been a very unusual weather pattern all year with the extreme heat in June – Talkeetna set its all time high temp of 98 F in mid-June – followed by the excessive rain across September and now into October.  Mother Nature is fickle in her ways and she will do as she wants regardless of our wishes and dreams…

One thing that hasn’t changed is the immense silence that wraps this land in a soft, peaceful blanket; I remember it well from past trips into this area.  It is so quiet up here that on any given day the source of most noise is one’s self.  Since moving in I’ve heard but one police siren, no motorcycles, one semi (he was driving east on East Barge and I think he might have been lost…) and maybe one bush plane a day – often in the distance – along with perhaps three cars per day on East Barge.  I always suspected that noise pollution was a real issue in the lower 48 but moving up here has dramatically reinforced just how intrusive noise is down there.  I do sometimes hear natural sounds but these aren’t intrusive as they seem part of the environment.  Sometimes while sitting on my front porch I’ll hear the howl of some Huskies from John and Ruth’s place maybe a half mile further east on East Barge Drive; they have thirteen Huskies and will be mushing them come the cold weather.  In fact I’ll see them sledding up and down East Barge come the snow.  There are a number of water fowl in the area that have very specific calls which I’m still learning; I also sometimes hear the chattering of the local Red Squirrels as they hasten to hide various foods away for the upcoming winter.  But one of the sounds I love the most is the wind sighing through the birches and white pines; its such a relaxing sound.

Of late I find I’d much rather sit on my front porch and immerse myself in Nature than watch TV or even listen to music; its so much more peaceful and ‘centering’.  I’m slowly losing my need for all the electronic ‘white noise’ I used to surround myself with and as I’ve done this I’m beginning to realize my entire psyche is also becoming more serene and at peace.  In the past when writing I would often have music playing in the background; now I’d much rather listen to the rain tap, tapping on the roof.  The immense silence of the boreal forest is almost an entity unto itself; it infuses the woodlands with a deep peace that is tangible if one is receptive.  The appearance of the large mammals or the calls of birds merely serve to highlight the quiet of the natural surroundings.  The more I partake of this environment the more I want; its an amazing balm for a frazzled soul.  But its even more than this for me; of late I’ve noticed I’m really shifting my priorities and the results have been nothing if not refreshing.  No longer do I worry about the small stuff; those every day issues which we cannot control and have little ability to affect any certain outcome.  In doing this I’ve felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders; I’m just much more calm and centered now.  Stress is something I rarely see now and when it does occur its often in the form of issues like ‘can I get the dogs out for an hour’s walk before the rain returns’ or ‘can I get that limb down before the winter winds arrive’…  Issues that are much closer to home and more immediate; also issues that I do have some ability to influence.  Without question what makes a difference in my life is changing and I’m finding I like the direction it is taking.

I’ve always had a deep spiritual side so its no surprise I frame so much of what I’m experiencing in terms of spirituality; up here the Alaskan wilderness gives me no other option.  To watch a moose foraging amongst the birch and pines of the boreal forest in the dim morning light is so very peaceful yet exciting.  Its amazing to see how effortlessly they move through the scrub and underbrush and doubly so when you realize just how big they really are yet also how quiet.  There’s a rhythm to life up here that I’ve never before felt except when I’ve been up here; a fierce independence tempered by the understanding that Nature reigns supreme and we are all One within her realm.  When I look into a clear night sky up here the number of stars are breathtaking yet I cannot help but understand that everything around me and including me is ‘star stuff’; all that is around me was born in the mighty furnaces of stars of varying sizes.  There’s a feeling of connectivity that’s extremely powerful and seems to underlie everything.  This feeling awakens within my soul the need to really connect with Nature, to try to nurture and develop this connectivity because it feels so ‘right’.  I still get chills when I reflect upon the fact that we are all beings of light and we are children of the cosmos, born of star stuff.  Indeed, the rural Alaskan silence does speak to me and it does so on many levels; only now am I learning how to truly listen…

2 thoughts on “Serenity of Silence

  1. Kevin Widener

    Bill:

    I am amzazed at the speed with which you have made the transition and it truly confirms that you have made a great decision. The clutter, white noise and “stuff” that clouds our lives are often so assimilated that we are much like the frog in the boiling pot of water. Congratulations on having the insight to get out of the water before you were frog soup. Please keep the pictures coming and keep the four legged kids away from the natives. It is inspiring and enjoyable to hear of your adventures and the next year will be an amazing time of discovery and learning. Thank you for sharing it with our family.

    Kevin

    • Hey Kev,

      Thanks for the kind words!! I really do feel this was the wisest choice for me at this time in my life; the fact that I’m seeing such a complete reorganization of my priorities was at first a bit disconcerting but I soon recognized I liked where I was heading and have since embraced this path with all my being. I’m afraid I may never do much in the way of computer/network support and repair as I have little interest in that area now; I’d much rather read one of my field manuals on Alaskan birds or medicinal plants of the boreal forest or just sit out on my front porch in my new hardwood rocking chair and immerse myself in the silence. I was never real good at doing ‘nothing’ but that’s no longer true; I try to spend at least an hour each day on the front porch just listening to the weather and the local wildlife while relaxing. I cannot imagine a better way to unwind and just revel in what an amazing world this is in general and how awesome Alaska is in particular. Ten years ago this situation might not have been ‘right’ for me but its amazing the way the Universe can make things just ‘work out’.

