This is it. Tomorrow is The Huge Ski – 50 kilometers of classic-style, start-tape goodness. Tomorrow night/Monday morning (depending how you look at it), it´s goodbye Alaska. I´m packed, my car is clean, my room is not. My music selection is severely lacking. There are things to be done.
Wildlife encounters have been rather prominent lately. A dinner conversation at our house a few nights ago:
My mom: “I´m always so afraid of wild animals on the ski trails. I mean if you´re in the tracks on a downhill, and one just walks into the trail..”
Acacia: “Oh, tell me about it. I came like 6 feet from hitting a moose today”.
My brother, emerging suddenly from the usual silence: “Oh, yeah. Me too”.
Such is Alaskan life, I suppose. But seriously, last week I was skiing at sunset on an incredibly scenic trail on the edge of a bluff overlooking the ocean (think golden-pink light scattering in glorious patterns through the trees, the sunlit ice floating in the tides of the ocean, etc) while listening to music. A recipe for daydreams, clearly. A slow, dreamy song by Enrique Iglesias (haha) was all I heard as I flew from hill to hill, letting the gravity of each downhill swing me to the top of the next. The music was really all I heard, the sunset all I saw. To say the least, I was startled when the glide from a previous downhill ran out, and I slid to an uphill halt 2 meters away from a full-grown moose. I looked at it. It looked at me. This had never happened before – should I go back, should I escape into the trees? My skis tangled in the deeper snow as I shuffled instinctively away. The moose didn´t move. I skied towards it. It looked uncomfortable. I passed it, made a run for it, and never looked back.
Today, while coaching my last ever ski practice, we stopped and played the Forgotten Hat game, which I can almost guarantee is the primary cause of head lice among Alaskan schoolchildren. It´s a relay race, only each participant eventually trades hats with someone else. In the end everyone has worn everyone else´s hats… not a good idea. Anyway, while individual members of each team raced towards the hats lying in the snow, the rest of the kids stood clustered into groups in the middle of the trail. It was at this point in time that a Spruce Grouse (aka Dumbest Bird Alive) felt a desperate need to protect it´s territory, and fluttered clumsily from a tree into a tangle of skis, poles, and generally excitable children. In contrast to eight- and nine-year-olds, a spruce grouse is a fairly big bird. (One of the kids commented later, “They taste really good”. Hah.) Anyway, it was chaos. The girls screamed, the boys lunged, and the poor bird waddled frantically through the maze of flailing poles to escape between a young boy´s legs. Clearly alarmed, he promptly fell down on top of the bird, who bit him in the rear. The kids laughed until they cried, it was unbelievably hilarious.
Leaving seems to involve a lot of desserts. Yesterday I went out for coffee with my grandparents – 3 different desserts and a cup of tea. Today Nic made me a glorious dinner of pasta, ravioli and caprese (everything consisted of my favorite combination of tomatoes, basil and cheese), followed by dessert at ORSO, which his manager paid for. It´s like every time I go to ORSO for dessert, someone else ends up paying for it. Anyway, it was a good day. I packed, I repacked, and then I repacked it again. I cleaned my car until the black leather interior sparkled and gleamed in the sunlight (and if any family members are reading this – I expect it in exactly the same condition upon my return). Nic and I started waxing our skis but ran out of start tape on my first ski, resulting in me begging an REI employee to let us in even though they were closing. Two Norwegian women in Norrøna jackets called to each other across the aisles, deciding their final purchases under pressure. They were from Stavanger. I could hear it.
On that note, a block of conspicuously labeled “Bergenost” has mysteriously appeared in our house. “Authentic Norwegian-Style Cheese”, reads the fine print. Hmm.
Anyway, it´s looking like my time in this state has expired for the time being.