Saturday, January 5, 2013

"The Vortex"


Let’s start with a boy.

He is born in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1958 to a father who is an Army dentist originally from a blink-and-you’re-through-it town in north-central Indiana, and a mother whose parents raised corn a few miles down the road. This first-born boy spends his initial year in Whittier because the father, who loves to hunt and fish, requested being stationed in the Territory of Alaska and got his wish. The mother dislikes Whittier because it gets about 20 feet of snow each winter, she fits in poorly with the older officers’ wives, and she is less than thrilled with hunting and fishing and glaciers and oceans and mountains.

When the boy is a year old, the military reassigns his father to Fort Knox, Kentucky. Although the father is not pleased, the mother is excited to be just across the Ohio River from her home state.

The father’s term of service ends when the boy is two. The family decides to move back to Alaska permanently, and in 1960 they settle in Soldotna, population about 250. A little over a year (and another child) later, they move onto a homestead just outside of town.

In 1973, the boy (who now has two siblings) turns 15.

Just over a month later, on the other side of the globe—in northern Switzerland, to be precise—a girl is born. The first-born offspring of hard-working, intelligent and devoted parents, she grows up in the canton of Aargau.

By the time the girl is four years old, the boy is 19 and is about to begin the first of five years of college in Montana studying English and journalism. In the early 1990s, the girl (who now also has a sibling) exhibits signs of wanderlust: She joins a foreign exchange program and attends a year of college in Utah. By this time, the boy is in his mid-30s; he has worked as an everyday journalist and has decided to return to college (this time at the University of Alaska Anchorage) so he can become a high school English teacher in Soldotna.
The girl travels and studies extensively in Europe, and by the time she begins to seriously explore a career in aviation technology, the boy has been married for several years, is living on a piece of his parents’ homestead, and has two small children. In 1996, the girl experiences a delay in her career plans and decides to take an extended vacation in Alaska. She tours the state for two or three months and then fails to go home. In Willow, she spends a winter in a cold, rustic cabin, she works for a woman who runs sled dogs, and she never returns to Switzerland to live.

While the boy—still in Soldotna—continues to teach, the girl—still in Willow—finds a transplanted Texan who dreams of running sled dogs; she marries him and helps him run a dog kennel, becomes naturalized as a citizen of the United States, transforms into both an adept musher and a capable veterinary technician, and then (at the University of Alaska Anchorage) restarts her pursuit of a career in aviation technology.

About the time the boy’s marriage is falling apart, the girl’s marriage is also falling apart. The boy’s wife moves out, and in 2008 the boy retires after 20 years of teaching. With her degree complete in aviation technology, the girl moves to the Soldotna area in 2010 and begins working at a veterinary hospital, while waiting for a job offer from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The boy joins the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club and the Kenai Peninsula Photographers Guild.

The girl joins the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Club and the Kenai Peninsula Photographers Guild.

They meet, but barely talk, on a wet, wet KPOC hike up a mountain in Seward in 2011. Two weeks later, they hike again and have their first real conversation.

The boy’s daughter graduates from high school and begins to attend college in Washington state. The boy’s son begins his senior year of high school and starts preparing for his own first year of college. The boy’s mother, who had been living on the homestead for 50 years (even after the boy’s father had died in early 2007), decides to move into town and begins making plans to sell off chunks of the homestead.

The boy and the girl continue hiking. They also go snowshoeing and running and walking and skiing. They do trail work together. They share dinners and movies and adventures.  They make numerous trips to the Matanuska Valley. They cook together. They fish together. They do gardening together. They talk together. They share friends and families.

They fall in love.

Time and circumstance can form a vortex that draws people together. There’s no real science to the formation of this vortex. Once it is in motion, however,  it pulls on disparate elements to forge new compounds.

Perhaps it’s more like magic than science.

Or more like luck than magic.

Or not really like anything at all.

Maybe it’s just what it is, and requires no explanation.

HOW things got this way just doesn’t matter. It’s more important that they DID get this way.

The boy is happy with the way things are, and so is the girl, who finally hears from the feds.

Still together and still smiling, the boy and the girl prepare for more changes.

And the vortex continues to whirl.