      I needed to be in Dearborn and Northville to assist Mom and discover my love of volunteering; once Mom passed I needed those two plus years to help get the Trust settled, the house sold and then discover I could retire up here and get started on the planning. In hindsight I pulled off an incredibly complex plan that entailed locating and purchasing a house 4200 miles distant in less than a week’s visit while slowly getting everything in place to make a nine and a half day 4,235 mile drive with my household and four legged companions to that new home. Sure, if I could do it over I’d make a few changes but mainly it came off very smoothly. And I’ve been able to settle in much faster than I anticipated while I’m continuing to experience rural Alaskan life and embracing important learnings. The next year will be awash in said experiences and learnings but then I wouldn’t have it any other way. This afternoon I’m driving into Talkeetna to meet Holly at KTNA (FM 88.9); she will introduce me to the staff and I’ll be able to get started with my training such that I’ll be able to volunteer within a few weeks. I’m excited about doing this because I know I’ll meet more folks and I’ll also be able to get my name out to more of the local populace. This is important for a variety of reasons but I’m hoping it might stir up some PC/network based work and so get me started in the barter system. All in all this has been a wild ride but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I couldn’t have done it without special people like you, Sarge and Holly! Without question you folks played key roles in making this dream a reality and you might have the most central role in that you always encouraged me to keep thinking about Alaska even when it looked like I couldn’t afford to make the move. Heck, I was even sharing real estate from the western UP with you in ’11 and was really trying to come to grips with not being able to afford retiring to Alaska but you helped me keep that dream alive!!

      Its really getting dark early now – as in around 19:00 – and its not really light outside until 08:50; we’re still losing 5 minutes and 30 seconds of daylight every 24 hours which is a huge amount. That figures to 38 minutes and 30 seconds less daylight each week or 2 hours and 45 seconds less daylight every month!! We’re continuing to endure this extremely warm and wet cycle; Holly tells me by this time last year the lakes and rivers had frozen over and the locals were just beginning to ice skate on them! This morning we never dropped below 41 F yet the normal low temp for this time in October is in the lower to middle 20’s and our high temps should be only in the middle to upper 30’s. In the first 15 days of October I’ve reported below freezing morning temps just five times and the lowest of those was just 24.9 F. Along with the warm air has come rain; in fact its raining again this morning… Across the first fifteen days of this month I’ve reported 5.1″ of rain (that includes the 1.44″ I just reported to CoCoRaHS for the period Tuesday, October 15th at 07:00 AKDT to Wednesday, October 16th at 07:00!); to put this in perspective Talkeetna’s normal average rainfall for all of October is just 2.90″ so at fifteen days into the month we’re already 176% of ‘normal’. Across those same 15 days I’ve reported measurable rainfall on 12 days. I’m ready for some good old fashioned Talkeetna late fall weather but sadly that’s not in the forecast for at least another week and probably more.

      Still and all I’ve managed to get the dogs out for walks almost six out of every seven days; we’re up to walking at least 70 minutes each outing and I can tell I’m getting noticeably stronger. When I first started walking around here I could hardly manage 30 minutes without really sweating because nothing is flat ’round here and its not uncommon to see the rises and dips in the roads shift one’s elevation by 30 to 50 feet. But I’ve persevered and now I can do 70 to 80 minutes and not be sore or looking like I just stepped out of the shower. Sadly this is not translating to weight loss as my weight has refused to budge across the past six weeks but all I can do is continue to walk, expand my range and duration and know that at some point the weight has to begin to drop. Without question this piece of my grand plan is working as I know I’m in better shape than I’ve been – at least as far as musculature and endurance – for many, many years. I had hoped this would happen largely because I love to get out into the Alaskan landscape and with the dogs pushing me for exercise its definitely working well. The only negative, other than the failure of measurable weight loss, is the dogs are eating me out of house and home! I had to make a special run yesterday to Cubby’s at the junction of the Spur and Parks just to pick up a 42 pound bag of dog food (that was $42 of my total $65 grocery bill!); they killed a similar bag in just the previous eight days which was half the time such a quantity used to last in Northville. Neither Anana or Qanuk is in any way showing excess weight so I guess they need the increased calorie intake to balance the much more regular and demanding exercise routines. I have a feeling that come winter I’m going to have to make a large purchase as in four of those bags just to get through a month’s time!

      Okay Kev, I’ve blathered on long enough so I’ll stop for now. Please give my very best to your wonderful family, okay? I will continue to post imagery and blogs on my blog site; hopefully I’ll get an picture of one of the local grizzlies before they disappear into hibernation for the winter. I blind copied you on a message I received from Jim to which I responded; at least it seems you made an impression… Have a great week, take care and I’ll let ya know how the KTNA volunteering shapes up.

      Bill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s