Tonight I had my last home-harvested meal, savoring zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce and cukes grown in Mom's garden, freshly picked berries, and halibut caught from the inlet that we can see from the house. This may all sound sugar-sweet and sentimental, but I grew up this way, as did many of us, and so you'll forgive me, maybe, if I look back even as I am propelled forward. I know I have to leave this place. I can't survive in this economy. My work lies out there, a twelve-hour journey and three-hour time change back into the "lower 48" as they call it here. Also, out there lies my sweetheart and our life together, for as long as we choose to make it our life.
But it's a life that's grown increasingly unsatisfactory. It's nobody's fault, and everyone's. It is hot (106 degrees today) and crowded. Everybody wants to be there, so everybody moves there, and then everybody complains about how crowded it is. How hot it is. How unsatisfactory, suddenly, now that the artists and musicians who used to be able to afford to call it home, can't, due to rising rent, the bulldozing of extant (affordable) music venues, restaurants and rental districts and their replacement by cookie-cutter housing. Our culture--first-world culture--seemingly cannot escape from its desire to inflict this upon itself. To chase the arts, culture, music, freedom, natural living, good food and small business out of an area in its desire to consume them. And to replace them with hollow imitations which cost more, but are worth less.
I moved from a town that values local musicians, art, small-business ownership, freedom, wildness and tourist traps (and has a higher crime rate--i.e. the frontier) to a town that used to possess all of those things and is in the midst of trading them for pop-up condos, chain businesses, stronger police presence/control, and even more tourist traps. I wonder if sometimes I might be better off living out away someplace, in a town I haven't heard about yet, where people still live close to the land. But even they are affected--every last indigenous one of them, in every corner of the world--by the things that are being done. By our A/C and our cultural addiction to gasoline and our insistence on using plastic and mass-producing our food and it's too late, it's already two degrees too late.
I had a dream last night about a raven. He was injured, my dog had grabbed him as he fell from the sky and punctured him in several places. I rescued him from my dog's jaws as he flapped and croaked indignantly, and, over time, healed his wounds. We became friends, Raven and I, although he was angry with me, and rightfully so. To allow my beast to mistreat him so...! Eventually, though, Raven forgave me. And as he forgave me, he took his human form, a dusty-skinned man with dark, flowing hair and sharp eyes that crackled when he laughed. I was in awe of him. As the last of his wounds healed, we spoke for long hours. I told him I was ashamed for all that my race was doing to the planet, but that I didn't know how to make amends other than to continue healing the wounds of the creatures around me. Raven didn't give me any pointers. He only looked at me sideways with those sharp, mocking eyes. He spoke to me without a voice: You've really screwed it up, he said. All you can do now, is all you can do. And, healed of the last of his wounds, he reclaimed his raven form and spread his wings--blacker than black--and took flight.
I woke this morning with the lasting impression of those sparkling black eyes, challenging me. I subscribe to the school of thought which says that the dreamer is represented by every subject in the dream. And why not? It's my dream. It came out of my head. I am the Raven. I am also the dog, and the healer, and the guilty party ashamed for all the sins of the human race.
Taking it one step further, I am the person who is uncertain of leaving my home; and also uncertain of staying. I am the one who loves harvesting fresh fish, berries, and vegetables and eating them right here at my mother's table; and I am the one who loves adventuring out into the world to live elsewhere, to make a life that is still a mystery to me. I am the driver of the car that frightened a young moose calf today, who delighted in the fresh cold wind that brought the rain into my face as I drove; I am the person who is, even so, unsatisfied with country life and must go make my fortune in the city just like everyone else who is driven there. I am the one who cannot wait to get on the plane tomorrow night, even though I am beginning to hate the place that I know it is taking me to; I am that same person who cannot wait until I get to land at the Anchorage airport again, walk outside, look at the mountains, fill my lungs with fresh air, and weep because I am, after all, home again.
Life is complicated. Life is simple. All we can do is care for the creatures around us, animal and human. Maybe we can do more than that, but I have not found it. It's a catch-22, that we want to stay but we have to go. I don't know anyone who doesn't live with this predicament, not even the tides rushing and out of the inlet on which my hometown sits. Like them, I'll be back. But like Raven, I have to go. I don't know if I can forgive myself for this, but maybe it doesn't matter.