Thursday, September 9, 2010

Romantic notions help us maintain balance—a stable, steady footing—in our lives

All my life I have held a romantic notion about living in a remote location with my computer along with a subsistence level of survival—just enjoying the wilderness, a “green” existence, and the essentials of survival and nothing more.  After all, I am a writer.  It is a lonely profession in which I need solitude, great chunks of solitary confinement, and license to exist by myself out of reach of civilization. 

A recent cruise to the Inside Passage of Alaska began to shake some of my romantic notions.  I talked, for example, to some of the residents of Skagway, Alaska, just to see why they choose to live there year round.  Skagway was once Alaska’s most populous town.  Now only four blocks wide and just over twenty long, it is nestled into a cozy and picturesque setting between the 7,000-foot Coast Mountains (Canadian boundary).  Many summer residents, of course, only live there during the tourist season when as many as eight cruise ships at a time, may add from 15-20,000 people to a permanent village population of only about 841 people. 

One employee of a small tourist shop said he had chosen to live in Skagway year round because it is a great place to bring up your children.  He said he had three kids.  The schools were great, with lots of individual attention for students, the atmosphere is clean and healthy, and, he said, you can leave your kids outside all day to play without supervision.  He said the crime rate in Skagway is negligible.  (He suspected that whatever crime rate there is, is a direct result of the tourist industry, but it disappears as quickly as the ships slipping away from their dockside ports after only several hours of being in town.) 

Interestingly, the shop employee said that the only time he and his wife had to be outside with the kids was at dusk and after dark.  That is the time the black bears come into town from the surrounding forests.  He said it wasn’t unusual to see one right in the middle of the road outside his shop.  They scavage for food in the town’s outside garbage containers, but they are as scared of humans as humans are scared of them; they are just more imposing. 

Our female guide on our Skagway shore excursion, an extroverted, humorous, single writer for the local Skagway newspaper published with local news only every-other-week, and who looked and sounded like Barbra Streisand, had stayed in Skagway for three years and had an interesting view of life there.  She was waiting for her boyfriend to come home from Iraq and, originally, had decided to give Skagway but six months as a live-in trial. 

She said that life there was definitely unique.  Everything in town (including cars) had to be shipped in by barge.  When the barge arrived (usually once a month), the townspeople would flood the local supermarkets for the freshest fruits and vegetables they could find.  What the food barge brought in was what was available for the next month or so. 

There was no doctor, dentist, health-care professional, or hospital in town.  Those with serious health problems had to be flown to another town. 

During the six months of winter, it was dark most of the time.  At the height of the winter months, there was a mere twenty minutes of sun, and that was like dusk.  Also, being part of a massive temperate rain forest system, during the summer it rained almost every day, and if it was not raining, it was overcast much of the time.  Talk about gloomy weather!  Alaska, and Skagway contributes its fair share, has the highest suicide rate of any state in the nation, and one can easily see why that is true. 

There is a third feature of the weather in Skagway that makes that location unusual.  During three weeks in January there is an intense, non-stop wind.  Skagway is located just on the other side of a long mountain range that separates the town from Canada and the inland.  During the winter, air pressure accumulates on the Canadian side of the mountains, and as it builds it pushes the clouds up vertically toward the top of the mountain range.  Our guide said that when the clouds begin drifting over the mountains in January, that is the sign that everyone in Skagway must go out and purchase provisions to supply themselves for three weeks and then go home and batten down the hatches. 

Located in a large U-shaped groove between the 7,000-foot mountains, fashioned thousands of years ago by a massive glacier, Skagway provides a conduit for the air from the buildup on the Canadian side of the mountains to reach the water—the glacier-carved Lynn Canal fjord.  Our guide reported that winds maintain a constant speed of 60-70 miles per hour, nonstop, for three solid weeks when you can’t even open an exterior door to your house. 

It isn’t any single factor—the dependency on the barges, the lack of medical-service personnel, or the weather—that made me second-guess my romantic desire for isolation.  It is the total picture.  When you’re accustomed to having many choices—fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry, and all brands and kinds of products—it is difficult to make a decision to give all of that up. 

When we were in Australia for 6 months, our choices were limited, but we discovered that it doesn’t take long to become accustomed to it.  When we returned home, we even discussed the possibility of limiting what we needed to live comfortably, but it isn’t long until the supply catches up with what you want—not what you need, but what you want.  Soon, once again, you begin to appreciate all that you have and all the choices you have in order to have more! 

I still retain some of my romantic notions regarding living in a remote location; however, I now know for certain it won’t be in Alaska—specifically, Skagway.  It is like many places we have visited throughout our travels.  It is a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. 

So often, I think, the romantic notions we have about how we would like to live are just that—romantic notions.  There is no need to prove them, live them out, or fulfill them in any direct manner.  They are pleasant, comforting, and adequately soothe our idyllic, picturesque, fairy-tale side.  They offer, too, more than just a reason for living; they are, indeed, a placid, warm, snug, and cozy place where our thoughts can reside in a calm and peaceful manner without agitation, distress, or upset.  We need romantic notions to maintain a balance—a stable, steady footing—in our lives. 


At (sponsored by , the question posed is: “Have you ever thought about becoming a hermit/recluse?”  The readers responses are varied, interesting, and worth a read. 

At Success From the Nest , there is a post called, “Are you becoming a home-based hermit?” by Jon Morrow, that offers a number of useful tips.  The 24 reader comments on Morrow’s post are also fun to read. 


Copyright September, 2010, by And Then Some Publishing, LLC.


1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIISeptember 9, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    Scratching Scagway off my list.


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