I’m reading a book my mother sent me, Nickel and Dimed. It’s depressing, probably mostly because I’m having money troubles of my own. I shouldn’t have quit Merry Maids when I did, I should have stuck it out for a couple more weeks. At times I have trouble remembering why I didn’t just stay there till I move. But then I know…it’s because I’m hoping I will actually get some sub jobs in the next couple months. If I was staying longer, I’d apply at another district as well, but I’m only going to be here for another month and a half or so. Maybe I’ll apply at Union Grove anyway.
When I get back to Valdez, I’ll have an even worse time because it seems jobs are scarce there. No big surprise, since the town is barely big enough for air. Here, if I get a yen to go to a mall, I have a 45 minute drive. If I want to go to a mall in Valdez, I have a 5 and a half hour drive ahead of me, during which I may encounter moose. Now, I have nothing against moose, they’re very nice most of the time, but when I get in a shopping mood the last thing I need during my cross-country trek is a long-legged pondweed-eating killing machine stepping in front of my car.
I used to like my job. I worked for a company that did day-tours by boat. Still do, some summers. There are days when that seems like the best job in the world. We’re outside, we’re traveling, and we are surrounded by scenery that could make angels weep with the sheer majestic beauty of it. (Incidentally, “majestic beauty” is an oxymoron. I learned that in my second semester of British literature, when we learned “majestic” is masculine and rugged and not gentle, whereas “beauty” is sweet and feminine and soul-soothing.)
The mountains of my home are not sweet and gentle and feminine, but they are beautiful and they soothe my soul like nothing else ever has. There were days where I would sit on the bow of the boat, chatting with one of only 30 or so passengers, the evening light turning the vivid green of the mountains to purple mist, when I thought I could do that forever. A pod of orcas in the distance, an eagle soaring overhead, a raft of otters lazing near a kelp bed…it’s where I belong.
But there were days when, though the Sound is protected by islands, the wind was up and the water was rough, and there were 120 people on board, and they were all throwing up. There were times when the fog completely covered the glaciers were were supposed to see, and the otters and eagles were hidden, the whales were on the other side of the Sound, and everyone wanted to be elsewhere. Those were days when I could have done without being on the water. But never could I do without my beloved mountains.
Living in a place with no mountains for a year…I’ve felt so displaced. I never felt like I lived here, but only that I was visiting. It’s lovely here, in a suburban way, white picket fences and happy children playing in the yard with their golden retriever.
But I miss home, where snow-and-spruce-scented breezes swoop down off my shimmering mountains and redden my cheeks, and make me remember sun-drenched days of dipping my feet in an icy creek and picking fat salmonberries in the park, or standing on the windswept tundra with my aunt and cousins, trying to keep the noseeums and mosquitos away from our mouths long enough to scarf a bite of a meatloaf sandwich before we scooped blueberries out of low-lying bushes, eating half as many as we collected, hoping there’d still be enough for a pie later.
I miss casting my lure into the ocean, hoping to catch a fat silvery salmon, and half-horrified that I’d be the one to have to clean it.
I miss New Year’s at my aunt’s house near Canada, with all my cousins and their friends packed into the single-level house that only recently got indoor plumbing, where my aunt would fill the tables and counters and every other flat surface with enough food to feed a small country, and dogs and cats and kids are constantly underfoot and yawning because it’s one in the morning and no one is in bed yet.
I miss the house I grew up in, and the people there.
I miss Valdez, but I’m going home soon. And I can’t wait.