We recently packed up all our earthly belongings and moved from Alaska to North Carolina. While the Army did a lot of the moving for us, we drove from Fairbanks to North Carolina, which was no small feat.
Driving across the country (with the assistance of a ferry for four days from Alaska to Washington) was as difficult, wonderful, and beautiful as it sounds. I’m a person who likes having roots, so it was hard to slowly peel my Alaska roots out of the ground and hold them, preparing to slowly settle somewhere else.
One of the many things Alaska taught me was how to become grounded, and I found reading to be one of the most helpful tools to do so. I’ve always loved books, but Alaska helped me re-love them in a new way.
As we traveled across the US, mile by mile going farther and farther from our first home that we loved so much (how does one say goodbye to a place as magnificent and difficult as the Forty-Ninth state? Ask me in a few years, and maybe I’ll start to have an answer) I found myself wanting to be as grounded as possible on our trip. And so, with every possible stop, we made it our goal to go to bookstores we found along the drive. Derek’s enthusiasm and wholeheartedness for my idea was a reminder that I am indeed married to the most wonderful human I know.
In Haines, Alaska, where the ferry departed from, I found The Babbling Book, a charming bookstore that had a dog. As rain pelted from every angle we sprinted in to the bookstore to find calm, quiet, and a few dog pets. Haines, like the bookstore, was charming and delightful, and as we prepared to move on in this massive adventure and undertaking, running my fingers over the spines of some books and shopping local made me feel calm. I bought a book by a local author, If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende, and devoured it on the ferry. (Heartily recommend, by the way.) We also visited the Haines Library, which was absolutely delightful.
A week later we found ourselves in Seattle, and I felt like a newborn baby thrust suddenly into a urban world. The crowds, noise, and bustle were overwhelming. After spending fifteen minutes at Pike’s Market, I looked at Derek and said, “let’s go to the bookstore.” He nodded, and we found ourselves at Elliott Bay Book Company. The loudness of urbanity was stilled as we wandered and perused the huge, beautiful bookstore. I bought a book on poets and a card game about Shakespeare’s tragedies.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, we took a slight deviation from books and instead headed to a used record store, which held similar delight. As I fingered through old records and tried to find an Eric Clapton record, (I did) Derek was hastily thumbing in the nineties section trying to find Ten by Pearl Jam (he didn’t.) Right as we were leaving I saw the soundtrack to The Sound of Music for $1 lying forgotten in a corner, snatched it up, and imagined how good it would feel to listen to the sounds of my childhood in wherever our new home was.
I suppose this is to say: life will always be moving along, and will always feel a bit unsettled. But I also think that it’s good to find the things that make you feel at home no matter where you are, and hold on to them. For me that’s a good bookstore (or record store) with stories I’ve read or heard and also stories and songs I haven’t known yet, reminding me that possibility and lessons are always right around the corner.