I'm writing a novel set in Alaska and I've read three segments of it in my writers group. Last night I finished reading, there was the customary silence when people try to decide what they want to say, and Rick said, "Your descriptions of Alaska make me wonder, why are you here and not still living there?"
I thought about it as I walked home under a nearly full moon. It's true that my life seems less unique than it did there. There I could and often did commute to work in a floatplane, kayak with whales or run into a bear on a trail as part of an ordinary day. The scenery was pretty amazing too: a bubbling mixture of kelp, sea otters, salmon and mountains that rose from sea level to alpine, treeless meadows. Even the weather was unpredictable: expecting rain, you could wake up to full-on sun.
In the Enterprise library an old woman accosted me, one of those you see coming and cringe, knowing you are in for it. After exclaiming that I had unique eyes, she proceeded to ask, "Do you ever wonder why we are in this place at this moment in time?"
I've never believed that things happen for a reason; that there's some neat, pre-packaged destiny already labeled for us. To me that seems like abdicating responsibility for your choices. It's easier for me to believe it's all random, molecules and energy colliding together without a purpose. You make your own destiny, good or bad.
So why am I here? I wonder. What made me pick up and leave from a place that still tugs at me now and then? I miss the closer connection to nature; knowing when high tide was going to be; my days and seasons punctuated by events: salmon returning, whales coming closer to shore. I miss the closer community: people who are bound together by living on an island in the middle of an ocean.
Why not go back? I might, someday. There are a lot of places I'd like to go back to, to finish something left undone or see how it looks through older eyes. Mackinac Island. Sawtooth Valley. Grants Grove. For now I'll write about them, try to understand why I was there at some point in time and why I'm here now.
It would be easier to think my life is on some cosmic pattern. But the one psychic I talked to back in Florida, one who helped find missing kids and who was at the refuge on a visit with her husband, said I would live in Wyoming and have three kids. So I don't believe. What I do believe is this: just like people, there are perfect places for you everywhere. There isn't just one. You go there with no expectations and settle yourself into its boundaries, hoping for a good fit.