Beauty and the beach

The morning air in Alaska carries a whip-crack sharpness with the approach of autumn. The early sun is never warm, saving its heat until later in the day; now it only lends the sky a strange raw clarity. The world stands still. I open my cabin door and a frosty creak jumps from the hinges, scampers across the nearby lake to play in the pines, and returns with an unearthly echo.

As I wend my way from the cabin to the shore of the lake, I tread smooth flagstones quarried from the surrounding mountains and laid into the ground by my own hands over the course of the preceding summer. I sit cross-legged, facing the rising sun, and close my eyes as my breath steams outward. I meditate and plan for a day of writing.

Behind me I hear the creak of the cabin door and footsteps down the path. A helpless grin steals over my face as the love of my life sits down beside me, and we wrap our arms around each other and savor the first kiss of the day.

This is my backwoods Alaskan fantasy. It’s my dream life. Or is it?

I have high-functioning anxiety. This means that I am a small helpless creature inside and I hurt sometimes. There are many things I wish I knew. There are many things I wish I did. There are many results I wish I knew how to achieve. And my anxious mind spends an inordinate amount of time berating me for not having the courage or the patience or the skill or the will to do these things.

I try to ignore this as much as possible. Sometimes it berates very loudly. Usually when I’m trying to carry on a conversation with someone. Particularly if someone is a woman.

Anxiety tells me a lot of things shouldn’t be said, and a lot of things can’t be done. Remote Year was one of those things.

What do you do when you realize the story you’ve been telling yourself isn’t true anymore? When you realize it doesn’t match reality; when you realize you’ve changed and you don’t fit it anymore?

How do you know when to move on from your dream to a better one?

There are several obstacles between me and my backwoods Alaskan fantasy. One, I don’t exactly have the money to buy a cabin in backwoods Alaska. Two, the love of my life has yet to reveal herself as such.

And third, I’m starting to realize that there’s no family in this dream. There’s no community. It’s starting to look a little bit lonely.

The warm air of the seashore softens the sun as it draws closer and closer to the horizon. The sand was covered with umbrellas and tanned feet and bottles of wine an hour ago, and the waves were dotted with kitesurfers; now the beach is nearly empty. On the table sits an empty pitcher of Sangria with only the remnants of citrus and berries and sprigs of mint at the bottom, and a full pitcher next to it; and if there were any previous pitchers they have been whisked away by a cheery girl dividing her time between our table and her would-be-boyfriend.

We’ve spent the afternoon playing word association games about celebrities and connections, and my mind is pleasantly tired, and my anxiety is pleasantly low, due in no small part to the Sangria. But I also have the sense that I may be finally finding my tribe, so to speak; there is the savor of friendship and camaraderie in the conversation, and I feel anticipation for more during the remaining months we’ll have together.

The DJ has finished playing an unremarkable set and packs his mixing gear away; and we watch the sun sink faster towards the horizon as we converse about everything and nothing.

The last piece of the sun disappears.

I capture the moment in my memory, beach umbrellas against the sky, couches pulled together, friends and acquaintances getting ready to pay for the Sangria and working out when the next bus leaves.

This is not my fantasy; it’s reality.

The beautiful beach day isn’t quite the perfect life of my dreams. If the love of my life was there, we never shared a kiss. I didn’t do much writing that day. But it’s a nearly perfect day that will live in my memory for a long while, I hope; or at least until an even better day supplants it.

And it definitely has a couple things going for it over the Alaskan backwoods fantasy.

It actually happened.

And my Remote Year tramily — my travel family — was there.

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