Scarlett’s Letter September 2, 2013

After a leisurely morning at the cabin on the Salcha River, we headed downstream in the airboat. Me with my idiotic UrbanOG bag full of fussy clothes, again, shoved under the bow with all the stuff that lurks in those dark spaces men keep vital things in; fuel syphoning hoses, tools, lubricants, fishing lures, various dirty rags and empty beer bottles. I also have my brand new, far more practical, and somehow stylish “Realtree” camo daypack. I felt appropriately accessorized until the UrbanOG tote didn’t make it back to the truck. It ruined the whole image I was striving for for this adventure. I’ll live.

In my super cool, totally appropriate and yet stylish camo daypack, I have my point and shoot camera, my iPhone in a waterproof, shockproof and even snow proof “Lifeproof” case. In red. I also have my helmet cam. I don’t have a helmet on which to mount it and the double sided sticky things they sent with the camera are no longer sticky from having been stuck to snow machines and canoes on previous adventures. So, I guess my helmet cam is a handheld, for the time being. My point and shoot camera batteries are dead, and somehow, though I have everything necessary to survive almost anything stuffed into my daypack, I neglected to insert the brand new package of double A batteries I bought specifically for this trip. They’re still in my purse. I think. I seem to be cursed with cameras when I’m here. Too many cameras, not enough power. On our fantastic canoe trip in July, with the helmet camera mounted to the canoe, I’d hoped to have some amazing footage. I would have, except the damn camera wasn’t charged. I had the point and shoot with me, but the batteries died after about three pictures, and after one canoe capsized, I didn’t dare take my iPhone out, I hadn’t thought to part with a hundred bucks for the Lifeproof case yet. That trip may have been the impetus to do so.

So, I sat in my assigned seat in the airboat, in front of the “pilot’s chair”, always cognizant of not allowing my chair or my arm or any other appendage shift too far to the right and impede the pilot’s foot on the throttle. This usually results in a tap on the shoulder and frantic pointing. Actually, almost everything that needs to be communicated between pilot and passenger is a tap on the shoulder and frantic pointing. It is up to me to decipher what the tapping and pointing means in each circumstance; moose over there, move your chair, put this empty bottle under the bow, grab the bow line, leap to shore and figure out what knot will secure the boat to a permanent or quasi permanent object (pick out permanent or quasi permanent object for extra credit), get motor oil, duck (as in, get down, not as in waterfowl). I’m becoming fairly adept. I think.

For some reason, I decided it would be a great idea to keep my helmet cam in hand, lens cover off. Too many times now, something amazing has occurred and the stupid helmet cam has been stuffed in the deepest, darkest recesses of my pack and I have only a story to tell and no picture to prove. On one trip, I saw five bald eagles. Do you believe me? That’s what I mean! I need photographic evidence! Today, redemption. As we soared downstream my eye was caught by some motion to the left. An eagle. And he flew alongside the boat for the longest time. I clicked my camera on, and aimed it in the general direction of the great bird. With a helmet cam, or at least my helmet cam, there is no viewfinder, you have to guess at what you’re filming. It has a very wide angle, so I was pretty sure I was filming eagle and not the wake in the water. At last, the bird lit in a tree and we continued our trajectory downstream. Satisfaction. Triumph.

We reached the crowded boat ramp and I deftly leapt to shore, bowline in hand, and, well, just held it, while the truck was retrieved. There were several vehicles waiting to load boats, and several more boats waiting for their vehicles. Surprisingly, it didn’t take all that long for our turn and in very short order, the boat was trailered and we pulled away from the ramp. A couple of different passersby commented on the airboat with the Lycoming engine. Most of the airboats on the water these days have large car motors powering the propeller. This one, an aircraft engine and an aircraft propeller. Seems right.

We headed back towards Fairbanks, stopping at Los Amigos for lunch; tacos and an Alaskan Amber. Wherever the airboat goes, there will be folks to talk about airboats. Airboats have been gaining popularity in Alaska over the past few years and now are numerous. People spend big dollars on big airboats. Many we saw on the Salcha River this weekend were large and had an enclosure to keep the passengers (multiple passengers) and pilot alike, warm and dry.  Big, extravagant, and yet, ordinary. There is nothing quite like an airboat, built from the ground up, with a Lycoming aircraft engine in it, to spark conversation. And so, more conversation ensued at the bar at Los Amigos.

