Simon and River are hilarious, and adorable, and I am completely in love with them. They dash around the living room, leaping three feet into the air to pounce on one another, but they climb up couches instead of jumping. They tolerate petting, but enjoy kisses, and have adopted my favorite blanket as their own. They’re the best thing that has happened to me in months- coming to Alaska is even more validated now, because my kittens were waiting for me up here.
When I like someone I tend to think that most of the things they do are cool, and one of the things that I really admired about my nursing school friends was that they all biked everywhere. I always felt a little babyish taking the bus to school while they all rode their bikes together, but I didn’t have a bike, and I’m incredibly awkward on one anyway (I distinctly remember going on my only bike ride in Baltimore with my friend J. at 3:00 in the morning, and feeling very uncomfortable, and worried about dying. I actually muttered under my breath that I hated him, but the only reason I was on that bike, riding around when I would’ve liked to be home in bed, was because I didn’t hate him, and I would’ve gone along with any suggested activity if it meant spending time together. I’m a sucker like that). One of the nice things about having slightly older friends is that I feel like I have a couple of years to catch up and be as cool as they are, and part of that is getting comfortable on a bike (I also need to be able to do a headstand away from the wall, run a half marathon in less than two hours, and be able to have people over for a pleasant, spur-of-the-moment dinner). To that end, and because I live about half a mile from my work, and always seem to want to play outside just as I need to go to work, I bought a bike. It’s beautiful. I seriously love it- it’s a hybrid, because I didn’t want to take the plunge and get a road bike, but a mountain bike seemed excessive, and it’s wonderful. I rode to work yesterday, and felt like the bee’s knees (except for the part where I was really excessively early, since I hadn’t tested the route beforehand to see how long it would take to bike as opposed to driving). Riding home was a little less fun, mostly because it was dark (and I was dressed all in black. I do have front and tail lights on my bike though), and cold, and my friend Mark was unconvinced that it was a safe idea, but it was still glorious. I had a stupid night at work, and everything felt pointless and irritating, but riding home in the freezing night air, the stars shining above me, I felt much better. I still love driving my car, but I’m going to try to ride my bike to work as much as possible (and once I get used to it a little more, I’d like to ride it to yoga, and volunteering, etc.).
In other news, Alaskan spring is awesome, and I love it. The long days are great- I feel like I slept all winter, and now that it’s always light I just want to be up and active. I’ve been thinking about joining a gym, and I have a three day pass this week that I’ve been using, but I should really just be running outside, breathing in that fresh, Alaskan air, feeling the sun on my face, getting chased by moose, etc.
I’ve been thinking about the difference between happy and content. I would say that most of the time I’m content with my job, and occasionally (using soap bubbles to bring a kid out of flashbacks, for example), it makes me happy. I’m content spending a Saturday afternoon reading, but spending it hiking makes me happy. How did I forget what a beautiful place Alaska is? Anchorage is ugly, but a twenty minute drive down the Seward Highway transports you to Narnia, or Middle Earth- the scenery is oppressively beautiful, and it’s practically in my backyard.
Alaska doesn’t really have Spring- we have break up, when all the ice melts, and the world turns to mud. Xtratuf weather. It feels like Spring though- it’s been in the low 40’s all week, and light until after 9:00, and I’ve been wasting the beautiful weather. Today though, I was determined to get out, and so my friend and I drive down the Turnagain Arm, and hiked the Bird Ridge trail.
Funny story- months of yoga makes a person strong, and flexible, and able to get into a handstand against the wall (and maybe soon not against the wall), but it doesn’t give you great endurance, and I sweated and puffed my way up the mountain. I got there though, and it was incredible. Feeling the warm sun on my face, smelling the fresh air, even sliding in the ice and mud on the way down, now that was happiness. That was why I moved to Alaska. Now I just need to remember that feeling, and play outside to the point of exhaustion all the time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about whether being vegan is a viable long term option, and because I’ve been really craving animal products I decided to take a brief break and reassess. I didn’t plan it out well, so I didn’t go for the big ticket animal products, but I had some chicken from the cafeteria at work (it was meh, but I was hungry), and last night I went to a progressive Italian-themed Valentines dinner, and I ate all the cheese. It was delicious, but I don’t think it was worth it. The problem is, I really do feel like it’s morally wrong for me to eat commercial animal products, and so even though I like them, I can’t justify it. It doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t if it’s something they’re ok with, but it feels wrong to me. When things change, and I live in a place where I can get humane, local stuff, I’ll go back (though probably still in moderation), but for now…I’m happy as a vegan.
I had been thinking about moving to day shift, but I think I’ve changed my mind, so on Monday I’m going to tell my manager I’d like to stay on evenings. It would be nice to have evenings free, and I bet it would be easier to make friends, but I’m finally volunteering at the needle exchange and HIV testing center, and I couldn’t do that if I worked during the day. It might not seem like a good reason to some people, but I really love the work they do, and I want to be a part of it. HIV isn’t as big a problem in Alaska as it is in the rest of the country (we don’t have very many people, so that helps), but it’s still important to test people, and provide clean needles to keep infection rates down. I’m getting certified to be a tester, and that’s kind of nifty, and will count as continuing education to keep my nursing license current, and I’ll actually get to provide counseling about harm reduction, and address topics that are off limits at work, but that I believe are very important. It feels worth it to stay at a position I mostly enjoy, with people I certainly enjoy, making more money than I would on day shift. There are always pros and cons, but I mostly really like working evenings.
