Make Space for Dreams

Apr 22, 2013 | 0 comments

Dreams take up a lot of space?”
“All you’ll give them.”
– From Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon


Rather than being the clarifying experience I hoped it would be, in many ways my 9 months in northwest Alaska left me feeling more lost than ever. Books like Into the Wild and even Blue Highways, which I just started reading, aggrandize the enlightening qualities of such solo pilgrimages into the unknown, but in all reality it takes more than just having the experience to learn its lessons. It’s a cumulative process, a continually growing path built from the bricks of reflection, perspective, challenge, and constant questioning.

This isn’t to say I didn’t learn any lessons from my experience, but instead that the lessons I learned were not the ones I thought I was learning.  Perhaps photography critic Nancy Newhall summed it up best when she wrote, “The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.”

Throughout my time in Alaska, I gained a renewed appreciation for my friends and family. It was a period of transition, leaving college, moving far from home, living on my own — a time of feeling more alone than ever and simultaneously realizing that I am anything but alone. The love and support I received from my friends and family throughout my journey absolutely blew my away. It made me want to give back in some way, to show my appreciation, to spend more time with the ones I care about.

I ended up becoming closer to people I never would have expected to reach out to me. I learned new meanings of the word “love.” I learned new things about myself that I would not have expected to find out there. And with all these new discoveries came more questions — questions that perhaps, like Newhall wrote, I have not yet learned to ask, and so I am left feeling lost.

I thought when I came home from Alaska last month, that was the end of that dream. A dream that had possessed my ambitions for years, set my course of navigation, and pointed my compass ever North. I had come to terms with leaving that cold, desolate land in which I had lived for all those months, happy with what I had accomplished, yet knowing there is a lot more I want to do with my life and more places I want to go.

But still when I left, I couldn’t help but feel that this was not quite the end. On paper, I had fulfilled my dream of living in Alaska: I checked it off my bucket list, been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But life isn’t a paper checklist, nor does it turn out that this is the end of my dream. Perhaps it was when I read the quote from Blue Highways, above, that I realized the proverbial “accomplish your dreams” advice may be more confining than I thought.

“There’s enough water out there for the boat all right,” a Kentuckian shipwright told author Least Heat Moon of his big homemade rig he hoped to take out on the river. “But for me, maybe not enough space.”
“Dreams take up a lot of space?” asked Least Heat Moon.
“All you’ll give them,” said the shipwright.
Perhaps I had not given my dream of Alaska enough space. I wasn’t satisfied with just having been there. I knew I wanted to go back, but when I accepted that that might involve returning the place where I had already “been there, done that,” the space I needed for that dream opened up like a spring blossom pushing through the frozen confines of last winter’s snow.
And that’s exactly what happened. Last night, I officially accepted an offer to return to Bering Land Bridge National Preserve as a summer seasonal Park Guide interpretive ranger for the National Park Service. I’m moving back to Nome. For the summer, anyway.
As much as I never would have expected to end up in Alaska in the first place, I certainly never expected to be going back to the same place a second time, and no doubt for an entirely new and unfamiliar experience. As Douglas Adams once wrote, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Only time will tell. Time, and a good sense of adventure.


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