Lunch down, we continued our trek towards home. We stopped at the gas station in Fox for more wine, believe it or not, and, somehow ended up next door at the Howling Dog for another beer with an old friend, my Sweetie’s old friend, a new acquaintance for me. The Howling Dog is another well-known institution in Fox, Alaska, immediately across the street from our usual Silver Gulch. I am glad to have finally had the opportunity for a visit with a limited season and shorter hours than Silver Gulch, it was nice to be nearby at the right time of day during the right time of the year. I am always happy to see scarlet begonias in planters and pots nearly everywhere I go. The Howling Dog being no exception.

But the biggest, brightest and prettiest scarlet begonias of all time are the ones on the porch of my man’s house. The growing season nears a close and I simply cannot take enough pictures of these amazing flowers, knowing that their days are numbered. When the cold comes in another couple of weeks, the pots will be upended, the tubers collected and put in the cellar for planting, again, next spring.

Scarlett’s Letter September 1, 2013

It’s Labor Day weekend and opening day of moose season here in Alaska. When I arrived a couple of evenings ago, the airport was full of folks aiming to shoot a moose, literally and figuratively. All those visitors and most of the locals will be in the woods, on four wheelers, on foot, on boats, looking for moose. Everything has been late this year. Break up, when the ice on the river breaks up in spring, was late this year. And everything else followed in turn, late. The salmon ran late. The warm weather for planting gardens and greenhouses was late. The berries were late, which I am not complaining about, there were still plenty to pick upon my late August arrival. It is likely that the moose will be late this year, too. It isn’t cold enough, yet, and there are still too many leaves on the trees. Things work seasonally here, not by a calendar. You can name dates and make rules that follow dates, but nature will always follow the seasons.

People here, most of the people here, are seasonal, too. My man is definitely an example of that. Life is not ruled by calendars and clocks, it is ruled by the weather, the seasons, the slant of the sun, the amount of daylight per day, by the fish in the streams and rivers and the animals in the woods and on the tundra. Calendars and clocks have no impact on nature, but moose hunting season is set by the calendar. My man thinks I’m just a calendar and clock kind of girl, and that is somewhat the case. My life is run by calendars and clocks because of my job. I also remember dates and kind expect others, too, as well. Holidays and birthdays mean a great deal to me, to others, often seasonal folks, and especially my man, that isn’t the case, they’re just another day in the midst of some much more important season. But, I am seasonal, too. For example, I happen to know that bikini and sundress season is almost over and boot and sweater season is almost here! And I love that the California climate allows for some overlap in these areas. Alaska is different. The fall season is here, even if the calendar disagrees.

Last year was different, and with a busy work schedule ahead of him, my man saw a moose on his way home from work, on opening day, pulled his rifle out of the back of his economy car, and shot his moose. Opening day. A quick call to a friend with a truck and a couple of knives and three hours later it was quartered, loaded and hung up at home. Not the norm and not the way things are going to be this year. There may or may not be a moose, but, with moose still in the freezer from last year, there is no real pressure to get one this year. But, if no moose is had this year, the pressure will definitely be on next year. As I like to say, it is what it is.

We were not going to hunt for moose today, or this weekend, or maybe at all. We have an invitation for a visit with a friend with a very large cabin, more of a lodge, really, up the Salcha River a ways. I’ve crossed the Salcha River, on our way to dip net for red salmon on the Copper River in Chitinia when I was here in July, but I have not really “seen” the river. We were a little hesitant to commit when the invitation was offered with threatening rain and an open airboat, but, today, we decided we’d go for it. Without cell service or Internet at the house, we relied on the news on one of the three or four television channels that sporadically come through. It looked like we might have enough of a rain free window to make it there, and back home again, without getting too wet or too cold.

We packed up, loaded up, geared up, hitched up and went. I wore about ten layers of clothes, Smartwool, fleece, Gortex boots, and I had my man’s huge winter parka along, for good measure. We were looking at a couple of hours, potentially in rain and wind, in an open airboat. It could be cold. And I’m a wimp. No, I’m not really, but I’m a Cali girl and it is less than 80 degrees out, so I’m a little chilly.

As we drove south, with a stop at Silver Gulch in Fox for breakfast and a brew, through Fairbanks and North Pole to Salcha, the rain would splatter the windshield just enough now and then to require the wipers. Then it would stop. Then it would begin again. When we arrived at the park where the boat launch was, we could see the trucks and trailers parked in the lot, in the overflow lot and along the road where they shouldn’t be parked. Because we’re glass half full folks, we cruised through the main lot, closest to the ramp, up the line, all full, around the corner and back down the other side, all full, except one. One spot in the main lot was open. We quickly dropped the boat in the water parked the truck and trailer in the open spot. I say we, I looked on as the boat was launched and the truck and trailer were moved. But, either way, the glass was definitely half full. See?

We got our gear on the boat and stowed. I’d worn “cute clothes” to breakfast and brought ugly clothes for the adventure. I had hoped to stash my “cute clothes” in the truck, but, with all that happened in securing that prime parking spot, this did not occur. I was ready with my daypack and all the essentials for the trip and the overnight, with some contingency items, too, like the good Boy Scout I am. And, now, in addition to uber-efficient daypack, I had an UrbanOG tote with my J. Crew cardigan, my skinny jeans, a cute blouse and my brand new black flats. I stuff them under the bow of the boat with the boxes of fishing lures, syphon hoses, aircraft engine oil and spray lubricant. I’m trying not to think about what can happen to my lovelies.

I take my spot on my lawn chair, positioned carefully in front of the “pilot’s” chair. I put my headphones on, for the engine noise, and I put my life vest on, somehow, over my Sweetie’s huge winter parka and all the layers of clothing I’m wearing. I don’t even want to think about what I look like. There must be a way to do all this with a tad more style. I will find that way. I did it as a backpacking Boy Scout leader (I’m sorry, those olive drab pants and shorts are like vomit), I will do it again. Find style and functionality where only functionality seems to be the norm. Watch me. I am grateful for the parka, though, and my gloves, and my cap as we set off up the Salcha River. Especially when it began to rain precisely two minutes into our journey.

Again, I am reminded of what it means to be lost. I am. I mean, I know I am heading upstream on the Salcha River. Period. End of story. I know, in a couple of hours, we will arrive where we are planning to go. That’s it. As with most rivers, there are channels and adjoining streams along the Salcha. My man navigates them, turning this way, yielding that. He has been to our destination once before, but overshot it by twenty or thirty miles before stopping and asking directions back. I am not unnerved, I have total and complete trust, if, for no other reason, because mine is a man who WILL stop and ask for directions. And he knows rivers, their nature, how they are constructed, how they work, what is dangerous, what is safe. Most of us look at a river and see water moving in one direction, but there is much more going on, there are eddies and back eddies, there are cut banks and shallows. To be safe, and efficient, you need to know which side of the river to be on when there are eddies and back eddies, cut banks, and all. I don’t. He does, and in particular, in an airboat. An airboat can navigate in very little water, which is why they are gaining so much popularity with hunters and outdoorsmen (people). Airboats can go where jet boats can’t, and jet boats can go where boats with propellers cannot. Airboats can even travel over hard surfaces, if need be, but, of course, this is not good for the longevity of the plastic coating on the hull of the boat, and fissures, cracks and other weaknesses in this coating, I learn later that evening, in a story, can cause said airboat to take to the air and perform acrobatics, tossing its occupants asunder in a spectacular display. Still not worried.

To add to the adrenaline, which, by the way, I love, and may actually be just a bit addicted to, remember, it is opening day of moose season. There are boats of every imaginable shape, size and propulsion charging up and down the river scaring the fuck out of any moose within a ten-mile radius. We saw no moose, we saw lots of moose hunters, and because their boats were all empty, they, apparently, hadn’t seen any moose either. We have the big rifle with us, because during moose season, you just don’t leave home without it. It rests obediently in the bottom of the boat. I love that guns are so obedient, they do exactly what you tell them to, nothing more, nothing less. For those of you a little less convinced, just keep in mind, guns are inanimate objects.

We reach our destination, which, for me, is always a little unnerving. I consider myself quite capable, quite handy, pretty smart, and, most of all, trainable. This is a new world for me, and one I quite enjoy. I’d like to assimilate. But I need to be taught the ropes, quite literally. My man is very aware of all of this, and is an excellent and patient teacher. But, sometimes you have to know what to teach and when to prompt your student to do what is expected. I am learning that when we stop the boat, I am to leap up, grab the bow rope and leap to some firm footing and secure said boat, without a) looking like a dork b) acting like a girl and c) falling into the water, which would encompass both a) and b). Only occasionally do I still need to be prompted. The only piece of the puzzle I’m missing is which knot, specifically, I should be tying. I’m a Boy Scout leader, I know lots of knots, or at least I used to. As I often say, and often say to my man, show me once, maybe twice, and I’ll be flawless. My knot left something to be desired, but it held. Next time, for sure, I’ll have him show me exactly what know he uses.

Our host is not at home. We sit on his lovely deck and enjoy a beer. A few minutes later, he arrives. Boats are shuffled about and we all retire to his palatial cabin, out of the rain and wind, and visit for the remainder of the evening late into the night. The perfect ending to a perfectly executed day, no directions required.

Scarlett’s Letter July 3, 2013

Mission Fishin’ – also known as a “grocery run”. Our hopes? To fill the freezer with our limit of pike. Tales of numerous, big, ferocious fish charging the lure and fighting like a monster had me just a little worried. I’m still new at this whole fishing thing, I still have a hard time “hitting” the fish when it first nibbles on my line when they are itty-bitty fish. But I was sure I’d get the hang of it. Eventually. And eventually it will have to be.

We loaded the truck with the cooler full of sandwiches, one each, from Hilltop Truck Stop, a couple of gas cans, and the aired up spare tire for the boat trailer. We loaded the boat with a few different rods and reels and a couple of small containers of various lures. We stopped in town and picked up a couple more lures that looked large enough and heavy enough to snag a small whale. Then our journey began.

We made our way out around “Murphy Dome”, a mountain always seen from a distance on the Elliott Highway, near “home”. The pavement turned to a well-maintained dirt road, which eventually gave way to a potted, rutted, fifteen mile hell march. I’ve lived on dirt roads this potted and rutted, but only a few miles, not fifteen. Fifteen miles of potholes and ruts towing an air boat is not the most fun you can have in an afternoon, but being on the Chatanika River reeling in mountains of frisky pike would make it all worthwhile. To be certain.

We made it to the river and backed the airboat in. There were a few other trucks parked in the area with empty trailers, so, presumably, others were out fishing, somewhere along the river. One family was pulling their airboat out as we launched. The wife, I assume, was in shorts and flip-flops, as were the two little girls. I was in head to toe fabric after performing a “sheep dip” in DEET and still, the mosquitos were snacking on me. I guess I am just that sweet.

We loaded the cooler and the gas into the boat and made our way out onto the river. We’d been worried about the looming dark clouds, checking the weather those brief moments we had reception for an update. Funny, when I’m home, I’m super particular about what I wear and what I pack before I head outdoors. Years and years of training as a scout leader and many, many treks into the backcountry, plus certification in cold weather survival and wilderness first aid told me that, today, in jeans, a tank top and a cotton flannel shirt, no socks and Vans, I was a prescription for disaster if we ran into any kind of weather or if we were to break down on the river far from the truck. To my credit, I did have a hoodie (though cotton) in my daypack. This is Alaska. What was I thinking? All I could think about was the purple, packable, parka I saw at Sportsman’s Warehouse where we’d just bought those bodacious lures. Shoulda bought it. I always regret retail restraint when I do actually exercise it. But, I was better outfitted than anyone else I saw on the river, and purple packable parka would’ve made me look like a wimp. Or like I was from California, or something. As I like to say, “whatever.” Living dangerously, I guess.

I don’t fear hypothermia. Well, I do, but I have an understanding of it. If I had to choose the way to die, it is pretty high on the list. I guess. Other than simply going to sleep and not waking up. As a matter of fact, my children and I have a loose pact, if I become a burden in my old age, demented, tumor filled, prescription dependent, it’s time to go “snow camping”, and I will just conveniently leave all my super expensive cold weather gear behind (I’m senile, remember?). I will have my own tent, and in the cold of night, I will slip into hypothermia and pass. Once the initial (few hours of) discomfort pass, you slip into a delirious state where you actually feel warm. Then you die.

It was pretty cold on the river as we skimmed along atop the water. The cool thing about an airboat, especially a smaller one, it can navigate through passages only three inches deep. So we did, and we head upstream for turn after turn after turn. After about fifty turns, though, with as many closely proximate turns, I was pretty sure we could still see the truck through the trees if we looked closely enough. So, when it did start to sprinkle I wasn’t too, too worried. We hadn’t gone all that far. Luckily the sprinkles subsided and the skies lightened and we had no more rain for the day. Things were looking up.

We stopped and tried a good-looking fishing hole. We cast and cast and cast. Nothing. Curious. There should’ve been something. Where were all those voracious fish we’d heard about? We got back in the boat and headed on.

As we headed on, something began to pelt my face, at first I thought it was rain, but the sky, though overcast, was light and whatever was hitting my face wasn’t particularly wet. Gnats. Billions of gnats. At thirty-five miles an hour, a billion gnats hitting your face is an interesting sensation. Not painful, really, but not comfortable. Like micro-dermabrasion. I had gnat corpses stuck to my sunglasses, and thank goodness I had those damn sunglasses on, because I can’t imagine peeling gnat carcasses off my eyeballs. I also had a layer of gnats, dead and alive, plastered into my hair.

We tried fishing some more here and there, and nothing. No fish. Anywhere. We moseyed on. We ventured up Goldstream, according to plan, the locale of legendary pike. On and on we pressed up the more brackish water. It was almost thick, it seemed, in places. Pike, I guess, like this. But then again, maybe not, because they weren’t here. We came upon a cabin with three guys out front. They’d paid to be dropped by a plane for a few days of fishing. In twenty-four hours, almost continuous, between the three of them, twelve fish. And not very impressive ones, at that, “hammer handles”. We headed back out of Goldstream and decided to try upstream from where we launched. Still. Nothing.

But, for the discouraging fishing, it was still an awesome day. On our drive in, we saw a great horned owl glide over the road and into the canopy. On our way downstream we startled a moose. We saw a couple of beaver along the way, one here, one there. We saw lots of ducks and other birds, a few big birds of prey. A second moose. We saw a bald eagle. Twice. If you’ve never seen a bald eagle floating along overhead, in the wild, you haven’t lived. I think the most amazing thing I saw, except for the bald eagle, was the glass-like water, especially in the overcast and broken clouds. We’d come around the corner and the reflection in the sky was so bright and so vivid my brain would go, “whoa, wait”. It was like finding yourself upside down. The water was so clear and so reflective it looked almost like you could walk on it.

Empty handed, cooler full of empty beer bottles and empty lunch sacks, but no fish, we made our way back to the boat launch, and back up the bumpy road towards home. For me though, it was still a magical day. A bad day fishing here is better than a great day in a lot of other places. Treasure every day for what you find special.

 

What Are The Chances?

chance

/CHans/

Noun – A possibility of something happening.

Adjective – Fortuitous; accidental.

Verb – Do something by accident or without design: “if they chanced to meet”.

Synonyms

noun.              occasion – opportunity – hazard – luck – fortune
adjective.        fortuitous – accidental – random – haphazard – casual
verb.  risk – happen – hazard – venture – occur – gamble – hap

What are the chances you’d be willing to take a chance?

