In the early 80’s my parents took a road trip in the old Subaru and with their two dogs ‘Hub’ and ‘Greta’ north to Alaska. They planned to visit, see the sights, do the young unmarried person thing that summer. Once arrived, they never turned back. Staying over 10 years, acquired more dogs, had various jobs and finally careers. Married, bought a house, started two different businesses and began the next generation of Millers. I was born in Alaska. My early childhood was spent between Eagle River and Anchorage. We lived on the side of mountain on a gravel (with huge washboards) road that wound its way up about 12 miles to our 1/2 mile driveway that was incredibly steep. We didn’t just have Moose and porcupines, we had brown and black bears, heard wolves the night and often had Eagles roosting in the yard. I remember my early years in Alaska well and fondly. Dad stayed on the Slope with his job even after moving to Tennessee, commuting back and forth regularly. Thousands of miles away and Alaska was still a part of our lives. I went back when I was 10 years old for a week before driving with my Father in the new truck to Tennessee. One of the best road trips of my life so far. During my High school years I would spend weeks, sometimes months at a time in the winter with Aunt Suzi (Mom’s younger ‘Orange’ sister) and her family who live in Bethel Alaska – about 400 miles west of Anchorage out on the Tundra. In 2010 I moved back to Alaska – residing in Anchorage till 2012 when I moved to Seattle for a year (though I came back regularly for work). After doing the big city thing, most of my time outside of travel and short stints here and there (like Maryland for the summer) I was (and am) in Alaska. It has always been the closest thing to ‘home’. And while I don’t what the world will bring, I know that I will always have something for me in Alaska.
Unlike the lower 48, the little villages and what one could call a city or town are COMPLETELY surrounded by wilderness. Not just parks, greenways, farms or National forests, but wilderness. We don’t have to ‘go find’ the animals. They find us on main street. And they are not the National park animals that eat crackers out of your hands alongside the road..some will just eat you instead. The bears here are not semi tame. The wolves don’t pose for the pictures and the foxes know they aren’t at the top of the food chain. Fluffy the cat will be eaten by Eagles, bears, wolves, village dogs, sled dogs lynx, foxes..you get the picture. Even man’s best friend is often more wild here. Oh while on the subject of large predators Alaska is the only state that naturally has all three types of bear – Black, Brown and Polar. We also boast more mammals that could eat the cat and quite possibly your child then most other states as well. And for the record Moose aren’t cute and cuddly (okay the babies are), they kill people pretty regularly. And not just in auto accidents. The lines between humanity’s mark and the wild is often very blurred here. People can tell themselves they are in the city, but lets face it..downtown has a pet caribou and it’s not at the zoo… To me this is LIVING. Being on the edge, always being reminded that we are mortal and life could end very easily (be it wildlife, weather, or humanity) and that if you’re not aware, if you don’t get your shit together you just might not make it.
I have been in and out of Alaska quite a bit in the recent years but it continues to be my home base. In early 2015 Shaun, my partner from Maryland moved to Anchorage with me. For almost a year we stayed with my ‘Alaska Family’ – Kathy & Dave Gardner in the downstairs of their wonderful home on the edge of Anchorage till we had the funds to move. I can honestly say that without the love and care the Gardners have given me over the years that I would not have been able to make the same choices to get me where I am today. I (and Shaun) am incredibly grateful and humbled by their presence in our lives. Shaun and I rent a place in town with our dogs. Living in town is rather interesting and while my heart yearns for the woods and open sky – I like our house (duplex) and the space we’ve created as a transition zone.