Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Abandoned Schedule


The clouds were thick when we were finally airborne, two attempts, two delays and one day later. Such rituals of trips to and from the airport as weather shifts in waves become normal in rural Alaskan travel. We may have streamlined travel across the largest state with airplanes but we still don't control the elements; they haven't been domesticated.

Curtis and I haven't been to the island since we got stuck there an extra 48 hours this fall, a three day trip for coaching turned to nearly five due to the grounding of an entire airline's fleet in violation of TSA requirements, leaving hundreds of travellers stranded statewide. This trip, it seemed, would not be any simpler.

The first trip I made to the island was Christmas break 2004. Curtis and I had been dating for ten months and a three-day visit for me to spend time with his family was scheduled. After weather delays I finally boarded the small plane, becoming motion sick soon after as we bounced across the ocean, weathering the winter wind. When we had nearly reached the island the captain announced we'd be turning around. The plane ahead of us had landed, but the icy runway had made for a treacherous finale to the flight--one our captain did not want to gamble on. So back we flew to where we'd started, hours spent with little to show for them but an upset stomach, my three day trip cut to two by treacherous conditions. The next day's flight couldn't have been more anticlimactic.

Life on the island always moves slowly once we get there, with each day littered with one or two activities, rarely attached to any kind of schedule. We eat when a meal is ready, sleep when activity subsides, and venture out when neighbors beckon. And in that way the weather, the isolation, the haphazard nature of travel fits. We arrive when we do, and leave when everything works out. 

This year we passed around a cold shortly after arriving, making a five day stay feel like just long enough to recover. Returning to the city often jostles the system a bit, especially when it coincides with a return with the end of a break from school. I often find myself asking what the rush is, even as I seek to maximize my efficiency and productivity in my return to "normal" life. It's good to remember, through weather delays and sickness and days out of town, that value in a day is not measured by items checked off a to-do list. 

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