I like being vegan. I also struggle with the fact that I generally prefer whole foods, with a short, identifiable list of ingredients (Ingredients: butter), and vegan substitutes don’t really make the cut (Ingredients: water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, isolated soy protein, maltodextrin, etc.). I think that if I lived in a place where I could more easily access local, humane dairy and beef I wouldn’t be vegan, but that isn’t really an option in Alaska. My current plan is to stay mostly vegan, but eat game- I think that’s an acceptable compromise,and it would be a waste to be up here, with all this fish, and all this moose, and not eat it, especially since my primary reason for abstaining is my discomfort with commercial meat and dairy practices.
I need to make more of an effort with my vegan diet- I’ve been lazy at times, which is probably why I’m not glowing with vegan healthiness (I’m not not glowing, but I feel pretty much the same. Maybe less bloated now that I’ve cut out dairy, but that’s about it). I’m likely switching to day shift, which should help me eat healthier- I’ll be home for dinner, so I’ll have more options, and time to actually sit down and eat.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I want to stick with my version of veganism, but my version is going to include some cheats. Game doesn’t count, since it fits into my ethical framework, but there are other things that I do think I kind of need, though only in moderation. It’s really hard for me to justify it- I keep imagining myself trying to explain to Jamie Kilstein from Citizen Radio, and a baby lamb, that I understand why it’s important to be consistent, and stick to your values, and live with integrity, but I don’t want to live a life that doesn’t include real pizza from time to time. Jamie and the lamb just look at me with disgust and disappointment. The problem is, I don’t think I’ve ever had pizza where I could trace the cheese back to a local, humane dairy farm- pizza cheese is the kind of anonymous animal product that people don’t even think about. People don’t (and by “people” I mean I don’t) pause in the middle of their Snickers bar to wonder where the milk that went into their chocolate came from, so it’s a very difficult exception to defend. It would be one thing if I chose to occasionally eat local honey or something (there is a local honey vendor at the farmers market), but I don’t care about that- I want to finish my Costco box of Sweet and Salty bars (and then I won’t buy them again, even though I adore them). I think the fact that I feel guilty about this decision suggests that I’m not following my own values, but it’s really hard to imagine never eating certain things ever again (my Aunt Grace’s whipped cream, pineapple, strawberry cake, syllabubs, lamb burgers). Maybe I could do it, but it don’t really want to.
I’ve been in Alaska for months, but patrol me has really resisted the fact that’s live here (hello, NYS drivers license). My bedroom walls have remained unadorned, and my roommate and I have made due with our landlord’s secondhand furniture, but this weekend I gave in. Maybe it’s the prospect of my friend moving up, maybe I’ve gotten used to the idea of living up here, maybe I just got sick of our uncomfortable futon, but I bought furniture.
It helps that I finally have someone in my life who has a truck, and can help me move a couch (and even put the legs on for me, and helped me move the futon to the garage, allowing me to avoid a Daisy Owl-type situation). Granted, I bought the couch at Fred Meyers, so it’s that big of a commitment, but it’s a start. I also got a bedside table, and a salt lamp (I’ve wanted one for ages). My room looks so inviting now! I’m even looking into buying some actual Art- there’s a great gallery across from the yoga studio, and they have some really beautiful pieces I’ve been eyeing.
Time seems to be getting away from me, and it’s been far too long since my last post. Things are going well, very well in fact. I went to my first contra dance in months last night, and I had an absolutely glorious time. I’m rusty, and I brought someone, which meant I danced with the same partner for every song, but it was entirely delightful (the band, Della Mae, was terrific, and they’ve actually been nominated for a Grammy). I don’t usually like bringing friends dancing, but last night’s partner was a great sport. We had planned on going to see the Aces play Las Vegas, but when I heard about the dance it sounded too good to pass up, and he was accommodating enough to come along and try something new. He didn’t love it, and he sat out a bit, but he was a very good sport, and even tried to waltz with me. The Baltimore Folk Music Society dances will always be my favorite, but I had a very jolly time last night, and as the Anchorage Folk Music Festival will still be going on next week, I have every intention of dancing again next weekend.
Dancing alone would have made this my best weekend in ages, but it also got to see West Side Story today with my friend Nate. He texted me about it last night, and I was more than happy to go along. It was a great production, and I was interested in the subtle differences between the play and movie. The Sharks spoke mostly in Spanish, and some of the songs we’re moved to different parts in the story, giving them new implications, but I still really enjoyed it, instead of feeling jarred by unexpected changes in a familiar musical. More than the dancing or play though, I really loved having people to hang out with this weekend. It’s easy for me to get lazy and set in my hermit-y ways, and so it did me good to socialize a bit.
My veganism is going well, though I do keep having dreams about eating animal products, and wake up feeling incredibly guilty. I’ve been eating a lot of quinoa pasta, which is both delicious, and filling. I didn’t used to eat much pasta, but it’s a really lovely lunch, especially since we’ve been having lots of chilly rain, making me crave warm foods.
On a slightly healthier note, I’ve also finally come around to Lara Bars. They were 8/$10 at Carr’s this week, and so I have a bunch now, though I don’t think they’ll last long. The banana bread ones are my favorite, but lemon bar and key lime pie are close behind. They only ever have about five, very pronounceable ingredients, and they’re very tasty. I’ll try making my own once I get a food processor, but for now the commercial ones are great.
Lastly, I’ve developed a very odd new passion, and I 100% attribute it to being vegan. The other day I went to Costco while absolutely starving, and almost every sample they were giving out was eight meat or cheese. Out of sheer desperation I tried the only vegan sample in sight- sweet pickled beets, and I fell in love. I’ve never liked beets- I would even go so far as to say I hate beets, but these are something different altogether. I eat these straight from the jar, dripping bright red juice all over the place, they are that good.