I hope this finds you well as we all continue to dive deeper into the green of spring and heat of summer. I am in the second half of a whirlwind visit to the Midwest with my family and have been enjoying watching the bright new greens transform into their slightly more permanent, deeper hues. The trip started with beautiful blossoms on the apple, cherry, plum and lilac trees and is finishing with some of the most lusciously green and huge-leaved maples and oaks I’ve seen in a very long time! When we get back to Alaska, we’ll get to experience it all again. How lucky are we?
The unfolding of nature is something that is often taken for granted. Think about it–how many springs do each of us really get to experience and be part of? For some, it is far too few, for the lucky ones maybe 90? That really isn’t very many! After leaving our little hideaway in the woods to live in the “big city” (ha! Anchorage is hardly big…), I’ve been concerned with a disconnect with nature. We recently sold and took down the yurt, further ingraining that disconnect. It was hard, but it was a good form of closure. This disconnect combined with the ethereal nature of pregnancy, childbirth and taking care of an infant has left me feeling a bit “ungrounded.” Luckily, there are a few easy remedies for this!
As a rural girl, living in a city can be tough. There are days when my body doesn’t make any actual connection with soil. We are literally in a concrete jungle! There is asphalt, concrete or tar covering many surfaces that were once forest or field. Some people are just fine with this barrier from Mother Nature, I am not one of them! As the wise Aldo Leopold said, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” I am most definitely one who cannot.
To be fair, I don’t need extreme wilderness–just some good dirt to interact with in some way. With the weather warming up, we’ve made a pretty big effort to get back in touch with nature and our country sides. We’ve found some escapes within the city and without, and of course we’ve maintained our connection to our country friends.
One of my favorite new endeavors involves playgrounds! I have a complicated relationship with playgrounds. They are SO fun and provide diverse opportunities for various actions, movements and activities for kids and adults. We can swing, slide, run, jump, observe, twirl, climb and yell! Still, even with the variety, playgrounds are stifling in a way. There are “proper” ways to use playground equipment. The imagination can run, but not as wildly as in a wholly unstructured environment like the forest or mountains. However, I still love playgrounds. Since we live in a city with over 200 parks (amazing!), the girls and I are attempting to visit at least one new park every week. It has been so fun so far! Many of the playgrounds are Alaska themed and the surrounding trails and fields provide ample space for exploring with little ones. It has been a fun goal to work towards, and it allows us some time away from the concrete jungle!
To really escape the hustle and bustle of the city, we head north to our old stomping grounds in Palmer, Alaska. I will be working at Sun Circle Farm again this summer, albeit only two days per week. Before heading to the lower 48, I prepped some beds that were ready for planting and got in our first succession of cutting greens! Other folks planted peas and the first succession of root veggies. Very exciting! I felt amazing after a day in the freshly tilled soil, flipping through seed packets and listening to the migrating sandhill cranes. The girls love heading back to Palmer, too, because that’s where most of their friends live. Country play dates are the best!
While leaving the city is great, sometimes we can’t or don’t want to! There are really fun and vibrant things about living in cities–access to more fairs and events, great dining, good people watching, museums and other fun activities. However, with all of these events and people in a concentrated area, things can get a bit dirty and covered in litter. A few weeks ago we decided to have a “neighborhood day.” We picked up litter around our little alley way, ate at the Mongolian restaurant on our block and visited the playground in our neighborhood. We live in one of the stereotypically “scary” or unsafe neighborhoods in Anchorage: Fairview. After six months here (six months!?), it can feel a teeny bit dangerous at times, but for the most part it is just a part of town with a lower socio-economic status than others. The playground is still full of smiling, running children; the Mongolian restaurant had delicious food and we beautified our little alley quite a bit! We ended up collecting three large garbage bags of litter in just half of the area I wanted to cover (we ran out of garbage bags…and toddler patience). I estimated that we collected nearly 30 pounds of trash! I now feel a lot better on our daily walks with the dog.
So, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. If I want to spend some time in a clean outdoor space, I will do my best to make that happen whether it be forty five miles away, a short walk or drive, or out my front door. If I need to dig in some dirt I’ll find a way; and if the people and buildings are too close and too thick, I can find a quiet retreat indoors or out!
Have you ever lived in a place that didn’t jive with your “authentic self”? What did you do to make the transition easier? Share your stories with us!
Until next time…
Sending peace and love from MN,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl
Extra! Some shots from the Midwest: