The Canoe Lady Still Speaks to Me

Eagle River, Alaska
Eagle River, Alaska

I like my duplex for a reason-it’s simple and cheap. You could argue it needs some serious landscaping love, and some interior upgrades, but in general, it meets my needs while living in a city. Besides, I’m not exactly a champion of house projects. I’d like to say at the end of my life that my priorities weren’t absorbed by my materials, but lately, I keep having this dream.

I see me standing in the middle of a plot of land that I call my own, shaped by trees, woods, a small garden, and a general roughness that doesn’t appear too manicured. A small home is always there, but it changes all of the time. Sometimes, I have a barn-style cabin, and other times, I have a ranch-style home. There is also the popular, yet weird dome home. A yurt. I have even had a version with this trailer that I’m living out of, assuming that the cabin is a work in progress, but I don’t actually ever see the work in progress. That could mean it isn’t really happening and I’m meant to live in a trailer; after all, my grandmother lived in one for years, ha. I’d rather live in a tent. Clearly, I can’t make up my mind, but I wonder what it is like to own 20 acres of land….no, make that just 2 or 3 or 5?

A long time ago when I was living in Fairbanks with my ex, we were in this coffee shop and I spotted a canoe for sale out in Salcha in one of those free local papers. This old school Old Town was $100 and I figured, what the hell, it’s a beautiful day to take a drive out there to check it out. We’d been discussing getting one anyway. I hadn’t spent much time out in the Two Rivers/Salcha area, but once we arrived, I wanted to stay there. I was drawn to this place for a moment and really, it was just the timing of the day, you know those times where you’ve gotten plenty of vitamin D, there is a good mutual vibe in the air with whomever you’re hanging out with, and you’re in a fantastic mood. Looking back, and considering how this particular day impressed me so much, I know now that I was pretty restless with my life. Restless with my current job. Restless with not knowing anything really for sure. But in this moment, I was content driving with the sun on my face and being with one of my favorite people to go get a canoe. Feeling simple. It is so good to feel that way.

We arrive at this home and it was a typical Alaskan yard, full of junk and beauty all at the same time. The couple had put a lot of effort into their greenhouse and the grass was sprinkled with children’s toys and bikes. As the husband told us about the minor wear and tear of the canoe, I barely listened. I couldn’t stop looking at their home. It wasn’t really finished, but it was a barn-style that he had built himself. My ex, pretty much into getting the canoe right away, was trying to bring me back to the purpose of our drive and I remember thinking briefly about the money-we were so, so broke-but, I swept that aside to fulfill the need, whatever that was.

Apparently it was obvious how struck I was over the house because the wife invited me to take a peek inside while we discussed the canoe transaction further. It was cramped upstairs, and even a bit too dark for my liking, but I loved the openness of the main floor, and how communal everything seemed to be. I was struck with jealousy, and not just of the home, but of their pure satisfaction; it felt thick to me, a level I had never really experienced, or if I had, certainly not with their confidence. She began to tell me a brief story about the land around Salcha, and the generations of families that made a homestead out of the area. I remember looking at her awe-struck at how something so simple could bring such pleasure, but at the same time, feeling sorry for her, knowing that this would most likely be all she would know about the world. That was me just trying to push my jealousy aside, and find something I had that she didn’t, even though I could tell she wouldn’t care or need what I had, and really, what did I know about what I had? To her, she had it all, and why can’t that be enough?

After the double back for the cash, we left with our canoe and my sense of longing that I’m not sure ever left me. I find it comical that in my dreams to this day, it is still manifested through land and cabins. Maybe the longing is not meant to leave me, and instead, it’s the constant journey I am on. Maybe the dream of my land is fulfilled when I have those other moments of satisfaction, not from the achievement of ownership, but in the simple pleasures of nature or nurture. I guess I’d feel better if I knew I was right, and that I wasn’t suppose to get what the canoe lady had.

When I think about my plot of land, and what I’d do with it, I consider where I’m sitting now. Simplified in my duplex. I have a backyard that gets full sun, and almost zero noise in the summers. At the top of it, you can sit, and grab stunning views of the bluebird sky, and Alaskan landscape. One of my favorite things is the sun in my face. There-one moment of pure satisfaction.

If the canoe lady in Salcha could sit with me at the top of my backyard with the sun in our faces, we might finally be on the same page, for a brief moment. Somehow though, after we sat around having tea together, and discussing our lives, I think she’d still have one up on me.

As Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

It’s all about the journey.

Speak to me

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