I take chances. This is supposed to be against my nature, I am an auditor, by profession. We are supposed to be risk adverse. Well, I don’t actually audit anymore, I teach software, and auditing, to auditors. I got this job by chance. My family was on the brink of financial ruin when a recruiter called with this job. I wasn’t even looking for a job. It was all by chance. My kids were in high school, my husband was pretending, poorly, to be a day trader, and we were having a hard time making the mortgages. The job required up to 75% travel and public speaking, two things I was dead set against. But, a paid 90-day trial period for the sake of the family was a chance I was willing to take. That was five years ago. The kids are in college, the husband is no longer in the picture, gone, with the mortgages that could not be met. But I took a chance on the job and it taught me something about myself at a very critical point in my life. I. Can. Do. Anything. Five years later, I happily travel all over the country and speak to groups of professionals for hours on end, for days on end. With confidence, with passion. By chance.

I take some chances when I travel for work, too. I go out and explore the towns and cities I visit. I walk, sometimes. I walk, sometimes, after dark. I get a feeling for the area and decide what I want to see and how I’m going to get there. But, taking these somewhat calculated chances has provided me with so many experiences that have enriched my life and have taught me a lot about people and about my country. I learn about every city and town I visit, I take in the local sites, history, architecture, cuisine, culture, and amenities, like parks and galleries and museums. Worth the chance.

I take other chances, too. I drive fast, we’ve discussed this. I make risky lane changes when aggravated, too. I will admit, I am sometimes that idiot on the road that I would curse at. I am really a careful, safe and sane driver, when someone is in the car with me, but when I drive by myself, I like a little risk, I like a little adrenaline. I like speeding and not getting caught. I like being able to maneuver through “idiot blocks” on the highway. I like taking those chances.

I have always liked sports and activities that many consider somewhat risky, chancy. I like to backpack, I like to horseback ride, I like whitewater rafting, I like rock climbing, I like snowboarding, and at my age, too. I run. I hike. I want to do even more! I want to white water kayak, I want to parasail, I want to sky dive (okay, maybe just once, to say I’ve done it), I want to surf, I want to do things I haven’t even thought of yet. Why? I like to take chances. I like a little adrenaline. I want to live while I’m alive. I’m addicted to experiences. I’m addicted to chance.

Life is full of chance. Even in the ordinary, there is chance. There is chance in what we choose to study, in the profession we select. There is chance in who we select as a mate, there is chance in the investments we make, the real estate we buy, the trip we make to the grocery store for cottage cheese and milk, in changing the light bulb in the bathroom. There is chance in crossing the street, in crossing every intersection, in climbing the stairs, in taking an elevator, even in swallowing your food. To think you don’t take chances every day you get out of bed is folly.

After the collapse of a twenty-something year marriage, though it was far from what a loving, fulfilling, marriage should ever be, I swore, swore, swore, I was better off alone. I told myself I might, eventually, date. But I swore, swore, swore I’d never allow anyone close enough to me to fall in love.  By chance, I am in love.

Nearly three years ago, I was in a town far, far from home. I’d been training and consulting with a group of accountants at a firm for a few days. My last day was busy, hectic and exhausting. I decided to reward myself by venturing a little ways out of town to a brewery that was said to have both good food and good beer. If the crowded parking lot was any evidence, on a Wednesday night, it must be true. I decided to take a chance. There were no tables available for a single diner so I agreed to eat at the bar. I enjoyed my meal and a stout beer, followed by a bowl of locally made beer-flavored ice cream, and another beer. About half way through my ice cream and second stout, a man took the stool next to me. He said to me “you’re not from around here, are you?” Right? I took a chance and struck up conversation with him. He seemed nice enough, but what really struck me was the fact that everyone at the bar knew him and seemed to hold him in high regard. During our conversation he asked if I’d ever ridden an airboat before. No. I wasn’t even sure what an airboat was, I was pretty darned sure I’d never ridden one before. He invited me to go for an airboat ride the next day, then to lunch, before I headed to the airport to catch my flight home. Am I crazy? Yup. Based on my risk assessment (auditors do this) and my observations of how people (in a bar) regarded this (strange, not as in unusual, but as in unknown) man, I agreed. We exchanged numbers and I headed back to my hotel (alone). I knew full well I’d chicken out when it came down to it. No chance.

