I had prayed hard for some sort of answer or sign to bring peace to this difficult decision we were making. Were we risking too much? Was it time to call off the dream? If we called it off, would we ever be able to make the journey or would it remain a dream differed?
I picked up a book to try to distract my nervous mind from snowballing again. Sam Keith, the friend Dick Pronnekke had entrusted to write the manuscript from his journals (an English teacher himself), had written a book, never published, but later to be found in the attic by his son-in-law. It was a goal of mine to finish it before we left, but here I was within days of leaving and had yet to crack the cover in the midst of my worries. I was determined to begin it and complete it before landing on Twin Lakes.
There in the first chapter, God set before me a clear message. Sam had written first of his friends, middle-aged men, gathered around a fire telling of their youthful dreams of Alaskan adventure that they had put to the side for various reasons, never to return.
I had heard the same sad tunes before. On and on stretched the tombstones with their eroded epitaphs of what was going to be, yet never came to pass. We all have our Alaska, in one form or another. It’s a place we never got to see, a goal we never reached, a dream that stayed that way. I was one of the lucky ones. I mined some of those dreams we talked about as boys, before responsibility descended with its straitjacket. I saw things I dreamed of seeing. I did things that I dreamed of doing. I prospected my Alaska, and discovered new placers in myself. That big, awesome land brought out the pieces, like flashes of gold in black sand. (Sam Keith)
The tears released the flood gates of months of worry in one big cathartic moment. I wanted to be a Sam Keith. My whole intent this entire year had been to go after my dreams and not continue to let them slip past. I, too, had heard my own mother speak of visiting Alaska when she retired, only to be robbed of both by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). I didn’t want to repeat that same fate, the fate of so many dreamers.
I decided it was time to revisit my original proposal. I had poured my heart and soul into it and I knew that that writing at its core was what my goal and intentions truly were. I worked my way through the narrative- a middle-aged adventuring spirit who didn’t want to continue to remain a dreamer, but wanted to go after my passions. And as I got to the last line, my answer was clear. I had found great hope in the Jack London White Fang line “Fear urged him to go back, but growth drove him on.” And there it was again. A reminder of my tendencies toward worry and pulling back for the safety of the known. I found myself repeating the same pattern, letting fear (fear of covid, fear of quarantine, fear of struggle, fear of the unknown) guide my decisions and pull me back into my shell. “It was time I truly grow” I had written 10 months ago. The same growth and hope that had pulled me forward through this year and the bleak, darkness of the times.
In that moment, I released all the fear I had built up for so long. My mind felt scrubbed of the filth that had crept in and magnified in the past 3 months. I knew where my heart and mind now were. I knew the decision that was waiting in my core, waiting for me to acknowledge. This hopeful spirit wanted uncaged from the prison of my worry.
As I write this now, I don’t know the results of our covid tests. One positive and we are sentenced to quarantine to wait out a formidable illness. But tonight, I have my mind in a positive place. I know where I stand. I know what I’m going to be brave for. I know I’m making the decision to pursue my dream. That is all I can control, but that is enough to give me peace.