It was summer solstice a few days ago and this year, I spent it above the arctic circle with my brother, my only sibling-- Forrest Wilder.
He no longer lives in Alaska, so when he's up north we spend time together outdoors.
This year was very special. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching--sorting through my approach to this life.
So this time, I took it north and gnawed on it under a sun that doesn't set, in an environment that sees some of the greatest extremes on earth, in a wilderness that gathers up my thoughts and eats them, digests them, and unearths them as waste while exposing that beautiful part of myself: that part that sees in wild spaces a beauty so full, so pure and so filled with meaning that the meaningless in my head is revealed and discarded.
We had four flawless, computer-less days in this landscape.
There was perfect, wild-smelling smoke from fires, there was thick dust swirling up from the road that took us there, we became sunburnt, it was hot, there were clouds of mosquitoes everywhere we went, there was a quality of light that makes me tear up to think about and that I have trouble putting into words, there was thoughtful conversation about the decisions we have made and the decisions we have yet to make, about the directions our lives could take, there was wildlife, there was wild-death, there were signs of wolves around us everywhere we hiked, there was cool breeze that blew the bugs away, there was hot morning to wake up to in our tent in sweat, there was a chilling arctic stream to take away that discomfort--to help us feel alive and pure, there was a cup of coffee each morning to hold while I gazed out across a valley that stretched north--not too far to the arctic ocean, there were patches of snow up high and there was spongy, deeply pungent tundra down low. The tundra crunched as we walked upon it, sinking. I pulled a tuft of it out of the earth and held it to my nose and breathed the same way I would into a cup of coffee on an early mountain morning.
On the long drive home from the top of Alaska to the bottom, I unearthed more of myself in conversations with my brother, of what I am capable of while putting to rest insecurities. I confided in him, I cherished his confidences in me, I asked him about married life, we talked about our childhood. The miles sped by.
And now I'm home, in the rain, with a sunburn and thinking about a place that has the power to churn revival and confidence in self. It can be this landscape but it is also a state of mind.
Solstice marks a change in the season. This year I let it mark a change in my life.