"I'd like to live in a cabin like that overlooking Kachemak Bay." That was Mark's friend Liz, many years ago, during her first visit to Alaska.
"You can," said a friend, or so Liz told me over dinner. Liz now lives in her cabin.
An amazing series of events led her there, but I told Liz the most unusual thing was that she had an epiphany of sorts in the first place, realizing where she wanted to be and how she wanted to live.
Our boat captain, Curran, 30ish, has a degree in criminal justice, and was working on his master's but burned out, came to Alaska, and began working on boats, without much experience. Now he captains, works 5 months a year, and travels 7. He spent two widely spaced winters living "in the bush," alone in an isolated cabin on the Alaska peninsula, getting his head on straight and learning who he was.
I asked Curran if he would go back and finish his masters. He said he dropped out 3 times, and that his current lifestyle was pretty good for him for now.
When I explained to Curran that I used to work for New Jersey Audubon (which is how I came to leading this trip) but landed a job with the USFWS, he said, "You mean, like a permanent job? So, like, you're set?" Looing at me with icy blue eyes, sunglasses pushed up on wavy hair, a trace of envy on a face, he had told me, that recently wore a heavy Alaskan beard.
What does that mean, to be "set?" For a long time, I lived looking forward to when I would "get there." Soon as I did this, finished this, had that, I'd be there. Wherever there is. Now I'm here. I hope tomorow I'll be here again, and that I stay here when I'm back in Cape May. And I don't mean here in Alaska.
["Rhinos" - Rhinocerus Auklets.]