June 17, 2011

Alaska and fireflies

We have been having meetings in Waddington on Thursday nights. This means we get home kind of late, after dark. Which means that we are able to admire the fireflies. Driving home last week I was thinking about how fireflies were one of the reasons we left Alaska. I didn't want my kids to grow up without knowing what fireflies were like.

Pretty much, we gave up all of that, plus marvy friends, for flies who can make their bottom light up. We are easily impressed by phosphorus.

But of course, there is more to it than that. We loved Alaska. If it was next door, we would live there. But it isn't. And we love New York. People always ask Justin if he is really happy here. As though there is no way he could be. This tends to drive him crazy. He makes fun of the hills we call mountains (Adirondacks) and generally acts like he has superior mountains in his back pocket, but he loves it here. Northern NY isn't breathtaking. It isn't stunning. It isn't travel-for-5,000-miles worth it. It isn't a Rocky Mountain high. But there is something about it that really does make it worthwhile to give all the rest of it up. I think it might be the fireflies.

I was homesick a lot in Alaska. Homesick while simultaneously loving AK. I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to stay. I used to envy planes flying over head, heading out. I used to feel marooned. And then so unbelieveably lucky that I could see Denali on clear days when walking to our post office. This was all worse after living in CO for a year, where we traveled for a living and wandered backroads most weekends. Alaska doesn't have backroads. Did you know that? They have a few, like the Old Glenn that are old main roads, but you can't get from Wasilla to Anchorage on anything but one road. And we are talking 45 miles here.

I think one of the things that I missed the most was the coziness of NNY wilderness. Alaskan mountains didn't care. They were just to busy being gorgeous to care about anything. In contrast, the Adirondacks are old and smoothly rounded with age and flattened to comfortable climbing inclines. They are trying to make you love them. Life was just way more raw up there. People died weekly from wilderness experiences.

So we traded in the last frontier for coziness. But we are happy about it. Because even if Alaska wins the landscape comeptition, New York has maple trees, summer days so hot you can smell the asphalt, warm darkness, summer stars, farms, haying, backroads, weekend road trips, pine trees, squash, tomatoes, grandparents for my kids, marvy friends, lower shipping costs.... Oh and fireflies.

And really, this landscape isn't bad as a consolation prize.


Verity Earl said...

I am in love with fireflies too. I had two of them in my bedroom the other night. Rather annoying. But outside, they are absolutely stunning! We are still at the beginning of our firefly season, but in a few weeks, they'll be so incredibly stunning, I'm sure I won't be able to resist being outside every night to sit and ponder their magnificence. (How's that for pretentious writing?)

Cathy said...

Ok I understand why you left Alaska, but what brought you to Alaska? I have been meaning to ask Lindsey and well I know Tyler and Lisa lived there for a bit. Was there a mass Vaughan movement that I was not made aware of? Since I am not a Vaughan? Or maybe I would know if I had kept in touch instead of being a bum and waiting until FB made it easier. So yes if you have time would you tell the story of Alaska? I look forward to it. :)

Rebekah said...

Look at those magnificent AK pictures! Wowza! Would love to visit sometime. NNY has it's own beauty though for sure! I miss living near the mountains. I love everything about WI and wouldn't consider moving back to NY really, but I do miss the mountain views! We just have mounds out here!!

Virginia said...

Homesickness is a real bummer, but it's certainly made a bit better by blogs describing NNY's quiet, un-dangerous beauty. Thanks, pal!

Virginia said...

P.S. I LOVE Gilbert's striped overalls!!

Victoria Jones said...

You have beautiful writing. I bet you would have never expected that someone (me) had googled "alaska and fireflies" only to come across a better answer to my initial question. I don't normally follow blogs, but I have tried a few of my own. I would love to follow your blog. I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan. My brother lives in New York. I will be living in Anchorage this summer, and teaching botany to students. I love plants. I peaked at your 'wildflowers' post last night, too.

Thanks for providing an alternative view of Alaska. It's not that common to come across the negative side of things. "Alaska and fireflies" could serve to be a wonderful essay or short story by itself. Have you considered writing as a career? Just admiring.

Take care. I'm excited to travel to Alaska.

Bethaney said...

Thanks for your compliment, Virginia Jones! :-) I hope you have a blast in Anchorage this summer! I studied botany and ecology at UAA, so I have a soft spot for Alaskan botany! Have you come across Verna Pratt (Wildflowers along the Alaskan Highway) or Leslie Viereck and Elbert L Little (Alaska Trees and Shrubs). Two books I used a ton when I was doing an independent study on Alaskan botany to finish up my Bio major. Alaska is fascinating, since it is fairly isolated, making the species diversity more limited than the lower 48, which has so much more diversity!

Have fun up there! And thanks again for an ego boost! :-)

3vgals said...

It is amazing to find another person's words for how I feel living here...."Homesick while simultaneously loving Alaska." It's a contradiction, ironic & something I cannot explain to my family back East. But yet, we stay here in Eagle River. Kudos to you for making the move home. Perhaps one day the lure of fireflies will win over the beauty & majesty of Alaska.