That night and the next morning I was having a war with myself. There was the side of me that said “are you crazy?” and the other side that said “YOLO!! Let’s go!” He called. I stalled. He called. I stalled. I went sightseeing. He called again. I relented. I met him and found out what an airboat is; a small aluminum craft, flat hull, with a chair (one) secured in front of a cage housing an airplane propeller that spins frighteningly fast and is very loud and propels the boat across the top of the water, or gravel, or other land mass, if necessary. Like a swamp boat, well, just like a swamp boat. I got to sit on a lawn chair that was NOT anchored in any way to the bottom of the boat. Am I crazy? Apparently so. We launched the boat, I climbed aboard. And, by the way, thank goodness for my shoe purchase splurge. I’d found a shoe store, during this trip, by chance, in this most unlikely town, having a BOGO sale. I bought a pair of flats for work and got a free pair of vans, so I actually had appropriate footwear for this impromptu adventure, which in itself was a huge sign that I should take this chance. We flew up (or down) the river that ran through town, we stopped for lunch at a waterside restaurant, then continued our journey in the other direction (down or up the river). We found an island and pulled the boat ashore, sat on a log and each had a beer and chatted innocently. We headed back, pulled the boat out of the water and returned to my rental car. I went to the airport, got on the plane and returned to my life.

Airboat
Airboat

I’d talked to folks while dining alone before, but I’d never exchanged phone numbers. I’d never even entertained that as a possibility. I’d certainly never agreed to meet anyone I’d chatted casually with while dining alone. The chance had never presented itself, honestly. All of this seemed to be as a result of a bizarre chain reaction of chance occurrences. A crazy, crazy, crazy chance, and one, if a friend or family member told me about, I wouldn’t recommend. But I took it. Out of this crazy chance, I made a friend. We chatted now and then on the phone, exchanged text messages. We’d exchange stories, I’d talk about work and my travels in exchange for his weather, hunting, fishing and gardening report. We lost track of each other for a while, I thought he’d lost interest in our friendship, he’d lost his little black phonebook, instead. On a chance, one day, because I was thinking of him while visiting a town he said his sister lived in, I dug up his number and called. Because he’d lost my number he’d given up that we’d ever talk again. What were the chances? Our conversations became more regular. Our friendship grew.

He was making plans to visit his sister and his mom in Southern California and thought he’d make a stop in Northern California to visit me on his way, take a chance on seeing me after a year and a half of sporadic phone friendship. That was a year ago today. A year ago today, nervous as hell, I met a man at the airport I’d only ever seen once, well twice, counting the bar. I took a chance on a man who was my friend becoming, perhaps, something more. I considered the chance of letting someone get a little bit closer to me. I was still completely cynical about the possibility of love, but out of this chance friendship came a chance love. A chance to love, a chance to be loved.

Like all the other chances I take; backpacking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, where the outcome has some risk, some uncertainty, that, no matter how much I’ve trained, planned or prepared, there are significant chances that something could go wrong and I could get hurt, love could go wrong and I could get hurt. I face this every day. And so does he. He is not without his own battle scars. We are both taking a chance. But I’m not willing to chance not taking this chance.

Sometimes we openly struggle with the chance we’re taking, sometimes we struggle in silence, but, when all is said and done, we agree to keep taking this crazy chance on each other. Ours, perhaps, being a little chancier than most, with 3,000 miles between us and the constraints of affordability of travel, the demands of work and family and other obligations. I’d rather take the chance than lose what I’ve found. And what I’ve found, I found only by taking a chance.

The chances I’ve taken, on my job, on my relationship, in the sports and activities and adventures I pursue, have allowed me to grow incredibly as a person. My confidence has blossomed, my lust for life has exploded, my ability to embrace change has developed, my clarity of purpose, my desire to evolve, to improve as a person, physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally and to share my observations with others have all grown significantly. Most importantly, my ability to love, and be loved, has become a reality when I thought it was lost. And, at first, only because of chance. Now I pursue change and growth out of desire. I am driven to grow, to evolve, to change. I am driven to take more chances.

What are the chances?