Consider this your Christmas card. You can choose to stop here at “have a wonderful holiday,” or you can continue on to read about things I really think about since coming to live in a small town:
I have friends whom I've noticed sincerely love where they live. They are invested in their communities, learn the small details, engage in the local events and relish the flavor and atmosphere that represents their home.
Almost none of them were born there.
What is it about the journey that pulls someone in a particular direction? Is it the pace, the landscape, the weather? Is it property values and school systems, or is it something more? Why do some crave the gritty feel of cement beneath their feet, while others cannot breathe if they cannot see the horizon at all times? I don’t have any answers, just the observation that each finds their “home” for themselves.
They are happiest when they find where they fit, not the other way around.
The differences between where I was and where I am are broad in scope, from the metaphysics of middle age to landing in a small town on the other side of the continent.
They say Alaska is the biggest small town you will ever visit. An 80-year-old lodge burns 100 miles away and we feel it because we’ve met the owners and had coffee there. “Shop local” isn’t marketing buzz here, it’s a mantra. Everyone is just trying to get by — upcycle, reuse, restore, make the most of every scrap of wood, sinew and bone you can get your hands on. Sometimes it costs a little more, but that dollar you spent is being put directly into the hands of the person that made the product. That dollar will fuel a vehicle, pay for medicine or heat a home.
Love your animals — they will be your companions, keep you warm and, if need be, feed you when the time comes.
Help your neighbor, lend a hand, be generous and present, because we’re all outnumbered by the vastness of here and now.
Celebrate the smallest of things, for they are yours and worth smiling over.
Don’t fight the weather, revel in the cadence of the seasons. The long cold dark makes the skies dance, you must look up to see forever. The long bright summer makes the ground sing, you must look down to see forever. The silver is in the flash of the water, the sunlight on the scales of the fish, the moonlight on the mountains. The gold is in the smell of the hay, the turn of the birch and the fur of the moose and caribou.
Above you is a glorious spectacle, changing each day and never once caring who sees it. From the biting monochromatic sting of a winter storm to the hazy sunset filtered through centuries-old volcanic ash, the Alaska sky is never the same twice.
Let your laughter be the sound that carries on the wind, unimpeded by static and technology. Stop the car on your way home and watch how the setting sun limns the mountain in pure gold, just for a moment. Perhaps you were the only person who saw it, the solitary observer to the day's gift. Tomorrow's will be different and for someone else.
Praise your Christ, or don’t. Love your God, or whatever version of that you want it to be — or don’t. Alaska doesn’t care. The snow will still fall on the silent earth, the sun will still shine on the teeming waters, it is not for you to decide in what manner that will happen, or if it is beautiful or not.
Your choice here is to be present.
You will find the place that you fit.
Happy holidays, my friends.
Tracey Loscar is a paramedic and author who lives out in Butte with her family and, she says, far too many animals.
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