My Alaskan Education III: Falling Down

Independence Mine Skiing 2013

Do you have two left feet or maybe something else that makes you clumsy? I’ve always wanted to start a Meet Up group or a Support Network for us folks because like it or not, this attribute seems to plague me, regardless of age.

When I was younger, I was a dancer, and by that I mean, I took dance classes. My mom put me in when I was super young and I liked it. Later, I once taught a tap class while in college, and if I had to narrow it down, I’d still pick tap as my favorite. While I managed to do quite well in tap, even gaining a private teacher class in Atlanta for a bit, I was never really good at any other form: ballet, gymnastics, jazz, toe….I just seemed to be the one that was making it through. Tap made it easier for me to be….me; it’s essentially you creating drum beats and patterns with your feet. Rhythm. Clumsiness was easily made a part of that.

Even so, I learned a lot from all of those dance classes-they taught me how to fear the stage less, how to learn forward, how to work with others, how to love myself in costumes, how to love to sweat, and most importantly, how to worship music.The other night, I saw a band called The Shoot Dangs and they actually had a tap dancer as part of the band; their music made me travel back to all of my tap dancing memories. It wasn’t the kind in hills with Fred Astaire either; it was the real Americana version, straight out of Harlem. I wore flat street shoes for most of my career and they still sit in my closet way up here in Alaska.

I bring this up because despite all of the time, energy, money, costumes, and embarrassment that dance caused me throughout life, I manage to still be clumsy and somewhat of a loose cannon on my feet. Walking. Running. Skiing. Heck, even when my feet are off the ground on a bike. My clumsiness existed in Georgia, and it only gained more momentum in Alaska with the added bonus of snow and ice.

Independence Mine, Hatcher Pass, AK

Admission #1: I’d like to say that these lessons only occurred on ice and snow, but I’ve had many, many clumsy moments indoors as well, navigating poorly built wooden ladders to cabin lofts, tiny spaces woven around awkward old furniture and wooden stoves with slightly raised floors. Let’s not forget the terribly built stairs on the outside of cabins and apartments, leading you to either your outhouse or car! Either way, we are talking about some tricky pathways! There was always something in my way.

Admission #2: I’d also like to say that I was intoxicated or otherwise under the influence of something when all of these incidents of falling and wrecking my body were taking place (and to a point, still taking place), but that too would be a lie. Sobriety does help me of course, but I can be just the same pile of mess.

I’ve got a lot of stories about falling down both inside and outside of Alaska, but instead of going full throttle, I’m going to pull Letterman’s style with the


Where most of the great falls happen…..

10. The one where I fell down the metal stairs that take you from the UAF campus to the nearby bar “strip”, which consisted of at the time really just two bars, one of which was a pizza joint. I didn’t have to go to the hospital, but suffered from major bruises for about a week-the black and blue kind all up and down my thigh. I recall playing the Mickey’s beer cap game at the top of the stairs with friends just before the spill so one could argue that I was distracted by my loss of the game.

9. The one that really counts for about 250 falls, but I’m going to put all of them under one number. I’m walking. It’s kind of light out. I’m sober. I’ve had coffee. I’m headed to class. Bam! My feet come out from under me all of sudden while walking on icy/snowy paths. To make it worse, I have the wide hip kind of ass as opposed to the dancer version so my cushions weren’t much help. Ever. I became an expert on how to fall on my ass, that’s for sure.

8. The one where I slipped and fell out of the Moose Mtn. ski bus. Rather than a chair lift, Fairbanks has a bunny downhill ski area where you take a bus up the hill. This means you have to get on and off a bus in your ski boots. Enough said.

7. The one where I fell off my loft ladder. It is still the coolest cabin ever and I think I’ve written about it a couple of times on my blog already, but I got stuck with the loft side that had the ladder instead of real stairs. In the middle of the night, when you have to stoke the fire or go to the outhouse in the absolute pitch dark, it was common for me to fall off my ladder. This one night in particular, I was so tired. As I was slowly climbing down, I thought I was two steps from the floor, when actually, I had only gone down a few steps from the top. I went flying, and slammed my back and head into the floor. No broken bones-amazing! I later learned to wear head lamps for the night ventures.

Hillside Ski Trails, Anchorage

6. The one where I slid off the stairs outside my cabin. Speaking of my favorite cabin, other than bad ladders, it also came equipped with one of the worse set of outdoor porch stairs you’ve ever seen. Uneven. Unstable. Steep. Add the bonus hazards of snow and ice and you’ve got Laura falling ALL of the time. It didn’t matter how clean we tried to keep those stairs. I use to joke that I was going to have a slip ‘n slide set up so that I could just slide my way to the outhouse or wood pile instead of attempting to walk.

5. The one at Circle Hot Springs or was it Chena Hot Springs? No matter because I’ve fallen at both. Listen, you’re getting out of hot, relaxing water, and hitting the coldest air you’ve felt in your life with no clothes on. Not to mention, you are walking on ice and cold concrete that is a mess. All you’re thinking about is how cold your parts are. Recently, they’ve made the trek at Chena a lot safer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen there. Luckily, it was usually dark and my suit actually managed to stay in place.

4. The one when I was walking to the mess hall. This one involved a very long, steep hill off the designated safer pathways on the UAF campus. I can’t really say how high it is, but I rolled down it for quite a bit of time, twisting my ankle on the initial part of the fall. I tried to file a complaint with the campus safety office because they never treated the hill even though most students used it, but they just laughed at me. While I did receive a response letter, it said something about using the marked trails, and that they weren’t responsible for my unsafe decision making.

3. The one with the honey bucket. I already wrote about this experience in my last Alaskan Education chapter. It for sure wins the most disgusting fall award :-).

2. The one where I tripped on the slightly raised floor area that my wood stove rested on in my cabin in Fairbanks. I lightly brushed the stove pipe with my arm as I tripped, which resulted in first aid by my favorite Alaskan boys. Despite their efforts, I had a 3rd degree burn bubble that was about 4 inches in length. There is still a scar to commemorate the occasion for life.

View from Hillside ski trails, Anchorage

The #1 fall by Laura in Alaska……

The one with the Wood Pile. I can’t really say this was a falling down incident, but more of a falling onto. I went outside, fell onto the wood pile, and busted my head. When I returned, all of my friends were freaking out because I was bleeding, and of course, I didn’t have a good explanation as to why except that I somehow fell. While I will attribute this one to some serious partying, I am putting it in the #1 slot because of it’s pure mystery as well as the fact that my head hurt for weeks afterwards. I argued with the wood pile and it won. This is funny too in that I struggled with chopping wood efficiently my entire time in Fairbanks and I would spend hours out there, usually cussing at the wood pile, yet still enjoying myself. It seemed fitting that it would pay me back later.

If I wrote about my clumsiness in Anchorage, it would for sure include tales of me on my sticks as well as my bicycle. Regardless, I keep on keeping on. The biggest lesson about all of this falling down? My ridiculous accidents throughout my Alaskan years have given me hours of laughs, and even better, life’s best policy: don’t ever take myself too seriously.

Besides, when I fall now, I fall loose and free. And most of the time, I have a smile on my face when it’s all over.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Check out my other entries:

Growing Up Skiing in Alaska

My Alaskan Education: Wood Stoves and Getting Stuck

My Alaskan Education II: Honey Bucket Cascades


Speak to me

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s