It had been just two days shy of eight weeks since I left Austin for Alaska—and then for Laramie, Wyoming, after a one-day turnaround that included needing to return to the airport to retrieve my luggage that wasn’t on the last leg of the flight I was—when we returned home. With gratitude and eagerness, I have been doing all the settling-back-in things since Sunday night: reconnecting with family and friends, unpacking, laundering, watering the plants, restocking the fridge with fresh foods, making appointments for annual exams. I’ve gone for long walks (passing no one for miles) and solitary swims (our neighborhood’s pool also had no one in or around it for hours) in the warm air and bright sunshine, avoiding the most intense rays and heat of this persistent weather dome.
As I consider and attempt to synthesize the personal import of the residency, of my time in Alaska, as well as of its relevance to and advancement of my doctorate, I’m wrapping my arms, head, and heart around an astonishing comparison and contrast: of here and there, now and then, older and younger, southern and northern, plains and mountains, warm and cold, millions of people and hundreds of people, immersion and seclusion. With every step along the sidewalk and every stroke, kick, and float in the pool, my body further recovers from its physical and emotional challenges over the last year; I’m able to sort and articulate a few pieces of insight and refocus my purposes; I’m further suffused with a sense of wellbeing and confidence.
R.’s family home—the only house he ever lived in with his family of origin; the only one his parents lived in for the whole of his life—was sold earlier this year; this month, my mother’s home will be sold to further support her residency in memory care. In both instances, managing the houses and their contents has required—and is still requiring—thousands of hours of shared labor, heavy lifts of both the materiality of these spaces and the ephemerality of memory and meaning in the voluminous artifacts of lives, the somehow simultaneously long and too-short lives of our parents, lives so central to and questioning of our own. As part of my desire and commitment to take full advantage of the remaining weeks of summer as well as to set the best direction for the final full academic year of my program, I will be taking a break from these weekly posts until the Friday after Labor Day, September 8. I will miss this connection of ours until then, but always feel free to reach out via email or text!